From the Editor’s Keyboard

Goat Mathematics

7 October 2012 at 08:17 | 1275 views

By Oswald Hanciles, Guest Writer, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

When a well-educated Kailahun man, trained in the United Kingdom, hailing from a family of venerable teachers, like Hon. Robin Falley declared for the APC a week ago, and clinched the APC symbol to contest in the November 2012 elections as APC in Kailahun (!!!), all of Sierra Leone should sit up!! Reflect!! ‘Hey, what’s happening there’!!? There is a political earthquake ongoing in Sierra Leone. The deepest fault lines are in Kailahun. It is not a ‘natural earthquake’ – it is a man-made earthquake from the ‘Natural Born Leader’, H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma.

When SLPP presidential candidate, Brig. Maada Bio (Rtd), and its Chairman, John Benjamin, rushed to Segbwema, Kailahun District, in the wake of Hon. Falley’s declaration for the APC (with Hon. Falley on David Tam-Baryoh’s MONOLOGUE programme throwing the gauntlet down at John Benjamin as to who would pull more votes in Segbwema, the home town of John Benjamin) it was a manifestation that the SLPP was in panic mode; that its two topmost leaders sought to wedge the earthquake lines, and restore normalcy to the political landscape.

Brig. Maada Bio’s words that the Kailahun chiefs are “unserious” expose several variables. Brig. Bio says after sitting two years in an American classroom to earn a ‘paper’ called a ‘degree’ he has gotten enough knowledge to now govern our country without a gun. For a man who hails from a chieftaincy home in the South of the country, a man who attended the Bo School which was established by the British colonialist ‘for the sons of chief’, Brig. Bio’s outburst shows that....Bio did not learn those traditional lessons he should have learned from the cradle of his home – reverence for elders, awe for chiefs, and to be always guarded in speech even if provoked by elders. Bio did not learn what he should have imbibed in Bo School as a teenager - respect for seniors. Bio did not learn much in the U.S. tertiary institution he schooled in for a brief period. No presidential candidate in the U.S. would dare publicly upbraid non-royal but royal-type families in the US like the Kennedys, Kerrys, Heinzes, Bushes.... No leading parliamentarian in the UK hoping to become prime minister would denigrate even a lowly member of the royal family, not to talk of ‘The Queen’ as being “unserious”. But, this is what Bio has done, chilling to the bones the likes of SLPP presidential candidate aspirant, Andrew Keili, seasoned engineer, son of an Anglican Bishop, who in his worst nightmare wouldn’t have uttered such words against the traditional leaders of our land.

Before: ‘Even if you make a goat SLPP candidate in South/East, the goat will win’

Brig. Maada Bio’s “unserious” lampoon of Kailahun chiefs has more profundity that an AFRICAN (!!) young man who has the temerity to publicly smack royal elders largely old enough to father him. Think on the political map of Sierra Leone anytime there are free and fair elections. It would be almost rigidly along tribal/regional lines. 90 percent or so of people in the South/East would cast their votes for the SLPP. When I was growing up as a boy in Bonthe in the 1970s, there was a general saying, and, inflexible belief, that even if you put a goat as candidate for the SLPP against the most well-educated APC with track record of impressive performance in a constituency, the goat-SLPP would win over the APC candidate. That almost literally happened during the 1977 General Elections in Bonthe Town.

The student uprising against the APC in Fourah Bay College had compelled the APC to call for General Elections in 1977. I was a Qualifying Year student in FBC then, and went to my hometown of Bonthe to join the campaigning. The APC candidate for the Bonthe Town South constituency was one ‘Teacher M.M. Koroma’. And the SLPP’s candidate was one ‘Teacher J. Musa’. Teacher Koroma was the SLPP candidate in 1972. He was a much-loved headmaster of the leading primary school in Bonthe Town, the ‘EUB’, where Sir. Milton Margai, our first prime minister, had his primary education, along with a long list of eminent South Easterners. In 1967, I took my ‘Common Entrance’ exams from the EUB. Teacher Koroma was a strict disciplinarian. During his period, the EUB would score some of the best grades in the public examinations. He was loved by the town!! Then, through political manipulations, the Board of the EUB sacked Teacher Koroma. The Muslim Brotherhood primary school in the town then appointed Teacher Koroma as their headmaster. Again, Teacher Koroma performed his administrative magic in the school. The Muslim school which was one of the worst in the town was transformed into one of the best in the town. Teacher Koroma, with a film star handsome visage, Yogic emotional calm, became an idol in Bonthe Town. So, Teacher Koroma entered the 1977 General Election with impressive credential. But, he had committed a cardinal ‘crime’. He switched from the SLPP to the APC.

Teacher Koroma’s competition was the SLPP’s Teacher J. Musa. He was the headmaster of a school controlled by the Anglican Church in Bonthe Town, called “B.A. School”. It was indisputably the worst primary school in the town. Only parents from the poorest homes would dare to send their children to that school. Even Teacher Musa’s home was hardly clean. He had been treated with general contempt in the town. But, when Teacher Musa became the SLPP candidate in 1977, the entire township blindly and passionately supported him. And, the people started treating the once-revered Teacher Koroma as an ‘enemy’. For daring to be APC in Bonthe!!

John Benjamin on ‘Goat Mathematics’

About a month ago, in the presence of defence minister Palo Conteh, and deputy energy minister, Bash-Kamara, I told SLPP Chairman John Benjamin inside the VIP lounge of a ferry crossing to Lungi Airport that I had just come from a countrywide filming of government’s development projects; and the roads being constructed in Kailahun, and other development, are sure to win significant votes for the APC in Kailahun. In his typically calm jocular tone, he derided, “What roads!! Are you sure you were in Kailahun?!!”. With his sharp strategic mind, John Benjamin in the about one minute I was in that VIP lounge came up with this story: “We had a teacher in primary school who asked his students, ‘If there are four goats on the side of the road, and two goats cross the road, how many goats would remain on one side of the road’. Then, one boy put up his hand, and said, ‘No goats would remain on one side of the road, Sir’. The teacher said the boy was stupid. But, the boy stood his ground and said to the teacher, ‘I may not know Mathematics, Sir. But, I am the son of a farmer, and I know goats. If four goats are on the side of the road, and two cross the road, the other two goats would automatically follow...There would be no goats left on the side of the road...’. Amusing!! I wonder whether the defence and deputy energy ministers gave much thought to what John Benjamin had said.

President Koroma Ending ‘Goat Mentality’

What President Bai Koroma has sought to do in Kailahun is to induce an end to this ‘goat mentality’ of our people around the country. To make people think like humans. This is what the chiefs in Kailahun District are in the vanguard of. Sometime in May, the Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs of Kailahun District, Chief Kailondo Banya, implored his people during a ceremony on a crowded Kailahun Town field (during which Le21 billion worth of equipment and materials were handed over to the Kailahun Smallholder Commercialization programme!! When the average of similar equipment to all the Northern Province districts is Le15,000,000,000!!) that they ‘owe a political debt to the APC which they can only pay back by casting their votes for the APC in the November 2012 elections’. Chief Banya said that the people of Kailahun overwhelmingly voted against the APC in the 2007 elections, but, the APC government of President Koroma has directed more development to Kailahun than any other district. He expressly said that the Kailahun people are “not fanatics”, and it is “development” they yearn for; development which has been directed to them by President Koroma’s government.

Chief Sherrif Coker-Jajua, Paramount Chief of Njalahun Chiefdom, in Kailahun District, said almost uncannily the same words as Chief Banya in August, 2012, when I met him during my countrywide filming tour. He pointed out to the mosque in Segbwema which had taken 35 years to complete, but, was completed last year with a personal donation from President Koroma. He praised the new town library in Segbwema built by President Koroma’s government. He was effusive in his praise for President Koroma in constructing the Pedembu-Kailahun Road, which is enabling farmers to get their products speedily to the market – and, even with the road only graded, travel time has been more than halved. I have Chief Coker-Jajua on camera imploring his subject: “We used to give 90 percent of our votes to our brothers in the past; but, what development did they bring to us? Nothing!!” (meaning SLPP); and then, he pleaded with his people “not to vote on sentiment”, but to vote for the man who has “delivered” what he promised, “President Ernest Bai Koroma”.

The biggest political challenge today for the APC strategists is for the words of these royal and traditional leaders to become inculcated into the majority of Kailahun indigenes. Would Kailahun people, who used to be about the most implacable ‘enemies’ of the APC, be in the vanguard of vanquishing TRIBALISM and ensuring the triumph of POLITICAL REWARD for DEVELOPMENT? It all depends on how the APC can aggressively, intensely, and imaginatively, communicate DEVELOPMENT to the people of not only Kailahun, but, other regions in the South East who have had a quantum leap in development over the past five years.