By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
Rereading President Julius Maada Bio’s maiden speech in the well of Parliament, “on the occasion of the state opening of the First Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone” on Thursday 10 May 2018, I found out, and still finding, lots and lots of inconsistencies to what was being promised and what is now happening in the country.
And as I continue to peruse that speech, Arthur Schopenhauer keeps coming to mind. It was he who once said that, “If we suspect that a man is lying, we should pretend to believe him for then he becomes bold and assured, lies more vigorously, and unmasked.” And then, there is this adage (whose author I might have forgotten and will now put under the “Author Unknown” genre) that says, “You can’t believe some people, even when they swear they are lying.”
But, may the Almighty God forbid, I will never infer that the Father of the Nation lied to Parliament on Thursday 10 May 2018 because “big people” don’t normally lie. And besides, it is abominable for someone to tell his/her father that he is a liar. All I can metaphorically say is that President Bio, after that speech, appeared to have been so overwhelmed with seeking foreign investors, to resuscitate the “broken economy” he “inherited”, that what he said in the House of Parliament that day now looks like hyperbolical euphemisms!
In that speech he says (well technically and acceptably, reviews are normally done in the present tense even if what is being reviewed was written or spoken 800 years ago.), “effective 2019, investment in agriculture (including animal husbandry) will be a pre-condition for holding political office. The Office of the President and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will work out the details to implement and monitor this policy directive…” But we are now in 2020, and I’m still wondering whether investment in agriculture is still “a pre-condition for holding political office” under President Bio. Because most of the recent political appointees, and those that were appointed before them, do not even have Potato Leaves gardens in front of their mansions let alone coops behind their backyards that could house three hens. And can the Office of the President and Ministry of Agriculture show us any document which can indicate how this “policy directive” is being worked out, implemented, and “monitored”?
President Bio tells Parliament that his New Direction government will “…harmonize the wage structure in the public sector to keep the wage bill sustainable…” But recent investigative articles by the Africanist Press appear to indicate that the wage structure in the public sector has still not been harmonized but surprisingly widened “largely by the overflowing appointment of leading SLPP party loyalists into high paying administrative positions in the civil and public service workforce”. That news outlet further claimed that the wage bill has increased by 45% in the last two years “from less than Le170 billion when [ex-President Ernest Bai] Koroma left power to a whopping Le235.2 billion today…” This might be an indication that what President Bio tells Parliament is from his head not from the heart (to paraphrase a phrase from the letter written by the late Sorie Forna to the late President Siaka Stevens).
And the most interesting part of that speech is where he tells the nation, through Parliament, that his New Direction government will “restore electricity supply to all district capitals…” My question is: have electricity supplies been restored to the southern city of Bo and the eastern city of Kenema? Maybe, just maybe, the Bio administration is still waiting for the Senegalese-American musician, Akon, to come and “invest in low cost renewable energy…in the areas of solar [lights]…” before those two important district capitals, and others still in the Dark Ages, will be grudgingly lighted up like Freetown.
And even Sierra Leoneans with disabilities are not spared by our Head of State’s hyperbolical euphemisms. The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone promises that, “the SLPP government will (i) review and implement policies and laws relating to disability, especially making public facilities disability friendly (ii) review and improve incentives for Teachers in Special Needs Institutions (iii) provide free health care for the physically challenged and the aged (iv) provide livelihood support to persons living with disability for economic empowerment….” Now, my question to you is: have any of these promises been fulfilled to Sierra Leoneans with disabilities as you read this One Dropian dropping? I guess your answers will be as accurate as mine if I proffer some.
In that same maiden speech the All People’s Congress (APC) is being accused of running a government, for ten years, which was being, “…characterised by tribalism, divisiveness, exclusion and the weakening and subversion of state governing institutions…” Again, my question is: has the Bio administration made concerted efforts to right those perceived political incorrectness they accused the erstwhile APC government of? Has the SLPP government sincerely built the building blocks of national cohesion in which every Sierra Leonean, at home, is getting the feeling of belonging to the nation state called Sierra Leone? For millions of Sierra Leoneans, the status quo appears to be a cascading degeneration of the recent past.
As I noted in the intro of this One Dropian dropping, although many of the promises made in the well of Parliament by President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday 10 May 2018 are still unfulfilled, I won’t infer that the President lied. Probably, just an assumption, President Bio is now so overwhelmed with other state matters that he might have forgotten what he told MPs on that day. If that is the case, I will advise the President to go back to that address and do a checklist on what has been done and those that have not yet been achieved. If the Father of the Nation takes this advice seriously and work on them earnestly; then his words would always be taken for what they really are not with pinches of salt.
It is on that note that I will end today’s One Dropian dropping with a quote from William Shakespeare that says, “Action is eloquence.” And I will add another one from John Lock that says, “The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.” I know that I have not written double Dutch?