OPINION: The recklessness of Mohamed Bangura

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By Pa Lama Talib

“I, Mohamed Bangura, do hereby swear to represent…….”

With his unmistakably deep and emphatic voice, the newly elected member  of parliament, MP, for 066 Constituency in the Karene District took the oath. He pulled out his white handkerchief and with the confidence of David in front of a sea of Goliaths, wiped his face. He wasn’t sweating, so why wipe his face? On the face of it, when politicians in SL wipe their faces, they display a touch of royalty, that pride of the chosen one. Deeper, however,they are rubbing/ wearing on some protective charm. Beyond protection, it is believed, the concoctions in the handkerchief may cast a spell on anyone it blows against or who smells it.

MPs will hug one another after swearing in and they will do so warmly with members of their own party. At the Well of Parliament this year, Mohamed Bangura, had no party comrade to share the joy and excitement. 43 other newly elected members of parliament toed their party line and boycotted parliament.

His  feelings on the day of Oath taking? Someone said that “OrBango has been putting on a brave face but he has been having sleepless nights since”. Is this true? He dreads joblessness and won’t risk losing his seat due to his power-drunkenness. Are these charges true?

It would have been interesting to get answers on these and more directly from him but so far the devil-may-care Hon. Mohamed has been too busy to powwow with me. I have texted him and called him though.

Nonetheless, the firebrand Mohamed has docked himself in the court of history. He will be tried for being the only member of the opposition APC who could not boycott governance contrary to the party’s post-election decision. This solo act, as bold as it is, has attracted several foes and fans towards him at once. Is his death-or-glory action a betrayal or patriotic move? Is he selfish or selfless?

Evidences are being gathered by both the accusing and accused parties. Antagonists have been harsh on him. Protagonists have been celebrating him.

In his defense, several fans including members of the ruling SLPP party, have been quick to point to the need for the voters’ voice to be heard. MPs were elected to represent their constituents, boycotting means all those who voted those MPs will remain voiceless. The complainants, however, have charged that  lack of transparency in the counting means the voters’ choice have only been partly respected. They argue that is the reason why the voters themselves are fine with the boycott and are demanding a full respect of their casted votes.

The protagonists believe that participation in governance provide an opportunity to seek redress from a position of strength and from within. The antagonists argue that the matter they are protesting is not in the hands of parliament and cannot be resolved in the Well. Boycotting therefore sends a stronger message than would be if they were in parliament.

Some fans have celebrated what they see as patriotic in Mohamed, pointing that he is standing firm and will continue to provide checks and alternatives to unthought through Bills. The antagonists have been quick to debunk this notion, stating that with a House of Representatives dominated by the ruling party, the business of rubber stamping the government’s interests will win the day. They therefore see no value add in rushing at sittings when, as they believe, transparency has suffered an “upper cut” at the presidential race.

A group of people has pointed to the warm-embrace Mohamed has received from the Speaker of the House and SLPP MPs as indicative. “The Speaker has no right to call him acting leader of opposition. That’s the Party’s decision to make,” a prominent APC member charged. “Of course, the power-drunk Mohamed is happy to be dressed in stolen clothes,” another has blasted.

Is he power-drunk? People point to him chasing after power from one party to the other until he was accommodated in the APC. The political history of SL is replete with similar stories of politicians moving from one party to the other. Mohamed has veered in politics a few times. He ate from the same plate with Thamu Bangura of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP Sobeh, then he spent some time at the United Democratic Party, UDP. Football fans often say “transfer nor nid certificate,” maybe, politicians cross-carpeting from one party to other best fit this description. Someone needs to study this trend – are the motives based on lack of moral standing or are the parties not fundamentally different in outlook and policies for one to easily move from one to another?

Fortune tellers are predicting that like Alpha Khan, Victor Foh and a few others, Bangura may join ranks with the SLPP in the not too distant future. Watch this out.

Make no mistake, however, Mohamed Bangura has had his great moments with the APC. His role in getting the ERSG Shulenberg out of Salone is still fresh in the memory. Michael Shrulenberg as the highest UN representative in Sierra Leone (Executive Representative of the Secretary-General – ERSG), who came into conflict with the government over the implementation of the Lomé Peace Agreement, police arming and the presidential elections in 2012 was forced to leave. This was the official explanation.

Serra Media Express would report that shortly after the appointment of Julius Maada Bio as flagbearer of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in late 2011, there was rumour that the United Nations big man was pitching fences with the SLPP.

Like someone who will grab a lion with his bare hand, Mohamed who was then leader of UDP, matched on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, to demand the withdrawal of the SRSG, claiming he was meddling into the affairs of the country; that was a step only the brave can take.

Then, even though he was UDP, Mohamed was believed to be answering the call of his master, the then President Ernest Koroma and he (Mohamed) was a thorn in the flesh of the SLPP that are now “hip-hip hooraying” him in Parliament.

That was then. Today the table is tilted. A party strongman has described Mohamed Bangura as the bull-in-a-china-shop and misguided missile that has been inadvertently launched by the party against itself. The fire sure signs begun showing up when, it is reported, within the APC that Mohamed initially toyed with the idea of a Sam Sumama candidacy over Samura Kamara. He may have pitched tents with the party’s choice but he may have never let go of his no-admiration for Samura. Why would he therefore be guided by a decision in favour of Samura if his preference for the presidential flag-bearer was someone else?

Were there options for Mohamed apart from picking up his sit in parliament? Did he exhaust the options within the party or outside the party before deciding for himself that he was right and all the 43 other elected MPs were wrong? This is a case of either there are 43 puppets parading as elected-MPs or a betrayer called Mohamed!

What is clear though is that Mohamed rub shoulders with top party members. His claim that the NAC was not well constituted is bullshit. He could have done better to galvanize support from other MPs and push for a ‘radical change’ from within the party.

For him to go alone, there were two options for him: one, he should have gone to court and sought to overturn the party’s decision. This would have made him a shining star. He would have been that one man who was ready to right the wrongs within his party and prepare the stage for a reformation from within. A second option was for him to have resigned from the party if he believed strongly that the entire party was wrong. It’s reckless to bite the hand that feeds you.

A one man Mohamed cannot achieve much or anything for his party in Parliament. He may play to the gallery but he has rang for himself his death knell within the party. The party, I understand, has already notified him, through a letter, of its intention to institute disciplinary measures against him. The worst of those measures would be to expel him from the party. This cannot be entirely excluded.

Is he bothered about the consequences? I have interacted with Mohamed and, if anything, he has always been as constant as the northern star when it comes to what he believes in. He will very willingly give his neck to the guillotine rather than go against his believes; he is always heedless of probable consequences- in that sense, he is, more positively for his character, a reckless politician.

As the court of public opinion continues to adjudicate his actions, it is our hope that the actions of either side of the divide will yield greater dividends for the country. Let the verdict be in favour of the land that we love, Sierra Leone.

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