Monday, May 7, 2012

The Value of Strong Opposition Parties

Koroma Baffled by Opposition Stubbornness

APC operatives all over the world are baffled at the resilience of the opposition parties in Sierra Leone, especially the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples party. When Ernest Koroma took over as President of Sierra Leone in 2007, instead of working with the opposition to further development and consolidate peace and democracy in the country. He decided to rule with a revenge slash and burn mentality. Civil servants with SLPP affiliation or even suspected of harboring pro-SLPP sentiments were hounded of office irrespective of their experience and replaced by relatively inexperienced party loyalists. An important position like the head of the National Revenue Authority for the whole country was given to Alieu Sesay who graduated from Fourah Bay College with a first degree in Economics only in 1995. Though he had the academic credentials for the position, he definitely lacked the experience to assume such a crucial position.

Another friend of the president's who was a taxi driver in Atlanta, Georgia was rewarded with the ministry of health and rewarded the honor by being indicted on corruption charges by the Anti Corruption Commission. Notorious Timbergate bribe solicitor Alex Mansaray, who  was the head of the local APC New Jersey chapter, with nothing substantial in America and was a part time blogger for the Cocorioko blog turned news outlet was metamorphosed into a businessman and awarded lucrative contracts including supplies for the military. Michel Sho-Sawyer a young chiropractor  known for chasing teen girls around Atlanta was suddenly made the head of the Office Of Diaspora Affairs ODA and the only news we heard of his tenure and that office was the death of his wife to be or girlfriend, a Washington DC Sierra Leone girl of enormous potential whose name I won't mention here out of respect for her still devastated family. Up until recently when I wrote an article about the potential of the Office for Diaspora Affairs, the website of the ODA was a sick joke, but to their credit, they are revamping the website and redefining the role of the office.
Presidents Self Proclaimed Special Adviser Mansaray

The point I am trying here to make is not to list a catalogue of APC failures for the world to see, because from the long fuel lines, lack of money in the banks, proliferation of Okadas on the main thoroughfares, continuous electricity shortages despite the many promises, increase in the price of food, increase in political violence, intimidation and national insecurity, Ernest Koroma's missteps are clear for the world to see and too numerous for the length of this article. What I am trying to do is explain the role of the opposition in politics to political novices, especially some of these new pro-government politicians who are increasingly frustrated by the daily exposure of government misadventures and the eagle eyed focus of the opposition, especially the SLPP, on official corruption in the country. I really do not regard Mohamed Bangura's UDM as a political party, as he spend more time condemning other opposition members than paying attention to the false steps of the government and since documents were obtained that revealed that his trip to USA to attend the general assembly was paid for by the APC in spite of strenuous denials on his part, his credibility was flushed down the toilet of political irrelevance. 
UDM Bangura-Political Hustler?

Many people in Sierra Leone, especially APC supporters are just completely taken aback by the determination of the Sierra Leone Opposition, particularly the SLPP and to some extent the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), though the affinity of PMDC members for ministerial positions has seriously undermined their role as an effective opposition, as they seem all too willing to forget their core party values which they once stood for as soon as these deputy ministerial positions open up.
SLPP Chairman Benjamin 24/7

Sierra Leoneans may be surprised to realize that the real agents of change in a multiparty democracy are the members of the opposition. I am really not trying to be technical, but there is a positive statistical correlation between the strength of the opposition in any democratic state and the level of economic, social and infrastructural development in that state, ceteris paribus. 

In American and European countries where the opposition is or was weak; Cuba, Guyana, Guatemala, and the former countries of Eastern Europe, economic growth and development lag behind those countries with formidable opposition parties such as Germany, France, USA and great Britain. So it could be argued that in the absence of strong stochastic factors such as T'sunamis, cyclones, and hurricanes and other earth shattering events, the stronger and more formidable the opposition in a democracy, faster the rate of economic progress.

Of course, those whose understanding of economic development is cursory or who approach these issues from the layman's perspective may argue that is is a strong government that is essential for development. They may point to developments in China which has rapid economic growth despite having no effective opposition. In response to such an argument it could always be argued that China could have been greater in terms of development if it had been a democracy. Most of the growth in China is fueled by external firms like Apple and other Western firms attracted by the large pool of highly skilled cheap labor. And although China has the semblance of a highly developed economy, the standard of living of the people in terms of GDP per capita remains very low and comparable to most developing or even underdeloped countries around the world.

The main reason why a strong opposition is essential for development is that they keep the government on high alert. They make the government want to do something big everyday that will justify people voting for them at the present and in the future. When Siaka Stevens staged managed his succession in 1984 and Momoh was imposed on the APC as a leader, the opposition to Momoh's ascension were demoralized and fizzled out. Practically Momh was free to do what he wanted to do and anybody that coughed cold be arrested for such dubious charges as "careless talk." As there was no effective opposition to him, Momoh proceeded to behave like a kid in a candy store . He embezzled state funds, disregarded education and national defense and became the most ineffective leader in the country's history. Had he not been overthrown in 1992, Sierra Leone would probably have been the first African country to officially file for bankruptcy. Momoh was so frequent at the IMF that some employees thought he worked there. Under Momoh the patient dog got no bone at all.

Forward to 2012 and let us assume that Shekito, Kabs Kanu and Sylvia Blyden were the only journalists in Sierra Leone. The three would compete for who sang Ernest Koroma's praises more and they would all be equally qualified to be enrolled in the National Sycophantic Penmanship Hall of fame. Ernest Koroma would assume that even the hungry people were happy and grow lazy, unambitious and fat. Momoh Konteh and Alex Mansaray would still be calling business men in the corner and telling them that "this how business is done in Africa. The petrol lines will stretch from Freetown to  Ernest Koroma will probably be waking at 12 midday to go to work, with Sylvia singing hail to the chief every evening at State House.
New Praise Singing Sensation

But with a serious, tenacious, informed and effective opposition, President Koroma sleeps today with one eye open and Interior Minister Musa Tarawally sleeps with a gun under his pillow, as they are on notice that every misstep will be picked up, every bad odor analyzed and every "Bellah" exposed. As long as the opposition keeps vigilant, Koroma will not rest, he will work to build roads, schools, and do many things as "power is sweet" The only prayer will be that Christiana Thorpe not have her own agenda and be compromised like APC has fingered the Anti Corruption Commision, making it a dog with a booming bark and microscopic teeth. Let us pray that the new UN rep is not hounded out of the country again by agenda journalists.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Economically speaking, the main incentive behind the insensitivity Ernest Koroma's APC towards opposition criticisms (hence continuing to do wrong things in the face the criticisms) is the regime's firm believe that the world will pay deaf ears to its rigging the November 17 polls this year. So the current Koroma leadership disposition is: WHY CARE ABOUT OPPOSITION CRITICISMS WHEN THAT WE CAN DO WITHOUT IT AND STAY IN POWER WITH IMPUNITY!