From the Editor’s Keyboard

Politics may not survive as a contact sport

3 December 2016 at 00:26 | 1461 views

Opinion

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Some people refer to politics as a game.

If that is the case, then we have to decide the rules and also to confirm whether we should allow it to be a contact or non-contact sport.

Those who believe that politics is a game would do well to assist on such characterisation. There are others who would rather see politics as a serious business of rationalisation, a process by which those who have been chosen to govern have to conduct themselves within the rigours of office, taking in all the difficult and hard decisions that need to be made to ensure that our society does not collapse.

If you think it is a game, then you are likely to view politics as a matter of timing, today for me and tomorrow for you. That totally detracts from the fundamental principle of governance, which is that you should earn the trust of those you wish to govern otherwise you are not going to be in there.

In the USA, one thing the President elect succeeded to demonstrate is that if you cannot earn the trust of all the people, make so much noise about your own incompetency and you can buy the trust of the remainder.

In the United Kingdom, the crucial point for consideration is that of regret in political jousting. There are some who are now lumbered with a political decision to which they were not only previously opposed to but due to the irrationality of political discourse, their side lost but they still have to take on the mantle of interpreting the result of the decision of the side that won. It is easy to be confused by this but the reality of the Brexit vote is that those who campaigned for Britain to come out are now out of political power, even though they were the ones that won the referendum and vice versa. Those who campaigned for Britain to stay in now have been tasked to negotiate Britain’s exit.

When Western, more advanced civilizations, grapple with the fallout of political decisions, it begs the question why Sierra Leone should not have its own fair share of political rain dance. If you listen to the opposition activists, they would try to pass on a false message that all is lost in a country where the resilience of its rural communities meant that food shortage did not occur during the Ebola period when the whole country was in lock down and isolation from the international communities. Even our neighbours were locking borders with us, even when the virus was brought over here from their own very territory. If you follow the argument, it is just as if a neighbour takes his rabid dog and left it in your compound and then goes back in to his compound to lock the gate with a stern warning to you not to let that dog out from your compound to stray into his.

To tell the truth, it had to take the decisiveness of a leader like President Ernest Bai Koroma to waylay the early predictions that were bandied about by the international medical community threatening that upwards of 2 million people would die of Ebola before it was contained. What we have not been good at doing in Sierra Leone is keeping our affairs in house, dealing with our problems in a responsible manner or otherwise, wash our dirty linens at home. For our people, politics is now a full blown contact sport and the scores are made when an individual is caught in a compromising situation. Scandals, stern positions and even death are scoring points. The game is also not decidedly based on two teams. The opponents can come from outside or from within. Hence this is the only game where own goals are as normal as penalties. The scorer gets the accolade and the defeated gets the blame, and the blame is not, only personal but can be extended to his ancestors as well.

Those who have tried, though unsuccessfully, to use a hapless college student as a political football are now nursing their wounds but in their game she had scored a goal in the same way as the goal keeper on their team also allowed two more goals to go in. The approbation is on them and even though they lost the game, theirs is a loss in victory. The hapless lady gets to be named child advocate of the year by the Kids Action Network. Not understanding the rationale, she accepted the accolade with humility, with a thank you speech that would rival any Oscar surprise.

The EDSA saga is playing itself out in full view of the press. Even the Hon. Minister of Energy was forced to put out a press statement detailing his opinion on how the matter was unfolding. In some obscure posting on social network, it was brought to my attention that the Uncle of the Chief Executive of PEC, the embattled company in that matter, was indeed the Deputy Minister of Energy and it was on his advice that the Chief Executive of PEC had to retract some statements recently and apologise to the Minister for some indiscretions.

On reading that, I was amazed that such an incestuous relationship exists in that Ministry and a contractor but to date, no one has seen anything wrong with that. It is similar to the case of a child being sent off to marriage at the age of 14 and the husband argues that he sought the consent of the parents, who had accepted his bride price, so nothing is wrong with what he has done. No one can be so wrong or more disdainful of the laws in this country. A child being married off before the age of 18 is wrong and unlawful, it is a crime. So it is that a Deputy Minister who has such filial relationship with a contractor must disavow himself from all dealings on that contract and should not be seen to be engaging in any manner with respect to the contract, particularly when there is a dispute on the ground. Otherwise, whose interest would the Deputy Minister serve, the Government’s interest that is represented by the substantive Minister, or the family interest that is pursued by his nephew?

For the above reasons, I find the situation distasteful and immoral. It is lamentable that so many good people have had their reputations shredded at that Ministry but this time around, the sound reasons that have been advanced by the Minister ought to be protected. The Minister of Energy, Ambassador Henry Macaulay, is not the type of man to be swayed by mere utterances or influenced by unwary authority. This is a man who is skilled in his trade, has engaged in several strategic decisions for Sierra Leone and even before entering politics, has served his country as one of the foremost and youngest business moguls of his day, providing jobs and employment to many. In fact, when local press media goes after such men with unbridled tenacity, it makes those who have a reputation to guard, who have worked in international institutions all their lives, fear tarnishing their image when they are called to take up office to serve this country.

What most people do not understand is that that call to serve is such a selfless one that some people who heed the call do so for purely nationalistic reasons and the opportunity to help make a difference to the country where they were born and bred. Inordinately, governance, is never adjudged by such people as being about holding office to please those they know but rather, they view public service to be primarily about the welfare of the nation. That maybe, even our Parliamentarians may have been fed a spoonful of bitter kola just as the public is being fed vinegar must be balanced by the stand of a man who is known to be astute, principled and committed to the vision of his President.

For once, public sympathy should rest with the Minister, to support him to do his best for this country by making a difference in the way public contracts are handled. If the PEC company has so much as a case, all they need to do is appeal or challenge the Minister through the legal administrative process by seeking a judicial review of his decisions.

To continue this case in the press media, is merely playing a game of politics with the welfare of the people.

In this case, they are playing politics as a contact sport!

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