Salone News

The shepherds are running away, Mr. President

By  | 11 May 2010 at 01:54 | 424 views

News doing the rounds that the energetic and assiduous Anti Corruption Commission chief, Abdul Tejan Cole has, or is about to resign from his post for a lucrative job abroad, is not sitting down well with hopeful Sierra Leoneans at home and in the diaspora.

Whatever the reasons are for this unpleasant development offers yet another chance for President Koroma to demonstrate his leadership qualities. Sierra Leoneans have been hopeful of a president who appointed such a brilliant compatriot to fight sleaze in both public and private sectors. And the youthful vigour with which Abdul Tejan Cole went about his job was unprecedented. Within a short time, he and his team successfully exposed some rich and powerful government officials as well as con businessmen. His no nonsense approach sent shock waves through the rank and files of government officials who in their quiet corners hoped, as is typical with corrupt officials that the young man’s zest will wane. But no, he became a thorn in the flesh, for the ever morally bankrupt political class, who erroneously believe that their reasons for being in politics are to enrich themselves much to the detriment of their subjects.

As the investigations and subsequent prosecution of the corrupt continued, Sierra Leoneans applauded. But in the dark, the usual suspects; sworn enemies of progress, conspired to pull yet another people’s shepherd down. While corrupt officials were in the main the architects of the conspiracy, it would surprise the world to know that some idiots in the press world, who in the first place, have no business in journalism connived to hound a perfect gentleman out of town. Tejan Cole’s crime maybe, is touching some ‘sacred cows’. In stead of helping the ACC to name and shame economic criminals, some members of the fourth estate ridiculed, psychologically tortured and pressured Tejan Cole into a premature resignation. This is the sad story of Sierra Leone’s politics and fourth estate. Anyone, who means well for the land should not rejoice over this incident. Tejan Cole’s resignation is a symbolic gesture of pessimism at the highest, i.e. nothing good will ever come from Sierra Leone.
Not that some of us did not see it coming. Few days ago, a compatriot and I were discussing the lamentable case of Abdul Tejan Cole against the backdrop of some pathetic media houses in the country. My conclusion was that Tejan Cole would be forced to leave the country and look elsewhere. Few days later, the penny dropped. And I won’t say I blame him. Who would endure such hostility in your backyard, when your services are demanded and respected abroad? Who will stomach such intrigues that circumvent one’s values and philosophy in life? Such retrogressive attitudes continue to stand in the way of well meaning Sierra Leoneans, who ponder whether it is worth it to go back home and contribute to nation building.

President Koroma has definitely got a herculean task to perform here. The fight against corruption was the platform on which his election was fought and won. To give him his dues, he himself has rolled up his sleeves and chased some container mafias who were depriving the nation of much needed revenue. But how he handles this present crisis could boost his leadership credentials or be his undoing. He should not allow party affiliates who are bent on grubbing derail his crusade. In the fight against sleaze, there is no room for patronage.
A certain Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was ‘brave’ enough to confound the whole world in a BBC interview that as president then, in as much as he was conscious of corruption in high places, he found it difficult to take tough actions. Why? According to him, if he were to sack those corrupt government officials, their livelihood would have been lost and their families would suffer. My God! I have heard some crap in my life before, but that certainly took the biscuit. But that’s Tejan Kabbah for you.

Ernest Koroma should learn lessons from this. The percentage of his compatriots yearning for positive change is far greater than the journalistic car-crash and rent-a-crowd at court hearings that are holding a recovering nation hostage. They may have succeeded in sending Abdul Tejan Cole into an unwanted self exile, but they should not kill the spirit of the ACC. I know some of the president’s men will be only too happy to see the back of upright citizens as it will open a flood gate for them to plunder. But Mr. President, you know too well that the buck stops at your table. When Tejan Kabbah made that statement, it was at a time when he had no care in the world. He was seeing the end of his term and thought, ‘What the heck?’.

The question for President Koroma is, does he want to be a very good first term president, or like his predecessors force his way through an undeserved second term in office? If he chooses the former, then he should immediately right the wrongs between the ACC and the judiciary. He should maintain the respectability of our courts and their environs. It is not a playground for bubus and gumbays. The officials working there deserve some air of serenity. The trial of Haja Afsatu Kabbah has been reduced to a circus. Instead of a trial by judge and jury, what we have is a trial by press thugs, ‘Any Government in Power’ (AGIPS) and the dark forces. No one has said Afsatu is guilty, but in the name of God, will her noisy advocates please allow us to listen to the men in wigs? And for all those impersonators masquerading as journalists: I have got news for you. Should Sierra Leone fail to move forward, it would not only be governments that would be held responsible, no, but rather consider it a plague on your houses.