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Sierra Leone
Friday, July 1, 2022




By Winstanley R Bankole Johnson

Each time I listen to Lahai Lawrence Leema – substantive Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs – interacting with opposition political counterparties on media roadshows, he comes across as someone who never grew up or has never lived in a multi-ethnic; multi-cultural environment to have benefited from the symbiosis of such exposures. I did. My late Father was an itinerant Civil Servant. We started traversing the hinterlands since 1955 and as you are reading this today we are not the worse for it. So for a man as young as he is, and who through God’s Grace has been fortunate to be wielding such an influential political authority, I consider that a serious social deficit, more particularly at this time when President Bio’s agenda for national integration and `social cohesion is key.


Because of that social deficit Lahai Lawrence Leema comes out (to me) as someone with a fraying temperament particularly when interacting with opposition counterparties, who would spare no opportunity to  remind them/the public  of his status in the present government, or about the authority inherent in that status, and the powers accompanying that authority and status even up to unleashing his close Protection Officers to (if need be and in his own words) arrest and cut them down to size if they do not accord him the level of respect befitting his status and dignity as a Deputy Minister.  And all of such theatrics if you please, is happening in 21st Century Sierra Leone, under a supposedly democratic political dispensation counting sixty years plus as an Independent Nation.

In struggling for a suitable definition of Mr. Leema’s personality (whilst interacting with opposition political counterparties), many Sierra Leoneans have ascribed many different attributes to him – from youthful exuberance to arrogance engendered by a sudden access to the corridors of political power (and probably wealth) and or ill-temperedness [a1] – but from among which attributes no one old enough (like me) to beget him as a Son is any more proud to be related to him – neither by consanguinity nor even remotely.  And that is all the more reason that influenced the caption for this article “Lahai Lawrence Leema: Gbay! Bu Ha Lua Ke Bi Ya Sina Loi. Gbay O!!” – Which in direct English translation means: “Lahai Lawrence Leema: Stop!! (Or Leff!!). You Are Seeing Today; You Are Not Seeing Tomorrow. Stop It!!”


And (with sincere apologies to my “Gbondaysias” for not using their alphabet) I have deliberately couched it so literally as to achieve communication efficacy, in the hope that if this article is brought to his attention and being as young as he is (aged only Thirty-eight years), he will find the time for an amendment of his life that will guarantee his relevance within the society he once ruled or supervised as a Deputy Minister. And that is very important because in African political context, even ten (10) years in power are but as yesterday, and it is soon past and gone.

Unless sound reasoning prevails, it is impossible for Lahai Lawrence Leema – now allegedly a Landlord of Mansions – to still have the same appetite for courting political risks like he did three years ago as a former “One-Yai Back-Room Tenant”. He has too much to lose now in the event of social unrest. In actual fact with endless wealth acquisition opportunities now that he is a Minister of government, the dragon in him of yester-years should have died long ago. Nothing now remains within him except empty threats. (“Opinkol”).

So instead of continually breathing fire against political opponents he should now begin to be more conciliatory as we approach the next elections because of three sound reasons:

  • A lightening rarely strike the same spot twice within a generation. So it’s very unlikely for us to witness another spectacular rebirth of a politician who had once issued a bounced to government, but has had all of his confiscated properties restituted.
  • In the event of a regime change, no one can predict how brutally revengeful the APCs own medley of (Tit-for-Tat) properties seizures (of even deceased offenders’ estates) will replay using the same Commissions of Inquiries and inconclusive Appeals Courts methodologies of the SLPP, and of course with tacit from the same state security apparatus that has confirmed to us that their Oath of office is “……to support the government of the day to the latter” (whatever that means!!).  
  • According to a recent survey by the SLPP’s own Andrew Lavallie of the Institute of Governance Reforms (IGR), President Bio’s “dis-approval” rating has risen to 42% – and I am sure he was being charitable.  Meaning it is time for Pa-O-Pa “hot-heads” to begin to temper their belligerence and accelerate reconciliations.

In this life, we have seen men (and women) rise and fall. We have also seen with our very eyes how those who only a few years back wielded immense political powers have died in decrepitude and penury, often as a liability to the state. We are not happy and should never be proud of such deteriorating vicissitudes for our compatriots. So whenever an opportunity presents itself for us to do so, we should be guiding errant politicians away from such foibles because as Romans 13:1 says, “All authority is from God”…….and as with the lives of those wielding it, they are temporary. So Lahai Lawrence Leema: “Gbay!! Gbee-Ma-Hun-Gbay!!” (Be careful!!). Because no matter how long your “power” lasts, it will cease…And when it does cease, it is your works that shall surely follow you.

If any young politician in power feels his Party has got his back covered for being exceptionally Machiavellian and intolerant of opposition views he is making one of the gravest mistakes in his life. All their Parties are doing is to use their bare young hands to “remove hot kernels from the fireplace”, and once those hands are burnt beyond their usefulness, the owners will be discarded and disposed of like “Boxer” in The Animal Farm. They are free to either take a short walk down “Memory Lane” to reflect on the lifestyles of young APC politicians who also felt “god-like” under four years ago, or ask SLPP Hon. Victor Reider who, even with his Party back to power, can’t even brave the torrents to be returning home in person occasionally to collect his Parliamentary Pensions.


But again if because of his “hardness of heart” Mr. Lahai Lawrence Leema does not find the time to amend his lifestyle to be accommodating to alternative opposition views each time he interacts with them, then I would advise any one from the opposition invited to media roadshows with Mr. Leema to first demand that the host media house provides them with the necessary legal indemnities safeguarding their personalities against threats, insinuations of intimidations, and verbal or physical attacks from him in the event altercations, for simply advancing anti-SLPP views. That way their safety will not only be assured, but they may also have the legal right to also include and sue the host media house as defendants for vicarious liability. A failure to obtain such safeguards will open the media house and Mr. Leema to a defense of “contributory negligence” against the plaintiffs, because the law will presume that they knowingly courted risks by voluntarily walking into an intemperate environment.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed!! 


I hold no brief for (Rtd. Maj.) Palo Conteh and would shy away from wading into any seemingly protracted spats and huffs existing between himself and Mr. Leema. I am sure that Palo having survived the first ever concocted “One-man Treason conspiracy” in the history of this country, he should by now (together with his Lawyers) be robustly positioned to defend himself against any further trumped up charges of conspiracies of any sorts against the State. The only difference between then and now is that unlike previously, there are now more witnesses to Palo’s defense than ever before.

But in the meantime I am in full support of Palo’s sentiments for all APC members to consider it a national obligation to ensure the SLPP’s exit from government in 2023 (and to work assiduously to defend APC votes in those elections using all legal means) in the same way Mr. Leema considered it his national duty and have also worked assiduously to see the exit of the APC government in 2018 – unmolested. And as the Rtd. Maj said if in defending those APC votes it becomes necessary for the UN and or other organizations to intervene in order to declare a winner and bring stability (as they have done here many times in the past) then so be it. People must be allowed under democratic dispensations to enjoy their constitutional freedoms of expressions without being misconstrued or molested.

It is only in Africa that the Publicity Secretary of a Political Party in government can expect to enter into, and emerge from political debates with agents of the main opposition party in a country unchallenged.

Deputy Minister Lahai Lawrence Leema: “Gbay! Bu Ha Lua Ke Bi Ya Sina Loi. Gbay O!!”

Happy Birthday In Advance!! (14th August).


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