From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Crucifixions In Battle Against Corruption
By M’Balia Wanghai (Guest Writer)
Apr 21, 2010, 17:18

There can be no denial of the fact that corruption is significantly responsible for the socio-economic malaise that this nation was plunged into several years. Every sober minded Sierra Leonean will readily agree that curbing corruption in both the public and private sector is an essential step forward in our collective determination to right the wrongs of the past.

Past regime’s lack of political will to tackle the issue of graft in the conduct of public and private affairs was evident in the now opposition party’s reluctance, while in governance, to amend the Anti Corruption Act 2000 and give the ACC prosecutorial powers without having reason for a recourse to the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

Upon being elected as President, Comrade Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma demonstrated an expressed commitment to the fight against corruption by rallying Parliament to fast-track amendments to the Anti Corruption Act giving it additional powers that will ensure its independence and powers to investigate and prosecute suspected public officials embroiled in corruption scams.

Indeed, none can dispute the fact that President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was quite serious about putting an end to corruption. Nonetheless, if President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is to succeed in this fight against corruption he needs to have a discipleship of apostles who will leave no stone unturned, even if it warrants death, in the quest to address the menace of corruption as a fundamental stumbling block to the nation’s progress.

At this point, it is but important to establish the fact that President Koroma’s political commitment to the fight against corruption is also an expressed commitment of the All Peoples Congress of which he is the National Chairman/Leader and presidential flag bearer for 2012. The President’s political ambitions are not incongruous with the party’s manifesto. The Manifesto promised CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!

In change management dynamics, scholars and experts would readily agree that people who the change is sure to affect in a negative way will surely stage manage events to either undermine the credibility of the change or water down its significance to protect the status quo.

Similarly, it is also established in change management dynamics that advocates and exponents of change may eventually be scape-goatized or sacrificed on the political alter by people adverse to change who may do all within their powers to protect the status quo.

It is no hidden secret to the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans that corruption is institutionalized in the public sector, especially in revenue generating institutions.

People know of course that the money ordinary Police Constables routinely collect from drivers are deposited in the offices of senior Police Officers; similarly, the larger portion of monies collected by junior customs officers goes to the senior bosses; it is like the ding-dong of a bell on the hour as in almost every other government ministry, department or agency there exists a conspiracy involving workers of these establishments who have over the years benefited immensely at the expense of the State and at the detriment of the people.

The fight against corruption is not a new phenomenon in the political and economic history of this country. In 1991, when a group of military men subsequently referred to as the NPRC overthrew the APC from governance, they pledged to put an end to corruption which they claimed was rampant.

An honest opinion will confirm that corruption had past its budding stage and that the NPRC era provided an opportunity to arrest it but in the end the NPRC failed and left the public sector far more corrupt than it was when the APC was overthrown from governance.

Apart from lacking the political will to fight against graft, the NPRC’s failure to deal with corruption as a cankerworm eating deep into the fabrics of our society was largely blamed on their inability to overhaul the conspiracy to defraud the state that exists in government ministries, departments and agencies.

People blamed them for failing to see in between the lines of the operations of government operatives, most especially civil servants, whose corruption and ineptitude have been singled out as a major cause of the peoples’ nightmare.

As a matter of fact, the people still hold the conviction that the NPRC had good intentions for the country; young and unblemished as they were, determined to make a difference in governance, but failed because of the influence of corrupt civil servants who initiated them to corruption and its niceties.

I have actually brought this to the fore for people to understand that even though President Koroma and the APC are determined to tackle graft in the public sector the backlash from anti-forces of progress who are prone to corruption should not be underestimated.

It is this backlash from anti-forces of development who are prone to corruption that are beginning to pluck some of APC’s finest flowers even before they reach full blossom.

It is on this note that I sometimes liken President Koroma’s crusade against corruption to the life and times of Jesus Christ.

The common man and woman of Sierra Leone whose socio economic circumstances and living standards have been estranged and worsen by a conspiracy of civil servants in partnership with the private sector and corrupt political leaders see President Koroma’s call for a crusade against corruption as a positive step in the right direction. He is the messiah that has come to unravel the irony of a rich country and a poor people.

On the other hand, those who have been benefiting from the status quo see President Koroma’s fight against corruption as an obstructionist move to unrobe them of the niceties and privileges they benefit from the system. It is a determined effort to overhaul the status quo. Like the Pharisees and leaders of the Sanhedrin who saw Jesus Christ as an obstructionist and readily exchanged him for a notorious criminal and cajoled Pontius Pilate to endorse his crucifixion so these anti-forces of progress who remain averse to the political will demonstrated by the APC and President Koroma in the fight against corruption have resolved to do whatever they can to maintain the status quo.

In the Jesus Christ scenario, the Pharisees and leaders of the Sanhedrin influenced the Roman governors, who had nothing to do with the customs and traditions of the Jews, to endorse charges against Jesus Christ on allegations of having violated Jewish customs and traditions; in a similar way, anti-forces of the war against corruption continue to influence the Anti Corruption Commission to make a crucifix of some of APC’s finest flowers who are yet to blossom and are committed to make real the party’s commitment in the fight against corruption.

Could it then be said that the corrupt Fish Mafia in Sierra Leone used the ACC to indict former Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Hon. Haja Afsatu Kabba on allegations of corruption instead of Lillian Lisk who according to her own evidence, as stated in the ACC indictment, makes her an accused person for wanting an undue advantage in a conspiracy to fraud the State.

Haja Afsatu Kabba may be said to be the blue-eye girl of the APC but what about the issue of the suspended Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority Alieu Sesay and that of the former Minister of Health and Sanitation Mr. Sheku Koroma.

In the case of the latter, I understand that he attempted to break into a Lebanese conspiracy wherein one man submits bids in the name of many companies to win a contract.

I understand a particular Lebanese had submitted bids for contracts to be awarded by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation under the names of different companies.

This singular Lebanese, by whatever means, was awarded all the contracts in the name of different companies and then Minister Koroma obviously doubted whether this singular individual would be able to meet the standards required of all the contracts awarded and decided it was too much for one man and then awarded one of the contracts to another competent bidder, a Sierra Leonean.

The public will readily agree that awarding seven contracts to a particular individual under the name of different companies when there are other competent bidders is corruption. Does one need to report this to ACC or shouldn’t the ACC have the nose to sniff this corruption and act immediately?

But the actors of corruption used the ACC to indict the former Minister of Health and Sanitation Sheku Koroma on corruption charges relating to what is fast becoming a common parlance ‘abuse of office’. He was dragged to court and sentenced to five years imprisonment or an alternative of paying a fine of one hundred and fifty million leones.

In the case of Alieu Sesay of the NRA it still befuddles the public what the ACC is up to. Nonetheless, it is no secret that the NRA under the erstwhile SLPP was ranked as one of the most corrupt institutions and one has to just imagine the many leakages Alieu Sesay may have blocked for the APC to record an increase in revenue generation to come to the conclusion that he himself may have been another victim of the conspirators using the ACC to make a crucifix of those who are serious about putting an end to corruption in this country.

If such continues, conscientious members of the party and the public will feel unsafe in taking decisions that will curb corruption and at the same time anger those who are benefiting from the status quo. Where then are we going in the fight against corruption? Is it a ding-dong battle?

Let me again bring the issue of Haja Afsatu Kabba to the fore. The ACC indicts her for employing a messenger without going through the normal procedure. Honestly, a simple administrative directive from the Human Resource Management Unit could have adequately addressed that issue in place of the cost of taking such a trivial issue to court.

Isn’t it again ridiculous that the ACC, without any valid reason(s) decided to disregard the seventeen count indictment and have now feigned a seven count indictment against her? Where is the integrity of the ACC and its boss Abdul Tejan Cole?

Myself like the entire APC and sober minded Sierra Leoneans believe that this is the right time for the fight against corruption to take an appropriate dimension that will be of immense benefit to the state and the people, but in this ding dong fight against corruption we should be very mindful of the fact that those averse to change will fight back and in their fight back strategy we should again be mindful not to crucify those who are of the same mind and determination to eliminate the menace of corruption from our society.

But as popular reggae legend Bob Marley questions, "How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and watch"?

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.