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POINTS OF ORDER

By: Winstanley.R.Bankole Johnson

 A cousin who attempted to draw my attention to an historical sketch of the APC North America Branch could not quite explain it, so you could well imagine my excitement upon sighting the caption “APC Strongman Recounts Story of APC-America” in the “Awareness Times” edition of Monday 4th November. The story listed over forty (40) names as being directly accredited with the renaissance, restructuring and sustaining of the North America branch of the APC Party in the pre-2007 years, as if they were the only ones that mattered.

 Icing

By stretching that narrative up to year 2005 and conspicuously omitting the many other names of those who actually “de-stigmatized”,  properly “sanitized” the APC in North America (especially those that did not reside, work or live there as refugees) and made it an acceptable political commodity was itself a disservice to the Party. It was in fact those omitted names that not only added “icing” to the APC North America cake, but also made it palatable.

 Agidi for Lepet

Truth be told, the pre-2005 APC North America administration did their best to resuscitate the Party and they must be commended for that. But theirs was a typical Krio case of to “mass  agidi for lepet” (preparing corn meal (“agidi”) for a leopard). The names behind the faces that actually had the guts and testicular fortitude to have confronted, opened its mouth and physically fed the “lepet” (leopard) both here in Sierra Leone and in the USA, even as others sought cover under institutional sobriety and orderliness in distant lands,  are  the ones that were omitted in that article. I mean names behind the voices and utterances that were listened to with such awe and reverence ……….. and which actually later crystallized faded hopes of APC governance into reality in year 2007.

 

God forbid!!

So when it comes to recognition, those names cannot be and should not have been, left out in that article. Because even after the resurgence of the Party in North America, there were many who today are thumping their chests for Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma that up to year 2005 had little or absolutely no confidence in his personae or leadership. Ignore the fact that they were the ones he first appointed in his first term.  In this country, we have a penchant for distorting historical facts for pecuniary or ethnocentric reasons and a failure to challenge which soon makes it a “Gospel”, expecting that those properly “seise-d” of the historical facts would ultimately and timidly subsume their consciences under the sheer weight and pressure of political chicanery. That in fact has since been rule rather than the exception. If it is allowed to continue that way, wholesome and tangible historical evidences risk being obliterated or extensively distorted just so that credit will not go where it is due, as it almost happened with our national history prior to 2007.  “God forbid!!”

Point of order

Six years in the political limelight is long enough to engender momentary memory fatigues and lapses. Hence this point of order, to either have the entire APC North America history re-written or stopped short at year 2004, which is as far as Mr. Sidi I Sherriff’s account could be  considered “straight”. Any further account beyond year 2005 could be “straighter”, that is if the message of unity that is best for the Party must be clearly understood.

 

Who was who

For example, it was at the Port Loko Convention of year 2005 that then Mr. (now Ambassador) Victor Bockari Foh was elected Secretary General of the APC. That was one year into my incumbency as the “Worshipful” Mayor of Freetown under the SLPP. And I used the title “Worshipful” most guardedly, it having been so regularly conferred upon me, and not as loosely or as automatically predicated on my incumbency into that office.

 We all know what we know, and could still vividly recall who was who in the APC North America between 2005 – 2007, – from Virginia, through Maryland, Washington, New Jersey, Atlanta and right  unto Chicago. We still could remember what many looked liked back then in the States, and are thankfully also able to compare and contrast their circumstances between then and now. But that should by no stretch of the imagination influence an obliteration of our party historical facts insofar as sustaining the APC North America 2005-2007 is concerned, more especially so as the names of (former Hon.) Mr. Raymond Kabia, Hon Alimamy Kargbo and Mr. Ibrahim Kamara were also included in that report.

 This is Cenotaph (Remembrance) week, so I will be charitable enough to accept the omission of those many other names that also matter as a genuine inadvertent oversight. That makes this piece all the more poignant. Because no matter how long it takes and for as long as we are alive to keep making the corrections, at the rising of the sun and the going down of the same, we will always remember those omitted names. Thank you very much!!

 TECNO

Yet another “Point of Order” reaction would seem necessary for an International News coverage on P.6 of the “Awareness Times” edition of 1st November and captioned “China’s phone maker TECNO to set up plant in Nigeria”. The story line was that subject to the Nigerian government agreeing structural import duty concessions, TECNO will not only be selling phones, but are also planning to set up a mobile phone manufacturing plant in Lagos that will both serve their long term mutual interests and provide employment opportunities for locals.

It occurs to me that TECNO were here too, but the difference is that unlike in Nigeria, they were just selling mobile phones!!   And the intriguing aspect of their existence here is that in less than four years of operations, they have folded up and disappeared into thin air, leaving the entire local staff wandering for their end of service benefits and what comes next. In any lax regulatory environment, that is not news. But of course, our government and citizens deserve much better treatments from the small time investor.

When I visited their last known business location at Siaka Stevens Street for service, I was re-directed to a No. 8 Siaka Stevens street address, which in fact is a general merchandise shop operated by yet more Chinese and Liberians and where I was told quite unapologetically that they could not help me with phone accessories because the TECNO business has folded up and the original operators have since diversified into diamonds mining. “Oh Sa Lone!” I muttered. “But that’s what they were here for in the first instance!!”

 Government concessions

In its desperation to attract foreign direct investments, government continues to make substantial tax, duty and other trade concessions to potentials. I am not sure TECNO benefited from any, but the fanfare surrounding their inception does not suggest otherwise. Our appetite for excellent long term services was well whetted. Today the converse is the case and in less than four years of operations, the enterprise has collapsed into a cafeteria obstructing foot walks, hardware mongers, diamond miners and possibly even taking our concessions with them into the diamond mining industry. This is certainly not my humble idea of foreign direct investment.

 Stand alone MDAs

But I suppose all such common but irregular diversifications by investors are possible because of a lack of synergy between our MDAs. Here every Minister, Commissioner or Chief Executive is either a potential successor of President Koroma or is too connected to him to accept directions or supervision from their Boards. Most MDAs operate virtually on a stand-alone basis, leaving foreign investors poorly regulated, improperly supervised and allowing for such volte face diversification into areas that ought to have been restricted to local entrepreneurships.  Such irregular diversifications will never happen in little Gambia, let alone in Big Brother Nigeria, which is why it is taking such a long time for the latter country to agree structural concessions that will compel TECNO to their domestic regulatory imperatives. 

 MDAs synergy

TECNO might just be one example, but there could be many more violators needing to be brought to book, which in this specific case, makes the need for synergies between and among the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Labour, Mines, the Telecommunications Commission an imperative. 

Such synergies will through submissions of periodic regulatory reports, allow for the development of a centralized profiling and information exchange among MDAs on all business ventures (both local and foreign); their subsidiaries, ownerships, connections and of course taxes and other trade concessions applicable to each of their business streams. The benefit here is that performances will be closely monitored to either ensure compliance or identification of early warning signals, so that in the event of any one stream inexplicably folding up (as in the case of TECNO), the government will be better positioned to initiate cancellations and or recoveries of concessions against a particular stream as may be appropriate. Local staff too will not be left in the lurch when it comes to accessing their terminal benefits. Even if this might not be the best option, the urgent need for more stringent regulatory controls to ensure sustainability of foreign enterprises operating locally cannot be overemphasized.

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