Those of us who were fortunate to go to government boarding schools know the importance of "kondor" (the lunch and dinner meals) to our early intellectual development and many of us owe debts of gratitude to the kitchen staff who laboriously prepared our grub. At Kenema, we even invented an endearing adjective, "loppotic", to describe delicious "kondor" and "loppoh" as its associated noun. It is therefore not surprising that when my former school mates and I discuss our Kenema days, it becomes quickly apparent that our greatest memory of those days typically revolves around the head cook in the 1960s, Pa Aruna. A man who had great pride in his handiwork, Pa Aruna never failed to beam when a student told him that the "kondor" was really delicious ("loppotic") that day. He would proudly proclaim "na me sheffi sheffi" while thumping a thumb at his chest to emphasize the fact he cooked the "loppoh" that day. And if that student happened to be a senior boy, and was therefore entitled to a basin, Pa Aruna would personally make sure that his basin was laden with very succulent goodies that day. On the other hand, if anyone ever told Pa Aruna that the "kondor" was not "loppotic", he would respond with "na Buakay dehn," meaning that his chief assistant (Buakay) and the others had cooked the "plassas" that day. Seeing Pa Arunaís shameless propensity to accept praise for the "loppohs" and pass the blame for the non-"loppohs" to his assistants, we soon started playing a game with him. One student would come and tell him that the "kondor" was "loppotic" that day. As soon as he started to say "na me sheffi sheffi," another student would come and tell him that the "kondor" that day was the worst he had ever tasted. Immediately, Pa Aruna would shift from "na me sheffi sheffi" to "na Buakay dehn" without even recognizing the apparent contradiction.
I see many parallels between President Koromaís propensity to take credit for good things and push the blame for bad ones on others and Pa Arunaís erstwhile propensity to always take credit for the "loppotic" kondor and pin blame for the non-"loppotic" ones on his assistants. For instance, when the politically embarrassing news came out that the Presidentís cabinet had forwarded a proposal to increase his salary into the stratosphere, President Koromaís response was "ah nor bin no; na Sampha dehn" and Sampha Koroma, his erstwhile secretary, ended up resigning. And when further pressed, his surrogates claimed that the matter had actually been instigated by former President Kabbah. In other words, the excuse now became "not to Ernesto sheffi, sheffi; na Sampha ehn Kabbah dehn."
Also when economic hard times hit the people of Sierra Leone, after he and his Energy Minister had wasted over $100 million on generator rentals that soon became useless "museum" pieces, our Presidentís response was "not to we, na Global". However, when the fall in global crude oil prices led to a fall in the price of gasoline, the presidentís sycophants were bending over backwards to proclaim "na Ernesto sheffi sheffi," in much the same way as Pa Aruna would have proudly proclaimed "na me sheffi sheffi" on one of those rare days when his kitchen delivered the "loppohs". And when the outrageous Wanza deal was unearthed by Awareness Times, the Presidentís "Squealer-in Chief," Alhaji I. B. Kargbo, quickly proclaimed "not to we, na SLPP dehn nor bin answer the ECOWAS court." On the other hand, when the final papers for the funding for the Kenema-Kailahun Road was signed, we heard the "na we sheffi sheffi" from the Alhaji even though the funds had been secured by the erstwhile SLPP government.
And if one ever wants to see the Presidentís choir section froth at both sides of their mouths, one needs to only remark that one believes that President Koroma is responsible for the anti-SLPP political violence that has blighted the country since he became president. They would quickly say "na SLPP dehn; dehn nor wan gi we respect en recognize say na we de na power now." Also, when his personal bodyguards burglarized the SLPPís Headquarters and set it ablaze, the President in effect told the world "na SLPP dehn becoss dehn nor behave lek ow ah bin behave as opposition." And when his supporters allegedly raped six women during the melee, the Presidentís people were quick to claim that Leatherboot and his gang could not have raped those women; "na SLPP dehn."
Throughout this painfully disgraceful saga, the President maintained the "na Buakay dehn" posture. However, soon after the international community forced him to accept an independent investigation into the violence, El Presidentť immediately became the "father of the nation" and disavowed political violence at a staged visit to the ransacked SLPP buildingótwo weeks after the fact and after high profile visits to the crime scene by the diplomatic community. For this feat of "political tolerance," he is now claiming credit for the peace that the international community essentially forced on him. Perhaps even more nauseatingly outrageous is the sad fact that even the newly-elected Chairman of the SLPP has now joined the praise-singing ("jeliba") bandwagon by falsely crediting President Koroma and the APC for the political tolerance that we are enjoying. Perhaps we should forgive JOB because, in President Koromaís Sierra Leone, everyone has perhaps lost a little of his/her commonsense because of "Global". Hence, we are now all behaving as if the country is permanently at full moonóas if we either do not know the truth anymore or are so afraid of it that lies have become a convenient escape valve, even with our best intentions.
Donít get me wrong! Like every well-meaning Sierra Leonean, I welcome this promised inter-party era of good feelings and I hope that both parties will fully implement both the spirit and letter of the Inter-Party Communiquť. This should not, however, be a reason for shading the plain truth that President Ernest Bai Koroma, as magistrate-in-chief of our Republic, is singularly responsible for the violence and lawlessness with which our country has been afflicted since September 17, 2007. It is also equally true that the Presidentís recent promise to do the job for which he is being paid by Sierra Leonean taxpayers, which is primarily to keep the peace, is (to borrow a favorite phrase of His Excellency) "nothing to write home about." Indeed, if anyone is to be commended for the relative political tolerance that is being now enjoyed in Sierra Leone (until another rock-throwing jamboree against the SLPP is inspired by the Mayor of Freetown or the Resident Minister, Southern Province), it should be the international community which, for once, took the President to task for the unacceptable level of violence that has prevailed in the country since he took over the reins of power.
But for my awareness of the Presidentís propensity for "na me sheffi sheffi" for all good things, I would have been surprised that I saw no recognition given in the Presidentís recent speech on Bumbuna to the erstwhile SLPP government for completing 95 percent of the project within five years following the cessation of the Civil War in 2002óan achievement that is even more impressive when one realizes that the former APC regimes of Presidents Stevens and Momoh had made the Bumbuna project languish so indefinitely that most Sierra Leoneans viewed "Bumbuna" as one of those stories one can only find in the Greek mythologies. This should forewarn us that when the lights are finally switched on, perhaps a year from now, since we must wait for the rains and the demolition of all that property that have been illegally constructed in Bumbunaís path, we will be festooned with "na APC sheffi sheffi" ad nauseam, without any credit given to the SLPP for completing 95 percent of the work in less than five years; only the 5 percent that the APC would have completed in 2-3 years would be lauded, as the Presidentís recent speech amply demonstrates. However, be that as it may, like all Sierra Leoneans who love the country, I will be happy when Bumbuna eventually comes on stream, not because the APC followed through with an SLPP project that would yield innumerable benefits to our nation, but because Sierra Leone would have forever capped the Bumbuna genie in its bottle.
Finally, in view of his very uninspiring record on quelling anti-SLPP violence since he became President, I am totally amazed that the SLPP leadership has so quickly succumbed to this new "jeliba" affliction of anointing President Koroma as the "Peacemaker-in-Chief"óeven as he refuses to order the appropriate organs of the state to arrest and charge Leatherboot and his associates to court for burglarizing the SLPP building in broad daylight and stealing the partyís property. Also, I am totally shocked at the coronation of the President as "Chief Giver-of-Political Tolerance" when he has essentially patted his Resident Minister, Southern Province on the back even though the latter stands accused (at least in the court of public opinion) of being nothing but a thug who goes around victimizing innocent citizens because of their political persuasions. Therefore, until President Koroma moves to demonstrate to us that he is really the President of all Sierra Leoneans, who listens to all Sierra Leoneans (as he recently claimed in his Bumbuna speech), please donít invite me to the sycophancy-inspired cacophony that seems to be presently afflicting even the SLPP leadership.
And in order to ratify any latent desire on the part of the reader to accuse me of Pa-Aruna-type inconsistency, I will unabashedly say "na me sheffi sheffi" to anyone who agrees with me that Shakespeare would characterize the new "jeliba" past-time of praise-singing and dressing His Excellency in borrowed robes as a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." On the other hand, if any of you disagree with my analysis, "na Buakay dehn" will, of course, be my excuse.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.