Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 December 2017
The growing sense of disillusionment across Sierra Leone’s social and political landscape is fast becoming palpable. From official to unofficial, private to public, and all along the diversified strata of our society, there are pockets of dissatisfaction that is slowly simmering under a political façade, suggesting that “ALL IS NOT WELL”. (Photo: UN Chief Ban Ki Moon meeting opposition party leaders in Freetown).
No it is not, and has not been for a long time. When President Ernest Bai Koroma came to power in 2007, it was heralded as the dawn of a great path. Programmes like “Agenda for Change”, which morphed into “Agenda for Prosperity” gave a lot of Sierra Leoneans the hope that had been missing for a long time.
Previous leaders like Pa Sheki and Momoh had come and gone like hot air. There was little to write home about then. But with President Koroma, there were visible chinks of light that gave some of us the oxygen of hope, that maybe, just maybe – Sierra Leone was on the path to good times to come.
To many Sierra Leoneans, Ernest Koroma was the best thing that happened since Alosak bread.
The euphoria that greeted his ascension to power was justifiably so evident, that he earned the nickname “Messiah”.
With massive road construction projects, efforts to electrify the country and payments of civil servants on time, etc., Sierra Leoneans could be forgiven for hitching a ride on the audacity of hope.
For the first time in many years, the youths of Sierra Leone were fully engaged in the political process. They found their role in the political reconstruction of the country. The importance of the youth was gainfully recognised with the creation of the Youth Commission, among others.
Considering the central role that the youth played in our tragically decade long and senseless war, it was imperative that their concerns were embedded into our forward march to “prosperity”.
Issues like disarming, reintegration into society and many other youth related matters made it imperative to bring them along. The advent of the Okada was a blessed curse.
On the bright side, it conveniently plugged the gap of youth unemployment for the government. With such a convenience, it was not surprising that the government turned a blind eye to the unruly behaviour of this group, which saw them run (pardon the pun) rough shod on our streets and breaking every traffic rule under the sun, at the expense of the lives of commuters.
No one wanted to upset the apple cart. Sadly, a large chunk of our future work force was allowed to disappear into this plug hole. Kids that were supposed to be in school gave up their dreams for a fast buck.
Now we have a sizeable chunk of untrained and educated illiterates roaming our streets with no identifiable future. Phew.
How things have changed today? The Ebola came and went, leaving footprints of destruction and devastation in the lives of our people. The handbrakes were applied to our socio- economic growth.
But before the outbreak of the Ebola crisis, Sierra Leone was ranked as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
Our country was in good company with the likes of African Minerals, Octea Mining and a plethora of NGOs – all providing jobs and opportunities for many, if not all Sierra Leoneans.
The feel good factor was evident for all to see. Civil societies had found their voice to act as the barometer of public opinion and thermometer of society. The media regained its role as the arbitrator or referee of government policies; albeit some rogue elements misusing the media for personal agendas.
President Koroma’s approval rating was sky high, tempting some of his disciples to flirt with the idea of a 3rd term with “after U Na U” slogans. Mornehhh….
Judging from public opinion, the mood has gone 360. There has been a turnaround since the last UN General Assembly meeting. Sierra Leoneans had hoped for a bumper Christmas hamper from the summit.
But all we got was a referral to our economic tailors, and advised to do some financial belt tightening, christened as “AUSTERITY”. The ensuing parliamentary budget has been met with vociferous criticism and scrutiny from the opposition party and civil societies alike.
The new budget has seen the rise of fuel cost, which has had a domino effect on the overall cost of living across the country. It will be dishonest to cast all the blame for the rise of fuel cost at the door of State House.
Global markets partly do have their say in this. But to say that things have been tough would be an understatement. Without sounding like it is a doomsday scenario, our country is really struggling. So how do we “MAKE SIERRA LEONE GREAT AGAIN”?
History shows that Sierra Leone has predominantly been ruled by two main political parties – the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The only common denominator between these two is the word people’s.
They both profess to be parties of the people, by the people and for the people. How democratic. But have these parties actually lived up to their billing? Sierra Leone is supposed to be a two-party state, but is it?
Where is the opposition party that is supposed to temper the excesses of the ruling party?
To all intents and purposes, we have an opposition party that is as voiceless as the people it is supposed to represent.
We have an opposition party that has its head stuck firmly in the sand.
Instead of providing an alternative choice, instead of giving the ruling party a run for their money, much of its energy and resources are spent on internal squabbles that you see in a kindergarten playground.
In a political party where personal interests supersede national concerns, what hope have we got for a viable opposition? The fact of the matter is this; that in the absence of a viable opposition party that is fit for purpose, our country has been practically reduced to a one-party state, by default.
The opposition is supposed to be our eyes on the government. We expect them to keep their eyes on the stars, and their feet on the ground. But can we depend on their eyes when their imagination is out of focus?
If you are dancing with your rivals, don’t close your eyes, because the eyes are of little use if the mind be blind.
There is a strange wind of change that is blowing across the political landscape in the world today.
We saw it in America, where the election was about “voting for the lesser of two evils”.
Are we facing the same options? Is Sierra Leone afflicted by voter apathy?
In neighbouring little Gambia, the people voted with their feet for change. Britain voted to sever their umbilical cord from the EU. In other countries, the rumblings for a change of management are getting louder.
These decisions may not be the right ones, as every decision differs from the other. But it is unmistakably correct to conclude that the people’s desire for change is becoming so infectious that, people may be ready to leap into the unknown, as we saw in the USA last month.
If Sierra Leoneans are seemingly fed up with the kind of political diet that we are being breast fed on, how can we ‘make Sierra Leone great again?’ There have been some suggestions that as a country, we should consider a THIRD POLITICAL PARTY.
It took our cousins in The Gambia a full blooded Coalition of parties to remove their dictator. By all standards and thankfully so, we don’t have a DICTATOR in our midst.
Nevertheless, some political purveyors believe that if we can harvest the best politicians from both sides of the aisle, concoct a Third Political Party, may be, just maybe, we can get the best of both worlds.
If this notion is anything to go by, are we saying that “we have tried the cowboys, now let’s try the Indians?
It seems that Sierra Leoneans are now caught between our two political parties. Some people feel that we have not been listened to and that our aspirations have not been realised. So is it time to change the drivers and the train altogether?
Some people reading this might understandably see such a proposition or question as a pipe dream. But if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for something. ‘Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.’
This piece is not a prescription for Sierra Leone’s political malaise. However, it may be a plausible menu for some pillow talk.
In spite of our rich mineral resources, against a backdrop of all the broken promises, recycled political manifestos, A HIGH INDEX ON THE CORRUPTION RICTHER SCALE, and our perennial accolade as “ONE OF THE POOREST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, is it time to consider A THIRD POLITICAL PARTY? Dream on, I hear you say.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you cast your ballot.