Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 October 2017
The pace of the political race in Sierra Leone is picking up fast, as the months roll by. And for some people, the elections cannot come sooner. For others, it is just another day in the office. But like any other election, the rumour mill seems to be going into overdrive.
Unlike other elections, and with Sierra Leone’s leading mobile phone companies joining the political euphoria by slashing prices for data, social media has become the central tool for the electioneering season.
This has given rise to many self-appointed journalists, media connoisseurs, moral purveyors and political strategists of all colour and sundry, eating up storage space on our gadgets. That is why we now spend time reading and deleting postings and messages in equal measure. Thank God, I am not a journalist.
Sadly, the first casualty in the political race this time is THE TRUTH. With a social media that is allergic to self-regulation, censorship, or code of conduct, it is not surprising therefore that the staple media diet that will be spewed out for the foreseeable future will be an avalanche of contaminated information.
Interestingly, with a penchant and affinity for social media, the youths of Sierra Leone would rightly feel that the outcome of next year’s election is for them to decide. Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it; hence a seeming sense of ownership emerging among the youths.
Daily podcast of postings about our politics is the new norm on our social media platforms. Today, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political, and politics itself can be a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and even schizophrenia.
With some taking to running daily commentaries on the political life of our country, it is a welcome relief that they consider themselves central to the modus operandi. Well, you said that “they are the future”.
The problem with that is the potential for recklessness. Some people take to social media to be famous, which is like being rich in a game of monopoly. How many will have the time to research, cross check and verify their facts before they engage their index fingers?
Where such an environment persists, RUMOUR becomes the main currency on the political stock exchange and TRUTH is one of the first casualties.
In this digital age that we live in, it looks like political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. No wonder the social media is on overdrive with rumours. Social media is no longer about technology, but sociology and psychology.
There have been rumours that the election will be postponed. Others have said that the Government is at loggerheads with NEC, and that the president has his anointed heir to the throne. Others believe that the President is trying to orchestrate a situation, any situation, to get injury time by default. These are just rumours, and if you want to maintain your sanity, social media would be the last place to get your facts from.
Even before the announcement of the election date, certain rumours had developed a life of their own with serious political mileage.
While the SLPP remains saddled with the albatross of the PAOPA syndrome for the flag bearer position, the number of people vying for that position in the APC, like an amoeba, seems to multiply by either binary fission or sporulation by the day.
At the last count, it was 18 presidential candidates, all claiming heritage to the throne. Phew.
But again, this could not be verified, so indulge me here a bit as we take a sip of the rumour soup. At this rate, it tastes rancid.
Rather than sneer at such a rumoured number of people, there are some who would see it as a manifestation of our democratic system; albeit embryonic. That it is so free and fair, that anyone can wake up in a bad dream or from a wet dream, gulp a bowl of delusion, put on a parachute and race to State House in a Utopian hot air balloon.
If the number of people vying for the APC flag bearer position is true, it will be unprecedented. Most people in my generation are used to at most three rumoured candidates. This is why many people could not tell whether the road to State House via Old Railway Line was by selection or election. Just a gentle reminder: it is a rumour.
But it is still not surprising that some political critics are describing the APC side of things as a rat race. Others feel that such a number is a recipe for a political bloodbath after the convention to appoint, elect or select the flag bearer and running mate. Fancy being a fly on the wall?
With the names that are being peddled around as Presidential aspirants, some Sierra Leoneans in their quiet moments would feel insulted. Some would be wondering – what gives some of these guys the audacity and delusional ideation that they are presidential materials?
There are good presidential materials there though. But again, it could be a pointer to our free and democratic political system. They have the right to profess their suitability. Now you know that sometimes, not all free things are good, and not all good things are free. But again, let’s take a look at some of the political appointments Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma had made during his tenure of office.
Dr. Bai Koroma would be the first to admit, even if not publicly that he has been let down and disappointed by some of his political appointments in the past. Some have not bought well into and lived up to his ‘agendas for change and prosperity’ that he had hoped for.
Imagine two Ministers engaging in an orgy of “mammy cuss”, right on social media. The less said the better. But did those kinds of appointment set the bar for the aspirations of others, thinking that anyone can lead our country in the next election cycle? Are some of these guys putting their names forward to make themselves politically relevant, or is it just another rat race?
Looking at the number of names that are being bandied around, is it any wonder that many feel that the APC have a bigger problem than the SLPP? Don’t hold your breath. (Photo: President Koroma meets with APC presidential aspirants at State House last week).
Before you run to make conclusions, remember that the APC has a very good record for political home economics. The APC invented the theory of political housekeeping. The ability of the APC to keep its disciples in line and in check – unlike the SLPP, has been one of its defining characteristics that separate the wheat from the chaff.
With this number of rumoured aspirants – if true, there is bound to be a lot of disappointments, horse trading, frustration and toys being thrown out of prams. There are some who would expect some political carpet crossings or decamping as well. The question is: cross to where? Cross the carpet to the SLPP or the Third Way?
In politics, anything and everything is possible. Suffice it to say that there is a political pyramid being built at Old Railway Line; and all will be revealed at the finish line. May the best man or woman win? Talking about a woman, do you fancy one this time?
So, when our politicians come asking to trade your vote for their promises, remember that politicians know that it is not necessary to fool all the people all the time – only during the campaign.
Every politician has a promising career. Unfortunately, most of them do not keep those promises. So beware of those who would promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers; for liars make the best promises.
If they promise to do this or that, ask yourself: what have they done before now? Thankfully, I am not a member of any organised political party. I am a democrat.
As they say in our local parlance – “call name na him get case”. Happy Campaigning – Happy Voting.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).