Sierra Leone politics – Do we need adult supervision or a third way?

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 June 2019:

The Republic of Sierra Leone recently celebrated its 58th year of independence. But many have been left wondering whether it was worth all the fuss in the first place. And this is largely thanks to recent events that have unstitched the nation’s political and social fabric.

The highlight of the 58th independence celebrations was the opening of an 80 meter long bridge in Lumley, Freetown. There is no question that the bridge, with its four lane extension has eased traffic congestion to a large extent – thanks to the vigilance of military and law enforcement officers.

Interestingly, the talking point at the time was not only the “record time” in which the bridge was constructed, but also the alleged estimated budget that was quoted for the construction by the previous government. In effect, the mantra was that the SLPP constructed the bridge in record time and for less money. I call it efficiency and value for money, so I heard. If that was the case, I take my hat off to the government.

The name may have been changed for historical reasons. sadly, that was also translated along tribal lines. What a sad state of affairs, that even well-meaning acts are reduced to tribal chinwags. But hey, after 58 good years of trying to determine our own destiny, and if all that we can show by way of celebration is a newly refurbished 80 metre bridge, we might as well go home. Many folks had wondered whether such an occasion required the full presence of the President cutting the ribbon.

Many felt that this was for a local councillor or at best, the Minister of Works to do so. But no. Others may have seen this as a big political statement of intent. After 58 years of trying to figure out what we want, it was logical for his Excellency to be there with all the gravitas it deserves.

Ok, agreed, but as a nation, and if this was our level of accomplishments, the bar has been set so low. The construction of such a bridge was not only overdue, but should be a run of the mill stuff. Call me kill joy, but that jamboree was over the top.

What gave this occasion its gravitas was the fact that , it was done against the backdrop of the “comparison to APC syndrome”. It is rather unfortunate that the ousted APC party appears to be the yardstick of every action or inaction of this government.

It is very obvious that in order to weigh, judge or measure the actions of the government, there is a tendency to compare . But this should not be in all cases. Such comparison has become so prevalent these days, that even our constitution is now interpreted, translated and implemented by the standards of the previous government.

While some use it as justification, others try it as an excuse. But that is the sad aspect in all this. Our country should not be ruled by the evils or mistakes of the past. We should aspire to judge our governments by the standards of other well governed and more prosperous countries.

You don’t move forward by looking backwards. We should not be spending time looking at the door that is closing, for we may not notice the one that is opening. If the SLPP should make any lasting positive impact in the country, should the APC serve as its yardstick?

Many will say that the elections results were a reflection of what the people thought of the APC Party at the time. That should be the simplistic opinion, and I am not asking for your appeals against my view here, for you cannot arrest my opinion with “fake blood”.

But just for discussion sake, let us agree that the electorate chose SLPP because it wanted change, a new direction, new blood, etc. In that case, the expectation is for the incoming government to aspire to higher heights.

Someone should be reminding us about how countries like Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and many others have turned the corner. It is a really sad state of affairs when a government is reportedly comparing itself to the very political party it replaced, as if that is the standard bearer.

When that happens, the perceived vote for change defeats the object. You don’t aspire to imitate the very person you replace, especially when the electorate voted to oust the APC.

We are all aware of the government’s intention to do things differently. The drive to tackle corruption has been one of the remarkable signatures of the Bio government. We also know that in trying to do so, the ousted APC government has played its part in trying to gridlock the road map.

Unfortunately, and in trying to override the gridlocks, the government has unconsciously become a shareholder in this sad debacle. It is no wonder that many see the SLPP, to all intents and purposes, as an entity bent on payback.  Let us take for example the sacking of some civil servants. It is no secret that the civil service is loaded with personnel -appointed by virtue of tribal and political persuasions from previous governments.

Nepotism and favouritism are no strangers in African politics. America is just learning the ropes in this art.

The civil service has always been littered with party loyalists or card carrying members. It is understandable if an incoming government embarks on cleaning up such acts. But in doing so, such feats should be undertaken with all the sensitivity, transparency and accountability that they deserve.

It should be a just and meticulous affair. But the speed with which this was implemented has left many accusing the government of ethnic or regional cleansing, which in itself could be suggestive of nepotism by the previous regime. But is that the level to which our political system has sunk? Has it been reduced to a relay event or pass the parcel?

The irony is , if you try to raise a critical eyebrow to such perceived behaviour, there will be no shortage of historians to remind you about similar deeds of the previous government. It is no secret that the APC took a scalpel to the bowels of our constitution when among others, Sam Sumana was sacked.

The SLPP is now replacing Parliamentarians who have purportedly lost their positions, thanks to recent ruling by the courts. But should the “winners” be sworn in, when there is still a legal option to appeal the decision of the courts? Should the vanquished not be allowed to exhaust their legal right to appeal first? But you can bet your bottom dollar that the historians will quote you a precedence as if that makes it right.

So how do we expect to grow politically when our two main parties seem locked in this kind of political gymnastics. Our political landlords have fondly been referred to as “Alusine & Alhassan”, suggestive of two peas in a pod. But Sierra Leoneans should be able to tell the difference between these two parties, not only by their names or their unfortunately perceived tribal nomenclature, but by their very essence to the people.

We cannot afford an “eye for an eye situation”, for it will only make the nation go blind. Sadly, this is what most Sierra Leoneans believe they are facing today. Where such a situation is prevalent, the people become the first casualty.  When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. And it is this kind of feeling that has set tongues wagging and questions asked about whether it is about time for Sierra Leoneans to choose a 3rd party.

When two political giants remain determined to mimic each other in the race for bad governance, the electorate will be short changed. Should Sierra Leoneans start looking elsewhere for redemption?

As calls for a 3rd way continue to grow louder, is it time for Sierra Leoneans to move the debate from “poda poda talk”? With the APC party increasingly presenting itself as a party that is bent on making the country ungovernable on the one hand; and the SLPP party increasingly being seen or accused as tribalistic, the stage seems set for a ‘Paopa vs Gbagbati’ debacle.

This kind of brinkmanship that is being served here is nothing short of unpalatable to the political taste buds of the electorate. The APC is on record for saying that it will not allow its members to be subjected to a kangaroo court.

During the opening of Parliament recently, the APC made a partial appearance, only to boycott the main business of the day. Funnily, a lot of fun was poked at the party, that it boycotted parliament only to go home to watch it on TV.

When the APC, like all other stakeholders was invited to the Bintumani 3 conference, a gathering that was supposedly aimed at promoting national cohesion, the APC officially refused to attend. Some of its prominent members like Ahaji Alpha Khan attended the conference as an individual representing himself.

In the meantime, social media podcasts were doing the rounds, showing the APC Secretary general, Alhaji Yansaneh asking the party’s foot soldiers if they should attend. The response was a resounding “No”. That is how you get a party policy, right?

The APC may have its own reasons for its stance on many political issues. Unfortunately, the party is unconsciously making itself look like doing all it can to gridlock the SLPP government. On the other hand, the majority of people that have come under the SLPP hammer, appear to have a specific denominator. That is why the government has been accused of fuelling the flames of tribalism.

This piece is not aimed at adjudicating between these two political landlords. But if truth be said, there is a blatant disrespect for the electorate here. It seems that the majority of the parliamentarians forget that they are there to represent the people.  Most of these decisions may not be reflective of the wishes of the electorate. Their egos and lack of foresight kick in, even before they conclude their searing in ceremonies.

With these two political demagogues eyeballing each other, is there an argument for a 3rd political party, proper? To all intents and purposes, is the country descending into a “you do me, ar do you” musical chairs?

Many have accused the APC of refusing to accept electoral defeat, while others believe that the SLPP is dividing the country along tribal and regional lines. And if Sierra Leone is to have a 3rd party proper, should asset declaration be a pre-requisite for membership?

As Sierra Leoneans, there is no running away from the fact that our country has never been so divided. But equally, it will be preposterous to conclude that such a division happened overnight. From time immemorial, our politicians have successfully governed on this basis. Power has never been equitably distributed. The national cake has always favoured the usual suspects.

Does politics in our country today require adult supervision? Or should the electorate start dreaming of an alternative party? Have the APC and SLPP been in charge for far too long that they have become symbiotically different?

Are they just mirror images of each other? Have they been around for far too long? Are they really different? Or is this just a whole new ball game of some political mirage? Chew on it.

7 Comments

  1. MARTIN LUTHER KING ONCE SAID, “I HAVE A DREAM”. “I MAY NOT GET THERE WITH YOU, BUT I HAVE A DREAM”. Back then, the word was “IMPOSSIBLE”.

  2. In my opinion, I believe that Sierra Leoneans have been presented with another opportunity to make sustainable development when the people decided to vote the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) once more in power. Based on their ideology of One Country One People, they are the Adults that our country needs because their original foundation was built on solid rock which was sincere leadership and truth.

    The reality on the ground before independence was the Creole domination, since they were the well educated and economically vibrant community even though they were not the majority. So the SLPP was formed by the protectorates and some liberal creoles to counter the then creole dominated political machine, which dominated our then colonial politics.

    Unfortunately, the PNP was formed when Siaka Stevens incited and manipulated Albert Margai to break away from his brother through deceit, lies and manipulation. Stevens later formed the APC party by breaking away from the SLPP, which eventually bought our country to its knees, and we became the least developed nation after 28 years of APC misrule.

    The formation of a third party should be grounded in honesty and sincerity and not manipulation, which is the problem our country has been facing, because the ideology which is the only means of changing our nation is not based on sincerity and truth. Most leaders only form their party after they have been rejected by others, which I believe is synonymous with an impotent man saying he wants to practice celibacy.

    Now I believe that the country has been united than ever before, since the heads of the 3 branches of our government are from different regions- The Executive (President Maada Bio and Vice President Juldeh Jalloh) are from the South and North, the head of the Legislature (Dr. Abas Bundu) from the North and the head of the Judiciary (Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards) is from the West.

    The reality on the ground is that the SLPP’s base will always be the Southeast, while the APC base will always be the Northwest. Political loyalty and ideology are paramount in achieving your manifesto that was presented to the people during an election campaign. And the reality is that, even in the USA and Great Britain, “The Winner takes all“.

    • What we can all agree on Alusine Fallay is the fact that the SLPP won and the APC lost. So, I endorse your last statement and quote – ‘The Winner takes all’. The winner will take all till 2023. PERIOD!
      GOD BLESS YOU.

  3. Mr Tucker, your observations are always delightful to my ears – your criticisms make me laugh,and now also your approvals are making me smile. I thank you for your kind words. I’ll do my best to always remain inspiring,well- balanced,and even handed whenever I participate in discussions on this platform.

    But I cannot guarantee that I will be polite and courteous at all times, because, a situation may arise that demands for me to unleashed hell in order for me to make my point and position very clear. Strive to stay resolute and focused in all you do, and be good – Take good care of yourself….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  4. Mr. Sahr Matturi, thanks for the request. You state: “Are we going to be arguing about the past till the next elections? Who will benefit from all this?”

    Sahr Matturi, Well governance is a continuous process, which means that a government that ignores history is doomed to repeat it. When Siaka Stevens ruled Sierra Leone, he engaged in a pattern of predatory accumulation and brutality that did not only bankrupt the economy but also left an indelible psychological scar on Sierra Leoneans. Stevens’ hand-picked successor, Joseph Momoh, ignored Stevens’ transgressions. The result was a brutal civil war.

    Historical antecedents influence governmental processes and allow for the formulation of policies that can move a country forward. Slavery ended in the United States centuries ago, yet it is still being talked about and taught in schools as it is regarded an unjust mode of production that destroyed generations of Americans.

    I would not want to draw a parallel between slavery which I consider a repugnant and inhuman pattern of accumulation and the now customary and destructive APC looting of Sierra Leone’s national treasury. However, I believe that the vile and revulsive legacies of Stevens, Momoh and Ernest Koroma must be kept in the mainstream of national discourse for years to come, so that future generations of leaders would learn from the horrendous governmental formations that were instituted in Sierra Leone under those three leaders.

    Why is the legacy of the late president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah never attacked? Also, wasn’t a commission of inquiry established by Ernest Koroma in 2008? Didn’t former SLPP officials cooperate with the inquiries? And were they all not vindicated of any wrong doing? Did we see SLPP supporters on the streets challenging the police to a duel?

    There are forces in Sierra Leone that want to silence people who dare raise the issues of bad governance and injustice under Koroma and the APC. And I dare say that the main issue that APC apologists have against president Bio is that he blindsided them by establishing the Commissions of Inquiry.

    APC leaders don’t want to give an account of their ten-year stewardship. So, they have resorted to a pattern of obstructionism that is centered on lawlessness. Amid this, their critics continue to attack the president and calling him a tribalist. Interestingly, APC activists expect the president to wave a magical elixir to undo their party’s prolonged damage to Sierra Leone in just one year in office.

    So, what is the way forward?

    The way forward is not to ignore our historical errors, as we will be doomed to repeat them. But we must respect the rule of law; and there must be transparency and probity in government and national life. The APC and the SLPP don’t have to be best of friends for Sierra Leone to be properly governed. The Democrats and the Republicans in the United States are at each other’s throat daily. Yet the respect that these two parties have for the rule of law and democratic governance is sacrosanct.

    • Thanks to all those who answered my question with honesty and civility. This is how all of us on this PLATFORM and any other social media PLATFORM should behave to one another. Disagreeing on issues, does not mean that we are enemies or should use rough language. If I don’t understand what someone says or writes, I just write and ask politely.

      On this occasion, I thank Maxwell and David for their candid response. I also thank Emmanuel for agreeing with me this time. By the way Emmanuel, I always reply to anyone’s concerns or questions over any of my comments. As you know, sometimes, I forget because, I am human. Thanks to everyone and the sky is not the limit.

  5. Dear Sahr, there is no need to finding solutions for politicians in Sierra Leone after the whistle has been blown. The game is over, the winner is running the nation. Sierra Leone is not at war, Sierra Leone is not fighting deadly disease, Sierra Leone is a peaceful democratic developing country. We have duelly elected a president through the ballot box.

    The president is doing his duties and finding money for the numerous problems left behind by bandits of fomer APC government. This president is the first to bring down petroleum prices ever in this country, the first to bring free quality education, first to realize funds from corrupt former employees of government, you name them. But everyone has enemies, so is Dr Bio, President of The Republic of Sierra Leone not exempted.

    Either the losers of past election, especially APC partisans follow the president to correct the mess they left behind or they simply get out of the way, the solution is found. But as long as they keep planting seeds of evil for this nation and indeed they said ” we will make Sierra Leone ungovernable” which is what they are bent on, God will punish and distroy them till generations to come.

    The country is on the right footing. There is no shortage of food or fuel, children are going to school, people are going about their normal business, salaries and pensions are well paid and on time, there is a high reduction in child mortality, there are drug in every hospital, sanity has returned to accountability.

    Above all our country is OFF toward serious development. Those who think they can bring mayhem on the people of Sierra Leone, let them try it. Let the educated fools continue their unnecessary talk. We are not scared.

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