Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 June 2023:
President Biden once said during a political rally that “we choose truth over facts”, a gaffe that has since haunted his presidency to this day. That was not the first and only gaffe he has made but his political opponents never miss the opportunity to remind him. By definition, a political gaffe is an error in speech made by a politician. Some call it lapsus linguae (slip of the tongue), but some see a political gaffe as when a politician tells the truth.
Social media is awash with a video believed to have been recorded at a recent political rally that was held in Kambia District by Samura Kamara, the presidential candidate for the APC party, in his quest for “back to power”. During that rally, Samura Kamara promised his party supporters that he will implement the best solution to the most pressing problem facing Sierra Leoneans if he wins the presidency.
We all know that prosperity is necessarily the first theme of all political campaigns, but. James Robinson once said that “political campaigns are designedly made into emotional orgies which endeavor to distract attention from the real issues involved, and they actually paralyze what slight powers of celebration man can normally muster”. However, it is plausible to say that political campaigns do not justify the declaration of a moratorium on ordinary common sense. Samura’s Kambia rally gives credence to such notion.
Politicians like to engage their rally goers by asking them rhetorical questions, to which they have well cooked up answers. So, when Samura Kamara asked the crowd “Waitin we want for Salone?”, the response was understandably numberless. Some wanted development, a good leader etc.
But it was one request which stood out prominently among the cacophony that ensued: PRICE CONTROL. You can bet your bottom dollar that when the lady asked for price control, she was speaking for every Sierra Leonean. Any other politician would have seen this request, coming from an ordinary Sierra Leonean as political manna. It was an opportunity for an opposition party to take the incumbent to the cleaners. It was an innocently genuine question.
There is no way anyone can say that the question was prepped. The question came from the heart and mind of an ordinary citizen. Whether you support the APC or SLPP, we are all saddled with the burden of high prices of commodities and services.
Whether we accept it or not, prices and the lack of price control have become the “Bone Na Throat” in the country. The price of commodities and services has no regard for party belonginess or affiliations. We are all facing ever increasing skyrocketing prices.
President Bio might have catalogued his successes in development, infrastructure, education and many more. But he will be the first to admit his failure in his fight to curb the ever-increasing prices, seem to threaten air traffic. Equally, we cannot dismiss the impact of Covid 19 and the tribal war raging in Ukraine. However, that does not mean that government cannot partly take responsibility for its fingerprints on our economic situation. It comes as no surprise that PRICE CONTROL is one of the topmost concerns of 99.9% of Sierra Leoneans today.
So, what was Samura Kamara, the APC presidential candidate’s First solution for Sierra Leone’s number one problem, PRICE CONTROL? This was Samura Kamara’s response to a call for PRICE CONTROL by a lady, as could be seen in the recorded video that has gone viral: “Una way want man way nor marraid yate, the PRICE of Woman, we dae CONTROL am. De woman dem way want man way nor marraid yate, we dae control de price of de man dem”. E go dear oh, e go dear, no to so?”
Samura Kamara is not the first and won’t be the last to make a political gaffe. We know that HE Fatima Bio has a monopoly on that, but she is neither the President nor a Presidential candidate.
There are those who would say that Samura was in high spirits and was just goofing around. But we also know that any quick-witted politician will be quick to talk their way out of their political gaffes. But that only happens if they are quick enough to notice the gaffe. Having realized their gaffe, most politicians would walk back their error and say, “that is not what I meant”.
Did Samura even notice the gaffe? Where were his handlers, who could have slipped in a word in his ear at the time? That is the risk of running a one- man show. You stand and fall by your weight.
In my last article “Guess who’s running for President?” I mentioned that “His critics say that like Maada Bio in 2018, Samura has been very good at highlighting the failures of President Bio. But unlike Bio, he has not told the electorate how he is going to right the wrongs of the current government”. (Thesierraleonetelegraph-May 27/2023).
Well, it looks like when a member of the public gave Samura a diagnosis of President Bio’s government, he came up with an evidenced based treatment and prognosis. If this is how Samura Kamara hopes and promises to solve Sierra Leone’s Price control, and in effect economic malaise, may the Lord Have mercy.
Samura Kamara is no stranger to the political and bureaucratic life span of our country. He has a very glowing CV some people and especially his supporters believe, fits the person specification of the job description to lead our country.
According to Wikipedia, Samura Kamara is an economist, was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (“2012-2017), Minister of finance and Economic Development (2009-2013), Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone (2007-2009) and Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance during President Tejan Kabba’s government. With such a background and at face value, you would think that he has the credentials to dig us out of the economic predicament. Does he?
His critics would say that he was part of the antenatal team, during the gestation period that contributed and led to the birth of our current economic malaise. They will point to the ongoing judicial gymnastics as a case in point. Did Samura miss a trick? Was this a missed opportunity?
In the recently published APC Party manifesto, it promised among the ten pillars to “address economic deficiencies and cost of living crisis at structural level, accelerate investments in our people, with a specific focus on the capabilities of our children, women and youth”.
The manifesto promises to “strengthen economic diplomacy, intensify job creation and the establishment of pathways for every adult …to earn a living, and accelerate investments in physical and digital infrastructure development”, among others. A cursory read of the APC manifesto is proof that the economic situation in the country is a major concern. But where does Samura’s answer to the question of PRICE CONTROL sit in this manifesto?
Any time you ask a politician about their policies, they usually take cover in their manifestos; “It’s all in our manifesto. Read our manifesto”. They forget that elections are not about the manifestos of political parties, but about the manifesto of the people and their dreams for peace and prosperity.
It is unfortunate that those we elect to represent us are now turning to us with questions rather than solutions.
Fatima Bio may have a monopoly on political gaffes, but she has done a lot for women empowerment in our country. Her contribution to programs like Hands off Our girls, the provision of sanitary pads to girls (No, not the lecture on monthly cycles), and many other programs have seen her gain national and international recognition for driving the case for the empowerment of women in our country. Now, Fatima wants to “lay Samura een complain”, that in one fell swoop, he has undermined her efforts. But again, did Samura read the room?
In another video clip on social media, Samura is accused of stoking fear in the run up to the elections. He reportedly said that if SLPP is voted to power, “we will destroy this country”. Cynics and his critics have condemned this outright, that despite the recently signed pledge, it was ill advised. However, some consider it as ambiguous. They read it as meaning, that re-electing the SLPP is tantamount to destroying the country. His critics see it differently and give it a literal interpretation; that Samura is not ready to accept the outcome of the election, should the results go south of the Limpopo.
Fear is a powerful weapon in politics. When people are afraid for their lives, they’ll obey whoever’s in charge. Fear flatters the prejudices of people and excites apprehensions. We see fearmongering used as a potent weapon in the Republican party is America, which has led to blame and hatred. This is not to suggest that this is what Samura is doing. But it is a gentle reminder of the insidious hazards lurking in the entrails of this electioneering cycles.
There have been a lot of dog whistles coming from both the SLPP and APC party. Is it any wonder that some diasporans are marking June out of their calendar? Ask them about their next visit to Sierra Leone and you get, “after the election”. This is sad.
Our nation is beset with numerous problems. Despite the adversities, the people collectively cherish peace. Our politics should not be about keeping the populace alarmed. It is in everyone’s interest to promote and maintain peace in the country. That makes it imperative for our leaders on both sides of the aisle, and as their civic and moral duty to ensure that peace reigns.
As we tik toc our way to election day, the hope is that our leaders will do everything in their power to maintain a peaceful democratic process. As citizens, let us not allow our politicians to use fear as an excuse to accumulate more power. We urge our leaders to avoid making incendiary comments and the best way to “lay complain” is to remove emotional reactions from the public mindset.
Let’s hope for a free, fair and peaceful election. After all, we have only one mama Salone.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (MLK). Don’t forget to turn off the light when you leave the room.
Watch the Samura video here: