Sierra Leone – If president Bio fails, the whole nation fails

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 June 2018:

The drums may have fallen silent, the last bugle and trumpets sounded, and the dusty feet washed and oiled for another day. And so, it came to pass that President Julius Maada Bio was successfully inaugurated on the 12th of May 2018.

The event epitomised our country’s slow but steady growth and acceptance of democracy. There is no doubt that the events leading to, and during the elections bore the clouds of doomsday.

But thanks to Allah and the people of Sierra Leone, our nation came out “relatively” unscathed. It is no secret that our politicians and leaders were culpable in building the political grenades in the first place. The major ingredients of regionalism and tribalism were served on the menu of destruction.

One even went as far as creating a religious-political party, to feed on the religious fervour of our unsuspecting folks.

So where was Musa when our poor folks were hoodwinked into losing hundreds of thousands of Leones in the Hajjgate scandal?

Where was the defender of the faith, when the innocents were stranded at Lungi and its environs?

Thankfully, our nation stood as one, when it mattered; thanks in part, to the paradoxical effects of our decade long civil war. In fact it was not a civil war. It was a decade long period of barbarism. As a nation, our brutal experiences of the war have served as painful reminders of everything and anything that is bad about wars.

Maybe, just maybe, it is these painful reminders that appear to have saved us from any repeat of this. The scars of this war are yet to heal. Despite efforts by some, and with limited “success” to wreak havoc in our country, sanity prevailed.

There is no question that some parts of the country witnessed pockets of undesirable events. My home town, Jaiama Sewafe had its unfair share of notoriety when thugs wilfully generated panic among the people, resulting in some migratory events from Sewafe to Mashingbi. The rest is history.

Despite the doomsday scenarios that were painted, some with good reason, our nation was spared the agony of another bloodbath, if the doom merchants were to be believed. The run off came and went, ushering what we have been told is a “NEW DIRECTION”. Halleluiah.

With President Bio’s coronation recently concluded, it goes without saying that, it is time to get to work.

There is a notion that we are a divided country. This was very evident during one of the first parliamentary sessions, during which we were reminded of our primary school playground antics. The difference this time was that we voted for the adult teenagers to re-enact it in the full glare of the world media. Even Amalize the cat and Okonkwo would have been embarrassed by the wrestling match that was put on show by our political kindergartens.

It is not every day you get the opposition party in the majority, and there is no question that President Bio and the Biovistas have their work cut out. Against the backdrop of a parliament where the opposition is in the majority, he would need every sinew of his diplomatic nuance, negotiating skills and statesmanship, to steer our country in the vaunted NEW DIRECTION.

There is no doubt that the majority opposition APC party is still licking its wounds from reality. There are those who would expect a formidable opposition in parliament, especially with Yumkella and Sam Sumana, both prodigal scions from the ruling and opposition parties respectively.

But not many Sierra Leoneans would be expecting an opposition for the sake of opposition. What many would be expecting is a CONSTRUCTIVE OPPOSITION for the benefit of the country.

As we know too well, there is a difference between OPPOSITION and SABOTAGE. And that is what the opposition should be wary of – not to present itself as undermining or sabotaging the efforts of the new government. If their opposition in parliament is constructive, Sierra Leoneans are well aware to see it, and would appreciate it.

There are many who believe that our former President Ernest Koroma became emboldened to use abuse and misused our laws and constitution because of the conspicuous absence of a formidable opposition.

Some of us felt that the opposition did not rise to the challenge. This time round, the current factory settings of our parliament should make for a viable, interesting and sound rendezvous.  The hope is that the kindergarten show we all witnessed will be a thing of the past.

And this is where the “opposition parties” need to go patriotic. Many would expect the opposition to be well meaning and in the national interests. Otherwise, any frivolous opposition aimed at frustrating the minority ruling party would be seen by the populace as “enemies of the state”.

Any opposition aimed at scoring cheap political points will not wash with the people. It is not surprising that having lost the elections, there are certain elements in the old regime who would not wish the SLPP to succeed.

Some may see this as a natural human tendency, for no one takes power with the aim of losing it. The bitterness, recriminations, regrets, and wishful thinking are all part of the norm for many. We have seen how petty minded some have been in the media recently.

It is certain that if the opposition can serve as the political referee for the country and become the barometer and thermometer of the public’s political opinion, even the ruling SLPP party may end up falling in love with the APC party. Did I hear you say, “hell will freeze”?

This is exactly the kind of attitude our country can ill afford. Politics shouldn’t be a state of war. We should be able to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly in people. Ernest Koroma has been dubbed by many of his followers as the man, who single -handedly snapped defeat from the jaws of victory.

My cousins in the SLPP will beg to differ; and that they knew all along that victory was theirs to lose. Irrespective of your political persuasion, Ernest’s tenure of office was not one that was laden with successes or failures only. In his first 5 years, he had the Midas touch. His handover booklet did a good job of concluding that the impact of Ebola was chief reason for his not so good time at state house.

In spite of the terrible marks that he may have received from his critics, I can drive from Freetown to Jaiama Sewafe in less than 4 hours. And if I decide to go to kabala from Makeni, I can do so in 1 hour 20 minutes.

It is no wonder that the “u nor see de road?” became a common mantra of the APC party, when asked about the achievements of the last 10 years.

That is history and as a nation, we could do well to use this as a springboard for the New Direction. What beats me though is how badly some people want to see the current SLPP government fail.

It is really sad that some people’s idea of being a Sierra Leonean is measured along political party lines.

The APC has had its day in government and by the voice of the majority, the SLPP is in power. What is difficult to understand and accept about that? Why do some feel that a particular party has divine right to rule?

We all agree that you need to be a Sierra Leonean to belong to a political party, but you don’t need to belong to a political party to be a Sierra Leonean. It is unfortunate that some people have made it their life’s purpose to wish for the government to fail.

There are others who would try and justify such wishes as a tit for tat. They will gleefully tell you that when APC was in power, the SLPP did the same. Does that make it right?

As a nation, we need to put our differences aside and work for the general good of Sierra Leone. Why are people jubilant or celebrate bad news in our country? Why do people say with glee, that Freetown was gripped in the throes of blackout, as Sierra Leone just qualified for the world cup?

People need to know that whether it is APC, SLPP, NGC or C4C in power, if the government of the day fails, we all fail as a nation, a country and a people. If Bio fails, you, I, your children, and your children’s children fail.

6 Comments

  1. The political game, to a certain extent, is just like a game of football. In politics, points are scored by the skilful implementation of appropriate policies; whilst in football points are scored by the skilful use of the ball to pass it ‘through’ a towering goalkeeper. There are good and bad referees, in as much as in the political game, there are good and bad judiciaries – depending on the setting.

    In both games, the main objective of each and every player is to capitalise on the opponent’s mistakes or weaknesses; and this could be in the form of professional fowls, as in football, or leaked memos, as in politics. Ask the President of the United States – Donald Trump – the most powerful man on earth, about leaked memos.

    In Africa and some parts of the word, the setting of the political arena is somewhat different as to that of developed economies. For instance, in Sierra Leone, the head of state is addressed as some kind of a super human being: His Excellency Dr So-and-so.

    And it is highly likely that most institutions including, the judiciary, armed forces, the police and even journalists are not at ease to criticise him or her. Many institutions in developed economies do not have much of this concern – since they are separate entities from the political game.

    The reality is, the SLPP (Sierra Leone Peoples Party) won State House in which their flag bearer, President Julius Maada Bio is now the present occupant; and the APC (All Peoples Congress) won the House of Parliament wherein the majority leader Hon. Chernor Maju Bah, should be given the opportunity to head and influence day-to-day proceedings.

    This was the outcome of the 2018 general and presidential elections, and there is no turning back, or some means of ratcheting this situation to another angle. And the sooner institutions like the judiciary, armed forces, the police and the media came to realize this dawn in Sierra Leone’s young democracy, the better.

    The SLPP’s attempt to plot new coordinates away from the course stipulated by the constitution, in the form of injunctions against 12 elected APC members from attending parliament – for the sole purpose of ensuring the leader of the House of Parliament come from their ranks – had led to the chaos in the first opening of parliament. An ugly scene that was highlighted across the world.

    It was an unpleasant situation that even necessitated the regional parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to send a delegation to Sierra Leone to see whether the rules that govern the political game, as laid down by the constitution and standing orders were adhered to.

    And it was not the end of this political saga. The reckless and malicious physical assault on the mayoress of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer (a woman!!!) by SLPP supporters has prompted an impending visit from ECOWAS to Sierra Leone, on a peace keeping mission. These are just the spotlights of a series of maltreatments and terror endured by APC supporters in the two months, or so, SLPP government.

    Steering in a course like this is bound to instil fear and tensions in a long voyage that is still manoeuvring in the waters of departure. The SLPP is playing too many ‘fouls’ and even their ‘fans’ know that.

    President Maada Bio is surrounded by a lot of brilliant heads in his party, who undoubtedly may be pondering the idea of formulating a strategy that will ensure a safe journey towards the destination. Notwithstanding, there is only one viable option that may be stubbornly recurring in their minds – that is, a consensus agreement between the SLPP and APC parliamentarians.

    President Bio may have to use his skills in creating an amicable atmosphere in parliament, and be prepared to make compromises in order to secure a safe and gradual implementation of his ‘new direction’ philosophy. Anything short of this strategy has the likelihood of plunging the country into another chaos of senseless destruction. At the moment, it’s like compressing a tough spring against a wall, when knowingly that spring has the potential of jumping into your face. It will be too late then, because damage has been done.

    The people of Sierra Leone are not prepared to experience another period of destruction of their landscape, properties, lives, as attributed to the past civil war that lasted for over a decade. They have experienced a dreadful ebola outbreak that indiscriminately took the lives of over 4000 of their loved ones, and a mudslide that eroded properties and accounted for another 1000 lives.

    All those occurrences have impacted negatively on the economy, resulting in a drastic reduction in their living standards. The people of Sierra Leone have suffered a lot and are now bracing themselves for a brighter future.

  2. I am one of those that really want President Bio to succeed. May the good Lord continue to guide and protect him. Please join us to help him succeed. Thanks.

  3. Our brother and leader of our nation will not fail in his attempt to bring progress into the country. I know there are people who are still striving for that.

    Let them know that the president will not fail. Since his inauguration he is doing things he duly promised the nation. There is nobody, only Allah, to drive him astray. Ameen.

  4. This newspaper must continue to throw light on these development strides the government is working on. Bravo.

  5. It is common knowledge that some people are trying their best to discredit and sabotage President Bio’s efforts. But they will not succeed. Bio will stand up like the rock of Gibraltar.

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