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“GLIMMER OF A SAIL”

BY VANDIE S. NABIE
One may not state bluntly that President Ernest Bai Koroma would be re-elected in November 2012. What may be asserted is that the chances of a second term lie in his favour. This piece is a snap portrait of a sailing ship as it cruises towards the harbour. Shortly after he settled down in the seat the Captain re-enacted the Bunyan Voyage recruiting a team of Mariners to undertake a Pilgrim’s Progress to “a Celestial City”- an abridged Garden of Eden-anchored on a new Article of Faith –the “Agenda for Change”. Unlike Chaucer’s Pilgrims who assembled in a Tavern this crew moored to this call steadfastly to demonstrate its devotion to the Sail. The ship steams away with fresh appetizing cargo. But much like the Edenic Garden, the cargo contains forbidden fruits-the twin latency of knowledge and ignorance; trouble and bliss. The hull of the vessel is festooned with graphic motifs. The most pronounced epigram reads “No Condition is Permanent”, a sentiment earlier expressed by Heraclitus. The crew, in the tradition of the Pilgrim’s Progress, is imbued with an interior pulsation of its own: singing and dancing to a shared idyll. The refrain rhymes from Goldsmith’s, “ill preys the landwhere wealth accumulates and men decay” to Tennyson’s “take up the {Sierra Leonean} burden. . ., fill full the mouth of famine and bid the sicknesses cease”.

In this choral joust some mariners unwittingly tasted the forbidden fruit and voluntarily decamped. Others, following the Curse of Cain, are jettisoned into the deep ocean. A few, with arguably brilliant sailing skills, innocuously run against the windy currents and are either drowned or stowed away under the eagle eyes of the Pilot. The sin of the sunken crew is simply that while performing the pilgrimage they carry their offerings beyond the Altar rail or to put it in Soyinka’s, “they dye their cloth a deeper indigo than that of the captain”. One may be tempted to go on endlessly, if space allows, with such enticingly prurient allusion. The sunken crew is not peculiar to the embattled pilgrims. They are not a breed apart. It rehearses John Donne’s memorable lines “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee” Conventional wisdom holds that we learn from history. Political history dictates that the only history politicians learn from is the history they sense. This is the thrust of Thucydides’, Melian Dialogue, Machiavelli, The Prince or recently, Robert Greene’s, “The 48 Laws of Power (2000). This article is an Independence Gift to all who walk the corridors of power, the Ivy Tower, in Sierra Leone. I present it not in the hope of obtaining a reward nor of incurring any wrath. Some of the impressions may not square with the calculations of the crew. But they nonetheless offer critical space for silent reflective recalls.

With courage, I now examine some of the influential mariners.

 

ZAINAB HAWA BANGURA

She occupies a spacious cabin and with fair knowledge of the distant weather. She scored some mari-time successes chanted by the retreating fauna but irritating to some of the sailors.  In fixing her gaze above the mast she commits the singular error of trying to outshine the Captain.

In a Pilgrim’s Progress outshining the captain is perhaps the worst mistake of all. History is replete with instances of such seafaring indiscretion. As a crew member you must always make the captain comfortably superior. If your skills appear to be more creative than the captain ascribe them to him in as public a manner as possible. Do not take the praise or you would unconsciously upset the captain to whom the glory should belong. It may place you on the starboard beam of the sea craft.

Nicolas Fouquet was Louis’ XIV’s Finance Minister. In 1661, he organized a party and invited everyone of consequence in Paris including the King. Thinking that by such extravagance he could ingratiate himself dearly to the throne Louis became suspicious of each move and toast directed to the honour of the host. The next day Fouquet was arrested by the King and confined to an isolated prison in France. He was replaced by Baptiste, a man famous for his parsimony and dullness.

Henry Kissinger associated all his diplomatic credit to President Richard Nixon. Solomon A.J Pratt ascribed his diplomatic success in China to Siaka Stevens. The brain behind the success of Abuja’s military intervention against the lunacy of the Freetown Junta was Chief Tom Ikimi. He however associated all the credit to General Abacha. Dominic d’Villpin was the diplomatic cannon of France’s Jacque Chirac but ascribed his rigidity against Washington to his master. In 1610, Galileo discovered Jupiter and conferred the achievement upon the king, the Medeci.

A Captain is more likely to replace an amphibious with a more inward looking mariner. Even in the arena of the Universe there should be one solar pole around which the stars orbit in an ever revolving gyre.

MUSA TARAWALLY

Musa Tarawally is no doubt one of the Captain’s cabin boys. He should however guard his radar. He should conceal his purpose and hide his progress on this epic voyage. He should cultivate patience. Green advises that patience is the supreme virtue of the gods and time is its reward.

Without patience Ernest Bai Koroma would hardly have occupied State House. John Atta Mills remains a supreme illustration of an accomplished statesman. Political Power of every shade creates jealousy and those who praise you excessively are either setting you up for a fall or sharpening their blades at your back. The Greeks dismissed them as VICAR OF BRAY. Train yourself to be indirect and work through other colleagues pretending that you are not interested in glory but only assisting the Captain to navigate safely- always with a pledge- in the public interest. This was how Atto Von Bismarck was able to attain and maintain the leadership in Prussia in 1850.

Conceal the love and trust that the Captain has for you. Ras Tefari (later Hailie Selassie) used this deceit to ascend the throne in Ethopia in 1920. You should use your enemies more than your friends as did Mao Tse Tung in China. Ernest Koroma has been witty to dance with some of his political opponents to his advantage as demonstrated in the APC Makeni Convention. Ibrahim Lincoln summed it up when he mused:

You destroy an enemy when you make

a friend of him

It is better to battle with hearts than with weapons. Remember the creed of Hitler: every soldier’s mind was a kingdom he had to conquer. You should emulate this on your voyage. Do not attempt to imitate the Captain for one who assumes very closely the power of his master may incur the displeasure of his own colleagues. Simon Ki Bango of the Lower Congo attempted to prove that the virgin birth was not a monopoly of Mary- that an African Woman is capable of achieving this. He paid with his liberty.

VICE PRESIDENT

He has the bad luck to have good luck- to emerge from outside and cabin with the Captain. Surely the mundane expression- the friend of my friend is not my friend – is as true in erotic associations as in power politics. This was what undid CESARE BORGIA- the most admired of Machiavelli’s political figures. Many a colleague envied his close association with the seats of power. Never appear overly for attention.  When in the company of the Captain bow or retreat to the shadow. Nothing is stable on the high seas.

Today the waters may be as calm as the Gulf of Guinea while tomorrow may be as turbulent as the Bermuda Triangle. To put it in homely metaphor, there are times when the Bumbuna Hydro generates more heat than light into the cabins.

Re-direct (not divert) the streams of public opinion to irrigate your reputation and political sojourn. This could be successfully channelled through the Fourth Estate. By this I mean a serious minded Press and not ‘gun-running’ Journalists. Any voyager, high or low, who ignores the Press, would sooner attract an Albatross around his neck.  In other words, it is dangerous to ignore those who have the power of expression. Great politicians including kings have always kept a staple of journalists in their barns. Frederick the Great had Voltaire, Napoleon courted Goethe and Stevens embraced Sam Metzger. Even the helmsman of this liner has a Hibiscus in one of the cabins (Information Ministry) with its calyx protecting the inner floral whorl against mechanical injuries. In fact it was Napoleon the III’s expulsion of Victor Hugo from France that led to his growing unpopularity and eventual downfall. Always tend the press as you do the flowers in your garden.

THE SACRED COWS

Among the sailors is a group wryly described by the Press as ‘Sacred Rhinos’. They are the blue-eyes of the Captain. They could defy the precepts of the pilgrimage and inveigle their way into every cabin for favour or gain. Here is a note of caution for these pilgrims. Never imagine that because the captain loves you, you could do anything. In love as with love there should always be a sense of limits. King’s men or favourites have fallen from grace. Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the Queen’s finest nobles. He would place his own cloak on the muddy ground so that Queen Elizabeth (the virgin Queen) would not sully her shoes.The Queen so favoured Raleigh that she gave him Durham House in the Strand. He fell out of favour, was tried and executed on the 29th October 1618 as recorded by David Jardine in his Criminal Trials, 1832.

The same fate availed Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He was so loved and honoured by King Henry VIII that he not only appointed him as Lord Chancellor but ruled as king himself. His nobility and learning are noted by Shakespeare in King Henry the VIII Act IV sc 2.

However, when the uxorious king wanted to divorce Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn the Cardinal advised otherwise. He fell out of grace, charged with receiving instructions from Rome and acting on them without the king’s consent. This was the infamous Statute of Premunire, 1393 .  On his way to the gallows he gave this advice to his secretary, Thomas Cromwell:

O Corwwell

Had I but served my God

With half the zeal I served my king

He would not in my age

have left me naked to mine enemies.

 

CONCLUSION

The pilgrims are now about seven nautical ‘months’ to finally berth.

The prevailing climate has been largely serene: the fair breeze blows, the white foam flows and the furrow follows free. This is the kind of fair weather expected of all mariners in November 2012. It remains to be seen whether on approaching the dock the other fleet would collapse in total disarray from the radiance of the SUN or whether the mariners would be vanquished by the sheer GREENERY of the surrounding gardens of the harbour.

My noble Captain,’ this story,’ to paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘shall a good son teach his elders…. we few, we happy few, we are all band of brothers, one country, one people, one nation. (Shakespeare, Henry V Act IV sc 3).

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