The goings-on at the Freetown City Council bear the hallmarks of a melodrama. If the characters involved were in an orchestra, my recommendation would be the Gilbert and Sullivan great, “When the Foeman Bares His Steel”. And I would ask for an encore.
But all of that is not what it is. As it is, it bears the hallmarks of a Palace Coup. Councillors plotting the overthrow of their Mayor just as he proceeded on leave and replacing him with one of them! What a mockery of democracy!
A good thing therefore, that for the first time since independence in 1961, come July, we will be voting directly for people interested in heading our municipalities.
Just last week I read in the papers that an official who refused to stand up at the entry of the “Acting Mayor of Freetown” was sent out of the hall. If this did happen, somebody should convince me that that is not dictatorship! The same accusation levelled against the substantive holder of the post who now, to all intents and purposes, stands dethroned.
Because I do not like discussing individuals, rather issues, I have not been keen on seeking third opinions on some of the things said and written about Winstanley Bankole-Johnson, the (erstwhile) Mayor of Freetown. Records say he wrote to the minister of local government requesting for a sick leave. His request was granted. So I presume sick leave he is on.
I am also informed that prior to proceeding on the said leave he had been barricaded from his office, at least on one occasion. No gainsaying that there was, probably still is, a groundswell of opposition to his continued leadership of the Freetown municipality. Reasons range from the mundane to the spiritual and from the bizarre to the callous, depending on who you believe. In that case, I would have resigned if I were in his shoes. May be this is where he went wrong.
But does his refusal to resign warrant his replace in such a manner typical of Joseph Stalin’s Russia, just as he had proceeded on leave?
Barely days into that leave council convened an investiture of a “New Acting Mayor”, as reported by the local media. Council officials were quoted as saying that even at the end of that leave the substantive mayor would not be allowed to resume work.
Somewhat interestingly, neither the ruling All People’s Congress (including the Minister of Local Government) or their PMDC allies, nor the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, have expressed concern at this development. When in 2005 there was a move to dismiss the head of the Makeni Town Council, Musa Mansaray on corruption allegations, the decision was overturned and he resigned instead. The silence by the country’s main political parties only questions their commitment to democratic values.
It probably lends credence to the theory that the ruling party, for one, is interested in seeing the back of Winstanley. I cannot vouch for the truth of this notion, other than based on their reticence on the matter. And the SLPP is happy, even if the manner is in question, because they never saw eyeball to eyeball with the man.
If Bankole-Johnson was as bad as he is being portrayed by some council officials, why did they wait all these years? May be he did not show those “bad” tendencies of his early enough. But what would it have cost and caused them to wait for July when the next municipal elections are due?
I have not spoken to the Mayor since, but I wonder what happens when his sick leave ends next month. Don’t underestimate Mr Bankole-Johnson’s ability to fight for his right. Again if this were an orchestra, what better way to end it than with the Gilbert and Sullivan piece “Patience: Am I Alone and Unobserved?”
By Umaru Fofana