In The Mist of Power: President Kabbah’s Farewell Speech, Waking Up the Vice President, True Lies

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THIS LITTLE PIGGIE WENT TO PARLIAMENT

On Tuesday June 19th, I had the privilege of entering parliament to witness president Kabbah’s farewell speech. Prior to this day, I never had any reason to enter this building before it was quite amazing. I must confess that I was proud to be there. All SLPP supporters and MPs were sporting the party colors of green while APC MPs were decked out in red. I was sitting up in the balcony in a section set out for bank executives and permanent secretaries. When I took my seat my mother was to my left, the Executive Director (who I had met on previous visits to F/Town) of Nigerian owned Guarantee Trust Bank to my right and the presidents two sons sat behind me.

I sat there taking in the sights and gossiping as people took their seats. I asked my mom tons of questions: “who’s that in the big gown?”, “why is that man so fat?”, “why are they wearing those wigs?”

Eight High Court Justices walked in and I was surprised to note that about six of them were women…..beat that US Supreme Court.

A projector was turned on with an image of president Kabbah sitting in a chair much like a King. Several minutes go by and a man shouts: His Excellency the Vice President of Sierra Leone…..trumpets, and horns play the first verse of the national anthem and Berewa enters with the Speaker of the house (wearing his regalia including lock of white wig).

Everyone stands up…..end of the verse we sit down.

Next up….the man of the hour “His Excellency the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah”, as di PA enters behind him I notice the opposition party leader Ernest Bai Koroma. Everyone stands and the national anthem plays in its entirety. We sit down. Muslim prayers are said followed by Christian prayers. The president starts to speak almost as soon as he sits down.

There is something about all the formality that made me feel proud to be there. I don’t know what I was expecting but I was actually impressed. There are many things that may not work in the country but this definitely did.

NOTABLE POINTS FROM THE 3 HOUR SPEECH

–war casualties- 20,000 killed, 2 million displaced–SLPP govt. inherited the civil war, only regime to bring peace
–Though donor funding for TRC Recommendations were not forthcoming they were implemented nonetheless
–Pademba Road Prisions will be moved o Masankeh on the outskirts of Freetown. The space currently occupied by the prison will be turned to a Shopping Mall. 2 million dollars has been secured from the UN Peace Fund for this project
–They public can purchase Shopping Mall stocks from the soon to be established Sierra Leone Stock Exchange
–The dispute over Yenga is almost resolved as indicated of the completion of a Mano River Union Bridge
–US Peace Corps will resume operations in September after a 30 year hiatus
–Anti-Corruption has hired foreign expats to fast track prosecutions
–SLPP govt created a minimum wage act to ensure that no Sierra Leonean makes less than 21,000 leones a month
–Soon to be implemented is an Executive Senior Service to improve the condition of civil service with management training etc.
–UNICEF is working to strengthen the juvenile detention system
–The Press & Media more free during this regime and any in previous history (as the president said this everyone burst into laughter including Ernest Bai)
–SLPP achievements in education include the construction of Junior Secondary Schools (JSS-form1-3/grade7-9) in 46 chiefdoms of which 25 have been completed with the rest ongoing
–300% increase in girl enrollment in school
–Teachers have increased from 17,000 in 1996 to 33,000 in 2007–Number of children enrolled in school increased from 400,000 in 1996 to 1.2 million in 2007
–Creation of the CREPS program…so that over aged children and young adults can complete their primary education in 3yrs instead of 6
–“Unlike the previous APC govt education is not a privilege but a right” (everyone laughs again)–The SABABU education project—has created 800 primary schools–Starting in September of this year, primary education will be compulsory
–SLPP only regime to give free primary education
–Government hospitals operational went from 16 to 24 under SLPP regime
–51% of all children are now sleeping under nets from a mere 2%–In 1996 inflation rate was at 66%, the govt had 10 million in foreign revenue, GDP was -17% and the overall deficit was -7%
–As of 2006 GDP is 7.5%, Inflation is 11.6%, and foreign revenues stand at $200m
–NASSIT, NACSA, NRA…etc….etc….etc….
I had to stop listening to the speech as something much more interesting was unfolding to the left of the president

My impression of the Speech can best be summarized by quoting my 20 year old cousin Mohammed ( 1st year student studying Business at IPAM) whom I saw reading a copy of the speech I brought home. When I asked him what he thought of the speech he said “Well it is TRUELIES…some of the things in this speech are true and others are not…so it is truelies”

BEREWA SLEEPS THROUGH MOST OF THE SPEECH

As I looked through out the room trying to not fall asleep during the very very long speech, I noticed that our very own VP had given up the ball and was sound asleep. His head slightly tilted to the back, eyes closed, and hands laying loosely on his thighs.

I started wondering if anyone else had noticed but not before I shared the information with my mom. She smiled……Slowly, I realize that the police officer in white regalia sitting next to the VP had also noticed. He goes behind the VP’s chair to whisper something in Senior Protocol Officer Soulay Daramy’s ear otherwise known as SCOPE….(dare I say that Mr Daramy is one of the hardest working men in this country)

Anyhoo…Mr Soulay then finds book and tries to hand it to the VP in hopes that this would keep him up. He taps Berewa on his hand as discreetly as possible (thought not discreetly enough for someone like me who was focused on their every move). He hands the VP the book…Mr. Berewa opened the book, closed it, and simply went back to sleep….this time bending forward so it was easy to notice his head when it nodded deeper and deeper into sleep.

Noticing that the plan had been foiled, the police officer whispered in the VPs ear. I imagined he said “Pa, you day sleep?” The VP simply waved him away as if to say “Bo lef me”. He leans back into his armchair and closes his eyes again. Meanwhile Earnest Bai sits in his seat with a smile on his face. I am not sure if he notices his opponent asleep.

Did I mention that Earnest Bai is HOTT? The man is simply beautiful. Rumor has it that he loves the ladies….but with a face like that of course Ladies Gotta Love Earnest Bai….hehehe…LGLEarnest B…….LLCoolJ Who?? If we had to vote simply on looks, he’d definitely get my vote. He has creamy dark skin and a head full of distinguished graying hair. Ah yes, Earnest is a cutie.

Anyway, back to my favorite VP. So I began to wonder how they are ever going to get this man awake. Then I saw the vice speaker of the house (a lady) whose name I cannot remember but had noticed because of her beautifully large head tie call over the police officer who was sitting next to the VP but had left his seat heading outside. A little while later the Police Officer reenters the chamber and heads to his seat. He hands and envelope to Vice President Berewa….WHAT WAS IN THE NOTE????A LETTER?? NO!!!!

I saw the Vice President remove KOLA NUT from the envelope and take a hard bite….he chewed it down….and that ladies and gentlemen is how you keep a Vice President from falling asleep during parliament.

JOKE OF THE DAY

I was at a friend’s place of business and some of the employees were debating over whose responsibility it was to turn on the generator.There was some debate going on but then one of the employees went to turn it on.Employee1: “This is what you have done from the beginning”Employee2: “That is what you say now….just leave me”Employee1: “you are always acting like palm oil”Me: “What do you mean that he is acting like palm oil?”Employee1: “he is always asleep”Me: “Palm oil sleeps”Employees: “yes of course, it[palm oil] just lays there”………………………….I laugh……………………….