Perceptions Vs. Realities in Sierra Leone

By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop) : 

Public Relations specialists in Sierra Leone are not surprised at the manner in which anti-establishment songs, like Emmerson’s “Kokobeh” are now in vogue. And from the grapevine, it is said that more anti-establishment songs will soon be hitting the airwaves from Innocent, LAJ, Pupa Baja et al. But one can’t be too surprised at these because the publicity wings of both the Government and the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) have been exhibiting hyper-weaknesses in showing the citizenry the positives of the Koroma-led administration.



Despite the publicity wings’ weaknesses to articulate the positives of the Koroma-led administration; when one takes a critical look at the criticisms and the anti-establishment songs, one realizes that majority of their premises are being built on perceptions than on grounded realities and sound logic.

Agreed that corruption is a hydra-headed monster that needs to be tackled with sincerity and commitment; but the manner in which it is being presented by the critics makes it looks as if it only started in the September of 2007 when President Ernest Bai Koroma took over the reign of national leadership. I’m not holding brief for those who were “born on December 25” (to quote the metaphorical phrase of Emmerson Bockarie). But even in the great United States of America corruption is an endemic issue as the cases of Bernard Madoff and the current “Disability Benefits” scandal will show. Britain, Germany, China, France and Russia have always had their own fair shares of corruption in grand scales. So, in Sierra Leone most of what are being perceived are not what they are in reality. For example, it has been the perception amongst many Sierra Leoneans that Emmerson Bockarie is an anti-corruption crusader but in reality that credential seems blotted because, at about the same time he released ‘Borbor Bele”, he was taken to court for allegedly stealing one of his friends (one Mattia) video camera.

Of note is the fact that most of the critics and anti-establishment musicians have been using what some Public Relations specialists call “glittering generalities”. According to Harry Mills in his book “Artful Persuasion” (page 98), glittering generalities are purr words that…are essentially ambiguous. The full meaning is left to the imagination of the individual listener [or reader].

Furthermore, Harry Mills quotes propaganda analyst Aaron Delwiche as calling glittering generalities name-calling in reverse. While name-calling makes us form a judgment to reject and condemn, the glittering generality devise seeks to make us approve and accept without examining the evidence (page 98). Take the issue of generalized tribalism and regionalism that is being bandied around by both the government’s critics and anti-establishment musicians, as an example. It is very easy to say the government of Ernest Bai Koroma is giving jobs to northerners but the evidence of those at the helm of national affairs, since the September of 2007 to date, show the reverse. Because evidence shows that it was the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government of Sir Albert Margai that planted the tree of tribalism and regionalism in Sierra Leone. And it also shows that during the entire eleven years rule of Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabba (h) that tree, planted by Sir Albert Margai, was nurtured further as there was no Limba in his Cabinet while Krios were losing their jobs in droves! I have written it a million-and-one times and I will write it again today that if some  people are saying that “they are sacking our people from government”, then it logically follows that it was only “their people” who were given jobs during the eleven years rule of Tejan Kabba(h). It’s simple logic!

But the Siamesed menace of tribalism and regionalism cannot be confronted with name-calling in reverse (to quote propaganda analyst Aaron Delwiche) which Emmerson did in his “Kokobeh”, and which all the SLPP-leaning journalists are doing in their newspapers. This Siamesed menace can only be confronted with sincerity and honesty. Sierra Leoneans should be honest with themselves (ourselves) to acknowledge the fact that since Sir Albert Margai unashamedly introduced tribalism and regionalism into national politics; ordinary Sierra Leoneans have innately used tribalism and regionalism as weapons to shield either their ineptitude or smoothen their career progression. So, it is my opinion that tribalism and regionalism can only be tackled from a nationalistic telescope rather than by the divide-and-rule approach which the anti-establishmenters (a One Dropian coinage, please) are now using.

Another recurring theme in the critics’ criticisms and the anti-establishment songs is that of inequality in Sierra Leone. It is my view that the concept of “equality” in a capitalist nation-state is one of the greatest myths ever foisted on human beings by both the proponents and practitioners of democracy. Even in communist states, where egalitarianism is being preached, there is no such thing as equality as members of the Politburo are far higher than other lesser mortals in the state. In the great United States of America, the economy of that nation is being controlled—in fact owned—by just less than two percent (the Super rich) of the entire population. In Britain where members of the monarchy and the Gentry class are “first amongst equals”, talking about equality of all British citizens would be like Robinson Crusoe explaining the Bill of Rights to Man Friday when he first chanced upon him on the beach.

It is the perception of every Sierra Leonean that all Sierra Leoneans are equal because they were all born from a woman’s womb. But in reality, this is not so and will never be so! You figure out my reason yourself. Realistically even in Heaven, noted Chinua Achebe in his novel “Anthills of the Savannah”, arch-angels are superior to ordinary angels.

But again, many Sierra Leoneans’ perceptions about the status quo in their country are being skewed by either their upbringing or political leaning. Which is why, no matter the progress being made since the September of 2007 to date, all what some people see around them is retrogression despite the reality of some amount of progress staring them in their faces. But that is understandable because no matter the logic adduced; some Sierra Leoneans have programmed their minds (as the Americans would say) not to see any positive thing in or about their country if it is not their political party that is at the rudder. It is the same way one could not force many of those born along the River Ganges to believe in either the Bible or Al-Koran because they have programmed themselves to believe in Shiva!

Yes, in the United States of America, Britain, Germany, China, France and other developed economies the world over, there have been and will always be once-in-a-while massive corruption cases and rampant inequalities; but the overriding goal of most of their citizens is not to criticize for the sake of criticism but how their countries will fair better than they are at present.

This calls to mind President Koroma’s Christmas Day address to the nation in which he admonished his compatriots that, “moving this country forward does not only depend on government or on me alone as leader…moving this country forward depends on each and every Sierra Leonean to say and do what is right in our professional lives”.  Should I write more?

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