Friday night, in Philadelphia, United States was the scene of political mastery where supporters and sympathizers including core APC, SLPP, ADP and other smaller parties thronged to see the Flagbearer of National Grand Coalition Party, Kandeh Yumkella. Though I was unable to attend, I was told the scene was jam packed with die hard supporters of NGC from far and wide including folks from Canada. A die hard supporter, of NGC, Frank Pewa intimated me that the hotel would have exploded (metaphoric) had Kandeh been present for the occasion.
In a country like Sierra Leone where so many people have lost their homes as a result of the recent mudslides, where the unemployment rate is nothing to write home about and ordinary Sierra Leoneans are inundated with medical bills, many feel they have received their new Moses.
However, one striking feeling ran down my spine when talking to hundreds of Sierra Leoneans about the recent political narratives in Sierra Leone. Resentment, hate, anger seems to be the human response to the prevailing situations.
For months now, KKY has been playing the politics of ‘resentment’ and ‘victimized’. The message of youth unemployment, massive corruption, exaggerated display of wealth by non-deserving politicians and the non-performing contractors seems to resonate with millions of Sierra Leoneans. Rather than talking about corruption in every facet in the country, reckless lawlessness and abject poverty visiting the faces of the ordinary people, the politics of resentment aims to exploit the deep frustrations Sierra Leoneans feel by dividing citizens into camps. It could be Samura and his ‘Red Army’, Maada Bio and his ‘Green Brigade’ or Kamarainba and his ‘Pink Dance Troop’ or even RUFP and their ‘Bush Battalion’.
Once Sierra Leoneans have been divided into warring factions, it becomes possible to label one group as victims , the other as oppressors. After anointing themselves as the spokesperson for the outraged masses, these politicians don’t need to make a reasoned argument or even use evidence. Take Yumkella talking about transforming Sierra Leone into a paradise setting, when he has never been in politics, or Maada talking about introducing a free education system in the country without articulating the statistical figures to tackle the problem, or Samura whose popularity is at its lowest ebb even though when his party is incumbent.
No politician should practice the politics of resentment and hate in the country. The decision to introduce a presidential debate will be a masterstroke of political strategy, as it would allow tough questions and answers.
In the United States, Donald Trump used the politics of hate and resentment to score political victory. He emerged as the true representative of today’s politics by positioning his followers (“we”, “us”) as victims of “them”, whether that means “ liberals”,” atheists”, “immigrants” or “Muslims”. It is very easy to scapegoat people.
Ironically, in Sierra Leone or all over the world, there is no government that can fix resentment or grievance. It is a phenomenon that can be used easily to influence fickle and light headed citizens.
As we move closer to our crucial election, all the politicians should be talking about unity during and after elections. The rancor that is manifesting itself between Maada and Yumkella or Kamarainba and APC should be crushed in the face of Sierra Leoneans.
As I listened to ardent supporters of KKY at the popular “King Jimmy” store in Philadelphia chanting about the change, transformation and hope associated with the emergence of KKY leadership, I am reminded of what President Obama said about Nelson Mandela at his memorial service. “Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa-Ubuntu– that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us…..He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within ourselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts”.
Politics can only change laws- not hearts. But when it comes to the politics of resentment, there are some hearts that need mending with a good dose of Ubuntu.
Sierra Leone should be treated like an egg; she is bigger than all of us. May Allah bless and guide Sierra Leone.