The SLPP might be the oldest political party in the country, but the recent shenanigans within the party demonstrates the need for its members to grow up, if this country is to have a viable opposition and a healthy political atmosphere. It is a fact that the most effective way of utilizing human energy is through an organized rivalry, which by specialization and social control is, at the same time, organized co-operation. It is equally true that political activity should have the propensity to generate eager competition and sharp rivalry. But when that competition and rivalry is turned on itself, the language of such politics becomes seemingly designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectful. In essence, it gives an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
The object of this piece is not a demonstration of the writer's political affiliation but a cursory breath intake of the political atmosphere; which to all intents and purposes, is fast achieving a rancid taste. This should not in any way pass as an endorsement or support for any political party, but an attempt to give a surveyor's view of our sliding political landscape. As political parties and in their purest form, the goal in the end should not be about winning elections, but to CHANGE society. The state of the SLPP was reportedly summed up by a recent letter by Sama Banya, one of the grandees of the party. The excerpt below demonstrates the frustration, desperation and sense of disillusion that seem to course through the political veins of this party.
“As I believe in life after death, I know that you must be with Christ but turning over in your graves as you watch with tears of anguish and disbelief the terrible events that are unfolding in the party which by inspiration and foresightedness you formed in 1951 and gave it the appropriate name and motto THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES PARTY, QNE COUNTRY, ONE PEOPLE respectively. As you recall the family and friendly atmosphere in which you deliberated, disagreeing sometimes until you arrived at a consensus to form this great party which you left to us as a legacy and heritage, you must be wondering and asking yourselves whether it is the same organization that you formed and which successfully led this country to independence in 1961,” Dr. Banya stated in the letter. (Sierra express Media, 21/08/2013)"It seems the SLPP’s protracted problems have gone beyond the control of the living, so, Sama Banya is now calling on the dead to resurrect and settle the party once more."
While many sympathisers of the SLPP would be wishing for a phoenix like come back, others are lamenting the apparent death knell that is becoming increasingly deafening. Their recently concluded convention in Bo required the intervention of the President to invoke the MAC-P, to ensure a seemingly peaceful event. That in itself speaks volumes. If a party is not capable of presiding over its affairs in an orderly manner, what hope is there on the national stage? There are no surprises there, considering that our country had reportedly had a scrape with alleged “coup plotters”. No one needs a reminder that our newly found “freedom from barbarism will be seen as threatened by such revelations. Notwithstanding the implied impact it will have on potential investments, such an atmosphere is sure to generate mistrust among the populace. The action that ensured therefore lends credence to the notion that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”
But what seems to baffle many political connoisseurs is the seeming death knell of active politics in the country; as personified by the state of the opposition party. Some cynics have gone as far as concluding that the opposition or lack of it is so evident that Sierra Leone is fast becoming a one-party state, by default. You don’t need a PhD to fathom the political ramifications of such a status quo. To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is “to insure bad government and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals”(Mark Twain).With such a landscape, many political merchants will tell you that civil liberties, press freedom, freedom of speech, etc are usually among the first casualties. When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. Take your pick.
What makes people feel that there is a significant lack of a HEALTHY opposition in the country? For starters, the SLPP has been known to throw its baby out of the pram, when it doesn’t get its way. The party is trademarked for “boycotting” parliamentary sittings and procedures in the recent past. . History shows that all protest movements rely on symbols – boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, flags, songs. Symbolic action on whatever scale – from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to wearing a simple wristband – is designed to disrupt our everyday complacency and force people to think.
What does the SLLP gain when it decides to boycott the very essence of its existence; to referee five year political tournaments? When the SLPP absents itself from political deliberations because of differences in opinion, you wonder what contextual effects these will achieve. The only achievement if anything is handing the ruling party a carte blanche and deprive Mama Salone of a healthy democracy. Some cynics believe that the party is not just becoming a food for laughter, but an entire banquet.
There are a lot of qualities that make up politicians; but principles are at a premium. It is alarmingly worrying that our political landscape has been infested with such lack of belief, principles, loyalty, etc. It’s true that loyalty can be a fine quality, but in excess it fills political graveyards. “A principle is not merely a fundamental truth, but must serve as the very first source of every decision we make along the road to success.” (R. Norton,)
It is a common phenomenon in our country to see politicians “changing horses” in mid stream. It is the same “throw the baby out of the pram” that sees our politicians change their political persuasions on a “pay as you go” tariff. History shows that the Margai family was the midwife for the SLPP. So when you hear that such members have suddenly jumped ship for other seemingly more “attractive” congregations, you wonder whether there was any belief, principle, policy etc in the first place. Up to the most recent elections in Sierra Leone, how many “politicians” have changed their political hats in the political musical chairs?
The list is unsurprisingly long, and they will give you every reason and any reason under the sun for their defections, if you bother to ask. But it will be nothing short of egocentric, selfish and political prostitution. What many see as politics today is a synonym for strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles; the conduct of public affairs for private advantage. What is called party allegiance or party loyalty is a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes. Shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, while honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction is bliss.
Thankfully, there are still a few good politicians out there; who would rather be opportunists and float than go to the bottom with their principles around their necks. As for the grand old SLPP, just grow up; for there is “nothing in the entire world more dangerous and frightful than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity in action. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a beautiful thing to invest in.