The past should be analyzed for the future

By Mohamed Sankoh

The debate sounds interesting. But one of the debaters has been trying to shift the guidelines of the debate. I will start with a Mike Tyson uppercut: why do people think that whenever someone applies or is applying for a job, the  would-be new employer always asks for references from which the past conduct and suitability of the ‘applyee’ (a new one from One Drop)  for the new job would be checked. The point is, people’s backgrounds are more important in relation to the job they are seeking. For example, it will be stupid for a commercial bank to employ a well known convicted fraudster as keeper of its safe. Likewise, it will be both insulting and laughable if either Alieu Kamara (“Territorial Integrity”) or Phillip Conteh applies for a job as accountant in the Ministry of Finance. Are you getting my point? The fact is, whenever someone is vying for any public office background checks should be done to ascertain the person’s suitability for the job. Even in traditional settings, when someone comes forward and throws his hat into the ring of a Paramount Chieftaincy contest, background checks are first made to establish the appropriateness of such contestant. 

And when it comes to national politics each person vying for public office should be put both under the microscope and scanning machine. National politics is not an issue about giving Saul a chance to transform into a Paul on aDamascus Road. Modern politics is based on credibility, past records and the public trust in a politician’s ability to deliver. A little digression might help here. In theUnited States of America, when former George W. Bush was vying for the highest office his past automatically came under the microscope. His alcoholism, his dodge of the draft through his father’s influence and other dark sides of his past were brought to the public domain and discussed. When current President Barrack Obama was seeking his first term, his experimentation with marijuana (“jamba”), his childhood, his Harvard days, and even the muckiness surrounding his Kenyan father were all brought into the public domain and discussed. This is what also obtains inGreat Britainand other developed democracies. Analyzing a politician’s past and background is not a witch-hunting exercise but to make voters know the kind of person he or she was. It is like asking the last employer about the fitness of someone who has just applied for a new job. 

So all the talk about forgetting the past and background of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)’s flagbearer, Maada Bio, for the 2012 presidential election is like telling majority of Sierra Leoneans that they are as “simple minded like the fishermen of Galilee” (to quote Chinua Achebe). Why do the “Maadarites” (another one from One Drop) want to treat the entire people of Sierra Leone like those “jewman” (a local colloquial for hustler) at “Belgiun”, at Lightfoot-Boston Street in Freetown, who ask you to buy their electrical appliances without testing them only for you to go home and found out that they are not working at all or properly. This is the same way they want to present Maada Bio: the people should just vote him without examining him properly! It won’t work; for a pathologist cannot do an autopsy on living human beings.

Another issue I want to touch on is the treasonable threat being flung at us each time Maada’s past is being microscoped. That is, if the SLPP flagbearer’s past is referenced it might shake the “fragile peace” in the country. To those people, I want to tell them that majority of Sierra Leoneans will no longer tolerate their “Ndorgboryosoi”, their “hindo hindo”, their “Jumbobla”, or their rebel war; so progressive Sierra Leoneans cannot be stampeded by threats. The issue at present is, when someone is vying for the highest office in the land there should be a reference point to assess his or her suitability for that office. If we are to discuss Dr Abass Bundu, for example, he will be discussed in the context of the passport deals. If we are to discuss the APC’s Victor Foh, as another example, he will be discussed in the context of the “Vouchergate” and penis-signing allegations. 

Maada’s reference point is the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) because; if there had never been the NPRC government Maada would only be known in the history books as a soldier not a politician. In academic terms, Maada has three references to clear before morally decent, upright  and sober-minded Sierra Leoneans would start taking him seriously for the presidency. The first is the allegation from ex-President Tejan Kabba (h) that, “in his capacity as chairman of the NPRC,…Julius Maada Bio himself on 1st February 1996, few days before he left office, caused the Government to pay into the account of his private firm, P. Banga Investment Limited the sum of Le235,000,000 in respect of contracts that firm had purportedly entered into with Government for the supply of spare parts for the replacement of helicopter engines which did not belong to Government. Incidentally, it was into the account of this same firm in the Channel Islands that…Bio paid his own shares of US$400,000 from the passport deal…” (Speech delivered by the SLPP’s former leader, Ahmad Tejan Kabba (h) on 2nd January 1997 in Freetown)

The second reference point for Maada to clear is the allegation by the same Tejan Kabba (h) that he used his influence in the NPRC to grant “a general power of attorney” to his brother Steve Bio “to conclude all and any defence military contracts anywhere in the world…[and] By virtue of this unusual authority, Steve Bio concluded a number of contracts running into tens of millions dollars. [and] There is no evidence that most of those contracts [were] performed but Steve Bio [was] paid millions of dollars on them…”(Speech delivered by the SLPP’s former leader, Ahmad Tejan Kabba (h) on 2nd January 1997 in Freetown). And the reason why these allegations are very serious is the fact that they were made at a time when not even the gods of politics had any inklings that Maada would be vying for the highest office of the land in the future.

And the third reference point is Maada’s involvement in the extra-judicial killings of 29 people including Bambay Kamara, Colonel Yaya Kanu, Salami Coker and others including a palm wine tapper from Lumpa and a pregnant woman (he told the TRC that he was at Captain SAJ Musa’s place that night, at the scene of torture and crime, before the executions of those hapless citizens). This allegation is very strong against someone who is vying for the presidency ofSierra Leone, as it involved murder. So those who are now saying that Maada’s past should not be probed are, by implication, telling us that they are in support of impunity and murder.

Added to those allegations is the fact that Maada’s sister, Agnes, was said to be one of the favoured concubines of the late rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, and that it was she who covertly linked both brothers to the rebel outfit. And like all job-seekers the world over, Maada has a CV which is now being analyzed to see whether he should be shortlisted for the presidency. And the interesting thing about CVs is that they are heavily laden with the past, as they highlight what the job-seeker was doing or had done before sending his or her application for a new job. What is now happening is the first stage of the process of analyzing Maada’s CV. If the “Maadarites” do not want their candidate’s CV to be scrutinized in the public domain, then I’m afraid he would never be shortlisted by the morally upright people of Sierra Leone!

Nobody can run away from his or her past, because any attempt at such would produce the same effect like someone trying to run away from his or her shadows. Our democracy can no longer be termed as “nascent” forSierra Leonehas reached that stage where people are eager to know the background of their leaders. That’s why the past and background of those vying for national offices should be analyzed so that voters would be able to know whose hands they should lay their future.; 232-76-611986

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