When you are closely connected with the powers that be
June 11, 2019
By Alusine Sesay
I had restrained myself from writing on this topic but I am forced to because my instinct could not allow me to be silent about it. I would start by giving a brief background so as to provide an insight into the topic under review. As a journalist working for one of the biggest Newspapers in Sierra Leone, I have several friends within the corridors of power. For some, we have been friends when studying at the university while others were practising journalists. There is that kind of strong bond with a few among the rest and we sometimes have frank discussions on several issues.
There was a day when I was confronted with one of the realities of things that are partly seemingly responsible for the backwardness of Sierra Leone. A few chat with colleagues who are now enjoying big fat salaries in certain public institutions brought me one of the worst shocks in life.Imgine somebody you knew for defending the interest of the common man in society, now telling you otherwise. That means a lot anyway!
While walking along Siaka Steven Street very close to the historic Cotton Tree, one of the friends said to me: “Alusine, stop this of your writing and navigate your way into the system. You are a young man and you need to build up your family. Writing for the people would not earn you anything order than poverty.”
Then the other guy remarked in Krio parlance: “Lef am normor.E fil say e able make Salone betteh (leave him alone. He thought he has the strength to make Sierra Leone prosperous).I posed a question in response: So you fil say Salone nor go betteh? (So you mean Sierra Leone is not going to prosperous?) He replied saying “na tide you know da wan dae? (Is it now that you are realizing such?).
As I said earlier, that particular conversation brought me the kind of shock I had ever encountered in life. The guy, who was a fine writer, further told me that one of his mentors had once told him that one would keep wearing bended shoes or die in abject poverty if one keeps writing for the common man in society. I am glad though that we were not mentored by the same individual and his mentor has and would never be mine.
I have passed through several hands and am well confidence that I have control over the profession I dub as the best in the world -journalism. Aside from the mentorship I enjoyed from past Editors of Concord Times, I have people out there that have impacted my life a lot. Like Isaac Massaquoi used to tell us at the Mass Communications Department, Fourah Bay College that: “I hate doing too many things.” And he has remained to be a journalist true to its sense.
BBC’s Umaru Fofanah too has throughout in his life being a journalist and he is living a life outside begging. He has once told us while serving as a guest lecturer that, for him, journalism is the best profession in the world. I too hold that view. Although he is not an affluent man, I assumed, but he is living a happy and decent life because he is doing what he so desires. One cannot refer to Umaru or Isaac as poor people. They have made their marks in the field of journalism and they are quietly enjoying the fruit of their labour.These are the kind of people I so admire in the field of journalism. Credibility counts!
One of the things that is bedeviling Sierra Leone is that some people care less about issues affecting the daily lives of others as long as they are connected to the powers that be. There is that ‘you cannot bite the finger that feeds you’ syndrome in Sierra Leone that is slowly taking democracy to the slaughter house. Some people are totally blind about the reality of things and they would not dare speak truth to power because they want to survive. The issue of survival has given birth to the extreme sycophantic and selfish behaviour of our colleagues. You find them all over the place, on all social media groups and platforms. They are always armed to unleash hell on whosoever dares critic the government. They would call you all names and brand you as an opposition just to silence you. For them, everything about the government is perfect. I sometimes call them ‘unofficial’ government spokespersons.
To a certain extent, one would not blame them that much because such is not a novelty in Sierra Leone. The same phenomenon obtained during the past administration of former President Ernest Bai Koroma. He had his boys who were always ready to unleash hell on whosoever speaks against his ‘more time’ agenda. Guys have been conditioned to the extent that they cannot see beyond their noses. They are always ready to sing thy songs of praises until they lose their human dignity. Father forbid!
But one thing I believe is that the worst that would ever happen to any government is when people stop critiquing it activities. It can be a disaster to even an individual who loathes criticism. Aside from being introspective, you can only be able to know your rough edges through others and possibly make some amends. Some of us have gone through several stages and we are still open to criticism as long as it is meant to shape our lives. Such is the beauty of life.
Why President Bio should be careful
One thing President Bio should realise is that the idea of sycophancy was nursed by his immediate predecessor, former President Ernest Bai Koroma. And many Sierra Leonean youth are of the view that the only way they could stay connected to the powers that be is by being sycophantic. The trend is glaring even in this administration. We have people who were openly opposing him, calling him all sorts of names, but suddenly and shamefully became his disciples immediately he became president.Becareful with this kind of loyalty.
When former President Ernest Bai Koroma was doing things as and when he likes, he was being hailed by his henchmen who later went berserk after he left office. Can you imagine Victor Foh was all over the place, blackmailing his former boss whom he had promised to worship? These are the kind of people who crowned former President Koroma as a demi god through sycophancy and selfishness, but later turned against him.
As a journalist, I believe in one thing-holding the government to account. That is what I was taught at the journalism school. I cannot deviate from that because I am obliged to do so and on behalf of our people out there. Government is a sophisticated structure with all the powers around it, hence needs sophisticated and critical media to soften its powers and remind those in governance about their obligations. I remain to be!