Memories, Messages and Manners – Zero Draft Reflections on the 2012 Elections
On Friday November 23, 2012, the former nun, Dr. Christiana Thorpe announced that Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma had won the November Presidential elections with 58.7% of valid votes cast. APC supporters were jubilant; international observers stated that the results were free and fair; the SLPP leadership did not accept the results.
The competition for political power in Sierra Leone has always been dominated by the APC and SLPP; and memories, and images of the manners of the electoral opponents played great roles in the strategies and messages deployed during the 2012 elections. In the run up to the 2012 elections, the SLPP was still deep in picturing APC as it appeared to them in the 70s and early 80s – a violent party with less than majority support in the country. Additionally the SLPP pictured the APC as not only generally Northern dominated, but (using their experiencing of the APC in the late 80s as aide memoire) as particularly a Limba dominated Ekutay outfit. A central plank of the SLPP 2012 strategy was therefore to confront this image. First is to whip up this ‘frightening’ image at any opportunity; and in many instances ‘zooming events’ to look so bad and so much like pre- 1991 events as a way of reminding those who might not know, about the sameness of the APC of the 2000s and the APC of the 70s and early 80s. In essence for them, there was no new APC; APC was the same yesterday and today. A number of events became SLPP prime examples of this continuity: incidents at the SLPP headquarter on September 17 2007; incidents at the SLPP Headquarters during the commissioning of the Freetown Clock Tower; 4 million dollar purchase of weapons for the police. A number of persons also became symbols of this continuity: Idrissa Kamara, alias Leather Boot; and Musa Tarawallie, Minister of Internal Affairs.
In relation to their caricature of the APC government as generally Northern, with a Northernization agenda, the SLPP came up with a list of alleged SLPP supporters who had been sacked, about two hundred, as proof. They also came up with lists of persons disproportionately of Northern origins, appointed by the APC to several government Ministries, Agencies and Departments.
But the question was also who did vast numbers of people experience in dealing with government and other officials – NRA workers, workers in NGOs and international organizations, land officials, permanent secretaries, SLRA, NASSIT, teachers, lecturers, agricultural extension workers, civil servants? Ordinary people did not experience persons from the north in most of these positions, what they experience are mainly persons from the Southeast. So arguments about northernization did not have as much ‘social truth’ or, to use some big English here, ‘veridical intensity’ for ordinary people as the SLPP was wont them to believe. Belief in the Northernization proposition of the SLPP was thus a function of one’s social location. The educated experienced it more in terms of who the top (political) bosses in offices were; but the non-educated, the illiterate, experienced mainly persons from the Southeast in their relation with government. Thus Northernization was not an argument that would convince the vast majority of people to vote SLPP.
The other point was that the Northernization argument would not get northerners to warm up to the SLPP. Thus the SLPP came up with another discourse: the Northernization programme was in fact only a disguise for privileging Limba in the government and returning the country to the ‘pre-war ekutay days.’ This discourse was particularly aimed at the Themne. Pry many Themne away from the APC, and that would cause its electoral defeat. Thus the President was called a Loko/Limba, and many amongst his cabinet were also labeled thus. And then, the SLPP’s coup de grace, Dr Kadi Sesay was named running mate, real Themne Muslim woman, from Port Loko.
However, ethnicity is hardly something that you use arguments to cast unto somebody, or deny someone. Ethnicity is not a rational argument; it is a social experience. Themne people experienced Ernest Bai Koroma as Themne, and the man and many others named Limba by the SLPP –Frank Kargbo, IB Kargbo, Edmund Koroma et al – had self identified themselves, by many cultural habits, – sodalities, language, places where they grew up, childhood friends – as Themne. Moreover, the SLPP Themne choice in 2012, as in 2007, was an ‘aloof Themne,’ lacking in the mobilizational skills that could pry away Themne people from the APC and Ernest Bai Koroma.
The APC did not in fact try to make any arguments about whether Ernest Bai Koroma was Themne or not. It was as if the party knew that sociological facts could not be politically overturned by intellectual casuistries. Maada Bio, for instance, could be labeled as Shebro, but the APC was not interested in wasting time on that as it moved on to woo Southeastern voters.
For Julius Maada Bio was experienced as a Mende not only in the Southeast but all over the country. APC Southeastern Strategy (outside Kono) emphasized the developmental strides the party had made in the Southeast since coming into power. Roads in Bo and Kenema, the road to Kailahun, shopping malls in Bo and Kenema, Agricultural Business Centres and other visible facts that were not there when the SLPP was in power. These were strong arguments, but Mr. Bio was more appealing in the Southeast than the APC’s argument. A major challenge of the SLPP in the 2012 elections was that though Mr. Bio’s persona energized its base in the Southeast, it was, in other places, unconvincing, and thanks to APC early negative defining and labeling, even foreboding.
APC campaigned robustly in the Southeast. This pinned down the SLPP in the Southeast to defend its turf, further preventing it from campaigning in the North.
Earnest Bai Koroma visited the Southeast far more than Mr. Bio did in the North and polled far more in the Southeast than the SLPP flag bearer did in the North. The SLPP thought that sending the Sesay Doctors (Kadi and Bobson) as emissaries to the North’s largest ethnic group; and the Kabbahs (Ahmad Tejan and his wife) as ambassadors to smaller ethnic groups (sans the Limba and Loko) was enough. Ernest Bai Koroma did not only send surrogates; he frequented the South East, and every time he went, he got acknowledgement from many people, who otherwise would not have supported him. Thus, in spite of Bio’s popularity in the Southeast, Ernest Bai Koroma in 2012 tripled his 2007 first round votes in Bonthe, Pujehun and Kailahun, and added unto his tally in Kenema, Bo, and Moyamba. Had it been any candidate other than Bio, the APC would have scored far more in those districts.
Another great belief amongst the SLPP was that APC won in 2007, and were dominant in the 70s and 80s because the SLPP then were somehow not ‘men enough.’ The SLPP then was too ‘legalistic,’ too ‘book toting’ and ‘book quoting.’ The SLPP under Mr. Bio and Mr. Benjamin was therefore determined to ensure that this time around the SLPP would be ‘men enough’ – SLPP traday nor to SLPP tiday; fire for fire, leh we dae go nor more. It was a sort of determination of what the SLPP should posture as, and even do, to square up to the APC. I would not be that simplistic to say that Mr. Bio was elected SLPP flag bearer only because the party thought that he was the guy who could look straight into the eyes of the APC, eye ball to eyeball. But then that reason was played up by many party supporters who did see the retired Brigadier as a strong man, with strong determination, unlike the dandies of the past. But then the SLPP also wanted Mr. Bio to be seen as a ‘reasonable man of great strength, sufficient unto the APC alone.’ The use of the label ‘tormentor’ was meant to instill that fear into the APC, and only the APC, not the entire country. But once that lacuna was opened, the APC would extend the meaning of Mr. Bio as violent, as a threat not only to the APC, but to the entire nation.
Part of the APC media strategy was therefore to play up Maada Bio as a dangerous man of war, a violent man, and human right abuser. The soonest Maada Bio was elected, they moved on to define him thus, drawing from his involvement in coups and the December, 1991 killings of nearly 30 persons by the NPRC. There had been talk of an inquest into the killings, and an active group of individuals – the next of kin of the executed persons – dedicated to ensuring this. But the SLPP would blast this call for an inquest as a witch hunt. Truly, I think the SLPP should have, once they had elected Bio as Flag Bearer talked about a non-opposition to the inquest; or at least tone down their opposition to it three or four months to the election. That would have taken the sail off the APC deprecating their flag bearer as a mass murderer
The SLPP also wanted itself to be seen as the beautiful, the well educated and the entitled-to-rule party. The genealogy of this conception could be traced to the chiefly origins of the SLPP. The APC was seen by the SLPP as a somehow illegitimate outfit, ramble rouser and all. This conception could be traced to the 1960s, resulting in Sir Milton Margai locking up the APC leadership during independence celebrations in 1961, and sending Siaka Steven a bottle of Whiskey to whirl away his time in detention. The APC, for the SLPP should not be in governance. The 1967 electoral victory of the APC was a travesty, and the call by Sir Henry Lightfoot Boston for Siaka Stevens to form a government unconstitutional. Same way the SLPP believed the elections of 2007 were rigged in favor of the APC by Madam Thorpe.
Dr. Christiana Thorpe was the dreaded persona of the elections; a former nun with a wry smile, whose fierce independence many a time came across to the ‘male-ticians,’ sorry, male politicians of this realm that we love, as the archetypical uncontrollable woman – the avatar of the femme fatale in our chauvinistic political society. I think she loathed politicians, seeing them as naughty adults with penchants for breaking rules. She would not brook them. I have heard politicians from all sides, used to bending persons, institutions and rules to their whim and caprices, rail against this strong willed woman. But sometimes her fierce sense of independence led to unnecessary intolerant stances, arrogant taciturnity, and dangerous suspense.
The SLPP blamed her, more than any other person in the world, for losing the 2007 and 2012 elections to the APC. The SLPP believed her re-appointment was illegitimate; her elections announcement a travesty of justice; and the re-election of the APC fraudulent. The theme of APC illegitimacy was recurrent in the SLPP caricature of the party and its supporters. Thus APC supporters were illiterate, they did not know what was good for them; APC supporters did not register; and even where they did, they would not know how to vote. The SLPP media campaign thus had this streak of laughing off (in ways that come across to ordinary people as insulting) APC and its supporters. In 2007 they laughed at the APC theme song ‘injectment notice’ as wrong semantics; in 2012 they laughed at the APC label of its presidential candidate as ‘world best.’ For the SLPP, it should be ‘world’s best’ and the APC inability to insert that apostrophe is proof of their illiteracy, their unfitness for rule. For the SLPP, it seemed as only those who ‘know book’ should rule, or enjoy the fruits of governance. In 2007, SLPP rallies had these educated people holding bottled water, and in number of instances throwing rice at people, in an apparent show of how the educated have it all.
SLPP media and symbolic responses to the APC betrayed these streaks in the SLPP strategic thinking. When in 2007, the APC campaign song talked about ejecting the SLPP from the house of governance, the party came up with another song about ‘how can tenants evict the landlord?’ Many other media and symbolic responses had been so convoluted that they needed further explanations to be understood. ‘APC’s world best slogan in 2012 was immediately understood, as was also the football being thrown to the people – the latter showing some connection with the people in this political game. The SLPP countered with the slogan ‘coach of world best’ and got their FB to display some trophy and a golden boot. The fact was that the trophy and golden boot could not be shared, and the golden boot needed interpretation to be generally understood, which in essence prevented it from catching on with the people as fast as the APC’s symbols.
The SLPP strategists sensed this, and they moved on to another symbol: books and pens, to stress their emphases on education for the youths. But whilst balls could be thrown at people, and they would appreciate it; when you threw books at people, especially when you had caricatured them as illiterates, it came across as insulting. The APC was quick to point this out, and the people became more alienated from the party of the ‘arrogant bookmen and women.’ When the results came out, I heard APC supporters singing ‘we nor sabi book, but we sabi vote. ‘ na for the fityai, we nor go take am.’ (we are not educated, but we know how to vote; for their cheekiness, we will not accept (them- SLPP – to rule us). In many instances songs and ‘back talk’ were to APC what Press Releases were to SLPP. These songs and backtalk were in many instances revenge of the streets against the haughtiness of the disliked political party. They were akin to saucy articles written in newspapers against the conceited. These songs were the expressions of ‘instant joy’ that ordinary people get from victory in elections, they were the poetry of the victorious masses; their cast-in-stone mementoes of the moment; and most times those were the most they got from their votes.
The SLPP’s challenge of the 2012 presidential elections result was like a tying together of several strands of the party’s self definition, and their caricature of the APC. First, SLPP, the beautiful and educated, could not be repudiated by the people; it was a travesty of justice for the landlord to be be evicted. Second, APC the ugly and uneducated could neither conduct nor win free fair elections. Memories of the violence ridden 1973, 1977 and 1982 elections were fresh in the minds of the SLPP. Thirdly, the SLPP today, being so unlike the SLPP of Mr. Solomon Berewa and others before him, would not concede that easily, no way.
Before the results were officially called out, most people got wind of how the results would go as a result of announcements by the Independent Radio Network or IRN. The SLPP called the announcements fraudulent, and came up with a list of complaints about stuffed ballots, over voting, missing or unsigned PRF forms, and molestation or barring of its polling agents from witnessing counting in some polling stations. The IRN slowed down its announcements of provisional results; and the NEC Chairperson called a press conference to clarify issues. What many people got from the Press Conference was the ‘go police’ mantra for alleged criminal activities by NEC officials or other persons in relation to the elections. The SLPP was incensed by the NEC response. The IRN announcements showed the probabilities of an APC win. The SLPP sought to shore up the confidence of its supporters by telling them the SLPP would win because results would be annulled in places like Bombali, Port Loko, Freetown, Tonkolili and Kono because of over voting. There were jubilations at SLPP headquarters; and at some instances vehicles sped along the streets telling people about this presumed SLPP victory. Some people wondered whether this was a deliberate attempt to get thousands of SLPP supporters unto the streets to celebrate, and raise the level of disaffection and confrontations should the official results come out declaring an APC win.
The APC also had its concerns about the elections. First, the APC was very concerned about the fact that most of the senior officials at NEC were from districts that had in previous elections voted overwhelmingly for the SLPP. Nearly all the District electoral officers were from those districts, as were also key personnel at NEC headquarters and the results tallying centers. The APC had fears that the SLPP was intent on using these NEC staff to rig the elections. On election day, the APC received several reports, from all over the country about some NEC officials intimidating APC polling agents; about SLPP officials being allowed to roam from one polling station to another in the Southeast; about some presiding officials giving unstamped or thumb printed ballot papers to unsuspecting APC supporters in an effort to void their votes, and about cases of presiding officers actually soiling and voiding votes for APC during counting. From Moyamba there were reports of a University don moving from station to station giving money to presumed SLPP voters. In Freetown, there were reports of the absence from the electoral registers of surnames starting with ‘K’ (Koromas and Kamara) that in the unfortunate ethnic profiling of the country’s electorate were seen as likely APC voters. There was even a report of the SLPP running mate being stopped at the Eastern Police as she was moving from one polling station to another, in breach of regulations relating to movement of flag bearers or their running mate. There were delays in voting in some areas considered APC strongholds –Pepel and parts of Koinadugu. The APC did not make public statements to cry wolf over these. The elections were being run under its watch, and to do that would have signaled, well, for want of another word, hysteria, and promoting public disaffection. Rather the APC alerted senior elections authorities, and well, ‘go police.’ Voting in Koinadugu and Pepel eventually started, though very late. A number of arrests were made. Some of these guys were charged to court.
International Observers have adjudged the elections as generally free and fair and reflective of the preference of the majority of Sierra Leoneans. I think only a very few persons would doubt that the majority of Sierra Leoneans, despite the hiccups, did vote for Ernest Bai Koroma. The SLPP seemed to be questioning whether the election results were reflective of a first round crossing of the 55% threshold by the APC Presidential Candidate. They believed that had votes been annulled in the areas with alleged over voting, the elections would have gone unto the second round. Memories of 2007 cancellations of votes were still fresh in the minds of SLPP partisans; a selective sort of memory, remembering only the annulment and not the statement that even without the annulment of results at Kailahun, Pujehun and other SLPP strongholds in 2007, the APC would still have won the elections. That was an important caveat with lessons even for these elections: where annulment affected the distinction between winner and losers, there would be a re-vote in the areas where the cancellations were made. In essence even where the results of places that the SLPP alleged over-voting were annulled, and the annulment reduced the percentage of President Koroma to below 55%, there would not be an outright second round elections in the whole country. Rather there would be a re-vote in those areas where the votes were annulled. Only when those re-votes were added to the overall tally and no body scored 55% would the country organize national second round elections. And given that the districts where the SLPP alleged over voting were staunchly APC, President Koroma, given APC’s superior mass mobilizational capacities, would have still garnered over 55% of the votes cast.
The APC, since its resurgence in the mid 2000s (signaled by its victory in Freetown during the 2004 local government elections) had shown greater organizational and mass mobilizational capabilities than its competitors for political power, leading to the popular belief in Sierra Leone, even amongst opposition supporters that ‘APC sabi politics.’ In the 2012 elections, the APC had the added advantage of persons with experience in mobilizing for elections. Its presidential candidate was running for that office for the third time; and its campaign machinery was dominated by persons with feet on the ground –seasoned politicians, businessmen, grassroots or community organizers. The SLPP campaign hierarchy seemed to be dominated by former bureaucrats, academics, persons from the Diaspora and such other persons having lesser micro-engagement skills with ordinary people. APC understanding of, and greater attachment to ordinary people, and the party’s organizational capabilities stood the party well during the registration process, during campaigning and elections day. APC did not impose slogans on the masses, it appropriated them -from ‘global’ to ‘action pass Intention’ to ‘world best’ and ‘ampa o pong.’ The APC amplified these slogans, and in the process deepened its attachments to most people. SLPP was almost always playing catch up with this APC ‘ground strategy.’
Elections are a trench affair, not a war fought by drones. Had elections been mostly drones, keyboards, and neck ties (like what some SLPP polling agents wore on elections day), the SLPP might have run a victorious campaign. Their partisans had skewed consultancy reports against the APC; got foreign journals and newspapers to paint the APC in a very bad light; infiltrated internet discourses with verve; written great newspaper articles; courted international players with great savvy, and as some APC partisans alleged, bugged cell phones and hacked into emails. Any objective observer would greatly admire their air war. But few of these could be translated into electoral advantages on the ground. This failure could be attributed to the pedagogical stance of the ancient party towards the electorate. In political campaigns, you don’t impress with big grammar, you impress with big drama. The APC won the propaganda war because it deployed more drama than grammar.
When the SLPP wanted to use economic arguments (rising prices) to put the APC in the dock; the party countered with the word ‘global.’ The global crisis was responsible for rising prices. The word ‘global’ became the most commonplace rebuttal of SLPP economic arguments. The APC had other arguments; strong arguments of the intellectual sort like GDP growth; increases in investment; ease of doing business et al; but non stemmed the translation of SLPP economic arguments into effective popular discourse like the word ‘global.’
The SLPP threw myriad of arguments against the APC into the public realm. The APC also had myriad of arguments against the SLPP. The difference however was that whilst the SLPP threw all of these arguments at the public; the APC stuck to a few – ‘global’ to counter SLPP economic arguments; ‘development’ to paint APC achievements; ‘world best’ to show its presidential candidate in a very positive light; and ‘killer’ and ‘pass port thief’ to define the SLPP presidential candidate. The SLPP was all over the place with all sorts of arguments in its frenzied attempt at pillorying the APC. ‘APC is northern, APC is Limba, Ernest is Loko, Ernest is third richest President, Mark Heligman, APC responsible for Cholera, cosmetic development, illiterate APC supporters,’ and a host of other mixtures of outright lies, quarter-truths, half truths and truths. And even the truths they conveyed maliciously, with venom, anger and arrogance that detracted from their effectiveness.
The APC did not go down that road. It could have talked about the bad contracts that led the country to losing millions on a number of road construction work; it could have talked about the withdrawal of billions from public coffers in the run up to the 2007 elections, or about the so many issues relating to incompetence, corruption, nonchalance and other negatives contained in the Transition and other reports. It did not. It could have made strong arguments about how more Sierra Leoneans died from brutal causes under the watch of the SLPP (1996 until 2002) than at any other time in the country’s history; or that government executed, in a single day, more Sierra Leoneans than any other leadership before. It could have, as argued by Yusuf Bangura about the strategic policy failures by the SLPP that prolonged the war and delayed the onset of peace. But the Tejan Kabbah Government had successfully sold the country that it brought peace to the country; a message endorsed in the 2002 elections. So the issue of SLPP as peaceful party, as presented was not countered. The argument that the APC used was that this party had been hijacked by men of violence; hence the zeroing on Maada Bio as a symbol of that hijack.
The SLPP taunted the APC as a party that could only parrot a few issues about the SLPP, whilst they have a thousand and one criticisms. There were APC people, and supporters of the APC in the media who wanted the party to bring out all the issues; to counter the SLPP issue for issue; to get out as many press releases as the SLPP; to get engaged with them proposition for proposition, contention for contention. One saw attempts at doing this; and frustrations sometimes for not doing more of it. But the fact was that the purveyors of few simple issues and messages won the day; and the party in the overwhelming majority of cases sided with them.
Of course the APC, like ruling parties the world over, had incumbency advantages. It did not have that in 2007, but it won those elections. So what did incumbency do for it in 2012? Incumbency did for the party what Charles Margai did for it in 2007, and a little more. The PMDC was a force multiplier for the APC in the 2007 runoff, ensuring that the party got to nooks it would not have reached in that region. It prevented massive deployment of intimidation against APC and allied voters in that region. Incumbency performed the same role for the APC in 2012. Those who were wont to vote for the APC could not be massively intimidated: the police ensured that; the chiefs could dare not do it; and sodality activities were banned for the electioneering period. It was not for naught that the SLPP railed against the Police, the chiefs, and the suspension of the activities of sodalities. During the 2007 elections, the APC complained a lot about SLPP tactics; in 2012 rather than complain, it just asked the police to do its job. That was what happened in the case of the attempt to register children in Segbwema; that was what happened when its offices were raised down in Bo; that was what it did in the Ward 369 local council bye elections in Fourah Bay; that was what it did just before the elections when SLPP supporters ransacked the homes of prominent APC supporters in Fourah Bay. Invoking Military Aid to Civilian Power or MAC-P for the elections; and the vehicle ban during elections was all part of a strategy to ensure peaceful elections and non-intimidation. The APC was very sure, because of superior registration of voters in its stronghold and robust outreach in opposition strongholds, that it was going to win the elections if only they were peaceful conducted.
Violence had always been a recurrent theme in Sierra Leone’s political history. And both parties had historically displayed willingness and capacities for it, though each was master of different types of violence. The SLPP mainly utilized traditional structures –chiefs and their native authorities – to put the APC in their place in the 1960s, and during threats to its rule in the 1990s relied heavily on an entity deeply rooted in traditional lore – the Kamajors – for security. The APC utilized uprooted urban types in the 70s and 80s. These memories of violence lingered in narratives (like the TRC report) and subjective (private) recollections of horrendous violence visited on people perceived as not supporting either of the two main political formations in the country; or in the mid 1990s to early 2000s their perceived militant proxies – Kamajors for the SLPP, and as alleged by the SLPP, but denied by their opponents, the AFRC as APC surrogates. Good people, from all the political formations had stood up against the cutthroat acts of their side of the political divide; some at the cost of their lives: like Sorie Forna and Ibrahim Taqi; like many neighbors of some northerners in Bo, who protected their compatriots against some degenerates in the otherwise very heroic Kamajor movement; like many who provided hiding places for SLPP people and officials during the degenerate AFRC interregnum; and also protection for those in concocted lists of collaborators in the vengeful days of the post-AFRC return of the SLPP.
But the post 2002 era was one of peace; and was supposed to bring about the ascendancy of factions and persons for peace within political parties. The APC presented itself as controlled by factions for peace in 2007; as was the SLPP. Berewa’s concession at those elections was dedicated to this peace. But this concession was berated as unmanly, and those who bitterly argued thus got their man elected flag bearer for the 2012 elections. The 2012 narrative was thus one of the ascendancy of factions for peace within the APC, but the enthronement of a faction within the SLPP who saw all this as bunkum; a faction which drew from historic caricatures of the APC as violent, and illiterate to self define itself as more robust, more educated and more ready to deploy violence than the SLPP of the past; and the APC of the past and present.
This new SLPP was also highly suspicious of state institutions in the run up to the elections. The Judiciary was suspect; the police also was. That was why the SLPP was so angry when Madam Thorpe stated that criminal election matters should be reported to the police. It looked like an exercise in futility for the SLPP. The air was thick with insinuations about violence that might be orchestrated by the SLPP. There were stand-offs in Bo, Kailahun and Kenema. But these were quickly put under control by the police through some arrests and curfews. MAC-P continued all over the country. The party threatened court action. But I dare hazard that it did not believe that would lead to an overturning of the results. The courts, dominated as they were by Freetown elites, had never been places where the SLPP got its way in its dealings with the APC. That was the case in the 1960s with SLPP Prime Minister Albert Margai and the Opposition We Yone Newspaper; that was the case in the 1970s, and the 1980s, and the 2000s in cases involving Ernest Bai Koroma, then the opposition leader, and other members of his party whose cause (to ensure a criminal conviction of popular Koroma) many believed the SLPP supported.
A court case might be, in these circumstances, a futile legal endeavor, but it would keep alive the SLPP ‘sense of being cheated’ and in that way dim the humiliation of defeat. In Africa, as I am sure in other continents, electoral defeat, is a humiliating experience; and it is the more humiliating when the defeated had assured, indeed boasted to its supporters and any who cared to listen, that it would be victorious. What do tell your supporters in this instance? What, in our patriarchal societies do you tell your spouse(s) and children? Especially when you had cultivated an image of a strongman, who, contra Berewa, would stand up to the APC? Denial of defeat in this instance would be a means of shoring up your manhood; taking a tough stance would be a way of re-pillaring the crumbling colossus; a re-climbing of the moral mounts; a way of rallying the faithful again.
In 2007, I think the court case was relevant more to the SLPP than to Berewa. Berewa was an old man, with no interest in running again for the presidency. The SLPP needed the court case and the ‘Judas-ing’ of Madam Thorpe to sustain its narrative of APC Government as illegitimate, an aberration that would soon be rid of sharp 12, 2012. In 2012 the court case and a robust stance would be much more needed by Mr. Bio. Mr. Bio as a much younger man would want to make himself very relevant in the leadership configuration of the party whose constitution now provides no formal leadership role for him. A court case, or robust stance in relation to the presidential elections is a continuation of Bio’s leadership by other means, and by extension his younger inner circle. Is this a tenable position? Politics, they say, is the art of the possible, and agency usually trumps structure in our realm; but I dare hazard that international, state, and party structures, and social relationships amongst Sierra Leoneans are stacked against this heightening-of tension stance by Mr. Bio and his ardent supporters.
By Mohamed Gibril Sesay
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