Saturday, 25 August 2018 marked another milestone in the country’s entertainment industry as 16 contestants from each of the districts locked horns in a beauty contest at the prestigious Bintumani Conference Centre to clinch the covetous position of Miss Sierra Leone. Impressively, the scene was lively, colourful, serene, full of fun and truly amusing.
The program which was organised by the Miss Sierra Leone Board in line with the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and sponsored by different entities including Africell, Pikin Business and Banks was immaculate.
Some of those who graced the occasion included the country’s First Lady, Fatima Bio, the Chief Minister, Professor David Francis and other crème-de-la crème in society.
According to the estimation of many the competition was really competitive and indeed a tough one for the judges especially as all the 16 participants exuded natural beauty and intelligence. Regardless of that there was definitely going to be a winner. The winner who finally emerged was Sarah Laura Tucker from Bonthe District who happens to be a student of the Mass Communications Department at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Emerging as the new Miss Sierra Leone she proudly bagged a brand new car and 12 million Leones.
Sarah now has the onus to represent Sierra Leone as Ambassador to represent the country in future external beauty pageants. Currently, she will serve as a role model in terms of properly comporting herself in a well-mannered way for other young girls to emulate.
Most of those who witnessed the beauty pageant competition passionately argued that Laura really deserved the 1st position as she is not only beautiful but truly demonstrated intelligence as she eloquently expressed herself while responding to questions that were posed to her by the judges. They furthered that the dignified way in which she carried herself, her shape and fitness all contributed to give her an edge over the other contestants.
This year’s Miss Sierra Leone Beauty Contest has been described as one that was well organized as everything went well as scheduled.
The MCs, John Konte of Air Radio and Stella Bangura, formerly of AYV, also lively captivated the audience as they presented the show in a real prime time, fashionable style making the whole contest very interesting and superb.
Mutarla Mohamed Kamara served as Media Coordinator prior to the contest.
The inaugural cocktail organised by the Office of the Press Secretary—which gave media practitioners the opportunity to dine with the President of Sierra Leone—shows the extent to which our democracy is growing. Never in Sierra Leone's history had there been a programme that included journalists from all reputable media institutions save this cocktail. Journalists from all political and apolitical spectrum graced the one in a lifetime programme.
For some, it was a hazy moment to see the man who, despite their constant bashing, has walked his way to the acme of power regardless of the odds. And for others, it was an opportunity to see a valiantly strong personality who never gave up hope but kept on walking his way to the hall of fame. Whatever the mixed feelings are, it was a moment of celebration—a presidential media harmony.
The media plays a vital role in deepening our young and fragile democracy especially in serving the public's need to know, and this comes from the constitutional mandate to hold government accountable on how it steers the affairs of the state. The media, as third party endorsers, have the moral obligation to checkmate government's excesses and report to those whose wishes and aspirations they have sworn provide and protect—the electorates.
Much has been achieved over the years in fulfilling the media's clear cut mandate to provide an accountability mechanism for the people's representatives, but more needs to be done in order that media institutions do their job in a professionally wise manner to fulfill their watchdog function, not the unnecessary attackdog role of CNN against President Donald Trump which constantly exposes CNN's vulnerability in taking sides instead of presenting issues objectively, but a function that genuinely checks on the excesses of government.
In line with the above mandate, most media institutions in Sierra Leone have been constantly selective in their news writing and reporting processes. President Bio, during his opposition run and even now, was/is constantly hooked by incessant banner headlines ranging from "fake brigadier", traveling impossibilities to the United States of America, Car business in Ghana to Passport scandals. All these unsubstantiated allegations were used as hurdles to deter him from achieving his presidential ambition. Some media institutions were given quotes in the form of "brown envelopes" to frustrate his effort to serve his people. But all those obsolete allegations surrendered to the people's power which is, "Despite all those unimaginable allegations, President Bio is the man of the moment, hence we will entrust him our leadership sceptre."
The inaugural cocktail was a platform to make amends; to signal a new dispensation for the Office of the President and the media; a dispensation that is anchored on the need to work in harmony to make Sierra Leone a better place. President Bio, through his humorous speech, disregarded all the media dissidents against his personality and jolted them to move with the New Direction as it is the only solution for Sierra Leone. The humorous interpositions were actually a device used to create a somewhat reposed atmosphere for effectively normal interaction.
His commitment to repeal the Part 5 of the Public Order Act, strengthen the Independent Media Commission and provide annual subvention for the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) shows the extent to which he can go to help the media perform their responsibilities reasonably well. These commitments are not in any way a gagging apparatus to silence the media, but to achieve international best standards with no political string attached.
Diversity has become the euphemism of social justice for the “Paopa” elite on the national scale. Real diversity, and thus real variety, would dissolve the very existence of the meaning of elitism. It would be defined by the inclusiveness of the abnormal, and other underrepresented and uncounted minorities into the general population of our contraption. It would be not just the intelligent (however that is defined), but also the unintelligent. Not just the functional, but also the dysfunctional. Not just the abled, but the disabled. Not just the tolerant, but the intolerant. Not just the intellectual, but the anti-intellectual. And it would not just be these polar opposites, but everything in between. As it stands today, diversity is about social justice for “equals” within their respective classes. Thus my activism for sincere diversity has been for maintaining the traditional social stratification and disparity of power by consolidating interactive systems of people and balancing the counterparts of each system.
The problem with this is that real diversity only connotes variety. Diversity in today’s terms is about achieving a regional and ethnic balance within each strata of social class. To illustrate this point, it is akin to the infinite mirror effect. The goal of diversity is to stabilise a percentage that corresponds to the general population within all levels of social stratification (wealthy, upper middle class, middle class, working class, poor) so that tribe or region has no bearing on socioeconomic status. But real “Paopa” diversity is seen more like chaos and randomness than the consistent pattern that the infinite recursion would show in the macro viewing.
Since this is the prevailing situation, then the “Paopa” activists for diversity are not fighting for real diversity and neither are they fighting for true social justice. What they are really fighting for is a seat for themselves – and thus their respective group – at the table of the elites. This entails maintaining and “improving” the traditional hierarchy and boundaries of the “Paopa” meritocratic classes to make outcomes more “fair” for deserving equals. But “Paopa” meritocracy – considered to be a legitimate method behind the selection process of the elites – has flaws of its own.
If “Paopa” meritocracy is rule by those with merit, and that merit comes from superior intellect, then intelligence has to come from some objective value so that the system is fair. Unfortunately, “Paopa” intelligence lacks this quality as sensing and sensitivity are purely subjective matters until it is communicated and understood. But what about those who can’t understand and those who can’t be understood? How are we to decide who is intelligent when understanding is necessary on both parts? It is only when intelligence is monopolised through sensitisation that an objective shared reality is created, and this is the main “Paopa” flaw. A uniformity of intelligence won’t take into account all other forms and expressions of intelligence.
The “Paopa” flaws of this endeavor of “social justice” infiltrate not only the meritocratic process but also the end product, the establishment of social classes with commensurate influence. As people become filtered into their respective classes, the few at the top with their “superhuman” and “supernatural” abilities become the charismatic rulers for the many. These people display their god-given talents in a theatric showing of magic and the rest become entrapped in their own powerlessness. The patronising ways of the “Paopa” elite inevitably convinces people to support initiatives that are against their own interests.
The greatest injustice of all is when others tell you what to value (certain concepts of equality) and what to believe even if it may not be “true” and consistent with some external, credible, and established framework. What is really going on is an attack on individual autonomy and the freedom to decide.
Current “Paopa” activists for diversity are no young turks, but rather false prophets. It’s the vision of the uniformity of diversity where the “best of the best” leaves no room for real diversity or real social justice.
I have said it a billion-and-one time in private conversations, and I will state it here today for the million-and-hundredth times in public that though the All People’s Congress (APC) is a grassroots party, that ‘grasssrootsness’ should not be seen in the running of the party itself or the subsequent running of the government when the party eventually takes over statecraft.
I believe in the Philosopher King theory of leadership because mediocrity or half-bakedness is not only cancerous to the health of a political party or institution, but always has the tendency to produce half-arsed policies bordering on short term conveniences. I also hold the view that in the APC, the “rank” must always be the intellectuals and the “file” the grassroots. And there should be no topsy-turvy of such roles!
Even in China, though successive administrations have always claimed to be grassroots people-centred and oriented, the leaders are highly educated personalities who do not rely on the tactics of Chairman Mao to solve modern day challenges. The Third Generation of China’s Communist Party leaders since 1989 to date are not peasants or do not have peasant backgrounds like Chairman Mao or Hua Guofeng or Hu Yaobang. They are highly educated elites who use practical scientific methods to solve commonplace issues. If you check the backgrounds of the current General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, and his predecessor Hu Jintao, you will realise that steering of a modern nation should not be left in the hands of what the late Chinua Achebe would call “Efulefus”.
Let’s leave the People’s Republic of China for a while and go to Britain where the Labour Party claims to be for, and of, the Working Class. Since 1900 when it was founded to 1924 when Ramsay MacDonald became the first ever Labour Prime Minister forming the first Labour government, unto the current leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, there has never been a time when the leadership of that Party is being given to an individual who never finished High School despite its ‘grasssrootsness’. How many true Working Classers have ever led that party?
Even in Heaven, some religious texts are replete with inferences that Archangels (Gabriel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Daniel, Remiel, and Rague) are senior to ordinary Angels. And even amongst the seniors, Angels Gabriel and Michael are more senior than other seniors. In disrobe language: The ‘grasssroots angels’ always allow the Archangels to steer the leadership of the ‘Angelic Choir’. Please forgive me if I have touched on some religious sensitivity here but this is the apt allusion I could think of in the present circumstance.
So I’m still finding it baffling why the run-of-the-millers, whose mediocrities led to the democratic ousting of the APC in the March and April of 2018, still believe that in this age of enlightenment their mediocrities should still hold sway in the party. With social media now jostling the mainstream media for the front seat in the public sphere, the All People’s Congress doesn’t need leaders who still believe in the Siaka Stevens-SI Koroma manner of politicking. What the APC needs now are leaders with intelligence, reliability, and the willingness to put party and country above personal aggrandisement.
If the APC truly wants to retake State House in 2023, it should do the same thing which Tony Blair did in 1994 when he used the phrase "New Labour", to detach his leadership from his predecessors’ traditional ways of projecting the Labour ethos. If the APC actually desires the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to be a postscript in 2023, it must distance its leadership style from those of old. And if the APC wants to form the government after the 2023 elections it must institute true reforms; not reforms for the sake of reforms.
The APC shouldn’t think of a powerful resurgence with the old wines still lurking behind the door of the cellar with the aim of being selected for the banquet. That reminds me of what Chinua Achebe noted in his book: “There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra”. He stated that, “Every generation must recognize and embrace the task it is peculiarly designed by history and by providence to perform." Indeed, dinosaurs should not transform themselves into rebirthed phoenixes because a dinosaur will always be such.
The older generation of Siaka Stevens-SI Koroma thinkers, within the APC, should give way to the younger generation of scientific thinkers. The APC shouldn’t think of using the template of 2018 for 2023. For the situations and circumstances would have changed; the political landscape would have morphed, and the political sound-bites would have been given different echoes. Present day challenges should be solved with present day solutions not archaic methods. As I see it, one cannot substitute ‘grasssrootsness’ with intellectualism when it comes to mapping out the future of the APC.
And it is no gainsaying that the younger generation in, and of, the APC today are not the thugs of yore. Most of them are intellectuals who are determined to give the APC a modern face. And the APC, as a party, should not let this opportunity slip from its grip. It is on this note that I will end today’s One Dropian dropping with a quote from Chinua Achebe that says, “People say that if you find water rising up to your ankle, that's the time to do something about it, not when it's around your neck.”