COUNTRY FIRST BOY!! COUNTRY FIRST!!!!

By: Winstanley .R. Bankole. Johnson

Media house operators are guilty of taking the intelligence of their readership for granted. That is easily discernible from the presentation style in over 70% of their reportages, often tweaked (trolled rather) either to submerge weaknesses of their preferred incumbent political administrations, so as to keep powerful opposition organs permanently in bad light. To “troll” in Journalism is a sustained attempt to paint what is ugly into beauty by spewing deliberate lies intended to brainwash viewers and or readers.   Such accentuations of bias reporting most times succeed where the major opposition party is in seeming disarray and or are unable to marshal robust, real time media counteractions. In such circumstances, no effort is spared by government to marshal their own surrogates to sustain a status quo, even in the abundance of glaring evidences to the contrary. The most recent example of this Civil Society trolling was at the launching of a New Edition “Afro-barometer Report” which is a clear example where journalists and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) pretending to be “independent” exposed their antics. But as we say in Krio: “Trick Na Smoke” (habits die hard), so no matter the pretensions, I was able to see through them.

 

Backstory

But first let’s state a few facts I know about the official internationally recognized body of Data Managers operating by the name: “Afro-Barometer” as under-:

  1. It is a Pan-African, non-partisan survey research work that provides reliable data on the experiences and evaluations of African democratic governance and quality of life.
  2. They produce annualized Reports. In between, there is nothing like “Interim Reports”.
  3. Each presentation of (2) above is public and done by panelists comprising country representatives of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (the funders), with the local implementing partners of other internationally funded organizations such as the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) in attendance, and it is customary for the former two to make formal statements about their perceptions on such Surveys Reports being presented. This means the local implementing partners cannot analyze beyond or outside the contents of the original reports made public, just like Mr. Andrew Lavallie of the Institute for Governance Reforms (IGR) did recently for his “One-Man” Afro-barometer Research Report Analysis on the recently concluded Commissions of Inquiries (COIs).

Now having provided that backstory, let us try to examine what irked Mr. Andrew Lavallie (IGR) into going “Dutch” (alone) and to produce yet another unsolicited local version Afro-Barometer Survey Report specifically on the Commissions of Inquiries (COIs), which was for just one core reason-: To launder the image of his SLPP government in power following caustic commentaries by the funders of the actual or regular Afro-Barometer Survey Report (World Bank and IMF country representatives) released barely two months ago and captioned: “Di Gron Dry”.

Let’s review some of their commentaries:

  1. Two years into the Bio administration, confidence about whether the country is heading in the right direction dropped by 13% to 32%, compared to 45% in 2018 which though still higher than the lows recorded during the Ebola, popular approval is well below the 2012 results.
  2. The data were collected well before the Covid-19 pandemic. “These are pre-Covid-19 perceptions and I am really shocked by that…..I can anticipate it being worse if you compare it to where we are right now ” – Gayle Martin concluded.

My interpretation of that statement is that even without hindrance from the Covid-19 pandemic (as was in the EBK administration when Ebola obstructed growth) this government couldn’t perform.

 

Duplication

Anyone apparently prioritizing ethnocentric considerations over and above God, Country and our Green; White and Blue (Tri-Colour), would have none of that. So within three weeks Mr. Lavallie orchestrated another “Afro-Barometer Report” launched by him alone, deliberately cherry picking on, and restricting it to sentiments most enamoured by the international community – Corruption. In describing that exercise as “A New Afro-Barometer Report” The Politico of 2nd October noted  clearly that it was undertaken by “…a local partner of Afro-Barometer, the IGR”.  What the “Politico” failed to explain in that story was why the need for another purported “Local Version Afro-Barometer” report so soon, having regard to the fact that the single issue addressed – “Corruption” – ought to have been adequately covered in the original and internationally accredited Afro-Barometer Report officially launched with fanfare and with the IFM, World Bank, CARL etc country representatives in attendance. Obviously “corruption” being of significant relevance in the core mission of Afro-Barometer (African democratic governance and quality of life), ought to have been adequately addressed both in that original Report and during the presentation discussions at which the international funders were in attendance. So why the unnecessary report presentation duplication by Mr. Andrew Lavallie?

So clearly that local version report presentation and public analysis was all about the perception of the IGR of Mr. Andrew Lavallie only. It had nothing absolutely to do with Afro-Barometer per se. But they had to be roped in so as to hoodwink the public and distract minds away from the negative perceptions of the World Bank and IMF that two years into this Bio administration, confidence in the New Direction has waned and that the future looks bleak. Whether or not a multi-pronged assault on the intelligence of the populace is launched by other pro-government CSOs accentuating calls for national support for the COIs will not change that fact.

Prejudicial

In my perception further, trying to obtain national support for the COIs after conclusion of their findings and release of the corresponding “White Paper” is in fact a sheer waste of resources, because it cannot change the status quo – that funds were defalcated as alleged and to be proven for which reason persons were indicted. If government is convinced the processes were transparent and legally procedural, then why worry about selling the Commissions outcomes instead of focusing on what should be a Phase 2: Appeals hearings against the White Papers? Those indicted must be allowed to exhaust their appeals opportunities under the law. That I am given to understand is what Sec.149 of the Constitution is all about and what defense Lawyers  are finding comfort in per Appeals Court Rule 11 (1), all of which should be lodged within 90-days of publication of the “White Paper”.

The practice of potential prosecutors entertaining biased public discussions in the “Peoples’ Courts”  such as by the ACC against those allegedly indicted without hearing their own side or until they have exhausted their appeals processes can be prejudicial to their interests.  After all every man is presumed innocent under the law until the contrary is proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

 

For the ACC Commissioner to be consistently attributing a “guilty as charged” perception of “Money Laundering” to a whole former immediate past Head of State Ernest Bai Koroma, without the full concurrence and or collaboration from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and their global associates in that crusade: Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (GAIBA/CTF) could by itself have serious implications for, and consequences on this country insofar as Price Stability, Financial Stability, Correspondent Banks Settlement Arrangements, Foreign Direct Investments Opportunities and by extension reversal of all the gains made by this administration on Human Capital Development.  Are we so desperate to bring each other down as to cut off our noses to spite ourselves? I will crave the ACC Commissioner to allow for all due legal processes to mature after which if he succeeds, he can have his justifiable desserts and we will boldly congratulate him for that.

Benchmarks

Incidentally let me clarify here and now that though CARL’s appeal for support to the government in the fight against corruption is in place, it ought to be obligatory on every citizen to support every government in that direction. That is to say, no citizen needs to be prompted or stampeded to fulfill that duty. But for that fight to be holistically bought into by all and sundry irrespective of one’s political persuasions, government first has the responsibility to set and uphold the following basic benchmarks:

  • To fully capacitate the anti-graft agency to be able to carry out its functions effectively – Unfettered and or uninfluenced by the powers that be.
  • To ensure that the fight must be a national fight. It must not be waged on partisan or with ethno-centric biases
  • To ensure that the basis of that fight at every instance must be transparent. For example, where it is predicated on the outcomes of COIs, the Reports of those inquiries must be published in their entirety and equally without prejudice – not by withholding or adulterating portions of them, just so as to vilify, victimize and damage perceived political opponents. We are hearing now that three (3) sections of the Justice Biobele Georgewill Inquiry have been withheld or tampered with. That by itself if true is corruption.
  • To effectively educate the citizenry that government actions arising from the COIs are transparent and not a witch hunt, the Attorney General is obliged also to publish the full lists of those exculpated or discharged by the COIs with much the same alacrity and fanfare as he did for list of those 131 persons purportedly banned by government from leaving the jurisdiction without clearance from his office.

Integrity

So back to my main story. It has to be agreed that from time immemorial periodic surveys sponsored by international bodies have always been good intentioned: to apply their outcomes to regularize systemic governance weaknesses for ultimate socio-economic gains including economic growth and political stability underpinned by national cohesion. That is why the name of the body that conducted the survey referenced in this instance is suffixed: “Barometer” – measuring tool. To achieve the desired outcomes one thing that should remain paramount from design to implementation of the methodologies is “integrity”. Integrity of purpose, intent and output.   For the architects of any such national surveys to be so impelled by narrow ethno-centric passions as to be churning out their own local versions each time internationally approved versions run counter a preferred government in power and calculated to sway public perceptions in their favour is totally disingenuous and a national disservice – particularly for this our country that has become so polarized in the last thirty (30) months.

Every adult sierra Leonean is a potential voter at every electoral cycle, and there’s nothing wrong in pandering our political instincts when it comes to voting. What is wrong is to allow those narrow instincts to so becloud our demeanour as to subsume issues that should take national pre-eminence. That emerged clearly from the way Mr. Lavallie embellished his depositions over Radio Democracy 98.1FM recently. Instead of analyzing on year on year basis, he moved the comparative country scores for fighting corruption from 40% in 2012 (under the APC) straight to 79% in 2018 under the SLPP. His mission was clear, but in the process objectivity was lost. And that to me constituted a betrayal of public trust.

Whatever happened to progressions of successes recorded by the same ACC between 2013 and 2017 under Commissioners Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara and Addy Macauley?  Is anyone now trying to tell us they were basically sinecurist Commissioners?  Afro-Barometer should take a dim view of such overt partisan proclivities and that subsequent “Local Version Report” churned out by the IGR without their tacit complicity and support, and advise themselves as appropriate.

In our two encounters post the immediate 2012 Presidential election at his Wilkinson Road office precincts, Mr. Andrew Lavallie lavished praise on me for some of my articles that were critical of the APC government. And if I should recall and quote him exactly he once said: “Even though you are APC you write truth to power…that is what patriotism is all about”.  How I wish this my young friend could begin to emulate me by thinking more of Sierra Leone and much less of party affiliations.

Country first Boy!! Country first!!!

Rather than rely only on pro-government analysis on them, I would personally draw strength from reactions of the All Peoples’ Congress (APC) Secretary General Alhaji Ambassador Dr. Osman Foday Yansanneh who, when speaking on the mandate and quality of the COIs on behalf of the entire rank and file of our Party summarized that they were based on unconstitutional and unaccountable processes, a culmination of inconsistency, illegality, procedural corruption, vindictiveness and malice. And I’m inclined to endorse that view 100%.

Perception                                             

If there’s any area where the official “Afro-Barometer Report” jointly launched by IGR, IMF, World Bank and CARL resonated well with the public it is on their corruption perception on State House, Parliament, Police and the Judiciary. Rather unfortunate anyone can be forgiven to think of it, but that they say, is their own well-researched perception of those institutions. Parliament is the most enraged of all four by that and they have set the Parliamentary Committee on Ethics in motion to thoroughly delve into the matter. I only hope that in doing so they will not omit to also rope in DFID, IMF and World Bank as co-conspirators because as the adage goes: “What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander”.

This nonsense of blaming our Parliamentarians must stop!!

My UK friend is supportive of that too, but nevertheless concluded that anyone entertaining a contrary perception about them will also be perceiving that either the Pope is not a Catholic or that prostitutes are virgins.

Again: his perceptions.

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