By George S. Khoryama……….
It is said that it is impossible for people of good will to remain neutral on issues of good and bad. In fact, the hottest place in hell is reserved for them who preserve neutrality. Until they say or do something, their conscience remains a gadget not built for comfort but instead an internal time bomb. The issue of Vice President Sam Sumana has therefore rendered me timorous and unwilling to continue to remain silent, firm in my conviction that he deserves respect as a statesman and second in command in the affairs of state.
Part II, of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, 54 (1) of the Executive Powers states that “there shall be a Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone who shall be the principal assistant to the President in the discharge of his executive functions.” It goes on: “A candidate shall be deemed to be duly elected as Vice President if the candidate who designated him as candidate for election to the office of Vice President has been duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions of section 2.”
The same Part II, 49 (4) states that “when the President dies, resigns, retires or is removed from office as a result of paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (1), the Vice President shall assume office as President for the unexpired term of the President with effect from the date of the death, resignation, retirement or removal of the President, as the case may be.
55 (a) under the same Executive Powers states that “the office of the Vice President shall become vacant on the expiration of the term of office of the President; or (b) if the Vice President resigns or retires from office; or (c) if the Vice President is removed from office in accordance with the provisions of section 50 or 51 of this Constitution.”
The constitutional provision at stake in our present political dispensation is that of 54 (1) above. To what extent the Vice President has been effectively engaged as per the dictates of that constitutional provision or not, has today become a subject of public debate if not ridicule. It remains an open secret however, that between VP Sumana and His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma, no love is lost. As a result it is observable that VP Sumana’s role as “principal assistant” to the President has for a very long time now, been usurped and compromised by others at the whim and caprice of the President.
PRESSURES OF PRESIDENCY
The two most powerful men of the land have more often, not been sighted together in public; it is even rumoured that the two big men are not on speaking terms. Representations of the President at local, national and international forums are performed by the President’s men of choice to a further isolation of his Vice. Of late it is observable that the pressures of the presidency have far exceeded the limits of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s ability when his Vice President should have served as a shock absorber. The Ebola disaster has just made matters worse for His Excellency – he alone receives the outpouring of foreign dignitaries and CEOs on account of Ebola; he alone receives the huge volumes of donations both in cash, cheques and kind; he travels all over the country over and again to preach and spread the Ebola gospel while his Vice President has little or nothing to do with state matters.
The spillover of the President-Vice President sour and estranged relationship has taken a further nose dive as a result of unbridled political interference by some of the President’s men and pro-government media houses. The VP has become their target practice: they are reportedly on record suggesting at several ruling All People’s Party’s (APC) National Advisory Council’s (NAC) meetings to either expel or dismiss the VP from the party. They have accused him of plotting to kill one of them; they call him “A Fifth Columnist” in the APC party; some say the VP is a mole and that he is not fit to succeed President Koroma; he is accused of undermining the President. A cabinet minister walked out of his office while he was addressing him on matters of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA). They claim that even his Kono people are angry with him. Some newspapers have had the most choice cuss words for the Vice President. The stories are many and long, all done with impunity in order to give him a bad name.
I have never before seen a sitting Vice President of a country so vilified and humiliated like in the case of Sierra Leone’s Vice President. Yes, a similar strange relationship was reported between former Ghanaian President Jerry Rowling and his Vice President which at a high point resulted in the former punching the latter in the face. But in no way did the Vice President come under such sustained vilification by his own partisans and pro-government journalists. In fact, other reports had it that the Vice President also returned the blow with equal venom.
CRABS IN A POT
These anti-VP people continue to behave like crabs in a pot climbing over one another’s back in order to get the most attention of their wild and unfounded imaginations about the poor man. Some of them have just jumped into the fray to scandalize the man with no idea about the real problems between the President and his Vice. They are in a hurry for their voices/noise to be heard by the gullible ones in order to keep their offices.
FRIENDS AND FOES
Notwithstanding, they are reminded that so uncertain are all things on earth that no one knows how sooner or later his or her situation may change and to what sad or happy event his or her life may end. Today they are in a vantage position to insult, vilify and humiliate the Vice President with impunity; but let them remember in the words of Arthur Schlesinger that “In politics you rarely have friends and foes – only colleagues – and you should never get so deep in a quarrel as to lose all chances of conciliation; you might need to work with the other fellow later.” Who knows these APC hit men may need to work with VP Sumana sooner or later.
Those people who are going for the VP’s jugular must be reminded of Part II 49 (4) (above) of the 1991 Constitution on the Executive Powers of the Vice President. Anything can happen under the sun; you could only say that you have not heard or seen it happen, but anything can happen. People have suffered in history because of vain glory like those anti-VP squads who are today basking in the comfort of their positions and influence when, as a matter of fact, moderation might have civilized or saved them.
THRONES OR POWERS
The Bible says “He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God; the first born over all creation. For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible – whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities – all things were created by him and for him.” It is said better still that the stones which the builders rejected became the pillar of the building.
To this point the President’s men may now be wondering what business have I in their party problem. Some have already concluded that I have been hired by the VP, or that I am seeking favour from the Pa. My concern, notwithstanding, is being driven by fact the VP is also our national leader and no longer accountable to the ruling APC people alone; he deserves maximum respect and not insults. The consequences of the imprudent action of those people who are after him could be detrimental to national peace and decorum. Their evil machinations have already spilt the support for the VP among his very Kono people in the middle.
Secondly, I had neither sought nor received any favour from the VP; not even for the fact I stood by him through this same tabloid during the timber gate scandal in which he was equally demonized and ridiculed few years ago. I have never ever met the VP either face-to-face or even through a third party. He called me after that publication and thanked me profusely promising that we would meet. The time for that appointment is still in his and my prayers since two years ago.
In fact according to the bush radio around town, even people close to the proximity of the Vice Presidency have very low opinion about the man’s spirit of generosity; and he seems not journalists-friendly. But does that mean he does not or should not have friends and sympathizers? NO. After all even Foday Sankoh had a family and close friends including a woman publisher in town who handled the murderous rebel’s propaganda machinery on the website. How much more for a man of stature and grace? Therefore, even a threadbare notion that he hired me for this enterprise or that I am seeking favour from the VP is vain and preposterous.
Lest I forget: I could not help jumping to my feet when I caught sight on TV last week end the President and VP sharing the same platform in Kono on the issue of Ebola. It was an infrequent moment. I think Ebola too has a healing power.
In conclusion I must warn those President’s hit men thus: Una lef; una lef that man. No condition is permanent.