The opposition SLPP have not been unequivocally condemnatory and critical of the obnoxious bill that sought a pay rise for president and vice president, past and present. No prize for knowing the reason. They drafted it when they were in government. That blatant show of hypocrisy and what I consider lack of candour beclouds even the 12-year reactivity sought by the piece of legislation, which Parliament says it will debate regardless of State House having asked for it to be torn.
In stead the main opposition have directed their salvo at the denial by State House that the president and his core staff had any knowledge of the bill. Agreed that is worth challenging, but can the SLPP publicly admit ownership of the bill and defend the rationale for it. And like it is typical of the country’s two main parties, there are so many untruths and half-truths doing the flight and fight. Playing dishonesty with the people’s welfare is what I will refer to it as. The SLPP have cleverly – may be disingenuously – avoided admitting that the bill was drafted by them when they were in power. And the APC’s denial of knowledge about the tabling of the controversial bill by an APC Member of Parliament (the Deputy Speaker) has left us in more shock and disbelief than the bill itself caused us consternation and hypertension.
Agreed there has been no time to debate the merits and demerits of the bill because State House has emasculated any such by denying knowledge of what the 4-page document sought to do or the president’s interest, or lack of it, in its content. That in itself has generated a fever-pitched argument all by itself, killing whatever good there might have been contained in the proposed legislation, which, when holistically studied, is as selfish and it is contradictory. But when carefully scanned, has some nice things in it as well.
But the fallout of the whole conundrum has been livelier than life even if with a political fatality. A massive casualty has emerged namely the Secretary and Principal Adviser to the President, Sampha Koroma. At a press conference at State House early this week, presidential spokesman, Alpha Kanu read out a resignation letter from Mr Koroma stating reasons why he had decided to call it quits. Parts of that letter read thus:
“…Your Excellency’s CONSENT was conveyed to Parliament on a Statutory Instrument by one of my principal assistants which consent Your Excellency neither gave nor knew about…Second, an instruction for the payment of pension benefit to former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was sent to the Secretary to the President by another of my assistants without any instruction or authority to the effect…[E]ven though they both acted without my authority or instruction to the effect…I hereby take full responsibility…”
Parliament had written to the President asking for his no-objection to the bill proposing a 500% and more rise in his salary and in that of his predecessor. And another letter was written by former president Tejan Kabbah asking for a look at life for him after the presidency. Both the president’s no-objection letter and another letter asking that former president Kabbah’s life be made more convenient were sent to parliament. Unbelievably, President Koroma, we are made to believe, was not aware of any on any of those occasions. Nor was Sampha Koroma aware that any such correspondences had been sent. Some-one please help me here!
Mulling over the jigsaw and trying to put some planks and plans in place emerged clearly mixed signals immediately following the press conference. Unlike what the presidential spokesman and the finance minister told us at the press conference, I have heard at least one State House official allude to what is in complete variance. Speaking on a local radio station, the official would have clearly left every listener with the impression that Mr Koroma was sacked or forced to resign at the very least hence was pushed and not jumped; or may be “fell off” as one government minister has referred to it.
Let us hypothetically assume that the Secretary to the President triggered the wrath of his boss. The fact that there has been an official government line that he resigned of his own accord and as decency would require, that should have been maintained throughout as true. Doing otherwise leaves us with the impression that the government speaks from both ends of its mouth.
Or is it! The appointment of Sampha Koroma to that post was, in the first place, not a popular decision within the APC party; or at least some sections of the governing party. He was brought in by a president who was finding himself increasingly held hostage by a conservative element within his party bent on doing things their own way – the old way.
I have never met Mr Koroma and I could not figure him out if I did without being told so. However, those who know the now-erstwhile Secretary to the President say he is methodical and meticulous. But how come such correspondences could have flown back and forth between Parliament and State House without him briefing his boss? Is he being turned into a scapegoat by people who have always been opposed to his appointment?
If Sampha Koroma slipped, or slept, and for which he decided to resign, my heart goes out to him. In a country where there are filthier people in public offices who have remained dogged despite civility requiring their exit, Sampha is a rare gem and it probably underscores the president’s initial insistence that he would appoint him the first place despite mounting reservations from a group of people who saw themselves as having delivered propelled Ernest Koroma to the presidency. But Sampha is a man who has never been very far away from controversy. At the National Development Bank, he left in bizarre and apparently dubious circumstance. At the central bank, it was not too different.
Having said that, if indeed all the correspondences went back and forth without the Secretary and the President knowing about them, who knows how many letters could have left State House on its official seal that the president knew nothing about with some of them possibly aimed at blackmail. This reduces the presidency to the abyss plummeting it from the cradle to the stable.
Whatever the truth, the president is not a happy man. His trusted lieutenant is no more to provide the shield he so badly needed and still does need. His fortress is gone, and the conservatives within the party who had been baying for Sampha’s political blood and nibbling around the edges must be rubbing their hands with glee. The president is left even more vulnerable. And the precariousness that brings draws us all inside. If he slips and the hardliners in party and government take over, then game over! By Umaru Fofana