Forgive but don’t forget, just yet! --- Part 1

5 September 2007 at 03:00 | 605 views

By: Murtada B. Tunis (Jawa).

Whilst I’ll not reduce this piece to gobbledygook, I’ll like to let all and sundry know that it is too soon to forget. Yes, it is too soon to forget the misdeeds of the APC government in Sierra Leone.

Though one may not agree with everything Mr.John Leigh wrote in his recent article, one thing that would strike a chord is that most young folks (an overwhelming majority of the electorate being this group of voters) clamoring today for the return of APC really do not understand, or were too young to take seriously, the gravity of the bottomless pit in which the country was buried. Let me add to what my friend Christian Sam recently had to recollect as a young man growing up and what APC did that remains indelible in his mind:

I was fairly young but vividly recalled the infamous vouchergate scandal of the APC in the early to mid 80s. Instead of sniffing out the culprits under their noses in Freetown, they instead went to the provinces to accuse innocent civil servants working hard to cover up their mess in Freetown.

At that time, my late father was the General Accountant of the whole northern province for the Agriculture ministry,the so-called paymaster at the time. Then APC ministers Dr. Abass Bundu and S.B Marrah led a team of auditors down from Freetown as special envoys of the president to investigate the innocent and hardworking man.

After a whole week of auditing, turning over of papers, and twisting of interrogations, wasting of government funds on expensive lunches and lots of evening booze, they left without an iota of evidence of embezzlement. And after it was all said and done, I recall my dad saying to my mother that maybe those fools in Freetown should look in the mirror and bring themselves to terms with what they have done to the country’s money. Is this the APC with still its cronies of corrupt government officials, looters, the new “Highways” with potentially perfidious influences over our people, that I see some hastily and prematurely embracing? Just because some of us have forgiven in the interest of national healing doesn’t mean we have forgotten what they did. It is too soon!

So many of us are quick to dismiss the achievements of the Tejan Kabbah government and are quick to use it as the basis for judging what Solo B can do for Sierra Leone. I have quite unbelievably heard some saying, “Bo way-tin na peace”, or “Tell me one achievement of the government” or “Berewa nor to handsome man for lead we.”

Honestly, to some of these people, they need to grow up...if nothing else but zoo-politically. Berewa is the only candidate who has what every potentially corrupt person fears in Sierra Leone; and that is after due process of the law the guy can punish you for wrongdoing without scratching his head. In other words, he is a courageous leader who would not yield to bringing anyone to terms and can make gut calls to deter potential thieves. This is exactly the kind of person Sierra Leone needs at this time: a hybrid of a Mr. Nice and Mr. Tough guy. Well, some might say, “why hasn’t he done so as VP?” Yes, he can and he has tried but wait until you see when he is fully in charge!

We have one of the most politically conscious electorates in Africa, but we also have one of the most politically inexperienced electorate. Sierra Leone went through a decade of one of the worst wars in the history of mankind in Africa. And shortly after the decade long disaster, most people expect miracles to happen overnight. We expect the country to heal itself in ten years. It doesn’t work that way, folks.

In ten years, reactionary elements can bring down a nation to its knees due to some arrogant dictators and their totalitarian governments (like the APC) who’ve failed to meet the demands of their people. But it doesn’t take ten years to bring back a whole nation to where it is supposed to be. Some might say “ well, we got a lot of donor money that should have done the job overnight.”

Nation building from wars is sometimes an easier said than done issue. Could they have done more? Yes, I believe so. Could they have restored electricity to most of the country in five years? Probably so. Could they have made safe drinking water affordable to every Sierra Leonean in five years? Maybe. I am a strong SLPP supporter who believes the outgoing government could probably have done more but who also believes that what they achieved in a short time after the war, and with the prevailing circumstances, could not be compared to what the APC did in over twenty years.

One may uncomfortably add, though, that part of the reasons the critics have become increasingly vociferous against the outgoing government is the lack of a mathematically controlled accountable system in which projects’ progress and results are measured and reported on a fixed schedule to a central chain of command. We may have some under qualified and not so experienced people running critical projects in Sierra Leone and if you ask those folks to develop simple Gant chart or plot project updates, develop forecasts, outline strategies, and timelines of executions, some will look at you like a deer in a headlight.

And some of these projects are priority projects on which the electorate will judge the performance of a government. The political consciousness of our people is too high for government to put critical projects in the hands of jokers, even inadvertently. One open advice for the next SLPP government: let all projects, no matter what they are, have timelines of not more than two years. Let the third year be a window for the slow ones to catch up because the campaign starts in the fourth year. If anyone is below forecast by the end of the first project year, let them resign immediately. It is high time we imposed the discipline of corporations in the affairs of government especially when the people are holding us accountable at the polls.

The best thing for Sierra Leone is for voters to vote SLPP on Sept 8th since APC already has the legislature. The reason I’ll not dwell much on this premise, with all due respect to the proponents, is because it sounds too lame. It sounds lame because it doesn’t give a compelling reason for people to vote SLPP or not to vote APC.

It only supports a fundamental theory of democratization that yes, it is a good idea to have those two branches controlled by different parties to foster consultations and bridges across the aisle. In our case, Sierra Leone, a vote against APC is simply not a vote for this aforementioned tenet of democracy but also a vote against a repeat of thuggery, a repeat of vouchergate and the infamous “die-man” vouchers, mass corruption across the elites, the eternal silencing of opposition members, the suppression of the press, you-are-either-with-us-or-against-us philosophy of rule, a repeat of the non-meritorious and mass education of their offspring and concubines oversees through government scholarships and our people’s funds.

A vote against the APC will be a build-up of the hard-earned and priceless peace by the SLPP government, a continuation of social programs by the SLPP government for the people, a chance for the SLPP facilitated debt-free program to kick-off our economy beyond the 7.8% forecast for the continent, a chance to let a President Berewa impose an aggressive scheme of control and accountability of all projects especially those related to the basic necessities of life as water, electricity, good health and sanitation, (not education since education is arguably already the second best achievement of SLPP under Dr. Alpha Wurie), a chance for donors to see that their investment in good governance in Sierra Leone is beginning to yield fruits.

The APC had their chance for over twenty years and they used it to impose a one-party system in 1978. Let us not lose sight of that. The APC had their chance for over twenty years and they used it to drown us in debt by hosting an OAU conference that we were not financially prepared for --- a debt which SLPP only recently worked hard to meet stringent benchmarks just to free. Those who live in the diaspora should understand what it means to be debt-free. The APC had their chance for over twenty years and they used it to impose leaders like Momoh, the S.I. Koromas, and the Gendemehs on us. Let us not blind ourselves from these facts. Some will say, “the new APC is different from the old APC.” There is no such thing as new or old APC in my view. It is the same lizard that lost its tail and has only grown another one.

A lot of people say we need a change. Yes, I believe we need a change, but not a change of party. Two fundamental changes I believe we need include our style of governance, on the part of the SLPP government, our attitudes as Sierra Leone, on the part of the masses.
On the style of governance, I have already espoused in my humble opinion, how I think the government should approach critical projects that will be used to judge them at the polls.

On the part of our attitudes, however, as Sierra Leoneans, whilst we request a change of the way we are ruled, our leaders also have an equal right to ask us to change our attitude towards our own country. When APC ruled us for over twenty years, we could only criticize them behind sealed and watertight doors.

When SLPP took over, they gave us the freedom to criticize because they believe a free people cannot live without a free speech. But like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told her people in Liberia when she took over, we must exercise that freedom responsibly and constructively. This is not only of the press but as ordinary Sierra Leoneans, too. Most people today think if you don’t criticize the government, you are not part of a particular pop culture. And to remain a part of that culture is to come out and sometimes blindly make preposterous accusations against the government. Indeed, if you were too young or too far removed from politics to know this or too quick to forget, APC did not only harass or oppress our people, they also created the perfect environment for rebels to invade, maim our brothers, rape our sisters, and bury the grand parents alive. Have we forgotten so soon?

Additionally, we are also in the process of inheriting a VP in the person of Alhaji Momodu Koroma, whose dynamism, vibrancy, energy, experience, passion, and intelligence cannot be questioned even by the most vituperative of critics.

Let us retain our political character and integrity by staying the course and foster change from within our party, The Sierra Leone Peoples Party, SLPP, and the party of Sir Milton Margai.