By Titus Boye-Thompson, London, UK.
The event over the weekend is not a good sign at all. Democracies are founded on the rule of law and the respect for authority. The rule of law is safeguarded by the Police as custodians of the peace and public safety, in the first instance. Where the Police force does not command the respect of its citizenry then nothing but chaos results as people tend to take to the streets without regard to their personal welfare and the wellbeing of the wider society. In the event, it is mandatory that the Police are allowed to conduct their role as front line guardians of the national peace, so that as they uphold the law, events such as wanton violence does not erupt, neither arbitrarily nor with concerted effort or timing. To witness the events of last weekend unfolding in Kono as a sign of discontent and a foreboding of things to come is at best disconcerting, and as a colleague is apt to say in local parlance, “dis nor go born good pikin!”
Another key tenet for democracy to take hold and for the mechanics of government to run smoothly is the respect for authority. On the one hand, a respect for authority augurs a situation where those who are being policed are responsive to the authority and dictates off the officers on the ground and are pliant to an extent whereby a simple order to desist from violence or the threat of violence is easily dissipated. In the context of the wider governmental machinery, there should also be a marked respect for Authority of State office holders, to acknowledge holders of constitutional authority and for the state to hold miscreants to account when any hint of disrespect is broached. It was brought to my attention some while ago, by an uncle that “even in Heaven, there is seniority.”
The Vice President is demonstrably a senior member of Government as compared to a Cabinet Minister. Apart from the fact that the Vice President, under our current constitution is the only member of Cabinet, who is directly voted for by the populace alongside the President. It stands to reason therefore that while a Cabinet Minister has no legitimacy other than that derived from the President as an appointee, the Vice President holds the legitimacy as a directly elected representative of the entire country. I have read elsewhere that it has been noted that the Vice President has been publicly challenged by a Cabinet Minister! Quell maladie!
Kono is the Sierra Leonean equivalent to the “West Lothian Question” and with the presence of Tony Blair’s aides in Sierra Leone advising on governance, they ought to enlighten the Presidency on what the West Lothian question really entails and how it is handled in Britain. As the bread basket of Sierra Leone, the Kono people see themselves as being worse off compared to other parts of the country with the lingering accusation that the wealth that emanates from their diamonds keep the country together, keep investors interested in the country, keep politicians in business but yet still, keep Kono poor with hardly any good roads or otherwise sustainable infrastructure in the District. The Kono people themselves have not done themselves any favours by acts of wanton largess, spend today and look for another diamond tomorrow hence very little investment in their immediate environment! Neither have they evinced solidarity by abandoning the previously pious dictum, “Kono ay Kono Fa,” (loose meaning, “Konos should not kill Kono”).
Those who hold or maintain that the Vice President, Hon Sam Samsumana does not have a base in Kono or within the APC is most definitely putting out such falsehoods in order to justify the notion that he can be dispensed with summarily and with a pliant Kono people acceding to that occurrence. That notion is false, misleading and untrue but as the constitution is clear, it is the prerogative of the President to choose his running mate. Herein lies a looming problem that the constitutional lawyers may well have to ponder upon. One can legitimately ask the question, with the proviso that the Sierra Leone Constitution or otherwise the APC constitution are not readily to hand, is the choice of the running mate summarily ended mid-term on a two term Presidency or does the choice end on the operation of law as regards the decision of the entire the electorate?
A more moral question may be one of trust, how much damage will accrue to a President who ditches his running mate mid-stream when it is apparent to the public that the change was occasioned by a personality clash or a desire to manipulate political sensibilities rather than one based on performance, service to the State and/or loyalty to the Presidency? If history is anything to go by, then this has happened before and will history repeat itself? Is Musa Tarawally a stalking horse? There is anecdotal evidence that Olusegun Obasanjo’s handpicked successor Yar Adua told him three weeks after assuming office that “Mr ex-President, I cannot make that weekly meeting we agreed on some time ago, I am the President now so I am very busy, I will see you at my convenience.” And to back that up, Yar Adua ordered the arrest and detention of Obasanjo’s daughter on some charge of corruption until he was pleaded upon by Obasanjo who relieved Yar Adua of all his promises made before his elevation!
It is interesting that Sierra Leone should come to terms with this question at this time. The warning shots have been fired already with the incident at Kono and from all accounts this is a warning shot that has been fired prematurely. There are no indications that the President intends to replace the Vice President come 2012, or is there? In any event, the VP has shown considerable statesmanship and a sense of duty and loyalty unsurpassed in Sierra Leonean politics. To ascribe any blame for the state of Kono and to the lack of infrastructure thereon to the VP is like attributing the atrocities of the NPRC to Maada Bio – a bit far fetched but histrionically plausible. Samsumana has had to hold back on the aspirations he may have had for Kono in favour of the laid down timetable for development adopted by the Government that he serves and driven by the President to whom he is a loyal Vice. He can do nothing but just that.
To expect more is impractical and tantamount to insubordination. This is a man devoid of any blame, he is a passenger, albeit riding with the driver in the front seat but he is not holding the steering nor has his foot on the pedals. He is being taken to his destination and like a matured passenger, he is not a back seat driver, attempting to instruct the driver where to go or how to drive, neither is he like the impatient child who continuously asks, “are we there yet?” Pundits and more largely, political sceptics may well wish to see a disruption in the APC machinery. It may augur well for those who wish to see an implosion, as no political in-fighting is more damaging than that of a party in Power, again, the Tony Blair policy team should be able to inform State House of that! A political party should enjoin all their stakeholders under a unified umbrella based on respect for the rule of law, for authority and for loyalty being given the just reward it deserves.
As Vice President, Samsumana has been quietly effective. He has made some very astute and courageous decisions and the most celebrated was the closure of the party radio stations. A controversial move but it was one that has lengthened the democracy and strengthened the respect for political discourse than any other single decision. Imagine what the airwaves would have been like after the SLPP Flag-bearer elections were concluded? There are more talkers than writers in Sierra Leone and every Tom, Foday or Santigie who could hold a microphone would have gone to town, on both sides of the fence, flaring up hatred and exchanging invectives willy nilly!
It would rather be that the Presidency deals with the issue that seem to raise its head above the parapet, now and decisively so. It may well be that the choice for running mate is the gift of the President, it is nonetheless unhelpful for people to force his hand as he ponders on his choice. It is to be expected that he may wish to change his tem going forwards but as in all aspects of politics, it is better to keep loyal and trusted enemies closer than uncouth and boastful friends. After all, your friends can take up battles on your behalf whilst you are better able to assess your enemy up close and personal, man to mam, eyeball to eyeball and requests from him in no uncertain terms, “Do you feel lucky Soldier, go on, make my day!”