Solemn Tribute to National Electoral Boss Christiana Thorpe

25 September 2007 at 04:23 | 1279 views

By Abdulai Bayraytay, Deputy Editor, Toronto,Canada.

Prior to the holding of the just concluded presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone that saw Ernest B. Koroma clinching the presidency against his political rival erstwhile vice-president Solomon Berewa, a lot of hue and cry was made by a cross-section of the mostly chauvinistic elitist class of the country.

This was not so much because the independence of the National Electoral Commission, along with other democratic institutions, have been compromised in the past as evident in the compensation of Dr. James Jonah as Minister of Finance after admitting that he indeed presided over the fraudulent elections in 1996 that ushered in Ahmad Tejan Kabbah president of the country, but simply because the re-constituted Electoral Commission was going to be headed by a woman.

Another apparent reason for the unfounded skepticism was because the closest friend of the chief electoral boss, Sam Maligie, is a die-hard supporter of the now defunct ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government, was appointed by the same ruling party and government, and approved by the same parliament dominated by SLPP die-hards. No wonder reports had it that she excused herself from her friend in order to avoid undue speculations of influence.

And that woman is no other but Dr. Christiana Thorpe, an iron lady who lived up to the expectations of Sierra Leoneans and eventually carved an indelible name for herself to command both local and international reputation. This did not however come to pass without a price. Rife rumors had it that the SLPP government attempted to bribe Dr. Thorpe with $100,000 United States dollars plus a brand new SUV so that she could turn a blind eye to preposterous election irregularities. “I am so sorry about this, the people should be given the chance to decide their fate through voting”, the modest Dr. Thorpe was reported to have told the SLPP bribers.

As her “defiance” was matched with action by repeatedly striving to defend the credibility of her commission, the SLPP resorted to other means; this time through confrontation during the peak of the campaign period. At this point, while Solomon Berewa was crying wolf over bias by the Sierra Leone Police, SLPP hoodlums were unleashed on committed NEC members, especially Dr. Christiana Thorpe, with death threats in a calculated attempt to scare her and give way to SLPP plans to rig the elections.

This disciplinary nature of the former Roman Catholic nun was not a novelty in anyway. When she was principal of the prestigious St. Joseph’s Secondary School (SJSS) for girls in the northern provincial headquarter town of Makeni, she would discipline students by just looking at them.

In essence, her personality, though lanky at the time, was so gigantic that those students with behavior issues would resort to normal behavior, even if faking it, by the mere mention of “Christiana Thorpe is coming”.

This view was corroborated while taking my Ordinary Level Exams in 1987 at SJSS in which Dr. Thorpe was the chief examiner. With her astute supervision, the exams would not only start on time, but the bell signaling the end of the exams would ring just in time, just as how students who failed to respect exams protocols were exempted from taking them. Expectedly, she was bashed with murmurs and grumbling like “da mother dae nar in bad” (translated from the country’s lingua franca to mean: that nun is very bad).

I could also recall my days at Fourah Bay College (FBC) when we had to march from campus to the Ministry of Education at New England Ville in Freetown to confront Dr. Thorpe, then Education minister under the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), to reduce tuition fees. Again, she exerted her disciplinary attitude by refusing to talk. She simply said “Ladies and gentlemen, you surely have the right to demonstrate. But amidst the chaos, nothing could be accomplished”. She was however rescued from the situation by Sam Maligie, and then Chief Education Officer Dr. Alfred Bobson Sesay who later became SLPP Housing minister.

While Dr. Thorpe had completed her own task, her dedication to accomplish credible results should serve as a mirror to the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) government to live up to the trust reposed in it by the overwhelming support it received from an electorate disgusted by the connectocracy, nepotism and corruption of the beaten SLPP government.

Indeed, Dr. Christiana Thorpe really deserves this tribute because if she had erred in the just concluded polls, the press would have had a field day by calling her all sorts of names. Thank God she did not, and therefore this solemn tribute is in recognition of a Sierra Leonean lady who has made us proud of our heritage, one who had disgraced sexism by telling the world that yes, women too can do it if given the opportunity.