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Politics is a contest of ideas not insults

Austin Thomas

12 September 2011

Photo: Opposition SLPP's Presidential candidate - Julius Maada Bio

  The battle for State House in 2012 has started, and Maada Bio is at the receiving end of APC’s wrath, as they try to destroy his candidacy prematurely - even before the game kicks off.

The government says that Maada Bio was a key player in the NPRC that kicked out the one party rule of APC in 1992. They say that he was also a member of the Supreme Council that took a decision to execute 28 Sierra Leoneans, including the infamous Bambay Kamara - who destroyed many lives and properties, during the dark days as APC’s strongman and head of a brutal police force.

Some people want Maada Bio to vigorously defend himself against such criticisms. I think otherwise.

The SLPP presidential candidate was not in charge of the NPRC. He was part of the Supreme Council - so what’s the big deal? In any military interregnum, there will definitely be extra-judicial killings. It has happened all over the world and Sierra Leone is no exception.

My advice to Maada Bio is that he should use political ideas and economic philosophy to design and put forward innovative strategies that will improve the lives of Sierra Leoneans, in order to counter the daily insults.

Sierra Leoneans want a change from poverty to wealth; from beggars to givers and from wearing second-hand underwear to brand new ones.

Let the people of Sierra Leone understand that Bio has innovative ideas that could turn the country round, if given the opportunity. You don't need Angel Gabriel to come down from Heaven to help you win the elections or be your running mate.

Your party has a lot of intelligent men and women, full of integrity and goodwill to save us from further sinking into poverty and economic strangulation.

Do you need to launder your past?

I doubt it. As I said before, being part of a system does not mean you are responsible. So what I think you will need to do with the Atlantic Ocean is to make sure that the new found wealth - oil and our marine resources, are guaranteed to benefit all Sierra Leoneans without regard to tribe, party or region.

You are capable of running Sierra Leone positively, and you will be second-time lucky, because you are representing a party that has positive economic, social, infrastructural, educational and democratic policies and principles that will change the current situation of the country.

Former American president - Thomas Jefferson, once said that; a good government is one "which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labour the bread that it has earned."

This is what political parties in Sierra Leone should stand for. A political party should not have thugs going around beating, molesting or destroying properties in the name of politics. A political party should be full of visionaries, policy innovators and peaceful men and women.

Many people thought that our politics would be more civil and responsible than before, as our democracy keeps growing from strength to strength. But that is not the case. Rather, current events are bringing back memories of the dark days of our political history.

As a journalist, I have always held the belief that politics is and should be a competition of ideas and never of insults and violence, as has been the case in the last few weeks.

Recent development, giving rise to political insults thrown at the opposition presidential candidate, is in bad taste and we should all be ashamed of ourselves. Maada Bio is a presidential candidate and has met all the criteria that qualify him to rule the country for the second time, if elected by the people.

What will some of our colleagues do in the event he wins the election after referring to him as a thief, a murderer, and a rapist? I know that every well meaning Sierra Leonean would also be concerned about this sad state of affairs.

Army Commander-in chief - President Koroma

  Even now that Ernest Koroma has turned the country upside down - with no sense of direction and purpose, the opposition criticise him constructively out of respect for the office that he represents.

Admittedly, the media I dare say is indispensable, but would be guilty of irresponsibility if anything is allowed to go on air that fuels discord. The media should be seen as a powerful tool for education and must not be used to promote malice.

As a celebrated country and one regarded as 'the cradle of democracy', our politics should be issue centred rather than one of character and reputation assassination. However, it is very inappropriate to destroy a person’s hard earned reputation for money or parochial ends and the earlier media people get that the better.

In our daily lives, we are faced with myriad of challenges; lack of clean drinking water from our taps, hawkers on our streets, rising inflation, reduction in the size of bread, poor services in our hospitals, lack of quality education in our schools, even to the point where the university lacks paper to conduct examination. Yet, none of these seem to matter anymore.

We digress from all these sensitive issues and revert to calling a presidential candidate – a murderer, rapist, thief or how short he is, how handsome or ugly another is, how sick or mad they are.

From where I am, I think enough is enough. The sooner we nip this immaturity in the bud, the better for the country. We must wake up from our slumber and extricate ourselves from a journey that clearly is leading us down a blind alley.

There are many pertinent and burning issues to talk about, that are affecting the daily lives of the people of Sierra Leone.

Let us talk about the economy. We can make comparison from 2007 to date; road construction, regulation of the mining companies and the standard of education in the country. This is not the time for us to start calling names.

But it seems that the only ammunition the ruling APC party has against the opposition SLPP is the Bambay killings and the palace coup that took place during the NPRC interregnum.

Well by the time the year ends, and we start 2012, Sierra Leoneans will be tired of that song as they will want to hear new songs. Let us delve into the present state of our country. Take the education sector; this is worse than most countries in the entire sub region.

It was the most disgraceful story of this year coming out of Sierra Leone that our university was unable to conduct examinations because they have no paper. If Ernest Koroma who studied in that university can allow such to happen, then something is seriously wrong.

There is a minister in charge of education. Is the president happy that such could happen under his watch? Was he angry? If he was, I am sure he would have acted.

But for the cowardly heart and sycophantic spirit he possesses, he has plunged the country to the worst economic state of ruin that has turned us all into beggars, thieves and prostitutes just to make ends meet.

Poverty has worsened since 2007

  There is enough to talk about regarding the last four years. And I am sure Maada Bio would be fully equipped to blast his way to State House, by constructively criticising Ernest Koroma rather than returning insults.

APC is known for all the negativities in politics. So it is no surprise to many of us, that no sooner they won the last elections, they began to unleash their true colours against the SLPP and all those who cross their path.

The last four years has been the longest in Sierra Leone's history, and the earlier we seek redress in the ballot box, the better it will be for us all.

Reminiscing these past days, I remember in 2007, before coming to China I bought a bag of 50kg rice for Le68,000. Last week, reading stories on the internet, the same bag of rice today is being sold at between Le150,000 and Le160,000.

President Koroma’s government is blaming the global recession for Sierra Leone’s economic crisis. That is false.

Sierra Leone is not the only country that the recession has affected. It has been felt all over the world. But because of our visionless leader - coupled with hopeless policies, we are suffering badly today.

The economy inherited by President Koroma was stable with the dollar pegged at Le3,000. And if they had followed the economic path of the former government, things would not have been so bad.

But they came to power with all sorts of useless policies. They appointed incompetent and inexperienced people that are now running the government, whose policies are causing extreme poverty in the country.

The president like his ministers, are all deceitful and we do not know who to trust.

"APC WE NOR DAE TIFF - WE NOR DAE LIE." This was what they were preaching in 2007. Today they are worse than AFRC, as we do not know who is in control.

Maada Bio, the time is now right for you to expose all the wrongs and failures of this government to the public. And make sure when you do so, it is done with respect, because you are a different breed and you belong to a party that commands respect.

As we approach the 2012 general elections, I urge all and sundry to be circumspect and discerning; to eschew gullibility and articulate views that would not bring about apocalyptic consequences, bearing in mind that the purpose of an election is to determine and accept the will of the voters.

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