Sam Bangura: The Bank Governor Who Died For Defying Orders From The President

Sam Bangura

The name Sam Bangura rings a bell for obvious reasons. To millennials and the younger set of the population, the name bears a strong semblance with Sierra Leone’s tallest administrative building called the Sam Bangura Building. However, have you thought about the actual figure? Senior citizens and historians recall a public servant who was willing, honest and prudent in curbing financial indiscipline in Sierra Leone.

Sam Bangura was one of Sierra Leone’s most brilliant bankers and former Bank Governor who stood against the economic tyranny of the late President Siaka Stevens. He was killed by his own party members for defying orders from the president. The murder of Sam Bangura was seen by many economists as the start of the economic downfall of Sierra Leone.

A BRIEF BACKGROUND OF THE MAN HIMSELF

Samuel Lansana Bangura was born on June 7, 1930, at Yele in Tonkolili district, Northern Sierra Leone. He attained education from the Seven Days Adventist Mission School in his hometown and later enrolled at the Koyeima and Bo Government Secondary Schools. Sam Bangura’s time in the classroom proved he was a bright student. He later travelled to Britain and earned a degree in economics at Hull University in 1957. Two years after, Sam Bangura returned to Sierra Leone in a drive to give back o his country. He was recruited to become an assistant commissioner and then district commissioner in Bonthe District till August 1962.

Sam Bangura joined the Finance Ministry assuming a lower rank before acting as the Permanent Secretary in the Development Office from May 1964 to February 1966. He then transferred to the Bank of Sierra Leone in February and by June 1, 1966, was deputy governor. On November 1970, Sam Bangura became the governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone. That appointment would define the course of his life and raise strong eyebrows and defiance against the authoritarian regime of President Siaka Stevens.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF DEFYING ‘ORDERS FROM ABOVE’ IN SIERRA LEONE

Being honest, sincere and loyal to the green, white and blue is one of the most difficult things to do in a country where patriotism and integrity are rare in many, especially the leaders. Across the continent, leaders like Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah were victims of being patriotic and honest to their causes. In Sierra Leone, a Bank Governor who put his country first and said ‘NO’ to the president, saw himself killed. He gained a reputation for his economic policies and coherent criticism of the Siaka Stevens-led government and its lack of financial discipline and accountability.

Due to his capability and experience, Samuel Bangura was reputable for being a knowledgeable governor of the country’s central bank. However, his effort to be realistic and less economical with the truth in running the country’s coffers was less appreciated by the despotic Siaka Stevens. President Siaka Stevens governed Sierra Leone from 1971 to 1985.

Under the banner of his political party, The All People’s Congress, he perfected his idea of a one-party system and sought to decimate every other dissenting voice. Students, civil societies, and even journalists were massacred and tortured under Siaka Stevens’ orders.

At the time, corruption and wastage of resources were endemic. There was a significant hike in gasoline prices from $2.50 to $3 per gallon and salaries went months without being unpaid. Despite these evident spots of societal degeneration and hardship, President Stevens was bent on building an international image. As a result, he submitted a bid for Sierra Leone to host the Organization of African Unity (now AU) Summit in 1980 in Freetown.

The previous years, his government had pledged to spend no more than $100 million on preparations for the conference. These speculations caused many Sierra Leoneans to frown at the decision at a time when the country had an economic breakdown.

Although he was appointed by the president, Sam Bangura, who was the governor of the central bank did not endorse the hosting of the conference. He believed the costs accrued by the state would further aid in the collapse of the economy.

In December, Sam Bangura opposed Siaka Stevens’s plans to squander a significant percentage of Libya’s $5 million contributed towards the costs of the summit.

These acts of defiance were enough to claim his life. Sam Bangura was found dead outside his mansion. The police first claimed his death was a result of suicide. However, after suspicion grew and questions came up, they charged a 17-year-old girl, two gardeners and a night watchman for his murder. Stories say thugs loyal to President Stevens were sent to assassinate him.

The summit was hosted after Sam Bangura’s tragic demise. Many economists believe it sealed the economic woes in the country.

Sam Bangura is often mystified in Sierra Leonean history and rarely talked about. Nevertheless, one could draw inspiration from the fact that despite being elected by the executive, he placed the national interest above anything else. He was a man of his word and a man who stood up against men who put their selfish interests above Sierra Leone. His selflessness and uprightness in ensuring that the right thing must be done is rare in today Sierra Leone.

Author: Delvid Stanley-Coker

Delvid Stanley-Coker is a dedicated writer and editor for The African Dream. His passion and desire to publicize the appreciable department of Africa and voice out the prevalent ills of society have adequately contributed to the promulgation of stories of different sorts. Email: stanleycokerdelvid@gmail.com. WhatsApp: +23276737886 Facebook: Delvid Stanley-Coker.