Literary Zone

Short story: An egocentric politician dies abandoned, unloved

16 March 2020 at 22:24 | 1763 views

By Koyie, Mansaray, Sierra Leone

Sorie could not believe his ears. One of the people he had so much respected had just told him that he was not fit to attend the Senior Teachers College. His hope of asking for any assistance was dashed away with this deprecating affirmation of the politician. He left the city centre where he had met the politician at the travel agency office in an state of despondency.

Arriving at Brookfields, he was ashamed to narrate to or share with a third person the contemptuous statement Mr. Kassagba Kamara had made about him. Instead of dampening his resolve for a professional teacher training course, the statement seemed to have fired his determination. He therefore started revising some notes on the subjects he had been selected to do at the S.T.C. He had prepared well and was confident he would pass the oral interview based on the two main subjects he planned to offer at the S.T.C.

Three days before the big day, Sorie was picked up by the police. His plea for mercy fell on deaf ears. He did not know what the invitation to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters was all about. It was not until after he was securely locked in remand that word filtered around that two days previously, some robbers, belonging to a notorious Black September gang in Brookfields area had broken into a supermarket at Rocklane, making away with cash and valuables amounting to billions of Leones. In the process, the thieves killed one armed guard. Sorie’s plea that he only arrived in Brookfields a day later after the robbery did not impress the investigators. He spent Friday night at the remand cell.

Saturday and Sunday that followed became unbearablem because he went without bathing. He also refused to eat any food. The stench of urine and faeces was overpowering. Monday morning, he had a special summon at the desk officer’s cubicle. When Sorie arrived at the desk, he found Mr. Tamba Kanu, a senior development officer. Mr. Kanu had come specifically to bail him out for a day so that he could go to the college and do his admission interview.
Sorie had sent word to his cousin, Manso to contact Mr. Kanu for this move. Indeed , God works in a mysterious way.

Sorie was let out. He went straight to Brookfields. He had a life-giving shower and dressed up. He carefully arranged his invitation letter to the interview and went to the Adonkia bus station.

The interview lasted for barely one hour. Sorie went back to town, confident of success. He spent that night in freedom. When he reported at the CID the next morning he was locked in for the next three days. On Thursday morning, the investigators came to conduct an identification parade, using two individuals who stayed close to the supermarket that was robbed. One of them was a one-eyed old man and the other was a very frail-looking, old man.

The long and short of it was that three of his fellow inmates were picked out as prime suspects involved in the said supermarket robbery and murder. The rest of the detainees were released.

Sorie was the happiest being on earth. He went to see his cousins who were all fervently praying at home, asking for divine intervention to secure his release.
The following Monday, Sorie then went to Adonkia by mid-day. He was fortunate the results for the interview had been pasted on the wall of the main campus building. He went through the list carefully. When he saw his name, he jumped with joy. He now had only one worry in mind : Could he raise the amount required to pay his fees? He had a faint hope that he would win a scholarship because he was going to read two priority subjects. He therefore applied for Government Scholarship. He was shortlisted. At the interview; the Chief Interviewer asked him only two questions: ‘So you have been a pupil teacher at your alma mater in Bombali District?’ ‘Yes sir,’ Sorie answered with humility; ‘And you would be offering geography and mathematics at the Higher Teachers Certificate level?’ ‘Yes sir, if by your good offices I obtain this bursary I am being interviewed for.’

Within himself, Sorie believed he had made a good impression on the scholarship panel. Indeed, a few weeks later his hope was confirmed. He had won the government scholarship. What a blessing! For the first time Sorie would be at a residential institution, being fed thrice a day and then receiving a little stipend each term!

Sorie was completing his second year when general elections came up that year. This followed nation-wide students protests, linked to the immediate future of the country as the ageing leader of the Republic wanted to plunge the nation into some chaos.

Sorie and his friends from their own part of the country organized a mini-revolution of theirs. The long-serving Member of Parliament had been marginalizing the rural people who elected him. He had been increasingly treating his power base with spite. As he had a sizeable number of his tribesmen in the regional capital, the Member of Parliament turned his attention to them at the expense of his rural constituents who elected him. Sorie and his friends therefore turned their attention to Mr. Kassagba Kamara who was one of the first crop of MP’s elected just before independence. He had spent ten years in parliament and therefore Sorie and his friends believed he had the requisite experience. As regards his level of education, the young generation of the Nibila Constituency did a research into the former MP’s background and learnt that as far as highest educational attainment went, he obtained a Teachers Elementary Certificate (TEC) from the then Bunumbu Teachers College in the late 1940s. However, some of them still recalled how, as a sitting member of parliament, he had been going to the villages, encouraging the local pupils to take their studies seriously at the primary school. This singular act showed him to be a progressive politician. But one of the older youths reminded them that the former MP could be power-hungry. He cited one incident, when as the then incumbent MP, he unsuccessfully contested the Magbema Chieftaincy election. Many believed that it had cost him his parliamentary seat the following year. That was why the next time elections were held, the rural people,at the instigation of the Paramount Chief, turned their attention to another politician.

Sorie did not narrate his own personal unpleasant encounter with the politician they all wanted to come back that time around. This Kassagba Kamara had expressed the belief that someone like Sorie was unfit to enter a college as prestigious as the Senior Teachers College. Sorie was, however, willing to overlook that verbal gaffe and go along with the majority. The elections that year were marred by a lot of violence. Candidate Kassagba was declared unopposed when his opponent’s supporters reportedly went berserk and committed widespread arson and murder on their campaign trail. Their candidate was therefore disqualified. Then Kassagba Kamara was duly elected and was later appointed Minister of Works.

When Sorie and the other youths of his constituency went to make a courtesy call on the Works Minister, he was very delighted to receive them. He promised to send some of them to the university and create job opportunities for others. When asked if he would love to go on with his undergraduate university education, Sorie politely responded that he had already spent two years at STC and didn’t think it wise to abandon half-way before obtaining his Higher Teachers Certificate.

Deep down, Sorie didn’t believe that the Honourable Minister had any genuine, good intentions. The thought came back to him vividly. This same individual had thought that he had no chance of darkening the walls of STC. At the time the MP was coming up with such an unwise decision, Sorie was doing very well at the teachers college. He often featured on the honour list of the institution’s principal. He knew that he was surely going to obtain a very good college leaving certificate and did not therefore see any need cutting short his HTC for a university education he could easily access at a later period in life. The MPs intention might not be the best. Already, there was one fellow, Konkoron Darbo, an intelligent, loyal staff at his travel agency, whom he had promised to send abroad but whose education had stalled for the past two years.

Sorie strongly believed that the Honourable Minister was using these promises as a ploy to hold back the educational progress of his constituents generally. Sorie strongly believed that the politician wanted everyone born in the constituency to be less educated than himself and his own children.

On graduation with a solid HTC, Sorie went to teach at a remote rural community junior secondary school in the constituency. After spending the requisite five years, dictated by the terms of his HTC scholarship, he applied to go and do his undergraduate studies at the local university. He went about seeking admission quietly and had made provision for at least, two terms fees in case he did not obtain the state sponsorship.

Honourable Minister Kassagba Kamara was still in office. Sorie deliberately refused to enlist his assistance for the State bursary. Sorie believed he might never want to hear of a son of his down-trodden constituency striving to acquire a higher qualification. He therefore applied for the scholarship and waited for divine intervention.

Fortunately, Sorie obtained the scholarship. He was also waiting to receive the outcome of the application for study leave with pay. There again, he was successful. He was therefore going to pursue his studies fairly comfortably this time around. This also meant that he had the independence of thought and action when it came to making any major public decision. He was comfortable enough not to have to go round asking for hand-outs from his tribesmen, and least of all from the so-called politicians.

This happened to be the dawn of multi-party politics in most African countries. Worombaya Republic embraced the growing trend. Word filtered out that Hon. Kassagba Kamara was planning to return to his former party, the Peoples Progress Party (PPP). As rumours became stronger and stronger as days went by, the youths of Nibila Constituency decided to designate an alternate candidate to become the standard bearer of the party in power, the Peoples’ Alliance Congress, PAC which had a strong appeal in that particular constituency.

As our people often say, ‘walls have ears.’ The recent political developments got to the attention of concerned politicians from Sorie’s region. A meeting was called at the Honourable Minister of Mineral Resources’ residence. At the said meeting, the host Hon. Samba Sankoh went straight to the point. “I welcome you all to this important meeting. It has come as a surprise to us that some of you young people have been organizing yourselves into a parallel constituency administration. But please know that your incumbent MP is Hon. Kassagba Kamara and he still intends to run the affairs of the constituency for the next five years.” Hon Sankoh declared.
“Was Hon. Kassagba invited to this meeting? Why is he not here? asked one outspoken youth, Kelleh Manseh.

“He was, but pressing State matters have kept him busy in his office even today which isn’t a working day. ’Hon. Sankoh explained, convincingly.

After much discussion, the meeting came to a close. The decision taken was to go to Hon. Kassagba’s residence the following Saturday. To Sorie and some of his comrades the decision was like appeasing the MP. Nevertheless, they had made up their minds to attend. A day before the proposed date of the meeting the young generation members received a message from Hon. Kassagba Kamara to the effect that he didn’t want to see any of them at his residence. This snobbery on the part of their MP hurt them profoundly. Consequently they decided to continue to be making the alternate arrangements they had already started at the constituency level.
The gap started to widen between Hon. Kassagba Kamara and his constituents and it got so wide as to be unbridgeable by the time the general elections approached. They remained daggers drawn. The young generation designated two of their number as candidates. They hoped to be on the safe side. Honourable Minister Kassagba Kamara continued treating everyone like trash. He relied on the support of the single party machinery to back him at the polls.

When they went to the polls, it became a ding-dong battle. It was not until the intervention of the army force commander, himself from the constituency, that tipped the balance in favour of the experienced arrogant politician. The result was declared in his favour. He did not, in effect, win. As a result the President being aware of the situation, decided not to give him a cabinet appointment. Hon. Kassagba Kamara therefore became a very bitter politician. But he took his uncontrollable rage on mainly his countrymen who went to ask him for one favour or another. For nearly losing his parliamentary seat and failing to benefit from a high-profile government appointment, he blamed the young generation of his constituency, especially Sorie Kalma, the university student. He blamed him for being the brain behind the well organized campaign he faced at the polls. Sorie then became his sworn enemy. If he had the power, he would have simply and indefinitely rusticated him from the university.

One day the university district association decided to go on a fund-raising drive. The students decided to first visit the serving members of parliament. The aim was to provide some modest grants-in-aid for those members of the district who had no scholarship to be able to buy themselves some basic necessities as they pursued their studies at the university. The appointed day for the visits came, when his colleagues asked him to go down with them to town, Sorie politely turned down the proposition and cited some pressing assignment he had to hand in as a reason for his inability to accompany them. Apparently the visits paid to the three MPs from the district went well. But Hon. Kassagba Kamara received the students with naked hostility and insults. He first asked to see the list of students from the district. He was going through the list when he saw the name of his sworn enemy.

“You people must be out of your mind, if you expect me to contribute funds towards the maintenance of ungrateful wretches like Sorie.” The MP screamed out menacingly at the student delegation. He burst out using a lot of inappropriate invectives which caused the district student delegation to hang their heads in shame. It took their leader enough tact to apologize to the aggrieved MP. When his verbal onslaughts sub-sided, the humiliated students left the MP’s office with bowed heads as the throng of on-lookers attracted by the MP’s out-bursts, gazed in bewildered amazement at the small group of retreating students.

Needless to say, the fund-raising campaign turned out to be a fiasco. When his colleagues came and reported to him the verbal dressing-down they received from Hon. Kassagba, Sorie confirmed that he had suspected such to be the unpalatable scenario to expect from the uncompromising MP. The MP, for obvious reasons, had been behaving like a wounded lion since the elections ended. For the first time, he had to fight for his political survival with sweat and blood, spending a lot of money. In the end he won a pyrrhic victory because he did not benefit from any ministerial appointment that time around. Normally, a ministerial appointment carried with it an enormous prestige.

A minister usually commands a lot of staff members. This gives a minister power when he is controlling the destiny of so many people. In addition, a minister has privileges of an official car, and a residence with the state being responsible for most basic running costs. There are above these privileges, the invisible incomes resulting from transactions having to do with contracts awarded by the particular ministry one is heading.

If you were in the position of Hon. Kassagba Kamara, you would know exactly how much you had lost after spending a good chunk of your bank savings on the hope that you would recoup your losses when you would have clinched a new ministerial appointment. In the case of Hon. Kassagba he had to make do with his paltry monthly pay as a State legislator plus the meagre constituency allowance. He had been grieving over his reduced material circumstance ever since the election ended and new ministers appointed and sworn in. He became very edgy and would explode into unprintable outbursts even in the face of the slightest provocation. He seemed to blame almost everyone around for the remainder of the five-year Parliamentary term.

By some miraculous turn of events, the Peoples Progress Party (CPP) won the next legislative elections and Hon. Kassagba Kamara was made the Leader of the House, that is the Head of Government Business in the people’s House of Representatives. He was in close relationship with the elected President of the Republic. In spite of this proximity to the seat of power, Hon. Kassagba Kamara ensured his constituents always remained at a cruel disadvantage.

Some Christian missionaries had planned to improve the road network in the Nibila Constituency. Hon.Kassagba Kamara made sure the project was aborted.
He summoned the team leader of this Christian mission to his official quarters. He lambasted the White old evangelist, using demeaning, gutter language and threatening him with immediate deportation if the road improvement project saw the light of day. The next day, the mission team leader under such a threa,t sent word urgently to the community development manager of the mission to discontinue the work and to demobilize the youths he had engaged for the feeder-road improvement project.

The only person Hon. Kassagba Kamara chose to promote in the whole of Nibila Costituency was an unqualified constituent called Farah Kandeh. Hon. Kassagba always boasted that the only thing politicians of Woronbaya Republic could not do was to transform a woman into a man and vice versa. This brute show of power was demonstrated when Kandeh was elevated to the position of the Chairman of the Electricity Generating Company (EGC). Kandeh was so limited in education, he did not even know how to preside over any of the board meetings. But the powers-that-be wanted him to hold the position and he did at their pleasure. For the rest of the constituents, qualified or not, there was no hope for them to clinch a better,lucrative appointment under Hon. Kassagba Kamara’s watch.

Sorie therefore devoted his time to teaching at one of the well-known secondary schools in the capital city. After a stint of five years he obtained a bursary to do his masters in the United States.

He had left for the US before the Hon. Kassagba Kamara got to know about it. The Honourable Leader of the House, meanwhile, had invented some trumped-up charges against Sorie. On hearing that he had gone over to the US, the politician hastily summoned the US Ambassador to his office and addressed him in very uncomplimentary terms. He termed Sorie as a fugitive from the law who had found no difficulty fleeing to the US. He therefore called in the US diplomat to have the miscreant repatriated back to Worombaya Republic at all cost. The diplomat, out of courtesy, promised to do his best, according to the established rules between the two countries. When Sorie was informed, he enlisted the services of one of the best lawyers in the US, who succeeded in overturning the unilateral decision of Hon. Kassagba Kamara in faraway Wonrombaya Republic. The case was declared a non-starter as there was no proof of the so-called offence Sorie was alleged to have committed and he was then left to complete his graduate studies in peace.

Hon. Kassagba Kamara then got embroiled in the Sandaga Chieftaincy election. Our people have another saying:”When the cockroach goes in search of instant death, its path leads it to a half-empty bottle of palm-oil.” He had single-handedly designated his own candidate to vie against the oldest son of the late Paramount Chief Lahai Soumah III. Being a young man, Samuel Soumah the young candidate, naturally drew his support from all the youths of Sandaga Chiefdom. A lot of them were also motivated by a desire to thwart the whims and caprices of this megalomaniac of a politician.

The date for the Sandaga Chieftaincy election was finally announced. The Vice President of the Republic was briefed in camera by some well-meaning king-makers of the chiefdom that Hon. Kassagba Kamara was trying to impose his will on the chiefdom people. Being a lawyer and a respecter of the democratic tenets, the Vice President had an audience with Hon. Kassagba and reportedly asked him to stay out of the local democratic process.

“Allow the Sandaga Chiefdom people to freely choose their next P.C. Stay out of the whole process, so that the outcome may be acceptable to all as credible and transparent” VP Gbandawa advised.

The Vice President even counselled his colleague politician not to be physically present within the chiefdom at the time of the chieftaincy election.

If anything, Hon. Kassagba Kamara had his mind made up. For the last thirty or so years, he had taken his people for granted. He believed he could always have his way in whatever circumstance or situation his people were faced with. He later sneaked away from the capital under cover of darkness and headed for Kundula, the chiefdom headquarter town of Sandaga Chiefdom.

When the VP learnt about it, through the same elders who earlier came to inform the second gentleman of the Republic, he sent word to Hon. Kassagba, cautioning him to return immediately to the capital city. Hon. Kassagba in turn, invented a story that he was suffering from some strange ailment that could be treated only by traditional healers in his part of the country. The VP then gave up.

The youths of Sandaga, on learning that Hon. Kassagba had crept back and was ready to manipulate the outcome of the impending chieftaincy elections, took to the streets. They quickly wrote and addressed protest letters to the Local Unit Commander of Kundula Police Station, copying the Chief Administrator and the Chairman of the Kundula Municipal Council that they would not accept any direct involvement of the central government in influencing the outcome of the chieftaincy election in Sandaga Chiefdom. Any such an attempt would be unacceptable, they stressed in their protest letter.

The protest of the youth was well noted. However, when it seemed that Hon. Kassagba was about to ride rough shod over the wishes of the people, the youth immediately resorted to an affirmative action. They decided to see off the opiniated and contemptuous politician out of town. They raided and pelted his home, breaking all the window panes. They sent him packing out of town under a heavy preventive police escort. Being someone in fragile health, Hon. Kassagba almost suffered from a cardiac arrest on his way to the capital. For once, he failed to have his way. For once, he was chased out of Kundula town like a common criminal. He was very much unaccustomed to being contested and opposed by these menials of no consequence, he thought to himself. This time around, he almost suffered instant death on account of his stubbornness.

It was not long after that humiliating retreat from Kundula that his heart condition worsened. His condition went from worse to worst. He passed away peacefully at his home a month later.

The vast majority of his constituents treated his death with levity. For them, it was good riddance. His home had been shunned by many of his people, because he had no kind word or treatment for any one of them when they used to visit him with one important issue or another. For them his passing away was a non-event and most of his own people in the capital even quietly celebrated. Word came from Kundula, where PC Lahai Soumah IV reigned, the people sent a strong message that the late Honourable’s mortal remains were not welcome in their town.

Hon. Kassagba’s funeral therefore became an uncharacteristically low-key affair. Not up to one hundred individuals attended. At most, the paltry congregation was made up of his fellow legislators. The late politician was like the proverbial beautiful feather, bright when viewed from the outside, but lacking any substance of human touch or warmth as you got to his power base.

Sandaga youths leader Momorie Yanka did not shed any crocodile tears. He was the last victim of the late ruthless politician. Having failed woefully in his bid to impose his will on the Sandaga Chiefdom people, he blamed the youths, especially Mornorie. He therefore organized an urban-type rebel attack on the youth leader’s modest dwelling place when he felt slightly better one weekend. Accompanied by some local hoodlums, Hon. Kassagba reportedly swooped on the derelict structure and set it ablaze, burning down clothes and a few valuables Monorie could call his earthly possessions. What a ruthlessly,vindictive individual Hon. Kassagba was!

Even in his state of abject poverty, Monorie could quietly celebrate in the following words as he contemplated the slow paltry funeral cortege making its way to the cemetery “An egocentric, megalomaniac of a politician has finally kicked the bucket and is finally going down six feet below to fertilize the soil.”

Koyie Henry Mansaray (photo) was born in North-eastern Sierra Leone in a village called Kuruto. He went to the Koidu Secondary School in Kono District, then the Methodist Boys High School in Freetown. He trained as a teacher of French and Modern History at the then Milton Margai Teachers College (MMTC), doing a year abroad at the University of Dijon in France, where he obtained the Advanced Diploma in French Studies. He later took a Bachelor of Arts With Honours in French at Fourah Bay College and went to teach French at the MMTC.

He started full-time print media work in the mid 1990’s. He went on to edit the Weekend Spark weekly and after three years, was recruited as one of the Sub-Editors of The New Citizen. He became the General Editor of the short-lived newsletter called THE TRUE SIERRA LEONEAN of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy(MRD), based in Conakry, Guinea.

He then served as the Advocacy and Public Relations Officer of the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone (EFSL) for nearly two years. In 2007, he was appointed as the Publications Specialist of the Mano River Union HIV/AIDS Project, publishing a quarterly bulletin of project activities in English and French. He at the same time served as the Communications Officer of the MRU Secretariat. In 2010, he was recruited as Proof-reader and Reviser in English at the General Secretariat of the African Development Bank. He was re-assigned as Editor Assistant at the Corporate Language Services Department of the ADB in October 2014. On retiring in August 2016, he went to serve as Translator and Reviser in English at the Traduc-Co Interpreting /Translation firm in Abidjan. He is currently the Secretary General of the Association of Former Staff Members –ADB(AFSM-ADB)

As regards his educational background, Koyie Henry Mansaray has an Advanced Diploma in French Studies,(1978), Higher Teachers Certificate(1979), B.A With Honours in French(1989) from Fourah Bay College and Master of Philosophy in Linguistics (2010) from the University of Sierra Leone.