By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
You might be shocked to learn that though I have practised journalism for about 27 years now; I don’t read a good number of Sierra Leonean newspapers anymore. I only glance through their headlines for comic reliefs. The reason being that I have imbibed Mark Twain’s belief that: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed”.
I will rather be uninformed than be mis-informed, as most of the misinformation (regarding news gathering, writing and reporting) has always been seen in most—if not all—of the newspapers aligned with the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). All the misinformation about the 2021 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census (MTPHC); all the misinformation about the Proportional Representation System or District Block System; all the misinformation about the Voter Registration processes, and all the misinformation about the million-and-one issues that have been issues of Sierra Leone’s issues have been seen, and amplified, in most newspapers aligned with the SLPP.
But whenever I want to be informed informatively; I read non-hysterical newspapers like the Awoko, Premier News, Concord Times and a palm-full of others. I’m not saying that they are the best among the rest. But under the present circumstances of the tabloid-style journalism, which is permeating the Sierra Leonean media-sphere; they always try, or make conscious efforts, to swim across the propagandistic tidal tide with their necks above the partisan ocean.
So, I’m still waiting for the SLPP-leaning newspapers to misinform me about why in the Mid-Term Population and Housing Census some regions registered more people but during the Voter Registration processes those same people disappeared into thin air. I’m still waiting for them to misinform me about why the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) deleted over 250,000 registered voters from the national voter register for alleged “under-age registration”, “double registration”, etc. when they had earlier informed their readers that the ECSL registration computers were programmed to reject under-age registrants at the registration centres. And I’m still waiting for the SLPP-leaning newspapers to misinform me about why electricity access in Sierra Leone is still 16% (the fourth lowest globally) and is only about 1% outside the capital Freetown.
Yet, the “Paopagandists” will want me to believe that the SLPP government’s so-called “Ministry of Energy Rural Mini-Grid Electrification” project is a resounding success in the provinces. They will want me to believe that the SLPP government has scored more “electrification” goals than the erstwhile government of Ernest Bai Koroma. But are places like Bo, Kenema, Moyamba, Pujehun, Kono, Tonkolili, Port Loko, Kabala and Falaba Districts enjoying six hours of uninterrupted electricity supplies daily? One can play politics with abstracts but not with visuals! If the SLPP government’s “Rural Mini-Grid Electrification” project is successful; the recipients will say so not from any of those pot-bellied toadies from the corridors of power!
And yesterday, just yesterday, some of the SLPP-leaning newspapers were gleefully gleeful in their reporting of President Julius Maada Bio’s four-day working visit to Moyamba District in southern Sierra Leone. As usual, they quoted the Commander-in-Chief to have told the people of Rotifunk in the Bumpeh Chiefdom that his SLPP-led government had created “a platform for women to be actively involved in the administration of the state [which is] indicated in the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Act 2022”.
Well, I won’t say that President Bio is being economical with the truth. But I will just ask my readers to examine the current Cabinet and other presidential appointments to see whether our Head of State truly believes in the “30% representation of women each in cabinet, parliament, local council, the civil service, political appointments for ambassadors/High Commissioners, among others”. Maybe, just maybe, he has started implementing the GEWE Act 2022 in the Bio household which he intends cascading to national level.
At times, in fact most of the time, President Bio’s words in public gatherings really bring tears from laughter to my cheeks. He seems to be making comical efforts at lip-sticking and manicuring a pig to make it look like a doll. He keeps talking about so-called successes of his government when in actual fact his administration’s failures are palpable everywhere in the country.
On the country’s economy the Bio-led administration has behaved, and still behaving, like a drunkard who is heavily under the influence of “kush”. Inflation currently stands at over 37%; public debt is reported to have raced to about 77%; the country’s debt “is classified as being at high risk of debt distress largely due to heightened solvency and liquidity risks”, and the 2022 WFP report reportedly notes that “Sierra Leone performs poorly on most global development measures.”
And I am still waiting for the awaiting Lungi Bridge from anywhere to nowhere; the construction of the “Tapalapa Bakry”; the promised transformation of Bonthe Island into the miniature version of Russia’s Sochi, and the countless unfulfilled promises.
Yet, members of the SLPP government and their newspapers are misinforming, or should I say insulting, majority of Sierra Leoneans that the Bio-led administration has improved the lot of the citizens. They appear to be insinuating that it would be an act of ungratefulness if the SLPP government is not given a second bite at the national cake. And members of the SLPP government and their newspapers want us to believe that the SLPP cosmetic Free (minus “Quality”) Education policy is so successful that its products are now imparting that “education” to the Ivy League in the United States of America or “Oxbridge” (Oxford and Cambridge) in the United Kingdom!
But while the SLPP-aligned newspapers are reporting all the Bio-led administration’s propagandistic literatures; what comes to mind is the fabled baboon in Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel, “the Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born”. That baboon, while climbing higher to defecate on the people’s heads, does not realise that the people have seen its buttocks and have turned their faces in disguised laughter. Hope you get that graphic picture of the SLPP government with their media and the people?