Politics used to be a battle for the hearts and minds of the public. It is not surprising then that our main political parties are now locked in this battle, to win our hearts and minds. But at what cost? Unfortunately, this battle is not about which party does the best for the people. It is now about proving which party is more unfit to control our destinies. It is a really sad state of affairs that our politics has descended into what looks like an orgy of revenge politicking. In normal times, one would expect our political parties to engage in issues that will endear them to the majority. I don’t subscribe to bribery, but I wont mind if a political party bribes my community with good roads and schools. Sadly, the status quo has been transformed to that of “you do me, Ar do you”; or so it seems.
In order to grasp the full extent of this mindset, try criticising or exposing the short comings of one party; say the SLPP is corrupt, tribalistic, bias or unconstitutional in its behaviour. You can bet your bottom dollar, that an apologist from the SLPP will give you a catalogue of similar accusations of the APC; as if a justification. We know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but should our political parties be measuring their success along the yardsticks of negativity? Unfortunately, we have all been involved in such an exercise in the past. But is it time to say enough is enough?
But how did we get to this place? We know that we may have inherited the policy of divide and rule from our colonial masters, the British. It may have worked well for them, because they knew that they were not here to stay. Unlike the French, the British knew that one day, they would park up and leave us to decide our own destiny. Are we? There is no doubt, that our present-day leaders have adopted some aspects of this divide and rule approach; and sometimes too blatantly for our own good. It is this approach that has left our country divided along pockets of tribal, regional, and political lines; the outcome of which appears to leave our beautiful nation disintegrated and on the brink of self destruction.
This may sound awful or doomsday mongering, but the insidious breakdown of law and order is on our doorstep. No one ever envisaged that fellow Sierra Leoneans will one day call his brother a terrorist. But equally, no one ever expected a fellow Sierra Leonean will ask his kindred to wreak violence and destruction on his own community. You see, I am at it again; unconsciously and as if justification for the precedent. This is just an example of how we have become conditioned to justifying one bad deed with another; and that is regrettable.
Maada Bio’s reign has largely been associated with accusations of tribalism and Ernest’s has been synonymous with corruption. Maada’s pledge to fight corruption, among others became the wedge that further drove both parties apart. The APC’s stance of non participation in the ensuing Commission of Inquiry (COI) was grounded in accusations of bias, revenge and tribalism. On the other hand, the APC’s non compliance was largely, not only seen as an admission of guilt, but a stance to make the country ungovernable. So, the battle (pardon the pun) lines were drawn, to mark the beginning of the PR war.
As if to cast off the tag of tribalism, nepotism and regional friendliness, Maada went on a charm offensive and initiated the Bintumani 1 & 2 “wan word” meetings. The APC did not show up. Maada invited the party to State House for a conference on “national cohesion”. The APC reluctantly attended and issued a press release 24 hours later and said “Nntheh”. While the chorus of tribalism grew on the red side, the green faction continued to show up the APC as bent on “making the country ungovernable”. And so, it came to pass, that it took a pandemic to fully reveal the massive fault lines that have been fissuring right across our society.
For Sierra Leoneans to call on fellow Sierra Leoneans to wreak havoc, destruction and death on fellow Sierra Leoneans was abhorrent. But for Sierra Leoneans to designate fellow Sierra Leoneans as “terrorist” was not only a low point in our history, but may be, just maybe, a time for all of us to realise how different we have become. Time for a rain check. The COVID pandemic should have been a time to bring the best out of us as a nation. The COVID, like the Ebola gave us a single focus and single purpose; albeit briefly, against a common enemy. Instead of fighting a common enemy as one, we unconsciously used it to display how far we have all become enemies to one another.
It is unfortunate that President Bio took the gloves off, declared that all bets are off and adopted a “push do cam pan shove” approach last week. Some will sympathise with him that he had been backed into corner. But it was ironically unfortunate, that his Resident Minister Abu Abu in the heartland of his opposition, did not read the script and looked like the outsider who wept more than the bereaved. Bio acted swiftly and suspended him. Even that was not enough for some people who believe that Bio should have gone further and dismissed him.
As if that was not enough, some are now accusing Bio of tribalism; that Abu Abu was sacked because “he is a northerner”. So, you see, Bio can never do right in the eyes of some people. He is not only tribalistic but intra tribal this time; in his own party. The divisions are so entrenched that even if Bio says water is wet, some people will check to prove it; a sad reflection of how far we have come. We hope that the appointment of Alpha Khan and Julius Spencer will send a different message.
At this point, let us remember that It is not our differences that divide us. It is not our similarities that strengthen us either. Rather, it is our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences., that weaken, separate, divide and will eventually destroy us………as a nation. Even the most successful and happiest couples never have the same character. They just have the best understanding of their differences.
As Sierra Leoneans, we just need to be honest with ourselves. Can anyone imagine our country being run on the oxygen of revenge politics? Where Can we afford a system where party political interests surpass those of the country and the people? Can we truly afford a political system that is littered with personal vendetta and point scoring? If we sit on our hands and allow one party to revenge against the other, what happens when the baton changes in the political relay? Politicians come and go, but Mama Salone will always remain. Who will the suffer if we allow such a cycle in this political merry-go-round? Can Sierra Leone afford to tear itself apart along tribal and regional lines, while at the same time friendly enough to send “Sunakathi” for our pastors and Christmas gifts for our Imams?
Can we allow politicians to use us, the average Sierra Leoneans as pawns on the SLPP-APC political chessboard? Is it time for some honest, open and big conversations; and it is time for our politicians to listen in action? If one party cannot hold a candle to the other, and realise that blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours brighter, is it time to ask for refunds or adult supervision? If our politicians cannot listen in action, and if we from outside continue to look from APC to SLPP, and from SLPP to APC, and from APC to SLPP again; only to find it impossible to say which is which, should we be considering a third political party? History will not be kind to us, if we all sit and allow this to happen.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.