August 22, 2019
By: Winstanley. R Bankole Johnson
Funnily rather than dislike him for publicly declaring allegiance to the party of the sitting government of which he has been Minister since the first Cabinet appointments of President Madaa Bio, I can categorically vouch that the entire APC Executive and Party rank and file never batted eyelids over it and were instead palpably relieved and even happy for him, that finally, Peter Bayuku Conteh (a.k.a. Agbangba Jazz) could emancipate himself from his APC cocoon of so many years, to regain his inner political peace and stability of mind. As with many others before him to have either switched over to the Party of the ruling government (e.g. our former VP Hon. Victor Bockari Foh) – for which no official transfer certificate is required anyway – or openly denigrated the APC they all once purported to have served illustriously, I see these changes not necessarily as “good riddance”, but rather as some rare contemporary expositions of what the Bible would refer to in the Book of Acts 2: 11 as “…….the mighty works of God”.
Come to think of it, we cannot all exude the same resilience or stoicism under the same distressed circumstances because at creation we were all fitted for different tasks in life, the vicissitudes of which can bring out our true characters. As my late grandparents would always remind us, if you wanted to know anyone’s true character, give that person money and power. So I suppose the converse holds true if you took both money and power from anyone. It can even lead to a divorce. “Hard up nor funny ooooooh!!”. (It’s not fun to be broke). But as only God and Fools don’t change, I hold no brief for no one.
But if there was anything spectacular in the wake of Peter Bayuku Conteh’s decision it was the muteness of my SLPP sparring partners who unlike previously were neither as excited about it, nor did they circulate the usual provocative social media text messages on the matter. The event came and passed off without much lustre, in much the same manner as the Puauwi Dr. Sama Banya would describe as “a dull thud”. Whether that had to do with the harsh economic realities on the ground; coupled with the fact that many of them are yet to clinch those lucrative positions promised them a clear sixteen months ago, or as a few have confided in me they are almost “fed up” with a New Direction without clear directional signs I honestly cannot fathom. The fact remains though that not a single provocative missive was received on account of Peter Bayauku Conteh’s departure from the APC Party. How times can change! These days even the usual cat calls are subsiding, and gradually being subsumed by the SLPP Government’s subtle acquiescence that finally and factually (and this is courtesy of Finance Minister JJ Saffa and Hon. Tawa on their recent media airwaves responses) the reasons for our economic decline between 2014 and 2018 were the direct results of the twin shocks of the Ebola scourge and down turn in the global Ore prices, coupled with the Mudslide of Aug 2017 AND NOT (Repeat NOT) on account of the reckless pillaging of the country’s resources by the “Ernest Bai Koroma Tolongbo Toll Gate Ebola Mudslide Pan-bodi Babaloa Santibo-Kiat Not Fit for Purpose Illiterate Looters”.
I came to know Peter Bauyuku Conteh around 2008 and give that to him, he was maverick – an eccentric trend setter – within the Koinadugu political landscape. He was the equivalent of a “Village Robin Hood” insofar as his peoples’ welfare were concerned. Throughout electioneering since then, one needn’t visit the Yogamayah and Yagala Chiefdom environs personally to prove that point. One only needed to have been as .privileged as I was then to have been present at several APC hierarchical meetings with delegations from Koinadugu at which key decisions were to be taken, and to observe Peter Bayuku Conteh always emerging having his say and way.
Those experiences, as with many others left a few of us from minority clans and tribes within the two major political parties of APC and SLPP utterly perplexed at what we’re missing out on, and which by all indications we can never be able to influence or remedy, more so now that Northerners and South-Easterners have through some unwritten Code of political conduct, swore to ensure that their compatriots from either region assume endangered species status the moment their party loses political authority.
The clear difference between us in the minority and them in then majority within these two main political structures is that whereas the tribulations of the latter in between changes of political dispensations can be seasonal, ours who are in the minorities are perennial. With much gratitude to them however, it was the likes of Peter Bayuku Conteh that convinced many like me that contrary to Masonic teachings and particularly within the context of Pan-African politics, great numbers – no matter how dumb – are always beneficial. Even Psalm 127: 5 endorses that: “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of children; He shall not be afraid of, but will confront and speak with the enemy at the gate”. How else would a diminutive person like Peter Bayuku Conteh have been able to wield such importance without well knowing he had a crowded support base? A blind would not threaten to break someone’s head with a stone unless he was standing on one.
Between 2008 and 2012 Mr. Peter Bayuku Conteh’s names were constantly mentioned in dispatches. As the Chair of the Koinadugu District Council (2008-2012) he was alleged to have demanded that (1) The National Anthem be played out before any of his broadcast in the Community Radio Station (2) His motorcade be heralded by wailing sirens and (3) Traditional Chiefs and elders pay open obeisance to him because according to the Local government Act No.1 of 2004 (Sec.20:1), Local Councils were deemed to be “……the highest political authority in any locality”. In my time as Mayor of Freetown any reference to that particular section of that Act made all ministers in the 2002-2007 administration of Late Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (particularly Mr. Sidiki Brima, erstwhile Local Government Minister) saw “Red” and I suppose are still seeing “Red” to this day, and remains the bane of complete Decentralization to this day.
All central governments – rather Cabinet Ministers – since 2004 consider full decentralization as a threat to their ego or status and see Local Councils as institutions to be micro-managed. But back then, Mr. Peter Bayuku Conteh ensured the Chiefs and other traditional elders within Koinadugu fully understood that proviso in practical terms. And one should further forget that in between all of that, a number of skirmishes between the Youth of Kabala Township and the Police were also alleged to have been master-minded by Peter Bayuku Conteh, two of which ended tragically in loss of lives. The first was when government attempted to remove a thermal plant
Kabala, and again when they decided to relocate the Youth Village Scheme from the Kabala Township to within the Mile 91 axis. Both incidents resulted in loss of lives.
The l traditional authorities eventually ganged up against Peter Bayuku Conteh and threatened to either boycott the 2012 elections or transfer allegiance to the opposition SLPP if the APC Party leadership failed to rein him into order. Again because of the advantages of demographic strength, their threats paid off. Peter Bayuku Conteh was denied the APC symbol to re-run for the Chairmanship of Koinadugu in 2012, but the Party committed itself (in my presence) to award him a lucrative ministerial slot after the elections, if he threw his support for, and joined the campaign wagon of the Party’s candidate for the Koinadugu Chairmanship election among others. It was an expensive horse trading; but it paid fine electoral dividends, following which Peter Bayuku Conteh clinched the Tourism Cabinet Ministerial seat.
But African political leaders – especially as incumbent Presidents – rarely tolerate affronts to their Supreme Executive Authority as guaranteed in their National Constitutions, so pundit predicted and rightly so, that Peter Bayuku Conteh’s tenure in the Cabinet will be short-lived. In fact one of the reasons why some daring ones like us never felt enticed to ministerial appointments was our awareness of the existence and application of that Supreme Executive Authority which like the “Sword of Damocles” hangs precariously over the heads of all government Cabinet Ministers, especially those bold enough not to cow-tow some dumb ideologies of a Chairman and Leader type of President. So it wasn’t long before Peter Bayuku Conteh was unglamorously axed, and arraigned for appointment with the Anti-Corruption Commission. He subsequently emerged from it all somewhat blameless, but hasn’t forgiven the APC institution since. And this 2019 would seem his right year for that revenge.
But there’s a time for every purpose under the heaven. Throughout his somewhat arduous political journey, Peter Bayuku Conteh has no doubt achieved a number of laudable milestones. I don’t know how or where he got his “nom-de politique” “Agbangba Jazz” from, so one can only surmise that he either was a jazz fanatic or was in the music industry and owned a dance band carrying that name. Whatever the case, he must have taken quite a few steps be it in politics or on dance floors; some certain such as when he was with us in the APC, yet others still as furtive such as by openly declaring for and joining the SLPP recently in his twilight years.
With the economy in such a crunch as is tempting President Bio to look downstream for a more youthful and exuberant Village Robin Hood to traverse the terrains of Koinadugu to the SLPP’s advantage in 2023, I do not see Peter Bayuku Conteh surviving even the next reshuffle slated for December this year at the latest, which means that his recent furtive steps into the SLPP might just as well be his last tango in the limelight of Sierra Leone politics.