Political Chaos is always connected to Language Decay: Discuss…..
Winston Churchill once said that “politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.” Sometimes, political necessities can be political mistakes. The November 17 elections have been billed as our country’s date with destiny. Some of us, as armchair observers, have enjoyed and watched from safe distances, the politicking, the political engineering and the electioneering of politics from the humorous, the spiteful, the sarcastic, the bizarre, right down to the ridiculously delusional. The press, politicians, and the electorate have been busy flattering and slandering one another in equal measure. The press in particular, with various degrees of political persuasions, have gone to town on certain issues; from tribal, religious, gender, to intellect, height or even physical desirability. Judging by the type of coverage we have seen, you would be forgiven to think that our democracy is about voting for the candidate we dislike the least. It sounded more like participating in a politics of cynicism than a politics of hope. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)
When the nomination day kicked off with fanfare and a carnival atmosphere, it was a relief to many bystanders; especially against the back ground of the kind of bad blood that had hitherto been largely generated by the press. Much of that was down to reckless reporting and downright blind allegiances; to a point that 90% of our press gave the other 10% a bad reputation. There is nothing wrong with taking sides in politics; as long as the intended outcome is not geared towards stoking up violence and leaving us thinking “beware the ides of ….November?”. Elections usually bring out the good, the bad and the ugly. It is that time of the political cycle, when the prophets and disciples come out to play.
Among other currencies of the day are the almighty “opinion polls” which, in my opinion, is just a measurement of the public’s satisfaction with its own ignorance. I don’t give them much thought, and if I do, I try not to admit it. The sad thing about opinion polls is that those who conduct them (pollsters) are so convinced that they tend to predict with celestial audacity; so much so that we are left convinced in the knowledge that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls are right. We all know the roles of these polls and in my book, its political engineering. I do not deny the point that they have been right at times, and in the past. I just hold on to the belief that in life, and like in politics, the day of planning is different from the day of battle.
Considering our most recent history of war and wanton destruction, it is understandable to see the trepidation that gripped the nation, at the thought of the undesirable. Prayers have been said and continue to be offered for peaceful elections. The UN envoy to Sierra Leone, Jens Anders Toyberg Frandzen warned of rising tensions last month. It is against such a background that the US Government doled out a $4 million cheque for raising awareness and electoral security programmes. The AU and the EU have deployed a total of 140 observers. Having gone through a period of interregnum that claimed the lives of over 120,000, a third and peaceful democratic election in succession will not only be a testament of how “failed states” can recover, but also make the country a beacon to the continent and the world.
Accusations, counter accusations, name calling and every conceivable dirty trick has been used in the run up to this election. While Maada Bio, like the albatross, has been saddled with the allegation of being responsibible, by default or corporate, for the extra-judicial killing of 29 Sierra Leoneans, Ernest B. Koroma had also been accused of threatening violence with the importation of a large cache of ammunitions. Added to the mix is the tendency of supporters to cry wolf. Amidst all these political shenanigans, EBK may have a lot to show for his five year term. The opposition will have a field day to pick holes into EBK’s term in office, but until their vision is backed by all things tangible and devoid of any baggage, unseating the incumbent, though not impossible, could be improbable. As some will say, elections are won chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody. The trouble with free elections is, you never know who is going to win.
We agree that diplomats represent authority and sometimes give you a semblance of a “know all mentality”. That is why some see diplomacy,” as an art of telling someone to go to hell, and they look forward to the trip”. The American Ambassador, Michael Owen is reported to have said that “there is a possibility for a run-off poll in November’s Presidential election apparently between the (ruling) All People’s Congress party and the (main opposition) Sierra Leone People’s Party” (SLPP) (thisissierraleone.com). At face value, and like many others, this could be an honest opinion of one individual. The reason why people are referred to as diplomats is among others, their penchant for tact. Depending on who you care to listen to, every party is convinced, whether by delusion or reality that it will win the elections.
No matter how honest, well meaning or accurate Michael Owen is or may be, his “prophesy” could be seen by many as ill-judged and badly timed. His political thermometer does not seem to reflect the barometer of public opinion; so I’m told. Michael Owen does not have monopoly over such an opinion, but by virtue of his position as Obama and America’s representative in Sierra Leone, his statement runs the risk of representing the US position or wishful thinking. With accusations of vote rigging, even with the bio-metric registrations, those who have danced themselves lame even before the main dance is yet to come, will definitely find solace in the ambassador’s statement. As for those who have already cried wolf, there can be no better reference point for their accusations. Owen’s statement can be interpreted as tantamount to saying, “let’s have a dummy run on the 17 Nov, and the proper election on Dec, 8th.
In his defence, he uses the operative phrase “possibility for a run-off”, and that he is “convinced the elections will be peaceful”; but political artistry does not give much room for such semantic manoeuvres. Just ask the Republican Senate hopeful; Richard Murdock, who is accused of saying that pregnancy from rape, is “God’s Will”. What he meant may have been different from what he said; but by so doing given Obama some much needed political manna to feed on. “All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest will exert upon the events in the political field”-Albert Einstein.
There are striking similarities between the US and the Sierra Leone elections. The election between Obama and Romney was a “no contest” until Obama gave Americans a reason to listen to Romney’s psycho babble after the first television debate. Many will argue that the election in Sierra Leone was EBK’s to lose until Owen dropped by. I know that it is far- fetched, as indications, not opinion polls, are that APC will win comfortably; so I heard. The political observers in the country are not there to escape the cold winters in the West, but to oversee a peaceful, free and fair election. For most people in the Diaspora, much of the feel for the election fever is coming from newspapers and social forums. This may account for the ignorance of some of us. But even if our ignorance was selling at twenty dollars a barrel, it does not give any politician the drilling rights to our heads.
In America, there are no run-offs in elections. The last time we heard of a possible one, during what is now known as “the stolen presidential elections” in 2006, Florida, a five –to-four conservative majority on the US Supreme Court allegedly ruled against recounting votes that many believed would have sent Al Gore to the White House. Already in the US, with early voting on the rise, allegations have been flying that the company responsible for the electronic voting machines are provided by republicans or prone to fraud. But none is predicting a “run-off”.
Since the nomination day, Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora have been treated to pictorial campaigns. Depending on which newspaper you read, or the political perfume you wear, the forums on facebook have been loaded with galleries upon galleries of “the election in pictures”. While the election has been fought on the small screen and billboards in America, T-shirts, accusations of bribery with cash and bags of rice have been peddled around. In the Open Forum for Future Economic and Social Development on facebook, there have been pictures sarcastically indicating “massive rallies” with just a handful of supporters. We all know that a picture can tell the story of a million words; but we also that it depends the type of camera and on what the photographers want you to see. Unlike previous elections, there is a concerted effort from both parties, to show how much inroads they have made into each other’s traditional “stronghold” or “stress hold”. Take your pick but at least, they make a change from the litany of expletives that we had come to endure; thanks in part to the moderators.
Now that we have Ambassador Owen’s prediction, will it really come to pass that it will end in a run-off? I wonder what the APC and its grandees will be thinking. Making such a bold statement does not only undermine an electoral process in itself, but can be seen as condescending to the intelligence of the average Sierra Leonean voter. Let us agree on one thing; on the assumption that Owen could be right. But is it politically expedient of him to publically deliver such a high octane -laden comment, even before a single ballot is cast? For all we know, it could well be a personal opinion, but many observers would dearly want to know where the survey, research or otherwise came from; as a blind man threatening with a stone usually has one in his hand already. Like Minkaillu on the street, I am free to make such a statement, but in his position as ambassador of the most powerful nation; and at a time when his boss is asking the most powerful nation to allow him to maintain his tenancy agreement for the white house for the second time? Phew. Since “finality is not the language of politics (Benjamin Disraeli) should politicians think twice before they say nothing? Let’s have a break and go shopping after the elections. Just don’t forget to use your ballot.
I always wanted to vote for the right man; but he is never a candidate.
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