Friday, December 7, 2012

Sierra Leone People Party Finally Concedes

This week we finally heard from the top brass of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). They had slowly, but finally accepted the victory of President Ernest Bai Koroma in the recently concluded November 2012 presidential elections by tacitly stating that the president's position "was not in contention". This of course is a roundabout way of saying they accepted that APC and the EB Koroma cabal won and the status quo continues, unabated.

Many members of the SLPP have taken to the Internet and social media to express disappointment at this development and what they view as a premature concession and  the blame game and finger pointing has already begun and will continue to do so for a while. In their opinion the party should not have conceded until all their various complaints had been investigated, which would have realistically been just a prolongation of the agony.
The Perennial Footballer

In the coming weeks SLPP members will experience the gamut of emotions, from disbelief, anger, disappointment, the feeling of betrayal, frustration, resignation and finally acceptance. Acceptance that in spite of considerable effort, Koroma won and Bio did not. This feeling of loss will become develop greater intensity as they see the joy on the faces of party defectors like John Ernest Leigh, running along the streets of Freetown singing Kumbaya and screaming "I told you so".

As is typically Sierra Leonean and generally human, a lot of SLPP members will give their own views as to what they would have done differently, had they been in the shoes of Maada Bio, Kadi Sesay and John Benjamin. That is, had they been flagbearers or the party chairman.

When I was doing sixth form in Sierra Leone Grammar School, a hobby I developed was going to the national stadium at least once a month on a weekend to watch a soccer match between our local teams at immense financial sacrifice to myself. If my team the Mighty Blackpool played, it was even more interesting, as we would all enthusiastically join in the rendition of the popular informal team anthem in those days, "Tiss Tass Blackpool don Baranta!"

At the football stadium I would be as equally fascinated by the game play as I would by the stated opinions of the fans around me. Each football fan always carries the belief that in any given tactical position they would have done far better, if only they had been the player on the field. In any strategic position they would have devised a better game plan and executed it more competently than the current coach of the team. Americans euphemistically label this phenomenon "armchair quarterbacking"

If a player misses a shot, you would hear, "rubbish, even me pikin nor go miss dat" meaning even my son would not have missed that shot. You would see a 47 year old man whose health had been severely compromised by several years of drinking "Omole" still somehow assuming and stating that he would have done far better on the field than Saidu Tibati Kanu, even though he could hardly muster enough energy to run fast from his bedroom to his backyard toilet, when he was faced with a case of raging diarrhea and almost always there would be some sort of embarrassing accident on the way.

But sitting safely in the comfort of the stadium stands, most spectators solidified their belief in the notion that they were far better players than the fellow on the football pitch and this belief started to sound even more realistic if there was a cold bottle of Star beer cradled between the knees, just at arm's length.

The above scenario is analogous to the currently raging debate against the opposition leaders in Sierra Leone by enthusiastic party supporters on social networks, especially the supporters of the opposition SLPP, as the supporters of the other parties did not stand a fighting chance. The reality of the situation confronting the SLPP leadership was however,  far more complex than any Monday morning quarterback imagined and that is just the plain old truth.

Winning an election against a relatively popular President Koroma in his first term was always going to be a tough task and though victory eluded the SLPP, the party should be proud of the fact that the leaders and membership presented a formidable opposition to the president and genuinely had him scared, as manifested by the billions of Leones that was lavished on his campaign. The party and leadership also kept Koroma on his toes during the last five years and have proven to be a formidable party, both in government and in opposition.

One good thing that came out of this election, it is that multiparty democracy, though still deeply flawed in the country, is at least alive and well and just needs some tough medications to make it stronger, as it appears that whichever party is in power, has considerable leverage and influence over the electoral commission. This is a situation that will have to change if election results are to truly represent the wishes of the people who vote in the country, otherwise it will always be a sham.

Those who are blaming the opposition leadership should realize that at the end of the day, the confluence of factors governing the conduct of the elections stacked the cards badly against the opposition, especially the SLPP. In the first place though the election process was largely compromised, the fact that it had been conducted in a relatively peaceful atmosphere had convinced the international community and observers that whatever results came out would be reflective of the wishes of the people.

Secondly the electoral commission had even before announcing the results of the election told all parties who had complaints about the conduct of the polls to go to the police and in Sierra Leone that is the last place to go for anyone seeking true justice. If institutional corruption was to be rewarded, the Sierra Leone police will win an Oscar, every single year.

Thirdly President Ernest Koroma was announced the winner an hastily sworn in by the chief justice, like robbers sharing their loot in the night, conferring on him constitutional immunity. So in essence his mandate was hastily, but constitutionally extended for the next five years and given that he was already being congratulated by the major international donors, the die was cast.

Sierra Leone's legion of corrupt vuvuzela journalists had already painted Maada Bio as a violent person even before the first vote had been cast and given the country's recent history, most people did not want to see another slide into chaos and anarchy, over elections that were conducted in a relatively peaceful atmosphere. Any hint of violent resistance would have played right into the hands of the trouble mongers within the country's fourth estate. People like Sylvia Blyden and Philip Neville who thrive on conflict and acrimony and use their readership to spread their hatred and malice, would have had a field day propagating their vile agenda and the current position of the Bio team though appearing to be meek, was the better one, given the current situation and the set of circumstances

In spite of the current disappointment, the opposition in Sierra Leone must remain united and formidable, if only to force the government to institute the infrastructural changes that will develop the country. Many people at this time will be disillusioned and will just want to raise their hands in the air and say we give up, but if this is done, the agents of corruption and tyranny would have won and this should not even be an option at all. Sierra Leoneans must remember that President Joseph Saidu Momoh had no opposition and that is probably why there is nothing in Sierra Leone you will look at today and say Momoh built that. Without an effective opposition, democracy dies, to be replaced by autocracy.

At the end of the day the opposition had to accept the current situation not for the sake of peace, but for the sake of harmony. Maybe in the near future true peace will return to Sierra Leone, if the people and leadership take acts that will bring peace. In the absence of equal opportunities, rights and justice, Sierra Leone may be a calm place, but definitely not a peaceful place.

Many so called journalists and some respectable commentators are of the opinion that a rejection of the results would have been a rejection of peace. I truly beg to differ. Harmony is not peace. The presence of calmness does not signify the presence of peace. Peace is not the absence of violence. The absence of conflict does not signify the presence of peace. Peace is more complex, more multidimensional. It is a state of mind, a sate of calmness that arises from within.  A hungry man may be calm but has no peace within. What is happening in Sierra Leone today is the promotion of harmony, everybody learning to get along, while  hating each other. To promote peace in the country, the nation's leaders should start addressing the real problems in the country; poverty, hunger, corruption, tribalism, nepotism and regionalism. A ticking bomb is peaceful until it explodes.

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