There is an African saying that “a chick that will grow into a cock, is spotted the very day it is hatched”. Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. When the ugly head of violence reared its head again at the main SLPP office in Freetown this week, you could bet your bottom dollar that the architects and founding fathers of the party would be turning in their graves, and wondering what their party has become of late. The kind of violence that is fast becoming a synonym for the SLPP is not what the pioneers like Sir Milton and Albert Margai had in mind, when they coined the motto: One People, One country.
The latest instalment of violence associated with the SLPP is nothing short of a disgrace to the intellect and dignity of well- meaning members of the party in general ,and the country in particular. Sadly enough, the oldest political party in our country is not only becoming a joke, but also sleep walking itself into a political coma. The irony is that, such levels of violence are always associated with one man and one man’s followers only. This writer cannot verify the truth about this, but from where I am standing, Maada Bio risks alienating himself from many peace loving Sierra Leoneans. Violence within the SLPP party has always, rightly or wrongly been associated with Maada Bio’s followers. Reports show that a party aspirant for the SLPP flagbearership Dr. Kandeh Yumkella was prevented from holding a meeting in the party’s main office until the OSD intervened with tear-jerking mascara.
The most powerful nation on this earth has a black president in Barack Obama. That is not down to Obama himself, but because of the aspirations, beliefs and hard work of people like Malcolm X, William E.B. Dubois, William Still and Reverend Martin Luther King, to name but a few, who had “ a dream”. They did not get there with us, but Barack Obama is an embodiment and realisation of that dream; and folks are living that dream today. But in Sierra Leone today, that dream of “One people, One Country” is fast becoming a distant memory in the eyes of the young generation. It will be preposterous to conclude that Maada Bio is giving his blessings to the violence that is permeating within the ranks of the SLPP. But when you have people perpetuating violence in your name, every effort should be made to not only distance yourself from it, but also take steps to stop it. By not bringing an end to such wanton violence, you leave yourself open to an interpretation of your tacit approval, if not support of violence; by default. It is this kind of unintended interpretation that has led many to coin fond names for Maada and his followers as the “Paopa”, “Pass ar Die” party.
It is an open secret that the APC ruling party has left a lot of people disillusioned by its standards. When President Koroma rolled out his “Agenda for Change” and “Agenda for Prosperity”, he set the bar of expectations very high and many Sierra Leoneans were filled with high hopes for the future. We all know that despite his efforts, President Koroma and his party have recently been lurching from one scandal to another. In spite of the efforts of the Anti-Corruption Commission, corruption has been seen by many as one of the hallmarks of his tenure in office. The Ebola crisis and the way it was handled have not helped the situation either; in spite of efforts to push on with developmental projects across the country. Such a status quo is bound to generate a large swathe of people from the APC. But does the SLPP offer a better alternative, when violence is fast becoming its political sermon? Sierra Leoneans don’t want to be left with the option of voting for the lesser of two evils, because “voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil”.
Maada Bio has been preaching about “A New Direction”. Many people would like to know where this new direction is taking them to. In the late 70s and early 80s, most of us who have not been affected by selective amnesia would recall that the ruling APC breast fed us on violence. The only requirement needed to become a member of parliament was the party symbol. It did not matter whether you hailed in the area, because “violence” would get you through to Tower Hill. Under the guidance or misguidance of S.I. Koroma and his cohorts, the APC party had the blueprint of an idiot’s guide on “how to win elections by violence”. It is a different situation today, but the situation among SLPP members is making people look at those days unfortunately, with fond memories and the APC Party look like the party of the Dalai Lama. The degree of infighting in the SLLP will only lead to one thing and one thing only: eat itself up into political oblivion. If the SLPP cannot get its house in order, what hope is there for it to keep our country and its people as one? How come that only one man is allowed to have unfettered access the main party office? Why is it that any time we hear of other aspirants of the SAME SLPP trying to access the main party office ends in tear gas? If this is the starter for the “One Direction” 3-course meal, I shudder to think of what the main course will taste like.
I do not have any allegiance to any political party in the country; but like many other well-meaning citizens, we just want a healthy democracy that will be breast-fed on the rule of law and equal opportunities for all. Is that too much to ask? The SLPP should remind itself that it does not owe the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Sierra Leoneans to just party members but to the country as a whole. It does not matter whether it is in power or opposition; Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans deserve and demand a healthy political climate for our fledgling democracy. It is not a favour or privilege but a right to all.
Maada Bio has been fondly hailed by his followers as the “Father of Democracy” in Sierra Leone. How can you factor that notion into the current climate within the ranks of the party of toady? It goes without saying that Bio has one of the most passionate followers on the political landscape. There is nothing wrong about that; but such passions should be rightly channelled for the good of the party and the country as a whole. Misguided loyalty is tantamount to no loyalty. Instead of wallowing into a false sense of love and loyalty, it is high time Maada took the political scalpel to his followers and avoid getting his name dragged into the political mud. You can say whatever you want about Maada Bio. I have never had the opportunity of meeting him in person; not that it is my life’s ambition. But whenever I have seen him on social media and the blogosphere, he has carried himself with such dignity that you cannot help but admire him. Juxtapose that with the alleged behaviour of his supporters and the taste becomes rancid.
The Sierra Leone People’s Party needs a serious examination of itself. In the interest of all peace loving citizens, the party cannot allow itself to be hijacked by people whose medium of communication is intolerance and violence. Maada preaches the sermon of a “New direction”, but if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. The situation in the SLPP needs to change, and if people are no longer able to change a situation, they should be challenged to change themselves. And if we cannot change reality, let us at least, change the eyes which see it. Maada Bio, like any other Sierra Leonean aspirant, should have the right, not a privilege to access every facility that will enhance his chances of running for elections in our country. How would Sierra Leoneans feel if the ruling APC deprives the SLPP access to say, SLBC during elections?
The next general elections is a few years away but already, the SLPP is dancing itself lame when the main dance is yet to come. Opposition is not necessarily enmity, because it is only through the opposition of ideas that we can learn to be self-critical, to work towards intellectual humility. Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she overcomes to reach his or her goals. So Ngor Maada, you have some opposition and it is internal. Overcome it and reach your goals; not “by any means necessary, but democratically imbibed tolerance and peace. You may have very passionate supporters, but flattery can equally corrupt the giver and receiver. Opposition always enflames the enthusiast, never converts them. Maada, don’t allow your name to be dragged into the mud; tell them “Not in MY Name”. Some people vote for a particular party not because they support it, but because they hate the other so much, that they vote in protest. Most political parties in the world win elections not from their core supporters, but by the swing voters. Ask the Americans about their “Swing States “and you will know why Ohio is the most important State every 4 years in America.
By virtue of its position as the main opposition party, the SLPP is asking the electorate to trust it for a “New Direction”. But to which direction does the party want to take the country? Does it want to take the country to a “new direction” of the old, or is it a case of new wines in old bottles? Does the party want to risk creating a massive voter apathy? With the APC in cruise control, and with talk of a 3rd term seemingly fading faster than you can say “jack”, the hope is that the race for a successor will pass peacefully. If for nothing else, the SLPP owes it to Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans, to the pioneers and those who fought hard to make our country independent and democratic. Above all, you owe it to posterity. It is not a privilege, but an organic necessity in a great country.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off before you leave the room.