September 28, 2022

By: Winstanley. R. Bankole. Johnson

Honestly if these were normal times in this country, for university students to have even dared to seek reprieve from punishment by comparing their unruly and riotous actions on Fourah Bay College (FBC) campus recently with those of our Honourable Members of Parliament, would have been considered contemptible. But these are not normal times, because even though the students vented such derogatory comparison publicly on the airwaves, rather surprisingly neither the Clerk of Parliament, nor the Speaker nor any ordinary member via a private motion under their Standing Orders has since attempted to either summon any of the Student Union Executives to a Parliamentary Disciplinary Committee or to the “Well” to either have them publicly withdraw their derogatory utterances about them, or for a general reprimand. But like I have already stated, these are not normal times. To the extent that riotous students can even make such a debasing comparison indicates to what depraved levels social order has degenerated.
As a part of their plea bargaining strategy, some of the riotous students sought mitigation to have the government ban on Student Union (SU) politics lifted by insinuating that their actions were mere forgivable misdeamenours, when compared to what in their perspectives were more serious acts of persons who by their status ought to behave themselves “honourably” at all times within and outside Parliament. And they proceeded to mention some of what they perceived as unbecoming acts of our “Honourable” members, three of which are that they:
– Display very little or no respect for counterparty views, easily lapse into tantrums and have traded punches in full public view – not once they claimed.
– Have at a point or two had to be reined into order either by brute Police force or via being publicly berated by the Speaker
– Are more matured and ought not so to be behaving, unlike them are only students, are still growing up and should be excused.

Public verdict on the quality and performances of our last crop of Parliamentarians was that they were the worst this country has ever elected. But even during abnormal times such as we are sailing through, it is uncommon to arrive at any such verdict on our current Parliamentarians until post 2023 when their own epitaphs would have been written. I really felt sad for my country however that in their perception, those young and formative student minds interviewed are already made up to have made such an unequivocally aspersive comparison between their actions – bad as it already was – and those of our Legislators, given more especially the sublime title prefixing their names during their tenures, to wit: “Honourables”.

But the Chinese have a proverb: “You do not praise anyone until after their demise”. This is because in this life there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip. So if the verdict of the Peoples’ Court on our last crop of parliamentarians is anything to go by, then drawing from the hypothesis of the rioting students, then God needs to help this nation.
The reason for the recent ban of Student union politics on FBC campus arose out of growing misunderstanding during a pre-election debate for a new executive body, which I gathered soon degenerated into open confrontations and violence. But that was not the first time student union politics were being banned on university campuses. They happen all the time and all year round, like running episodes of the cartoon show of “Tom and Jerry”. But that is only where the similarity ends, because whereas the cartoons of “Tom and Jerry” would leave viewers laughing their sides out, students’ riots come with massive collateral damage.
In the past 20-odd years the frequency of bans on SU politics have been largely influenced by the zeal of incumbent central governments functionaries – and their political party zealots – to manipulate the executives of various SU bodies into their political support bases on the various campuses, which naive strategy has continued to be occasionally resisted by other students with stronger opposition party affiliations to the detriment of law and order within the college campuses. Whenever such misunderstandings lead to open confrontations and violence as we saw recently at the FBC Campus, they come with extensive damages to public and private properties, both at the detriment of very students and persons happening to be at the wrong place and at the wrong time. This practice permeating vengeful political rivalry into previously apolitical mass organizations has as of recent has even mutated into the elections of Chairpersons of Municipal Markets, Abattoirs, Petty Traders Associations, Motor Drivers’ “Okada” and “Keh-keh” Riders and even into other Artisanal Trade Unions elections to name but a few all over the country.
Student Union politics in this country is nothing new, and has been practiced peacefully for generations. Its degeneration into a sort of “do or die” mainstream politics to supplant at all cost opposition elements to incumbent governments within their executive bodies (and all Trade Groups) took roots in the late eighties. The situation is not further helped by the growing involvement of public officers and prominent political parties’ executives of up to Cabinet Ministers and MPs levels either throughout the campaign periods leading to those SU elections, or by the occasional but direct involvement of even University “Dons” acting as Returning Officers at the low level of SU politics. Within the past 15-odd years, the more brazen, defiant, militant and destructive political party moles are within campuses to secure victory for their party of choice at general elections, the faster and more rewarding their career progression and influence through the echelons of politics and mainstream government position after their university education. So the chances for student union political violence to be curbed on campuses in the foreseeable is remote. As you read this, there has been no reports of arrests after the FBC fracas which is understandable, as the aggressors most likely to belong to party of the government of the day.
But apart from the reasons advanced and listed above by the riotous students, one could be wondering what other reasons could have prompted them to have so bravely drawn parallels between their unacceptable behaviour on campus last week with those of our politicians, or why they targeted a specific class within our governance architecture to wit: Parliamentarians?
Well pundits are attributing that to among other things, some erotic video clips making the rounds in as many months or even years ago of individuals within what ought to have been private hotel confines that were deemed to look very much like the exact replicas of persons in sublime offices, both of which clips were demeaning of their respective status and for which further reason the respectability attached to those positions were taken to the cleaners. To this day neither any of our law enforcement agencies, nor any of our “Investigative Journalists” have proffered endorsements or negations about those clips which were genuinely of great public interests.
In the Western world such oversights would have been unthinkable. For example there was this case in the UK of an over forty-years old pervert who was selling himself off as a “Teenager” and would swirl his pictures to conceal his identity whilst enticing “under-age” girls into erotic online chats over a period of six months. Within two weeks of the reports breaking out and with the aid of computer experts, the Scotland Yard was able to “un-swirl” those images to reveal his true identity, which ultimately led to his long term incarceration. How I wish our security agencies were so capacitated, because by now those two still unidentified and unverified nude persons in those video clips under reference would have been identified, exposed and even probably removed from their stations so as to preserve the respectability of the offices they occupied even if nothing more. When those in leadership are unable to beam directional lights to the younger generations, I suppose the latter can be forgiven for drawing parallels between their unruly social attitudes and classes of persons in sublime positions from whom much was expected but who are not measuring up.
Most times when such occurred in the past, defensive rebuttals would fill the center spread editions of “Yellow Journalists” that the clips making the rounds were photo-shops or montages. But those were video clips of up to three minutes showing them either ensconced in romantic positions, or emerging as poor losers from exhaustive erotic encounters. Those were not still photos!! And for crying out loud they look as veritable as those clips we saw of former Vice President Samuel Samsumana scurrying for safety from teargas fumes fired recently by the Police in Port Loko. But no one has censored anyone, thus allowing clouds of suspicion to permeate disrespect and odium both on their personalities and the respective positions they occupied. So it is all a matter of compromising morals because under such circumstances, it would be difficult to fault some of the actions and utterances of our youths and the comparisons they are wont to make with those in authority, when the latter are failing to lead by example.
I suppose it is on account of their passion for upholding moral values that the crafters of our 1991 National Constitution included Sec.77.1 (c) and Sec.79. 4 (4) (b) with respect to our Hon. MPs. For clarity both Sections are reproduced as follows-:
– Sec. 77.1 (c)-: “….If any other circumstances arise that if he were not a Member of Parliament would cause him to be disqualified for election as such under Sec. 76”.
– Sec. 79.4 (4) (b)-: If any circumstances arise that if he were not the Speaker, would disqualify him from election as Speaker.
That fact that both provisos have never been applied does not suggest their irrelevance. Rather in my view they should be made to apply to all other sublime positions in the country at the next review of our existing National Constitution – which is long overdue – so as to keep incumbents within the bounds of respectability befitting of their status in society, and failing which they could be removed from office.