DODGY DEGREES: IT'S KOROMA'S SCANDAL
By Abdul Suhood Komeh (pictured left)
And we are supposed to be shocked that at least three people, considered/appointed by President Ernest Koroma for ministerial positions in his much shouted-about reshuffle lied about their academic qualifications?
What's truly sad about this new low is how completely unnecessary, since the only requirement for office is being able to read and write English. But again old tricks are hard to rid of. Or, as we say in Freetown, 'Monkey en black han'.
More than possible, the notorious three may well be the tip of the iceberg. But, that's for another moan, one supposes.
The thing is, hardly anyone is surprised. In a country where no funds (including Ebola's) are morally exemptible from theft, academic dishonesty is small beer. I mean, we elect guys whose expertise in attracting investors is making deals to import waste into a national quay, bordered by landfills. And nothing happens.
We hate admitting it, but Sierra Leone is not working. And for a fact, this current issue will follow the same vein of impunity that accompanied previous blatant flouting of conventions - 'Boff Case'!
A culture is settled on, accepted and rooted, where the President is padded from every failure, but given credit for everything engineered as success, including attending funerals!
By quite a bit, the most significant malfeasance exposed by this scandal, is that of Koroma's laziness. Had he taken the process seriously, a president in his eighth year in office, should be free from infantile blunders. All that was required was due diligence before presenting his candidates for vetting - minimum. His failure to do so must be labelled accordingly: another guise of corruption.
And we thought we were in trouble already. Even the substitutes are now so versed in the business, their very beings, stink of graft. What chance?
The fact of the matter is, the three imposters reached the summit of the pecking order through habitual sophistry - unhidden to anyone with eyes and a mind, except for the man elected to make important calls, albeit for ulterior reasons.
Koroma doesn't govern in alienation - he's surrounded by a battery of advisers, capable of discerning unfit candidates if made a primary concern. So really this unsavoury exposè is not even close to the consequence of an oversight, but deliberate exploitation of a nation forced to docility by years of political failure.
In the main, the reshuffle was never about getting people who can do a job, but payback to loyal supporters by a leader more interested in self-preservation. So really, why waste time checking suitability? Even the former Electoral Commissioner who presided over his re-election in now part of the not-so-new fold. Yet no one questions this.
What a twist of fate, that chief amongst the cheats is the cheerleader-in-chief of the Koroma presidency and self-proclaimed Einstein of Sierra Leone? A woman who not only marketed herself to her thousands of gullible fans as a 'walking encyclopaedia,' but cussed her way into the existence of Special Executive Adviser (SEA) to the President. If there was any one person who successfully capitalised on institutional inadequacies in recent years for selfish gains, it's her. She realised that the country lacked rigorous fit-and-proper checks for public servants. Because she claimed to have read medicine, she brazenly prefixed her name with Dr. (as in medical doctor, even though untrained as such) to take advantage of the ambiguity in the distinction between a PhD and MD. In doing so, she was able to falsely equate her credentials with those of other Sierra Leoneans, who had worked very hard for, finished, and merited their accreditations.
How uniquely Sierra Leone, that she actually got away with it until now. Examine the influence she weighs in Koroma's leadership and this latest ministerial appointment, it's a definitive toolkit on how to get rewarded for dishonesty.
In a serious democracy, where public servants are held to account, president or not, Koroma would be in trouble for putting forward a person with a fraudulent resume for public office. To have three of such egotistical fruitcakes in one go, is just taking the biscuit.
In a country where developing the democratic process is a priority, the President would be compelled to do the decent thing, withdraw and abandon the ignominious three for dishonest behaviour. But that's never going to happen. For the expectation in standards is now so low and normal, no one holds a breath. No, no one is shocked. Even the opposition is expected to do the same.