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BEYOND BORDERS

My thoughts on “After U…”, our country’s future, and President Koroma

By Sulaiman Momodu – (beyondborders.column@gmail.com)

The latest and hottest slogan in Sierra Leone is “After U…”, a slogan some bootlickers are using to call for either extra time or a third term for President Ernest Bai Koroma and his APC government. The response of the pathetic and disunited opposition is: After u na u back; After u na vacate; After Gbagbo na u.

It is really sad that for a country that has so much to do to make the lives of its largely impoverished people better amid systemic corruption in all sectors of government, the convergence over the past few days and weeks is not on very important national issues but the preposterous “After U na U”. President Koroma should not entertain any such talk no matter the degree of flattery.

Instead of considering their election or appointments as a privilege and a call to national service, over the past few decades our compatriots have been largely serving their country by looting, plundering the country’s resources, preaching tribalism and regionalism, and neglecting campaign promises with unspeakable arrogance.

As a result of the predictable manner in which self-centred politicians behave, some individuals who have worked hard to build a reputation loathe the idea of actively participating in politics and for good reason. The first thing you sacrifice when you decide to actively participate in politics and vie for public office is your reputation. Late former president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was one such person who returned home to rest after retiring from the United Nations and never wanted anything to do with politics. He was begged to lead the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) which he reluctantly accepted and went on to become president. Providence. He served his second term and handed over to the unlikely opposition in controversial circumstances all in an effort to protect our hard won peace and nascent democracy for which thousands of people were killed and several others maimed for life. Kabbah had his challenges but he left with his reputation in one piece and the country in peace. Rest in peace Pa Kabbah! By all accounts, the time has come when well-meaning people of our country should no longer fold their hands and look at our country take another trajectory to tragedy.

Some supporters of the governing APC party readily admit that a lot of people are dissatisfied with the status quo. Unfortunately, as of now the opposition seen too disorganized and lack a sense of focus to provide a suitable alternative.

In my last article “Yesterday we campaigned”, I pointed out that a few principled people in the governing APC will change the fortunes of the country. For a political party that came to power on the heels of deep controversies, it is really sickening that over the past years we have witnessed the shortage of practically everything except the ridiculous.

For a nation that fought very hard for the restoration of democracy after the APC forced a one-party rule on the country, and for a country whose citizens had their limbs hacked off in 1996 because they dared to defy bullets for the ballots, the resolve of the people is clear – the people have chosen democracy. Is that too hard for anybody to understand? Let me quickly mention that democracy, even by our own experience has its challenges, but the lack of it or any act of unconstitutionality, will breed violence and terror.

Most times conflicts and terrorism around the world do not happen suddenly. The 11-years of civil war in our country did not happen suddenly; it was years of bad governance which degenerated into mayhem. You know the rest.

Today, the world watches in horror as Dinkas kill people who speak Nuer and vice versa in South Sudan; Christians and Muslims go on a slaughtering spree in Central African Republic (CAR) and in Nigeria, it is the Boko Haram militant group that is mindlessly killing defenceless civilians on a daily basis and kidnapping young girls at will. The Nigerian government response is to offer US$300,000 reward to anyone who will tell it where more than 200 abducted schoolgirls had been taken. The largest economy in Africa is now reportedly claiming that it does not have weapons to fight the insurgents.   I have visited Nigeria on a few occasions. On my last visit, I tried to make sense of why the government seem incapable to deal with Boko Haram. The issue is very complex and is beyond “western education is forbidden”. Boko Haram has sponsors some of whom are allegedly in government. What most politicians forget though is that insecurity anywhere is a threat to security everywhere.

In Sierra Leone, in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, APC government officials contracted themselves over the importation of deadly weapons, exposing their naked lies over the real motive for procuring arms ahead of elections. Those who were procuring weapons were again the ones threatening to take people to The Hague. Incredible.

On the issue of “After U…”, my understanding is that the APC government has denied asking anybody to campaign for extra time or third term for President Koroma. However, the printing and proudly wearing of T-shirts inscribed with “After U na U” by APC partisans are indicators of “you have my blessing”. Freedom of speech goes with responsibility and that includes the responsibility of all Sierra Leoneans to respect the constitution.  If the APC has done a good job as it claims, let the people be the judge at the polls. President Koroma’s ally, former president Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and others who wanted a third term bid left office with their reputation hugely discounted. Koroma should please learn from his friend.

Finally, let me speak to His Excellency directly: Please look around you and check how many of those who may be telling you to have extra time or third term were there for you when you were struggling and battling in court for the leadership of a discredited APC? How many of them have not disappointed you when you appointed them to help you change the fortunes of the country? How many of those close to you have not been telling you to do things the old APC way by beating up perceived critics  and throwing them in prisons? Mr. President, all these people want is to protect their jobs. Today, they are saying: Hosanna! Hosanna! Tomorrow, they will say: Crucify him! Crucify him! Members of the international community are watching what is happening in Sierra Leone. When the chips are down they will arrest. I know you are a Christian so let me leave you with this quotation. James 4:7 says: Resist the devil and he will flee from you. I rest my case!

Note: Sulaiman Momodu is former editor the Concord Times newspaper. He also reported for the BBC during the civil war. The views expressed here are personal.