"Kandeh Yumkella is a Liar" is the Lie Itself
By Abdul Suhood Komeh,
Never mind Sierra Leone, Kandeh Yumkella is one of the most important Africans of recent times. ‘You have something to offer your country, and Nigeria, and Africa’, the former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo recently told him in front of an international audience.
Not long ago Sierra Leoneans basked in Yumkella’s success. ‘Nar Salone man so!’ (he’s Sierra Leonean!), they used to say, proudly.
Videos of his speeches were shared on every platform. To reverse an ebbing belief that Sierra Leone can be a lot more than headlines around corrupt governance, war, poverty and environmental catastrophe.
The view then was almost one. The visionary leader Sierra Leone yearned for, could be Yumkella.
But that was when reason and logic were in currency. Anger at government failure was raw and seared the conscience.
Evidence everywhere. Our poorest fought over decomposing chicken on a dump site; university admission forms doubled to Le500,000.
‘Government’ declared austerity and withdrew fuel subsidies. An outbreak of public anger followed, rightly. But there was an excuse. In an attempt to obscure the fact of not being able to craft a productive and robust economy, ‘government’ defenders floated the inanity that the move was without adverse effects as it adjusted a disparity in prices with neighbouring Guinea - a different country with different policy priorities.
Things got so bad, ‘this(that) country needs a change,’ replaced ‘Nar God nor more go hep Salone’ as the common cry.
‘Cometh the hour cometh the man’.
Yumkella, egged on by well-meaning Sierra Leoneans, duly responded to the country’s call. He resigned a prestigious and well-paid job as head of UNIDO to return home to run for president.
Since then, he’s been forced out of his old party, the SLPP by its tribalistic agenda to clear the path for a lazy candidate, whose only qualifying merit is entitlement, based on belonging to the Mende tribe; an impregnated entitlement, steeped in SLPP/APC dogma: after the Temne-man, Koroma (APC), it has to be the turn of the Mende-man, Bio (SLPP).
Suddenly, it’s election time. The chronological order of loyalties is reinforced: Tribe, Region and Self, overtook Country.
And bang! The demonisation of Yumkella commenced. The man once held exemplary is the new bogeyman, intent on sabotaging ‘progress’.
Suddenly, anger at government incompetence is flipped to a false sense of success. And the wrath of supporters of the country’s leading opposition the SLPP, is directed not at the ‘government’ they should be campaigning to replace, but Yumkella for threatening the status quo.
Suddenly, Yumkella is the liar for daring to suggest that Sierra Leoneans deserve better. Conversely, an arrantly malfeasant ‘government’ that disgraced the country in stealing £12million(GBP) of Ebola aid while burying citizens the money was meant to have saved, is the symbol of trust.
Suddenly, Yumkella and his movement, the NGC are disparaged as broke for seeking funding, ethically, from supporters. In this tragic vein, the meritorious rich guys are a ruling party using the national purse to bribe their grip on power.
Ebola, rather than a catastrophe caused by 57 years of political failure, is now explained as an interruption to a phantom ‘agenda for prosperity’ that is set to be revived by the APC, executors of the calamitous ruin of the last ten years. All, just to invalidate Yumkella’s message for change; a change so palpably required, and urgent, denying its necessity is a moral outrage.
But here is the thing. Some of us are not surprised a bit. What these elections are revealing is not incidental misunderstandings of democracy. Rather, the progeny, the child, essentials of years of dysfunctional politics reaching counterproductive maturity. And at a time most apt for the country to exorcise itself from 50 years of inert leaderships.
Think about this. A whole country, a self-governed nation of nearly 60 years, with abundant human, intellectual and natural resources. Is globally humiliated by the IMF withholding just $55million(USD) instalment of a loan in the middle of an election. Sierra Leone is broke. Yet incredibly, some people are repudiating a need for change. This is not just excusing, but rewarding failure.
Not the next one. Or the one after. But at this election (possibly in the entirety of Sierra Leone’s history), Kandeh Yumkella is the best-prepared candidate for president by a million miles. He’s shown incredible passion. He has far superior arguments with a clearer and more coherent vision.
The conceit in calling him a liar is the lie itself; an egregious lie status-quo supporters tell themselves to cloak their denial of reality.
Sierra Leone needs a change because it is better than what the APC and SLPP has reduced it to: a ‘beggar nation’. By campaigning for change, Yumkella’s arguments represent truth, and backed by incontrovertible evidence of over five decades of failure, scattered across the country. New verses, please!