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UNSURPRISINGLY…

August 7, 2015 By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff

The headline is adopted from a blog by my Zambian friend, Dr. Robert Mtongo, who few weeks ago used it to effectively highlight myriad issues blighting governance in the southern African state of Zambia. With his permission I use the same headline for this article.

Unsurprisingly we are at a crossroad, whether to extend the state of emergency or abolish it altogether. It comes as no surprise though that our country is deeply polarized along party, regional lines. Consequently, most public debate is inspired and shaped by parochial considerations, not least the political capital or favour some folks will derive from being in favour or against.

The state of public emergency has been with us for more than a year now as we struggle to eradicate the Ebola virus. Even though the virus is still with us, yet it beats ones imagination that some folks have started painting a picture of doomsday just in order to justify an extension to the state of emergency. But they forget we have launched a post-Ebola delivery plan and that the mood from the presidency to the National Ebola Response Centre (NECR) has been overly optimistic. The truth is that no state of emergency can end the outbreak, rather our attitude to safety and security will take us to zero. If you ask folks in the south-east they will tell you the personal sacrifices they made helped them defeat Ebola, not the warlike atmosphere that the deployment of soldiers evoked.

Unsurprisingly, we are not fools. Sierra Leoneans know when to say enough is enough. They know Ebola is on its knees and that only a final push is needed to complete the hard work to zero. Victory, however, has come at a great human and economic cost. That is why the emergency regulations should be extinguished now as we focus on consolidating our costly victory, without of course being complacent, by revamping the battered economy.

Unsurprisingly, in all of these, Guinea and Liberia are relentlessly pursuing their Ebola fight without imposing a state of emergency. The numbers are low in Liberia and improving in Guinea. But, NERC here wants folks to believe that their innumerable operation can only be successful if and only if the state of emergency is extended and in place. Not quite, in my view.

Unsurprisingly, press releases are being churned out by organsations, many of which come alive only to add to the number, especially when controversial issues such as whether to extend or end the state of emergency gain currency. One such obscure group is the United Indigenous Commercial and Petty Traders, who claim traders are in support of their call, although a snap chat with few traders in the city says otherwise!

Unsurprisingly, all 14 soldiers arrested and arraigned for mutiny and related charges have been acquitted and discharged by a military court, almost two years into a perilous and uncertain legal journey. The charges or allegations proved mere fantasies despite loud claims to the contrary by Minister of Information and Communication, Alpha Kanu, in 2013. In his usual element, Kanu told the country that there was concrete evidence that the soldiers were up to a sinister plot to destabilize the country and harm the president. But two years down the line, the state has woefully failed to prove that.

Yet unsurprisingly, Kanu and all those who gave advise that the men should be tried will not resign, rather they will walk the streets with heads raised instead of bowed in shame for such a mendacious allegation.

Unsurprisingly, the All Political Parties Association is now headed by political unknowns from parties that are only so-called. That APPA has outlived its usefulness or efficacy is a no brainer. When it was formed in 1996, inter-party dialogue and consensus was among the main objects of the project, with the interest of the country – returning it to democracy – being an ancillary object. But in its recent history, APPA has been hijacked by politicians whom the electorate rejected at the polls, with many being self-serving politicians. The immediate past leader, Mohamed Bangura, is yet to win any national elections in this country, yet he was inexplicably made leader. The current leader has an uncertain status in her moribund party, while her legitimacy to contest was only legitimised, bizarrely, by delegates, instead of recourse to due process.

Unsurprisingly, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray of the Alliance Democratic Movement came out best in a debate with his namesake Mohamed Bangura of the United Democratic Movement. While the former comes across as urbane and analytical in his submission, displaying exuberant finesse, the latter is goes at best verbose, incoherent and most times appeals to public pity. Also, the new movement has indicated they are not phony fighters of the rights of the poor and marginalized, or a movement which is more of a surrogate party. But it is still a matter of wait and see though.

Unsurprisingly, the procurement of 100 buses, which is unprecedented in the history of the country, has been overshadowed by allegations of bad procurement or what some euphemistically refer to as “sole sourcing”. While the intent may have been good, yet like most, if not all public procurements, the process was opaque, and leaves much to be desired.

Unsurprisingly, the head of Public Procurement was tongue (hand) tied to condemn the process, instead acknowledging that the circumstances under which the buses were procured were not normal, because of a so-called executive clearance.

Unsurprisingly, Parliament is again at the centre of ‘investigating’ Minster of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogun Koroma, who has been rattled by the very negative publicity the 100 buses have generated, albeit being no stranger to controversy.

Unsurprisingly, the Anti-Corruption Commission will again play second best to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, akin to what transpired in the audit report on the management of Ebola funds. The ACC, whose head has been given another five years (did someone say unsurprisingly!), has issued another press release informing the public that the procurement process of the 100 buses will be investigated. One will not be surprised though if the investigation, like the ‘Ebolagate’, goes on indifinitely.

And, lastly, unsurprisingly, the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party is yet to clean its act as a viable alternative to the current debacle unfolding in our governance space.