Should Sierra Leoneans be Pawns on The SLPP-APC Political Chessboard?
In those days, when politics was politics, and voters were won by those who deserved them, the art of politicking was the battle for hearts and minds. There is no doubt that our two main political grandees are locked in the battle to win hearts and minds. It is not surprising that the PR battle has begun in earnest. But is this battle of hearts and minds fr endearment or what? Unfortunately, this battle, and I use the word loosely seems to be one aimed at making the other look bad. Instead of trying to win hearts and minds with echoes of positivity, it has become a contest of “which party do you like the least? Better still, it is like which party do you hate more, which one is worse, which one is “badder”? as they continue to try and outdo each other, the folks at home are left to ponder where the next meal is coming from. Others are wondering when COVID will end and a return to normal life will commence.
Maada’s reign has been dogged by accusations of tribalism, revenge, nepotism and abuse of power. With that as the backdrop to the APC party’s rallying call, it has become imperative for the Bio government to seize the narrative and turn things over. While many people will see the invitation of Paolo Conteh to join forces with his government in the fight against the pandemic as an astute move for national cohesion, some sceptics may have seen it as a PR exercise to change the narrative surrounding the accusations aforementioned. Irrespective of these variations, the majority is inclined to see such a move as positive one.
As Sierra Leoneans, what we need is honesty. We need to be honest with ourselves. We have to be honest enough and admit that our country has never been so divided. We have to be honest to admit that, it is this division and not war that will destroy our country. In reality, our country is NOT divided. As a nation of different tribal, religious, political, regional etc differences, we have more in common than what differentiates us. What differentiates us is that as a people, we have allowed certain individuals, certain political parties and certain interests to misuse more of the things that differentiates us than unites us; FOR THEIR OWN SELFISH ENDS. Does this sound familiar? What is the end result?
Please take a minute and cast your eye the USA. Trump used this tactic, pitching different races, religions, political factions against one another. He used, misused, and abused America’s diversity, its greatest asset to get to the White House. He maintained this tactic to keep himself in power and keep the country more divided than united. What happened? He forced America into a cul de sac of isolationism. Trump can continue to boast of America’s might, wealth, power etc. The reality is this: America has lost the role to lead the world. No one looks up to America today, no one takes it seriously, and no one …. Trump singlehandedly nuked America from exceptionalism to isolationism. Now that he needs the whole country behind him, he cannot as he has failed to save American lives, saves jobs and the economy; despite his dedicated to the latter.
If the world ever needed to come together, if Sierra Leone ever needed to come together, if communities ever needed to come together; there would be no better time than this time: COVID -19. Trump needs the whole America to sing from one hymn sheet. He needs to move the whole of America on one single journey. He cannot, he would not and will not. Trump is slowly finding out, that after preying on and destroying the diversity that held America together as one, he can no longer bring America together at a time he needed this most. Does that sound familiar? Is that the road map we want for Sierra Leone?
The tactics of divide and rule has always been a tried and tested tool in the politician’s playbook or manual. The British used it with monumental success throughout the colonial era. Our politicians, community, tribal, religious, student and all sorts of leaders have always used it. Unlike these days, such tactics have always been used insidiously.
Just take a rain check here. President Bio has always been accused of ruling over a divided country. He has been accused of tribalism, corruption, nepotism, vendetta, revenge politics, etc. You name it and they have said it. The same has been said about every leader in our country; at varying levels. Maada puts on a charm offensive, some may say, and calls for national cohesion. He initiates the Bintumani 1 & 2 conferences, invites the opposition APC. They refused to attend. He invites them to State House, some attend but issued an immediate press statement and said “Ntheh”, “E solayeh”. He invites the opposition to fight a common enemy Corona, need I say more? He swiftly suspends his Resident Minister for flagrantly going against the spirit of non violence that he has been preaching. Instead of applauding, some say that he should have gone further and sacked him. But even at that, some are still accusing Bio of tribalism; that he only did so because Abu Abu is a Northerner. Oh yeah, Charles Margai is from Tonkolili.
Like in Sierra Leone, this is exactly what we are seeing happening in America. When we
It is not our differences that divide us. It is not our similarities that strengthen us. It is. our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences., that weakens, separates, divides and eventually destroy us as a nation. Even the most successful and happiest couples never have the same character. They just have the best understanding of their differences. Don’t you see Pastors asking for “Sunakathi” and Imams unwrapping Christmas gifts?
But with the APC crying foul, and with some of its members calling for violence, it has become a matter of opinion on who is seen as the enemy of the state. The recent violence and the correspondingly seeming silence of Maada had prompted calls for strong response from his supporters. It is not surprising therefore, to hear the President read the riot act to those accused of perpetuating and fanning the flames of violence and disharmony. Some have gone as far as declaring the APC as a terrorist group and also declare some of the accused proponents of such wanton violence as terrorists. Wow.
The recent riots in Tombo village and Lunsar have been largely attributed to the APC youth wing. Irrespective of the merits of such behaviours, it does not augur well for the image of the party. This does not mean that the SLPP party supporters have not been involved in violence either. But we cannot live in a society that glorifies “an eye for an eye”, or “you do me Ar do you”. In the meantime, president Bio has quietly gone about appointing Julius Spencer and more significantly Alhaji Alpha khan as part of his COVID 19 surveillance team. This seems to fall perfectly in the PR stakes for national cohesion; an attempt to dispel any lingering views on Bio’s non inclusion approach to politics. So, how will the majority of Sierra Leoneneans view the APC party, if violence continues to be perpetuated in its name?
But just as Bio was embarking on what some would see as an attempt to take back control and seize the initiative, up pops his resident Minister Abu Abu to derail the message. A video clip making the rounds on social media purportedly showing him making threats of violence has not gone down well with his bosses. Minister Abu Abu may have been touted as the man to keep the presence of the SLPP in the heartland of the opposition, but his crass and irresponsible behaviour has not saved him from the axe. Maada Bio has swiftly suspended him with immediate effect. Although many have applauded the speedy response, some are calling for Bio to go further and dismiss him. Many have felt that his suspension does not equal the potential implications of his threats to national security and stability. Others see him as overzealous, and the outsider who weeps more than the bereaved.
So, with the battle for the hearts and minds of the people as the ultimate prize, who is winning? Which party is made to look like the enemy of the people? Which party is the enemy of progress? Which party is taking violence for breakfast? Which political party has well meaning and good intentions for the country? That is the question which many Sierra Leoneans may be grappling with, as the country tries navigating itself from the jaws of self destruction.
In the meantime, a lot of doom mongers and war merchants have been predicting a civil war in the country. With what is going on in the country, such anxieties are understandable. Most of that is borne out of our recent experience from the decade long rebel war. Even men of the cloth and other self professed prophets have gone as far as saying that God has bestowed them with the vison to see war and destruction in our country. We are all praying for Allah to save us from such calamity.
However, some may also see such predictions as far fetched. Yes, we had a civil war in the recent past. But for war to prevail, it usually takes two or more “ARMED” factions. The likes of Foday Sankoh and Charles Taylor were armed to the teeth by foreign backers; who had their eyes set on our mineral resources. That was not the cause of the war, but that was the winning prize and incentive set for the victorious. These rebel leaders were so penniless that they could not even afford a descent breakfast at the onset. But the lure of grabbing control of our diamond and gold resources proved too lucrative to resist for the world’s war merchants and vultures alike. So, for a war, in its strictest of the word to take place, (God forbid), is there an armed opposing force to fight the army and the government’s security forces. There is no doubt that the current situation is not arrested, could descend into chaos or civil disobedience. We all pray “leh God push am far”.
Now that we have both parties trying to portray the other as not fit for purpose, now that both parties are bent on making the other look bad, and now that there is a seeming atmosphere of tit for tat, should Sierra leoneneans be looking for a third way? President Bio’s government has been accused of revenge politics. So, what will happen when and if the APC takes over power in the future? Who stands to suffer and lose out in this kind of juvenile politics? Who is the grass that will suffer in the absence of such adult politics? Does Sierra Leone politics need adult supervision mentorship? The bottom-line is, that Sierra Leoneneans cannot afford to be pawns in this political gymnastics. Our politicians need to grow up.
There is no doubt that many Sierra leoneneans may struggle to differentiate these two parties. They may have their subtle differences in name, configuration and other political nomenclatures. But has there been any major difference in the lives of the citizens when either have been in power? Sierra leoneneans have been and continue to suffer hardship under these guys. When you look at Sierra Leone’s resources, it is unquestionable that we have always deserved better; irrespective of who has been or who is in power. Both parties, like most African countries have always been saddled with accusations of corruption, nepotism, tribalism etc. In effect, other than their regional, tribal, and party colours, is there a real difference, in real terms, for the general populace between the two?
As Sierra Leoneans outside look from APC to SLPP, and from SLPP to APC, and from APC to SLPP again; do they already feel that it is impossible to say which is which? Can anyone imagine our country being run on the oxygen of revenge politics? Can the country afford a system where the parties’ political interests surpass those of the country and the people? Can we truly afford a political system that is littered with personal vendetta and point scoring? As we all know by now, America is slowly but surely relinquishing its role as the leader of the free world. It has recoiled into a partisan politics that is ripping every foundation of the American society, brick by brick; thanks to the kind of party-political squabbles between the Republicans and Democrats. Can Sierra Leone afford to tear itself apart along similar lines.
Is it time to consider a third political party? Is it time to venture into the unknown?
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
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