August 1, 2016 By: Winstanley.R.Bankole. Johnson
“A Prophet is not without honour; except in his own country” – Ref. Jesus Christ in Matt. 13:57; Mark. 6:4, when reacting to attempts by His own kith and kin to trivialize His miraculous authority to heal, teach and prophesy in His own place of birth. But perhaps the next best fertile environment epitomizing such domestic scorn of its own peoples after Jerusalem is Sierra Leone, where the citizens take a delight in destroying one another with unrivaled artistic mastery on the altars of greed, selfishness, tribalism and above all, political chicanery, especially if one dares to stand on the right side of truth and justice, or against blatant corruption. And they do it with such near accuracy via as many complicit media outlets as would set families against each other eternally.
Contrast that with the praises and adulations we shower on foreigners with ease, even when they bleed us dry, fry us our in our own fat or bring our nation state into such global disrepute as having the names of those we adopted as citizens on the international terrorism watch list. For example, when the American Embassy recently blacklisted names of Sierra Leoneans of Lebanese extraction purportedly involved in terrorist financing, about half of our local tabloids rose to their defenses with synchronized screaming banner headlines to wit-: “Not All Lebanese are Terrorists!!” How and why our sympathies could be so charitably disposed to foreigners, against a perennial contempt and disdain for our compatriots even where they are making tremendous sacrifices for “Mamma Salone” is just unimaginable.
For weeks local print and electronic media outlets were awash with craftily concocted but patently specious and scurrilous reports challenging the academic qualifications (or a lack of it) and administrative competence of Prof. Ekundayo Thompson to head the University of Sierra Leone comprising the Fourah Bay College (FBC), Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) and College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) campuses as Vice Chancellor. And they conveyed those negative sentiments with such venom and suggestive venality as has ultimately exposed a whole university establishment – our prime and highest citadel of learning – to crass odium and contempt.
Arising almost simultaneously with the Prof. Thompson episode was an equally odious development that has ultimately crystallized into the university severing a nearly twelve-year relationship with Assistant Professor Ibrahim Abdullah from its academic staff. As far as I am concerned, no nexus exists between both developments, albeit they occurred within the same campus. But from each could be discerned serious and critical business issues crying for urgent redress by government, if the University of Sierra Leone is to achieve the transformations contemplated in their long-term strategic plans, in order to reclaim its former glory and acronym of “Athens” of West Africa. Meantime with Asst. Prof. Abdullah already having fallen off the plank, we can only conclude for starters that it’s a case of one down; many more to go.
Let me restrict myself to the qualifications and competence imbroglio of the sitting Vice Chancellor that nearly transiently blighted the media landscape a few weeks back and let’s assume they were true. Wouldn’t the proper thing have been for the faceless accusers to have first assumed faces and then officially report the matter to the University Court, incorporating further a demand for an official enquiry? Wouldn’t that by extension have elicited hard evidences from the external counterparties involved like the University of South Africa (UNISA) who certified Prof. Thompson’s Doctoral Thesis and others whose works were purportedly plagiarized or warranted his ultimate scoring for Professorship, instead of taking the entire University of Sierra Leone administration to the cleaners in the process like they did?
It has to be noted that for the as many weeks as the smear campaigns against Prof. Thompson lasted, leaving the poor man’s reputation to the Court of Public Opinion, at no time were salient and cogent evidences adduced to justify them. And I will stress on the “facelessness” of his accuser because an aggrieved party so convinced about the merits of his/her evidence would logically have ascribed names and faces to his gripes. But there was none.
Rather in a desperate attempt to hoodwink a gullible audience and readership into sympathy, elaborate references were made to various parameters and authorities for validating plagiary, which were pitted against Prof. Thompson’s works essays, but they were never directly supplied to UNISA, nor was any attempt made to safeguard the proprietary rights of the original authors of the published works deemed plagiarized to the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission. Yet they spoke and wrote endless reams of what to date has settled for untruths ad infinitum, knowing full well that in this country laws against libel and slander exist only for perusal, not for their application. The poor man’s character has been assailed, though not crushed, compelling the entire university to now make desperate efforts to redeem itself from this scandalous episode, throughout which it had maintained a deafening silence.
To manifest his disgust for the entire episode, one renowned Professor exploded thus-: “If Prof. Thompson is culpable, then he should be severely punished ….. but from a purely academic standpoint I find the articles in the papers baffling………because the first two chapters in Doctoral thesis normally allows for quotes from other people’s works and due recognition given…..But it would appear no queries are raised for Chapters 4 and 5…….which are the areas where serious issues of plagiarism can arise….And if the thesis were supervised and accepted by a competent and reputable University as UNISA, would they have overlooked lifting without due reference and recognition having been paid?…….…..Also could the internal and external examiners of unquestionable competence have passed a thesis that did not meet acceptable writing standards such as due reference for citations and lifted sources? ……..If on the other hand this is just a smear campaign that lacks merit, then I wonder what level of decadence and rot our people are willing to sink into in order to have their own way………Where has decency gone to?” – Unquote
I am challenged to rise to the defense of Prof. Ekundayo Thompson (and will do the same for my younger brother from the same “Igbilleh” Prof. Abdullah if his reputation stands unjustifiably assailed) because I see a parallel between Prof. Thompson’s issue and insidious attempts made between 2005 and 2007 by several fence-sitting media outlets then (but who are now “Redder than APC Red” – and of course some sitting APC Councillors) tacitly on the payroll of the SLPP Kabbah/Berewa administration to smear my reputation. They had realized that an APC victory depended on just one man at the Freetown City Council whose ego once punctured, would have deprived Ernest Bai Koroma any iota of a chance for the Presidency.
So to achieve that they maliciously juxtaposed Cap.82 (Local authorities Officers’ Superannuation Ordinance) with Cap.71 (Freetown Municipal Officers’ Superannuation Ordinance (Laws of Sierra Leone Vol.2 – 1960) over which the Accountant General had absolutely no control) and initiated a sustained barrage of lies in the media that I had pilfered and embezzled million of pounds from the FCC UK Crown Agents funds. But they goofed miserably, because with typical stoicism and resilience, I matched their blows pound for pound. And the rest as they say is history.
It is the same tactic now being used to goad sympathy from the Court of Public Opinion by smearing the reputation of Prof Ekundayo Thompson just so as to either cow him into their mediocre whim and caprice or to exit him from the system. Here’s a man whose blaze of trail has not only been exemplary in the infrastructural strides of the University of Sierra Leone, but who has in essence and at his campuses levels been gradually actualizing President Koroma’s dream of transforming the entire country into a “works yard”, evidenced by ongoing massive expansion works to cater for the growing lecture halls and administrative needs of the university. Did he poach that idea as well? Or should he first have obtained an Engineering Degree from Stellenbosch’s University before commencement of those expansion works? Any wonder then that amidst it all H.E President Koroma’s confidence in Prof. Thompson waxed all the more as seen in his recent signing of a US$36million refurbishment contract on behalf of the University?
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, our challenges will be half solved the moment we begin to render unto “Caesar” what rightly belongs to “Caesar”. We should not only be condemning, but also to be praising each other where and when it becomes necessary to do so.
The laudable achievements of many modest Sierra Leoneans have gone unnoticed. We have to change this negative mindset. And we can start by giving unto Ekundayo what rightly belongs to Ekundayo.
That is nationalism.