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It Does Worth a Thought: How New Is Year 2006???
By Theophilus S Gbenda
Jan 9, 2006, 12:41

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Welcome to the year of our Lord 2006.

The year 2005 has come and gone, and now we are talking about 2006.

There is a saying in life that "You know where you are coming but you don’t know where you are going".

Except for certain remote reasons, I think the foregoing phrase is unambiguous and by all indications a true reflection of our day to day activities as human beings.

So many things, some pleasant and others unpleasant and despicable, did occur in the year under review.

A number of high profiled deaths were recorded.

Terrible incidents, including landslides and the likes, were also occurred.

A number of developments, some positive and some negative, were also made to bare in both the social, economic and political spheres.

While some view such developments differently, others with sound minds simply considered them as natural and unavoidable, although in actual fact some can be attributed to the manipulations of man.

But whatever is said and done, the fact remains that like all other previous years, the year 2005 has come and gone, and all what happened during the course of the year under review, now represents a vital portion of our history as a nation and as a people.

There is a wise saying that "We learn from our history so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past."

What this implies in essence is that we should as a nation and as a people, consider all the mistakes of the past as a challenge and as a motivation to forge ahead positively, rather than allow the same mistakes of the past which are grossly responsible for where we find ourselves in the global index, to overwhelm us.

While it remains our collective task as a nation and as a people to concertedly pull our resources towards the socio –economic recovery of the nation, yet it goes without saying that the bulk of the responsibility squarely lies on the shoulders of our political leaders.

No nation will strive without the political will of those in state authority.

Often times, we have heard our politicians speaking volumes of how determined they are to remove this country from its current state of backwardness to higher heights.

But alas, when once they succeed in getting what they want, they end up doing the contrary.

Sometimes some people wonder whether in fact the seeming failure on the part of our political leaders to fulfill their pledges to the nation is as a result of their inefficiency or deceitfulness, or whether in fact they just cannot cope with the pile of problems afflicting the well being of the country which is just emerging from the ashes of a bloody and devastating war.

Taking this into perspective, some people with reasonable thinking do sometimes wonder whether in fact those aspiring for political positions actually have the interest of the country at heart or whether in fact they know fully well that they lack the ability to address the problems of the country but have simply turned a blind eye to that because they have the sole intention to line up their pockets with state funds, thus impoverishing the nation even further.

Some people even wonder why some highly placed Sierra Leoneans who have made their names out of the realm of politics now opt for political positions, thereby sacrificing their hard earned reputations and respectability amidst massive press reports and public criticisms.

It goes without saying then that the year under review was characterized by unproductive political antics which in most cases only point at the sheer thirst for power by the politicians concerned, rather than the common good of the nation.

Accordingly therefore, it is a reality that we have entered yet another year, but whether the ensuing happenings of this year will be entirely new and different from those of the previous year, remain a different thing altogether.

It is my own belief that the same issues that characterized the previous year, will be the same ones that will characterize this new year.

As I stated earlier, one particular issue that is almost certain to be ushered into the new year is the political melodrama that characterized the better part of the year 2005.

Nearly everything in the year under review, some what had a political undertone.

Be it religious, social or other wise, all had the true semblance of negative political propaganda.

The rumours that filtered around town and beyond that the Honourable Vice President, Mr. Solomon Berewa was abandoned by worshippers at the Freetown Central Mosque where he had materialized to kind of socialize with his Muslim brothers and sisters, speaks volumes.

The kind of political propaganda that followed what later proved to be an untruth is unprecedented and geared only to substantiate uncalculated claims that the Vice President Solomon Berewa is unpopular and disliked.

One other issue that is worthy of note is the unprecedented manner at which the recent Christ the King College (CKC) annual thanksgiving and prize giving anniversary was swept away by a blatant political show off that was centered around Vice President Solomon Berewa and Mr. Charles Margai, both considered as desperate rivals for the presidency come 2007. Again the kind of political propaganda that followed the event under review needs not to be over emphasized.

Of course the fact that the hearings in respect of the charges proffered against Mr. Margai and ten others in relation to the CKC incident was postponed to 2006, only points out to the fact that the same issues that characterized the previous year have already found their way into this new year.

It could be noted further that even the recent passing of the dear wife of Vice President Solomon Berewa was not spared from some sorts of political propaganda.

While some political opponents hold the view that the passing of the late Madam Deborah Berewa is a clear signal of the imminent defeat of Vice President Berewa come the elections in 2007, others simply wished that it was Mr. Berewa, not his little known about wife who should have been pronounced dead.

The fact also that the burial of the late woman has been deferred till January this year, also gives a clear meaning as to what the year 2006 holds for us as a nation.

Of course giving the fact that 2006 is just a sleeping-dream into the year 2007, also shows how politically charged this year will be.

One thing that I have discovered of late is that when once Vice President Berewa is embarking on a trip in the provinces or indeed any other function around town, he literally moves away with nearly the entire cabinet and heads of the various parastatals and other key government institutions including the police, the military and the fire force.

Whatever the cause for this, it is easy to realize that such government operatives are knowingly abandoning their national duties for the sake of showing allegiance to the vice president. This they are doing in order to seek job protection or what have you. In essence therefore, it is in my humble estimation that the year 2005 saw the shift of patriotism from the country to a given personality.

Whether that is a good signal for the development aspirations of the country, remains a million dollar question.

One particular government institution whose activities were effectively used for political gain by Tejan Kabbah led government, are those of the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA).

Of course it is longer secret that NaCSA is one the most performing parastatals in post conflict Sierra Leone.

Whether this accolade is attributable to the efficiency of the NaCSA top management or to the chunk of cash that is being poured into the institution or whether it is because the hall marks of the commission are visible in strategic locations across the country, remains yet another question to determine.

What is clear however is the fact the seeming blatant politicization of NaCSA’s achievements did play a crucial and some times enviable part in the political propaganda that characterized the year under review.

I have personally witnessed the handing over of some of the works of NaCSA to beneficiary communities, and heard on a first hand basis both NaCSA’s Commissioner Kanja Sesay and his Deputy, Mr. Justin Bangura, openly attributing the achievement of the commission to the government of Sierra Leone, and in so doing painting the picture as if it is the government which is single handedly funding the community rehabilitation projects the commission is undertaking.

One thing that is also worthy of note is the fact that NaCSA’s Kanja Sesay is always following the Vice President and indeed the President each time any one of them is paying a visit to the provinces. Like all other government operatives who like Kanja Sesay have found themselves a new official /personal responsibility, always embark on such self seeking trips at the expense of their respective institutions and the nation as a whole. This is so because the per-diem involved cannot be under-estimated.

One therefore does not need to wonder why speculations as to who the running mate of Vice President Berewa (who happens to be at a vantage position to clinch the presidency come the 2007 elections) is gaining steam day in and day out. It is even laughable to note here that among those that have either openly or covertly vested their interest for the position at stake are the two top most bosses of NaCSA.

Whether they too are taking advantage of the achievements of the commission, remains unclear but what remains clear however is the fact that the commission itself is at the brink of a despicable political explosion, wherein its two top bosses will one day unavoidably find themselves in a kind of political struggle.

One other institution that has seemingly made itself prone to the whims and caprices of the government is the Brima Acha Kamara led Sierra Leone police (SLP). The fact of the matter is that an uneasy calm currently exists between the controversially appointed Inspector General Mr. Brima Acha Kamara, and the popular choice Mr. Oliver Somassa who is currently serving as Deputy Inspector General, but with the keen desire to clinch the position of Inspector General.

Because of this, it is easy to realize even from a lay man’s perspective that both men are secretly or otherwise playing their individual cards to demonstrate their unflinching loyalty to the ruling party and to show themselves approved to the political masters. While this is no doubt good for the government of the day, it however remains to be seen what impact this will create on the future of the SLP which is noisily claiming to be a force for good.

Of course the current makings of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDF) Brigadier General Sam M’boma, goes a long way to demonstrate how desperate he is to rank himself as the blue eye boy of the political masters. The recent sacking of about one thousand soldiers (some of them able bodied and still within the age limit) from the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), rings a bell.

 In the year under review, if government ministers were to be accorded an award for demonstrating blatant boot licking, Dr. Prince Harding of the less performing Ministry of Transport and Communication would have emerged as the proud and undisputable winner.

Known commonly among his comrades as the 5 - Star General (who ironically received a nasty beating at the hands of an ordinary lieutenant in the political circle for the enviable position of secretary general of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party), Dr. Prince Harding happened to have narrowly escaped sacking in the last cabinet reshuffle which affected three key government ministers.

Knowing fully well that he was likely to be given the boot, Harding reportedly approached the Vice President cap in hand, to openly apologise for not more strongly supporting him in his leadership bid. Since he survived the reshuffle, Dr. Harding had reduce himself to the level of ‘Batman’, following the VP any where ever he goes like a ‘Yeliba’, thus neglecting his official duties and in the end, contribute in no small way to deplete the budgetary allocation of the ministry by way of unwarranted per diems.

On the other hand, if an award was to be awarded to any political personality as the politician with the worst strategy of the year 2005, I would have wasted no time to declare the sacked former Minister of Finance, Mr. J.B. Dauda as the unopposed winner.

It could be noted that J.B. Dauda who once held the esteemable Number Three Position in the Tejan Kabbah Cabinet, was kicked out of office when he openly and unthinkably challenged his boss Vice President Solomon Berewa, for the leadership race of the SLPP.

JBD, as he is commonly known among his peers, initially declared his unflinching support to VP Berewa for the position under review, only to later defect and opted instead for the same position, thus grossly underestimating and miscalculating the popularity of VP Berewa, who later enjoyed a landslide victory at the convention. Notwithstanding his unsurprised sacking however, JBD has since regained consciousness and has pledged his support to VP Berewa and to the SLPP.

JBD who is now licking the wound of his unwise decision to challenge his former boss in a small corner, is also counted among those that have been following the VP around the country, hoping that at the end of the day the priestly looking VP will have mercy on him and consider him in his likely government come 2007. What is however important to note is the fact that JBD by his very act of untrustworthiness, has probably shot himself out of politics just as easily as his replacement JOB has shot himself into the Number Three position in the Cabinet.

And of course, the Cry-Baby John Leigh definitely makes it as the winner of the Political Joker of the year Award. When he initially started his so-called campaign to lead the SLPP and Sierra Leone, many people thought he was just findng a platform from which he could vent out his frustrations with his former allies Berewa and Kabbah.

It was only when he started to speak as if he even stood a slim chance of clinching the leadership that people started doubling over in laughter. He definitely created a lot of humour in political circles. He also wins the Most Flip-flop Politician of the Year Award after he bounced into the SLPP Headquarters and courted the members of the Solomon Berewa Fan Club with 2,000 leones cash.

Without any doubt H.E. the President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, would have emerged as the proud holder of the prestigious award of the Master Fix-it category, if an award was to be given in that light. How H.E. the President in his wisdom convinced the SLPP heavy weights to convene both the election of the national party executives and the leader of the party at the same time, remains both a mystery and unprecedented in the history of the party.

Where he got the idea to instruct the electoral commissioner in the person of Ombudsman Francis Gabbidon to conduct the elections on a top to bottom basis, also remains a mystery.

At the end of it all what happened? The VP, his open choice emerged as the winner in what was clearly dubbed a landside victory.

As a result of that well calculated seeming manipulation, VP Berewa has emerged as the most powerful personality in the country, holding both the positions as leader of the governing party and vice president of the republic.

I know the next phase of the seeming manipulation will be made to bare come the 2007 general and parliamentary elections.

It remains to be seen whether being the god father of the likely next president of the republic, H.E. Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah –the master fix it – of the Millennium will have any influence on the next government.

What is however clear is that he is going.

As for the Orator of the year award, I would have thrown my weight behind the able President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Alhaji I.B. Kargbo of the ‘Last Word’ fame.

It could be noted that Alhaji I.B. Kargbo was compensated for the maltreatment he suffered at the hands of the Tejan Kabbah led government after being branded as a rebel collaborator, when he was placed in the delegation of HE the President to visit the Holy City of Mecca and at the end of the day made an Alhaji.

As if that is not enough, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo is to date one of the fiercest critics of the government that has made him an Alhaji and under whose regime he has become the respectable president of SLAJ.

Some people who have heard him speak on radio and in public functions, simply refer to him as the Osman Kamara type.

Although his real intentions remain unclear, persons closed to him have hinted that he is most likely to enter into full scale politics.

What is not clear at the moment is whether he will do so under the banner of his traditional All Peoples Congress (APC), or the ruling SLPP as the case may be.

In the midst of all these speculations, one question I would personally like to put to him is what is happening to the much talked about Harry Yansanneh matter which he once referred to as a project, and as his final battle before retirement?

Take it or you leave it, the list of award winners is inexhaustible but for space, I would have revealed more.

By implication however, all those odd attributes have already found themselves into the year 2006 and there are all indications that this year will not be any thing different from the previous year 2007.

Perhaps, if not certainly, the only time the people of Sierra Leone will experience a semblance of a real change is in 2007, when a new president will emerge and may be when the far fetched and politically charged dream of national food security would have been achieved.

Of course the people who are the hardest hit, have lost confidence over the prevailing system, and are only praying for God’s divine intervention.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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