While I respect Dr Sama Banya’s right to react to issues raised in my article, and I agree that some of his clarifications were absolutely in place, I take exception to his attempt to question my professionalism and neutrality simply because this time round he takes a dim view to my views. If he had confined himself to those views without seeking to impugn my credibility, I would have let this pass.
First of all, those members of the public who are not swallowed up by partisan bigotry know my impeccable record of neutrality and impartiality as a journalist. Both as a columnist for Awoko and as a correspondent for the BBC. Whatever I write or say as a journalist, there are only two considerations: to keep my profession and professionalism, and the interest of the ordinary Sierra Leonean who is caught up in a web of two forces whose primary interest, to all intents and purpose, is to capture political power and make the best of it in their own interest only.
Those who politically think with their heart and not with their head can be mad at me today for something reported or written that they do not like, but nod their head in absolute agreement when, on another day, I tell another truth that, this time, they feel part of and they enjoy. This is why when officials or supporters of the SLPP or APC rain insults and accusations on me today, I ignore them for I think they are possessed.
How many times did officials of the former SLPP government not accuse me of being an opposition APC sympathiser, supporter or even member? And even my hair on the head cannot account for the number of times officials and supporters of the APC have accused me of being an SLPP sympathiser. On all occasions my crime has been because I have sat on the fence and served my conscience.
Without citing instances, the former Foreign Minister says that in my despatches to the BBC I have been taking a swipe at the SLPP. So it is interesting when someone else writes to my employers complaining that I am pro-opposition.
About not getting the reaction of the SLPP to the controversial bill, Dr Banya need only ask his party’s Secretary-General if I did not call him to get his reaction on the very day I reported it. He would not react, saying that they were busy with some internal consultations on the matter. Like he, DR Banya rightly states in his reaction, I also called him to let me get President Kabbah’s reaction on the same issue. The reason he states in his reaction is exactly what you told me. That the former president was not happy that the BBC headlined the generation gap between him and his wife in reporting on his remarriage early this year.
Even though I am a correspondent and not a London-based producer or editor for the BBC, I can perfectly understand the reason for that being part of the headline. It was simply part of the story. In fact, I also asked the bride and the groom the same question that night and they did not sound peeved about it at all. So I wonder why he can “sanction” talking to me or the BBC because of that. It probably reinforces what I have written before that the former president needs an official spokesman or press officer for media advice. Even Sir Dawda Jawara, who was overthrown, has one.
Did I “plead” with Dr Banya to let me interview the former president on a night that I agree, was a very happy night? No! And if I did I would say so because it is part of the job to get a scoop. What I told him was that I was doing a report on the wedding and it would be good if he would talk to me about it. Honestly I did not expect he would grant me an interview because he had until then turned down all my requests for an interview. Reason: well according to some of his former aides he always felt I was reporting negatively on his administration. Even though some of these aides feel he has changed his negative views about me ever since he left office.
In one instance, the then president of SLAJ, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, registered to me what he said was the then head of state’s displeasure over my reporting. I wrote to him (president Kabbah) a letter with the audio file and transcript of the “offending” report, challenging him to challenge one word or sentence I had used.
On why I interviewed the presidential spokesman, Alpha Kanu, his office denied knowledge of the bill that I had reported on and once he requested for a reaction, I was duty bound to grant him. In the same way I am considering interviewing Okere Adams, one of President Kabbah’s longest-serving ministers and Organising Secretary of the SLPP, who called me and said he thought the salary increase in the controversial bill was justified and that he wanted an interview to say so. I assure Dr Banya that had he offered himself as president Kabbah’s spokesman, I would have at the very least quoted his reaction.
I never wrote in my piece on Friday that I had never met president Koroma. How could I have said that when I have interviewed him many, many times in person, interviews that have been broadcast? Here is what he’s probably referring to in my piece: “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?”
Immediately preceding that paragraph was Sanpha Koroma’s name in full, even if I spelt it wrongly as “Sampha”, hence no need to keep mentioning it in full. I have profound respect for Dr Banya’s intellect. But I am definitely left with the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he was so angered by my frankness that it took a toll on him.
On that note, perhaps I should use this forum to assuage the confused fears of some members and supporters of the SLPP and APC who, at different times, think differently about my political affiliation. The truth is, hand on chest, I am NOT affiliated. The day I want to be, I will quit journalism. If you care to know, I have never voted for either the SLPP or the APC in my life. In fact, I did not vote in the last three elections August, September and May. Partly because, and I am sure this is a debate for another day, I wanted to maintain my neutrality and impartiality such as in such instances. But also because they have failed to earn my vote by failing to convince me on the issues they stand for.
But if I could end on Dr Sama Banya, there are two things I wan to leave him with: I respect his views and the way he argues most of the time even if I do not necessarily agree with them. And I have said this many, many times. Secondly, he should stop being judgemental about others, not least me.