Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 May 2020:
Just when you think that the world at large and Sierra Leone in particular, is facing the ravages of an invisible enemy – the Corona Virus, our nation is plunged on the precipice of self destruction – a clear affirmation of our penchant for attracting chaos. It looks like the slow but insidious rise in COVID cases in our community is not troubling enough to scare the living daylights out of us.
COVID carries its own scepticism but that discussion is for another day. Faced with such a common enemy, the last thing you would expect is the seeming disintegration of law and order.
One would expect all Sierra Leoneans to put aside all differences to fight this common enemy. Unlike our politicians, we cannot accuse the COVID 19 of tribalism, nepotism or favouritism. Covid 19 is an enabler of equal opportunities. This should be one of the rare times to unashamedly put our collective patriotism, and to some extent our jingoism to use. But that is too easy for us as a nation.
If truth be said, President Maada Bio did extend the hand of cooperation with Paolo Conteh as the face of the opposition APC party, in the joint effort to fight this common enemy.
Bio may have banked on Paolo’s experience of the fight against Ebola irrespective of the associated controversies. If anything, Maada Bio crossed the Rubicon, reached out to his competition (which may have irked some SLPP members), and asked for a common approach for the common good, in our hour of common need. The outcome of that invitation, that hand of friendship, that call for national approach for a national problem, is now an open secret.
So, when the law of the land was evoked, others took it to mean a signal for our country to endure further violence, hardship, and wanton destruction. Before you read further, dispose of your political party persuasions and just reflect for a minute – not as SLPP, APC, Mende, Temne, Loko, Muslim, Christian, Jessi or homebased, but as a SIERRA LEONEAN.
Those who preach violence from the armchairs of relative comfort in countries where the rule of law is of the essence to prey on the gullibility of the plebeian psyche, will do well to remind themselves that history has a cunning way of repeating itself. If anyone, especially some of us in the diaspora feel that inciting our folks back home to cause mayhem is the answer to our problems, should think again.
Who stands to gain from all this?
Step back into 2012, when the then opposition SLPP lost the elections to the APC party. Maada took a catalogue of accusations of rigged elections, violence and unfair elections to protest the election result to the High Court and lost, AGAIN. He slipped out of the country to UK where he continued his studies and to plan the comeback of his party. Did you hear of phrases like “make the country ungovernable”? You can’t deny that there was no afterbirth of violence in the immediate aftermath of the results.
Did anyone hear SLPP calling for civil disobedience? Did anyone hear the SLPP preach insurgence? Did anyone hear the SLPP call for violence, public protests, burning of institutions etc? Instead, the SLPP became a docile and near comatose imitation of an opposition party. With no opposition in sight, the SLPP resorted to boycotting parliamentary sittings and debates as their best form of affirmative action.
If we are honest to ourselves, we all witnessed former President Koroma take the scalpel to the very foundations of our constitution. He sacked the democratically elected Vice President Sam Sumana. Thankfully, Ernest never muzzled the press. But here is a shortlist of those who were invited to take tea at the CID headquarters during his reign: Aminata Phidelia, Jonathan Leigh, Bai Bai sesay, Samuel Fly Gandi, Brima Labor Fofana, Arthwa Amaddi, Foday Jalloh, Pastor Mohamed Sesay, Kashor Holland Cole, and the then national treasure Tam Bayo, for daring to speak up.
When Kandeh Yumkella had the audacity to introduce a third political party in the mix, he was almost disqualified from participating in our national elections. That is not to exonerate Bio or make him a saint. Blowing off another’s candle, won’t make yours shine brighter.
All these happened after Ernest had desperately tried and failed for “more time”, “injury time”, “third term” etc. right in front of our eyes to extend his reign. Where were all those calling for violence today, during the decapitation of our constitution? In the eyes of the likes of Sylvia Blyden and her ilk, Ernest Koroma could do no wrong. He was the messiah, the saviour and “world Best”. While he SLPP was wired to a political life support machine, they ask their supporters to wreak violence in the street, or make the country ungovernable? Don’t answer that, we’ll come to that. I am beginning to like the phrase “Make America Great Again”.
It is slightly over two years since Maada took office; but we will be failing in our duty if we bury our heads in the sand and fail to admit that this New Direction has seen the cost of living threaten air traffic, the standard of living hurtling towards “bomeh” or “don Bay” proportions and the foreign exchange rate is now a kite at the mercy of the wind direction. We can all agree that the outgone APC party dealt a bad card to the incoming SLPP party, thanks to corruption.
But how long will this narrative hold, if Bio cannot improve or arrest the situation? In spite of some positive strides by Bio’s government to address the problems, we can safely admit that a lot more needs to be done. Yesterday may not be ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.
Those who wish, pray and work towards a failed Bio government, should remember that if Bio fails, you, me, Minkailu, Momoh, Sorie, Mamadu, Eku, Mariatu, Josephine and all of us fail. Even the children unborn and our freedom fighters who fought for our recently celebrated 59th independence birthday would have failed. With the APC and SLPP at each other’s throat, we know that it is the grass that suffers when two elephants fight; and the grass here is you and me; the man on the street.
So, is violence the answer to our problems?
With our recent past, do we need any further lessons on violence? Take a look at all armed and violent uprisings, interregna, civil wars, political insurrections, freedom fighting and coups d’états, and tell me when did violence solve the problem? From Nelson Mandela, John Garang, Jonas Savimbi, Charles Taylor and our very own Foday Sankoh, have all ended with a round table conference for a solution. Even our civil war had the Lomé agreement, etc. When has violence solved any political crisis?
Elections are not a beauty contest, but an exercise for tolerance. When APC members call for violence against the Bio government, do they really know what it means for their re-election prospects, if any? Do these same people know that violence was the only weapon that kept the APC in power for so long under Pa Sheki? The late Pa Sheki maintained a one-party state under the hammer of “orwai, orsai”. Does anyone want to return to those dark days?
The SLPP came to power thanks largely to a relatively free, fair and peaceful democratic election. In most cases, elections are won chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody. The majority’s vote for the SLPP, among other reasons including the self destruction of the APC, was a protest against the corruption laden APC.
Do you think the SLPP would have won in 2018, if the elections were violent, not free, or fair? Why do you think the SLPP was driven to near extinction during the reign of Pa Sheki? Under Pa Sheki’s government, the people who cast the votes decided nothing, and those who counted the votes decided everything. So, with some APC members calling for violence, are they by implication, unconsciously calling for their own political wilderness?
Let us now assume, for discussion sake that in the absence of a free, fair and peaceful elections, will the APC win come 2023? Has any opposition party won during elections that have been conducted under violent conditions? When has a sitting government in Africa been removed from power through violent elections?
With that said, will it not be in the interest of the APC to pray for, promote, ensure and work towards a free, fair and peaceful elections come 2023 – if it is to stand any change of returning to power?
Just like “tolongbo nor go sidom ya, angry borku o”, we now have “de game don big”, “de game don babala”. There are those who feel that “yesterday betteh pass tiday”. If that’s the case, will it not be in the interest of the APC for the people to decide like they did in 2018? But will they do so if the elections are conducted with violence? Violence is not the answer. It has never been and will never be. BECAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.
Lest you rush to judgments, I am not accusing anyone of rigging elections. I am just soliloquising from experience; en eh.
Done forget to wash your hands, sneeze wisely and turn the lights off when you leave the room.