Emmerson’s Political Bomb or Love Warning…
“Emmerson” is undoubtedly the topmost ‘political musician’ of Sierra Leone. He is much more than Sierra Leone’s Bob Marley… In 2005, when I first came to face-to-face with “Emmerson” in the office of his then Manager, Lawrence Spencer-Coker (a.k.a. “Bolo”) off Sanders Street in Freetown, I was entranced by his sheer animal magnetism, and awed by that effortless grace of a true super star – and his retinue who followed him into the office treated him with mega star reverence. In the realm of good looks, Emmerson, now with a macho beard on a matured visage, tops another of our local musical super star – the strikingly handsome but baby-faced “K-man”. Over the weekend, on David Tam-Baryoh’s avidly-listened to radio programme, “Monologue”, Sierra Leonean lawyer practising in the USA, M. Alieu Iscandari, lampooned the judiciary of Sierra Leone as being “stagnated”; I wonder what Iscandari would say about the first ever university in sub-Saharan Africa, the almost 200 year old Fourah Bay College: for indeed, if FBC hasn’t stagnated or, even retrogressed, they would have been offering mandatory Literature courses for all students on “Emmerson” – like they do on Shakespeare and Milton.
In 2003, the SLPP treated the APC with political condescension
A study of the lyrics of Emmerson’s hits – from ‘Borbor Belleh’ in 2004 to ‘Kokobeh’ in 2014 – would bring out gems of Shakespearean-type literary brilliance. And, when one gauges the probable impact of Emmerson’s trailblazing political song, ‘Borbor Belleh’, in helping to stimulate those thoughts that inflamed the Freetown electorate against the SLPP and got them to lose democratic elections in 2007, one would add political genius to Emmerson’s laurels.
By 2003, flush with his unprecedented landslide victory of 2002, the SLPP’s President Kabbah was publicly condescending to the APC – saying they would need to be propped up so that there would not even be a semblance of a ‘One Party’ state in Sierra Leone. The APC party, and APC government, need to learn from this very recent history – and not replicate the SLPP’s mistake in 2018. Emmerson’s ‘Kokobeh’ song should be a wakeup call to the APC.
History: “Heed this Warning, SLPP!!!”
To accentuate my point, I dig into my columnist archive. In THE OSWALD HANCILES COLUMN in Salone Times newspaper of March 2, 2005 (that is almost ten years ago!!); in the article titled “Heed This Warning, SLPP!!!”, I wrote the following words: “Even those among the elite of the ruling SLPP who have become versed in the ostrich tactic of ‘If-I-bury-my-head-in-the-sand-and-I-don’t-see-the-enemy-therefore-the-the-enemy-would-not-be-seeing me’ would not miss the scary warning this time – as students from our university swarmed the streets of Freetown, challenging armed police in running duels yesterday. …..There was the warning of the SLPP that won the ‘wuteh-teh-tehish’-landslide victory in Freetown in 2002 presidential elections losing by a landslide two years later in the 2004 Local Government Elections….Last year, a few alarmed SLPP senior people had stirred themselves to strategize against a recurrence of such electoral defeat, and to shore up the party’s ebbing popularity in the strategic capital city of Freetown. ‘Nar fust time nor more dem bin dae pan’ – they soon relapsed back into their proclivity of over-confidence, of suicidal complacency; their politically perverse habit of political masturbation: ‘The people love us dearly. Those who are writing, or, saying anything to the contrary are only doing so because they are jealous that they are getting rich, and they are still wearing “ben sus”….
THE ARTICLE CONTINUED: “….The ongoing student crisis could have been avoided if they had taken seriously my humble lessons of emotions control, which would get one to really listen to the under-privileged, to have empathy with the less fortunate. The teachers – from primary to tertiary level – are suffering. They are as disillusioned as their students….
“…Almost as angry!!! For those at the tertiary level, there is the added factor of frustration. A lot of them have higher and highest degrees, and over a quarter century experience, like their colleagues who are cabinet ministers and senior civil servants today. In fact, some of the government ministers today were only five to ten years ago themselves middle-class-poor-university-lecturers. Surely, some of these lecturers would not be please to see – or, just hear, or, to have the perception – that their peers are building million dollar houses, while they can barely afford to give their families three ‘round meals of rice and bonga hade soup’…..
“…..The dismal living condition of our university students is well-known by the governing elite. What has the education ministry done to alleviate the plight of the students? The university is autonomous, eh? What about the ‘youth’ ministry? Are they deaf to the rumblings of disenchantment and rising anger of those who are supposed to be their primary constituents? There is a Parliamentary Committee for ‘education’ and ‘youth’: have they been deaf to the complaints of the university students? Have they psychologically and socially opened their doors so that the aggrieved students can enter….
“The elites – in the SLPP and the society generally – have closed their doors to students, and the youth generally. They have shut their eyes to what is obvious all around them. Fact is, many of the youth are indolent. They need to study harder, work harder. But, who is to lead them into good ways. In all sane societies it is adults who teach children. Our youth reflect the collective strengths and collective inadequacies of adults who are in control in society. The flare up yesterday of our university, too easily joined by the teeming jobless city youth, is a warning….
“Columnists like us have been warning for so long; (Read past issues, please) calling…for a radical and dramatic change in the way we have organized society, an overhaul of the very sociological and economic dynamics of our country. It is my hope that those who wield the most powers in society would listen to our moderate counsel, or, they would be compelled to change by raging youth united by anger directed at those they perceive as the ‘failed generation’ responsible for the youth’s predicament….
“Sure, compared to the last civilian government which the SLPP replaced, the SLPP government (being lauded by institutions like the World Bank, IMF, ADB, etc.) is doing a superhuman job. But, they have failed woefully in communicating their positives (and their problems) to the majority….
“They have failed abysmally in harnessing the muscles, ingenuity and imagination of the majority youth. In spite of our warnings!! They have failed to heed the inherent dangers in protest songs like ‘corruption ee do so’….and ‘borbor belleh’. Be warned. Heed this warning now. Or, the price that would have to be paid would be very high indeed….”
Déjà vu!!: APC like SLPP?!!!
A little over a year into the Second Term of the APC -led government of President Ernest Bai Koroma, there is a feeling of déjà vu as I observe the political terrain of today: one can almost replace every mention of the “SLPP” government in that my 2005 article for the “APC” government in 2014 – and hit a political bull’s eye.
Of course, the SLPP government didn’t heed the warnings of ‘lowly columnists’ like Oswald Hanciles. Now this APC government has positioned Oswald Hanciles up on the social and political ladder, one is hopeful that he would be listened to.
The developmental problems that the APC government of today faces are similar to that the SLPP government had to grapple with: the majority of Sierra Leoneans have deep-seated inferiority complex which makes them not to be much entrepreneurial, and to be chronically conservative; the majority of urban dwellers are pathetically lazy, with heavy dose of hedonism, wallowing in sex and idle gossip; the political space is heavily polarised and stymies meaningful political cooperation; the youth have always blown up a balloon of bloated expectations which would go burst by the pinprick of harsh economic realities once they would empower a political party in power. Much less than the SLPP government, the APC government still has not lend the necessary emphasis to the role of thinkers and savvy media people in addressing these daunting developmental problems.
What I have warned in private is now being put in the public domain: Electoral victory, or, even political stability in a developing country like ours is really not a question of a country’s economy growing fast – even in an egalitarian way. In 1967 when the SLPP lost power, the country had one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. In 1979 when there was the rice riots which preceded the 1980 military coup in Liberia, that country was about the most affluent in West Africa, the ‘economic Mecca’ for immigrants all over West Africa; at 6% economic growth level, Liberia had one of the highest growth rates in the world. When the Ayotollah Khomeni forced the Shah Pahlavi to flee Iran and stage a ‘people’s coup’ in Iran in 1979, Iran had one of the most affluent middle classes in the world. Lesson: even if the economy is growing, and people are living posh lifestyles, propagandists can still whip up strong emotions against a government and topple it. (I would not go into the details of analyzing the ‘thought weapons’ of Emmerson’s near-lethal ‘Kokobeh’ song now being inculcated into the minds of the majority youth….).
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