By Valicious I. Luke (MA), Systems Analyst, Maryland, USA…..
I have been following online commentaries by a certain Chernor Bah who has been adding foreign names to his by-line claiming to be his abstract colleagues probably to give credibility to his commentaries. In a country which now enjoys free speech after almost 55yrs since the enactment of the Public Order Act in 1965, diverse opinions should be expected- even the most slanderous and attention-seeking ones.
Having read almost all of his commentaries, it is clear to my mind that Mr Bah’s mission is to blackmail the government by playing with the emotional state of the population. Chernoh knows his people very well. He knows that in Sierra Leone when the average citizen hears that a public officer has used, for example, 10 Billion Leones, what readily comes to mind is thievery or corruption. He cares not to know what the money was spent on- whether it was used to get more children in school or on a program that would later bring in $10 Million investment for the nation, etc- the average man doesn’t care to know. Sadly, in my country, every public servant is a suspect. This situation became rife during the eleven years of the Koroma administration. It is quite a task to lead a very gullible society like ours. This is the reason why I wholeheartedly welcome the Free Quality Education Programme- at least for the next generation of our society to have a sophisticated mind to understand issues and people as they come.
What Mr. Bah has been writing is a mere narrative of a series of transactions other than giving a clear evidence of misappropriation or corruption. For instance, to say that the Office of the First Lady received ‘x amount of money’ on a certain date is not an evidence of corruption. What constitutes corruption in that regard is to show that the Office did not use the money allocated on the purpose for which the allocation was made or that more money was allocated than requested and that the excess was not returned. I hear people ask what has the nation benefited? In the case of the First Lady, no one, not even those with difficulties in seeing or feeling would say they haven’t felt the impact of the many campaigns championed by the First Lady including the Hands-off our Girls Campaign. This campaign for example, led to the Amendment of the Sexual Offences Act, a Model Sexual Offences Court, increased awareness of the effects of sexual offences, more cases reported, more convictions, etc. Haven’t you heard many times, when men would now say, *dis na Fatima Bio e pikin oo, lef am saful…*? This happens out of robust and sustained advocacy and awareness raising.
I have just read another sensational headline from Chernor alleging that the Office of the Chief Minister has used about 30 billion in less than three years! What Mr Bah woefully failed to do is to investigate whether there was any impact or value-for-money in all the instances he gave. Does Chernor Bah truly think that having a meeting with people like George Sorious is as easy as going to see his ‘muray man’? This guy is kidding me! He is really enjoying the gullibility of the population even amongst the few educated. Look, the guy said three vehicles were bought by the Office of the Chief Minister, but that they couldn’t tell whether all three vehicles were delivered. This is simply ridiculous! Did you people go to State House or sent your agents there to verify the physical availability of the vehicles or even the delivery note? Did you ask the authorities concerned for verification so that you get a balanced and credible story? You couldn’t.
Which act of corruption is Mr Bah really trying to prove here? That two or three cheques were made in the name of one company or business entity within a day? Is this a contravention of any Law? What we would have loved to see is that cost of services or of goods were inflated or that no procurement method whatsoever was followed. But as it is, this is a failed exploration into the Atlantic Ocean to catch a lioness or a lion.
And what I don’t understand is the fact that journalists don’t even probe deep to put Chernoh’s write-ups to test. In journalism any piece of publication done out of malice is of little or no relevance. I wonder if our journalists listen to programs like HardTalk where hard questions are asked. This same Chernor was the man who wanted to become the Publicity Secretary of the then opposition Party SLPP on a silver platter without election but was denied and left with enormous malice, and now wants to get back at the Party. In fact when the Party took over the reins of power, Mr Bah came back on two occasions (one in the U.S and another in Bo City) to beg for job to become the Press Secretary for the President and was again turned down by the President. So now he thinks the time is ripe for a pound of flesh to be taken?
Journalists in that country don’t ask him such tough questions right? Umaru Fofana, 98.1 AYV etc, you guys should be asking tough questions. I was in that country when Chernoh Bah was chased out by his party people (the NDA Party) for billions of Leones they alleged he stole from the Party before he ran away to the U.S. Has he settled that now? What about the leaks from email conversations between Mr Bah and his paymasters? I have seen at least one email conversation between Mahmud Ishmael Sheriff and Chernoh/Africanist Press in which Mahmud asked Chernoh to send bank details of Africanist Press to enable him transfer $5000 for the job (blackmail) he is doing. Mahmud went on to state that the pay was being made as per instructions he was given by his own bosses. Part of the money was to recruit local reporters. Mahmud Ishmael Sheriff was one of the workmen and praise-singers of former President Koroma. He worked at statehouse. I advise Chernoh to clean up himself first before looking beyond his nose. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands, my lawyer friends would normally say.
Blackmailing is an old-fashioned type of journalism and was mostly fashionable to poor but also to gluttonous journalists who used the tactics to make a living for themselves and their families.
In all of this, Chernoh Bah is trying to distract or even divert the government and its PR people from focusing on popularizing the very many good programs and developments that government is undertaken in that country- whether it’s education, agriculture, energy, roads, water, etc. The government PR should focus on these issues to get the people know and understand what government is doing. Is it not just over the weekend that the President launched One Hundred (100) Billion Leones Microcredit to benefit four thousand one hundred or more people from all districts in the country- mainly women and children? The PR should not allow this beautiful story and good news to be swept under the carpet with such distractions.
I should note that because there’s nothing to hide that’s why documents showing transactions are in the public domain; if it were not so they would be kept under lock and key until there’s a change of government.
So Fatima Bio should just ignore Chernoh Bah and others and focus on the good work she has been doing. Criticism is just part of the life of a public figure and public servant. Follow the footstep of your husband: say less and act more. President Bio remains the most crucified and abused public figure in the last century but he never took his eyes from the ball and that is what he keeps doing. Focus Fatima, you’re a good woman.
Copyright: Valicious I. Luke.