My father and I woke up at 4am to make the five hour journey to be a part of the Official Launching of the Bumbuna HydroDam Phase1. While I wanted to attend Bumbuna simply for the purposes of making this post and fulfill my obligations as a socially concerned citizen, my father a staunch life long supporter of the APC was attending to perform praise and worship of his party’s accomplishments. We stopped at Wusum Hotel for a quick breakfast before finally making our way to the dusty road to Bumbuna.
I cuddled my pillow as we drove the flat red dusty road towards the Dam. The first marker that we were getting close was a turn into a small village that was littered with uniformed school children of different ages waving and singing awaiting the president’s arrival. I waved to them thinking—how mobutu sesekoesque. Then the hills began to emerge from the earth and we were surrounded by lush green rolling hills in every direction. It was beautiful and peaceful and it renewed my faith in our environment, that all wasn’t lost and that there was still so much of God’s grace and bounty of nature untouched. I had seen a documentary film about the construction of a dam in India and the amount of environmental damage, lives lost, and communities displaced because of the dam and so those thoughts were in the back of my head. Fortunately, there was no indication of that and it all looked dam good
Marker II that we were close….was a check point manned by armed military personnel asking to see our invitation. We provided a piece of paper on GOSL letter head with our names on it that really could have been typed and signed by anyone with the ability to google the GOSL coat of arms and use MS word. We passed on to the check point number2 where we were welcomed by a group of red and white clad APC supporters who were going to make a lot of money on the dance and sing hustle in front of the checkpoint. Finally we made our way to the parking area. I was really really excited to be there. I am convinced that I was probably, if not the youngest young person present.
I let the camera strap weigh on my neck eager to snap my first couple shots. I didn’t have to go far when I saw three men wearing white booboo gowns with red letters etched unto them glorifying Earnest Bai and his party. One of them was carrying a stuffed lion on his head. I asked him why he was carrying it and he said the lion was Earnest Bai. I smiled and snapped. As we made the left turn unto the paved path I saw Palo (minister of Defence) flanked by his soldiers, he had a permanent smile on his face. We said our hellos and I continued on my journey to Uncle Bumbuna.
Green, White, and Blue tents had been set up for guests, dignitaries, and the rest of mankind. The Program was to start at 11:00am and as eager beavers we were there by 9:00am when most of the seats were still unfilled. Slowly, the guests began to arrive and I spotted the usual suspects…the members of cabinet, and other party people, foreign dignitaries the likes of the Nigerian High Commission, reps from DFID, ADB, and ofcourse Salini officials (the Italian Company responsible for bringing Bumbuna to its 1st Phase-50Megawatts of completion).
I went around snapping photographs, wandering about and taking in the sights. This hydrodam project started some 30 years ago. The kind of government project that people joked about, an urban legend much like the bridge to lungi. Many people had lost faith in the project and some even wondered if it indeed existed. Since I been back I always felt that the government whether APC or SLPP should have spent considerable energy updating people on the status of Bumbuna so that we wouldn’t hear the news as gossip from the opposition party or even worse the local press. But I guess that would have called for transparency and actually including the masses as stakeholders.
I think there is a general maybe cultural perception that when things go off track that the best approach is to hush hush. Say for example you’ve assigned someone a task and for whatever reason it has gone off plan, instead of them bringing it to your attention to forewarn u so that u know ahead of time. They wont say anything until u ask “have u finished your assignment?” and u get something like this “well I wanted to do it but when I went there the door was locked and the guy who had the key had left, I wanted to wait for him but then I came here to tell u but when I came u were on the phone so I didn’t want to disturb you, I know that was three weeks ago but then I forgot to go back there. Make ah go day now?”
Basically its that people are afraid to tell the truth if it isn’t all good while on the contrary they should keep us properly informed so that there are no surprises. I’m sure the masses would be loads more understanding and even more patient with the powers that be if they let us know what was going on.
When the program of events finally started it was your usual speech speech speech…this donor and that donor, praise and worship. Amen.
A lady on the board of directors of NPA had everyone grumbling as she went on to explain every little bit that detail that had been accomplished by NPA since the president took over. According to her speech the government has increased power output by over 1000% since coming to office and now with the completion of Bumbuna Phase 1 (and yet still insufficient for out power needs). It was a good speech but the sun made it unbearable and we were eager for her to finish. By this time the battery on my camera had given way and I sat on the concrete slab behind the media and let the sun suck all the fluids out of my body. I was so hot I could have easily started sobbing but my tear ducts had evaporated. Finally IB Kargbo announces a short break before the president’s speech. Thank God!! I walk over to uncle Soulay and I got a bottle of water and made small talk here and there.
Before the break IB had announced that a short comedic and musical performance was to follow. The first group to perform was Jungle Leaders, a personal favorite and they sang a pro-government song in response to Emerson’s Yesterday Betteh pass tiday…the gist of the song was simple…its to early for Emerson to say yesterday betteh pass tiday ( they called him an SLPP supporter) and that the critiques should give the govt time and space to perform its duties. The next performance was from a kid called Innocent who I later found out had been paid by APC to write a response song to Emerson, they had even given him an SUV to drive. As he walked up he was treated like a golden boy and while he performed his song Gi Dem Chance all the ministers and APC big wigs walked up one after the other to throw money on him. His musical talent was nothing to write about but his album was up for sale and supporters scrambled to buy the cd. If only other artists had this kind of govt support to promote their work.
After all the enjoyment, the crowd was called to order and everyone returned to their place. The president began and all protocols observed etc. the theme of his speech “we shall not tire, we noh go taya”….a call and response that after the second time the crowd answered We noh go taya. I’m sure his speech writers were smiling to themselves like “that was a good one”
EBK spoke…..blah blah blah APC….blah blah thank u to our donors….blah blah blah APC….blah blah blah…development…blah blah blah APC…blah blah blah we shall not tire….we noh go taya
At the end of his speech and applause the high table consisting of EBK (EBK wife was absent tho his mom and whataman were present tho not under the high table), IB, VP, and VP wife, the ministers, and people under the tents stand up join hands and break out into the APC Party song, arms swinging and jubilating. I made a point to mark out who weren’t singing the party song just in case we turn all Bolshevik and need to wipe out the traitors. Comrade follow me.