Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why it is so Easy for Sierra Leone Politicians to change Political Parties

In Sierra Leone, as in most Sub-Saharan nations, the switching of political allegiances by politicians for either selfish, tactical or strategic advantage is a common phenomenon. Sierra Leone is awash with politicians who were once SLPP, became APC, went back to SLPP, and are now back to APC. Though most party hopping usually involve politicians gravitating towards the party in power, in a rare set of circumstances the reverse case occasionally occurs, with reverse mobility from ruling party to opposition, mostly over disappointment, personality clashes or strategic positioning-to exploit a political climate that may be unfavorable to the ruling party.

Serial party hoppers like the current foreign minister, Joseph Bandabla Dauda-APC-SLPP-APC or Sama Banya, SLPP-APC-SLPP or Charles Margai, SLPP-NUP-SLPP-PMDC, usually engage in party hopping for a plethora of stated and unstated reasons. There are those politicians who have danced with SLPP, partied with APC, tangled with PDP, engaged with UNPP, and are now sleeping with APC.

I have never been a student of political science nor do I remember ever opening a political science textbook. But having lived in Africa for the better part of my life and having spent considerable time in the West, particularly the US of A, I am fascinated as to why the decision to change party affiliation is always a tough and momentous decision for Western world politicians, whereas Sierra Leone politicians change political party affiliations as easily as some men change their socks.

Having agonized over this party hopping phenomenon for a while, I have decided to proffer a set of explanations, from a purely layman's perspective, as to why this tendency is so prevalent in Sierra Leone. I will seek forgiveness from political science students if my reasoning appears to be very naive, but I have decided to offer my postulates solely on the basis of my own singular experience, opinion and association with politicians and their affiliates over the years. I will try to treat this subject matter in topical format, enunciating my own set of explanations with a set of headings for each reason that I think makes it easier for Sierra Leone politicians to find party hopping a particularly easy feat to engage in. Below are some of the reasons that I believe makes it very easy for Sierra Leone politicians to change political parties:
Tombo Bangura, PMDC-APC

  • Whereas in the West political parties are distinguished by their adherence to a clearly defined set of economic, moral and social principles, most parties in Sierra Leone do not have many core principles that distinguish them from each other. In America for example, politicians gravitate towards the parties that are in line with their core set of beliefs. In USA if a person believes in limited government involvement in their lives, believes that religious convictions should play a greater role in public debate, believes in the sanctity of marriage and life, they would most probably be affiliated with the Republican Party. If on the other hand an individual believes that government should play a greater role in social welfare, that the religious belief of each individual should not affect the other and that the diverse opinions and orientation of others should be respected, then they are most likely to be democrats. Individuals that value civil liberty, peaceful coexistence and prefer not to interfere in the affairs of other nations are most likely to be Libertarians. In Sierra Leone however, the APC and SLPP conduct government affairs in almost identical fashion and parties develop around personalities. So the political fight in Sierra Leone today is more of a pro-Bio and pro-Koroma affair than the clash of a set of principles. I was present in Wisconsin when Charles Margai was asked why he had left the SLPP to form the PMDC. He gave a litany of personal grievances against the SLPP but did not outline any clear principles that opposed PMDC to SLPP.
  • A sad and unfortunate truth about politics in Sierra leone is that most of the practitioners are in it for personal rather than public gain. Sierra Leone is a land that is flowing with an abundance of unfulfilled political promises. From the days of Sir Milton Margai to Ernest Koroma, Sierra Leoneans have been the target of lofty and wonderful promises from politicians who have pledged everything from providing free education, 24 hour electricity, halving the price of goods, to some promises so magnificent that Jesus Christ himself would have been in awe. I heard a politician once claim that Sierra Leone had so much natural wealth that if they were elected, they would build a clinic in every village and promote education by building a university in each of twelve districts. Even Jesus Christ, may the mercy of god be on him, would not have made those set of promises. As soon as these politicians get into power however, the narrative quickly changes to one of blaming the opposition for sabotage and globalization for continued misery and poverty. The focus becomes they, their families, and their caboodles and cohorts. Greed replaces philanthropy and the new ambition then becomes how many homes to buy in the west for that dreaded day when power will go away. So for most politicians jumping from a losing party to a ruling party is the only way they can ensure that their cash flow and reserves are continually replenished.
Charles Margai, SLPP- NUP-SLPP-PMDC
  • Simply defined, an egocentric individual is one who believes he should always be the center of attention and has very little regard for the ideas and opinion of others. A typical example in Western politics was Ralph Nader and typical in Sierra Leone politics is Charles Margai. When I had the opportunity of listening to Charles Margai talk about the reason for the formation of PMDC in Milwaukee Wisconsin, I left the hall with only one prayer; that God should not in anyway subject Sierra Leone to the tragedy of having this very eloquent lawyer as president. After giving a litany of personal reasons for quitting the APC and describing his own magnificent set of personal qualities, I was left with the conviction that very few men on earth could blow their own horns better. He topped all this by having the audacity to say that when, and not if ,he was elected president of Sierra Leone, he would institute a benevolent dictatorship in Sierra Leone. I had just three days previously heard the same statement being made in an English translation of the speeches of Adolph Hitler, and hearing this statement by a candidate who wanted to rule my poor motherland sent a cold chill down my spine. I could not listen to anymore of his message and just willfully zoned him out. Charles Margai is a serial party hopper because he always wants to be in charge and brooks no opposition, a primary reason for the fracture within PMDC today.
Fadika supports EBK even with busted head
  • There are some people who are tribalistic, pure and simple. They view people from certain tribes as rivals even when they have never had the opportunity to meet or work with these individuals. They may be comfortable working with individuals from different tribes on equal footing or in situations in which they have the distinct advantage, but as soon as a situation arises where they lose the power advantage to a perceived tribal adversary, they bail ship. When the SLPP presidential ticket was being fought over, I was anxious to listen to the multiple candidates, to see whose vision of the nations future coincided with mine. One common theme I heard was that SLPP delegates should not vote for a Mende candidate, as that would let others believe that SLPP was not a Mende party. I found this line of reasoning disturbingly flawed and fallacious. In the first place Tejan Kabbah who had held the SLPP and Sierra leone leadership for over 9 years was not a Mende and secondly Mende candidates had in my opinion equal right to be selected as any of the other candidate, as they were all Sierra leoneans, and what mattered to me was not the tribe but what the person who was running believed in, what hopes he had for the future of the country, and how was he going to be any different from and better than Ernest Koroma. Today there are a lot of defections from SLPP to APC with the charge of tribalism in SLPP being a primary reason. What some of these individuals fail to realize is that if they are leaving SLPP because they do not want a Mende candidate, then they too are guilty of reverse tribalism, as they are discriminating against the chances of Maada Bio on the basis that he is not from their tribe. They would have been more comfortable having Maada Bio supporting a candidate from their own tribe, a flawed logic, if ever there was one.
These are some of the reasons why I believe party hopping is common in Sierra Leone. Readers of my opinion are free to argue, oppose or support my opinions by maind comments on my blog

NOTE Pictures are copied from Awarenesstimes and other Sierra leone News outlets. They are used purely for noncommercial reasons.

1 comment:

Mudiama Kammoh said...

Skeku Sheriff, I buy a lot of your explanations or arguments...Well done!