Monday, January 7, 2013

The Quest For Political Appointment in Sierra leone Becomes Sublime

Gollum "My Precious"
Sometimes we all yearn for things and make an effort to get them. Occasionally people want things so badly that the yearning becomes personal, becomes an ache, a hole in their hearts. Those who are fans of literary master J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of The Rings" will know how desire for the fabled the "one ring" consumed the playful hobbit Smeagol, sending him away from hobbit folk into isolation and schizoaffective madness, eventually transforming him into the monstrosity known as Gollum.

In Sierra Leone, President Ernest Koroma is taking his time to choose his team from amongst the many prominent people who played a part in his reelection campaign, with many hoping for prime government appointments. While some of these minister and ambassador wannabes are subtle, working silently in the background, the desperation of a few have become so palpable that it is a phenomenon to behold, particularly now that there are very few ministries remaining.

In Sierra Leone of yore, ministerial appointments used to be tinged with an element of surprise. Those days cabinet reshuffles suddenly thrust relatively obscure members of parliament into the spot light. After the military interregnum of the early to mid 90s, President Tejan Kabbah used ministerial appointments to satisfy the old guard of Sierra Leone politics. To Kabbah, it was also a tool for placating rivals such as Charles Margai and Thaimu Bangura and an instrument for the consolidation of peace.

After winning the election in 2007, President Ernest Bai Koroma, suddenly thrust into the spotlight, deviated from the norm and introduced the concept of ministerial appointments for personal loyalty. President Koroma reached out to party supporters in Sierra Leone and the diaspora and gave prime positions to those who had played significant roles in his campaign for office, making many ambitious people in the West to pack up their bags, leaving mundane jobs overseas to be thrown headlong into the midst of Sierra Leone politics. Many were also rewarded with diplomatic appointments abroad.

This concept of appointment for reward, rather than appointment by best fit, markedly elevated the profile of the president amongst his supporters and in the 2012 elections, APC operatives were practically playing gymnastics, trying to outdo one another, shouting the world's best at the volume of their lungs all in a bid to increase their visibility and demonstrate their loyalty, strategically placing themselves in front of cameras for all the world to see, especially the Pa.
Self Promotion

2012 also saw the entry of new players into President Koroma's list of close and vocal supporters, many from opposition and journalistic ranks, many wanting to be the new "Shekito, the new Kabbs Kanu or the New Alpha Khan, and some of these folks have not been subtle, but have been so loud that it has become painful to watch. Titus Boye-Thomson, Sylvia Blyden, John Leigh, Gibril Gbanabome Koroma and many more new APC converts and old latent APC supporters started writing articles of praise about the president filled with majestic embellishments like, "the world's best", "fountain of honor" "the great Obai" and so on and so forth.

Just after the elections Gibril Gbanabome Koroma launched a tirade against Leroy Kanu of Cocorioko seeking to overtly replace the loyal reverend in the president's eyes, thus starting a cyber war in which many of the president's men took the side of the political clergyman.

But none of the new ministerial wannabes this season can earn a better grade for effort than my very own sister and new friend Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, and if President Koroma leaves her out of the remaining ministries or embassies, I do not know what this poor woman will do.
180 Blyden

After having spent the better part of the last four years as one of the most ardent critics of President Koroma, writing hundreds of articles about the president's personal lifestyle and the evils of those close to him. Sylvia decided that this year it was time to get aboard the APC express by making a 180 degree turn and spewing all the bile she had at the opposition and becoming the prime defender of APC. Her approach was so bellicose that it left even the solid APC diehards exclaiming "wow!"

From Awareness Times to Facebook Sylvia Blyden's new found love for EBK has been overwhelming. Over the last few months her tirade of insults against former opposition friends has been amazing to watch. From Dr. Banya, to Kadi Sesay to Maada Bio, none was spared her venom. When APC operatives started to praise Sylvia as a great journalist and even give her one of Sierra Leone's never ending pappy show awards, I told a friend of mine that maybe the Mayans were right, the world is going to end, given the things they had written about her in the past.

Since November 17, however Sylvia has become the Gollum of Sierra Leone politics and for the first time yesterday, after reading her piece in Cocorioko "Koroma Cabinet & The Youths: A Source of Pride." I felt genuinely sorry for the poor sister and think that President Koroma needs to give her something, even the ambassadorship of Syria. Maybe she can help broker peace between Assad and the New Syrian Army folks.

How desperation can change people. This woman initially announced immediately after the elections that she was leaving journalism for politics, calling the Koroma information team "mumu", but after the first two batches of appointments, there has been a loud as they say in Freetown, "spirit pass and there was a yaing" Now reading Sylvia Blyden writing in Cocorioko that she used to call an online rag, hoping to join the team of "palace canines" is a wonder to see and all what we can do is watch in amazement and see what naked desire and ambition can do to people. In an article full of "lay belleyish" embellishments, Sylvia has outdone even Kabbs Kanu himself and the Pa should take notice and give that prime Syrian appointment as a reward.

As they say, there is no permanence in politics and students of political science if observant can learn much from the seismic realignments going on in Sierra Leone. Many great dissertations can be written about the ever changing room of smoking mirrors that symbolize the political landscape of the small but deep West African nation of Sierra Leone.

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