The politics in Sierra Leone may be reaching its crescendo, but it’s the political musical chairs that is making the headlines in the rag tags and social media. After Yumkella Kandeh went semantic with forming a “Strategic Alliance”, three members of the Coalition for Change (C4C) swapped their horses in midstream to join the ruling SLPP government. We are not surprised as both sets of swingers were scions of our traditional APC and SLPP parties. Both have understandably come under considerable scrutiny and criticism for making these lane changes on our political highways. Equally, they have received the “prodigal son” treatment from some quarters, while the remaining disciples of C4C accuse the government of preventing them via a High Court injunction, from participating in the soon to be held general elections. C4C claims that the injunction was served on the eve of their Delegates Conference. Sounds familiar? So, what is the attraction between the High Court and the Opposition Delegates Conferences? Does it begin to feel platonic?
Interestingly, whenever our political situation gets into a quagmire, our politicians and especially the aggrieved opposition parties call on the international community for redress. What’s ironical is that after 62 years of “self-governance”, we are quick to crawl back to the International Community to arbitrate among us. It is a sad reflection of our incapability the very self-rule that our forefathers fought for. As a nation and a people, it shows that not only are we apparently incapable of self-governance but reflective of the fact that, we are still tethered to the umbilical cords of our colonial masters. So, what’s the fuss about all this chest beating, flag hugging and lung bursting noise about “realm of the free” on Independence Day?
In case you did not notice, Alhaji Alpha Khan, former “apprentice” of EBK has officially joined the SLPP to become the “ferryman”. The joke on the street is, Alpha Khan is going to ferry across as many converts as possible to the SLPP. Sounds like a contingency plan while waiting for the Lungi Bridge, which is in its gestation period. I guess. Victor Foe, the man who replaced the erstwhile Sam Sumana during the dying embers of the APC reign as Vice President has also changed his tune. While some see them as traitors and betrayers, others idolise them as patriots. Depends on which side of the bridge you’re sitting.
However, Yumkella’s “strategic Alliance” has come in for praise and condemnation in equal measure. While some see his move as selfish, others believe that he has “Put Salone Foss”, by relegating his own personal ego in exchange for a political bed with his former opposition. Like Churchill once said, “some people change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for their parties”. So, why did these guys change their parties? Did they do so for any of these two reasons? Time will tell.
Those who defend and support our flip-flopping politicians would have you believe that “those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. By joining the SLPP, will KKY and the others change anything or help change some things? That is the fervent hope of his supporters and those who think like him. On the other hand, when Maada Bio raised the olive branch to KKY, did he see something in KKY that he considers an asset in his government? By returning for “Strategic Alliance”, did KKY see a room with a view in Bio’s government that he thinks he can fill? If this “alliance” is born out of a symbiotically osmotic necessity, who stands to gain from this political alchemy?
This and many more, is one of the questions most Sierra Leoneans would be pondering before they decide on which party is best placed to take their blame. Nevertheless, and even though some see these recent defections, cross carpets, changee, returnee, etc as a common feature of our political DNA, others who might see this as political expediency at its best, sense an insidious car crash towards a one-party state. This is especially so, when you consider that these defectors are seasoned household names on our political playgrounds. Does that tell us anything about the state of the opposition APC party? Is the APC party, all sail and no anchor?
So, why do our politicians cross the Rubicon in our political system?
Many politicians thrive on the notion that if “you can’t convince them, confuse them”. In most parts of the world, politicians and political parties define themselves by ideologies, which form the bedrock of their political parties. Social studies define a political ideology as “a certain set of ethical ideals, principles, doctrines, myths, or symbols of a social movement, institution, class or large group that explains how society should work and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order”. We sometimes use this to bracket our politicians into Democrats, Communists, Socialists, Republicans, despots, autocrats, Conservatives etc. While some might consider political ideologies are mere time savers that tell you what you think about things you know nothing about, others see them as the yardsticks to calibrate their value-based political beliefs.
In the case of Sierra Leone, other than tribal or regional affiliations, you’ll struggle to differentiate or identify any of our political parties based on ideological blueprints. Do we as the electorate have any ideology by which we can calibrate these parties? This is not to say that politics needs an ideology to thrive, because ideologies also have the potential to corrupt the mind and even science. Nevertheless, do they have any belief systems other than nepotism, tribalism, regionalism and all the isms that define their relationships with the electorate? By the way, “One People, One Country” is not an ideology. Nor is “Action pass intention” or “Talk & DO”. These can pass for hot air. Manifestoes don’t qualify as ideologies either.
There are those who think that defections in political parties don’t have any impact. Wrong. When politicians switch parties, it shows there is disunity. Unity is very crucial for political parties. When a party is united, it becomes more effective in passing its policies into law. Unity in a political party can only be good for the citizens because a unified party is seen as more responsible and trustworthy. History shows that parties that fail to keep their flock together often suffer electoral defeats. In general, defections hurt a party’s reputation and, in some cases, even endanger their survival. With that said, will the recent defections from APC (Alpha Khan & Victor Foe), C4C (Musa Fofanah, Rebecca Yei Sam and Saa Emerson Lamina), NGC (Yumkella Kandeh- strategic alliance) have any implications for the abandoned parties. It is safe to conclude that the defections from NGC and C4C could probably mark their death knell respectively, considering their embryonic nature in political terms.
On the other hand, such parties can go on to prosper during such disruptions. Despite the damage and potential threat to their survival, they can still survive. But first, they urgently need to restore their image by focussing on the “valence issues”, which are special policy areas. One of the valence issues in Sierra Leone is corruption. Every citizen in Sierra Leone is against corruption. If C4C and NGC, or what’s remaining of them can focus their campaign on such valence issues, they might just prove their relevance to a point. But as I mentioned earlier, “defections hurt a party’s reputation and, in some cases, even endanger their survival”. As if on cue, “Last Friday, 5th May 2023, Arthur E Pearce and over four hundred former members of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party in the Western Area, including a youth group, the Progressive NGC Youth Organisation East formally joined the All-People’s Congress (APC) at a ceremony held in the APC Party Head Office, Old Railway Line, Brookfields, Freetown. It is expected that NGC members in other parts of the country will also declare for the APC in their own areas in the coming days”. Sierraleonetelegraph.com). Be Twaa?
When KKY formed his “strategic Alliance” with the SLPP, his former NGC members were spitting feathers about betrayal. It goes without saying that this alliance between NGC and APC is in response to KKY’s “betrayal”. Do you remember COPP? It was a coalition of NGC, C4C, and APC. In their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), COPP said that “The parties maintain that their main aim is to defend democracy in Sierra Leone and to vigorously oppose all types of political oppression, intimidation and authoritarian tendencies”. We all said “Amen” to that at the time.
In my article titled “Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPP): How Deep is Your Love? (sierraleonetelegraph.com-March 28), I questioned Coalition Parties’ credentials for longevity and that “Their triumphs never last, because they are a compact majority. Coalitions are a collection of conspiracies”. In its MOU, COPP bandied around phrases like “harness the collective strength”, “condemn bad governess”, “eventually put an end to the suffering of the people of this country”, “tighten our collaboration as opposition political parties”, “to function individually or collectively as political parties”, “challenging tribalism and sectionalism” etc. hallelujah.
So, where does the NGC party get its moral right to condemn KKY?
This election cycle has seen the electorate treated to an orgy of coalitions of coalitions. The recent defections, sorry coalition between NGC members and the APC party should not come as a surprise. Let us look at this with another lens. If the NGC, C4C and APC had envisioned a coalition under the guise of COPP in opposition to SLPP, does that mean that the NGC is angry with KKY, not because he formed a “strategic alliance”, but because he did so with the “wrong crowd”? having jumped into bed with the APC, are they angry that KKY beat them to it and jumped first? Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? NGC andC4C had already declared their intention to jump ship when they formed the COPP. It was just a matter of time, before they signed their respective death warrants as viable political parties. After completing its last rites as a political party, where does it get the moral rectitude to condemn KKY for doing the same stunt they have pulled with the APC? Indeed, politics in Sierra Leone is too important to take seriously. Where is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” when you need one? “A coalition, in a political term, defines as a conditional and non-significant journey that starts risking the collapse without notice; whereas it also mirrors a hollow and unstable organ, to decide and solve wide-scale subjects and issues.”-Ehsan Sehgal.
Now that we are all witnessing a deeply divided body politic, where half of our population believes that our elections are broken and the other half believes that it is fixed, you cannot help but get that sinking feeling that, the more you observe our politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other. Such a backdrop should generate apathy among voters. Interestingly, the electorate is more energised to actively participate in the forthcoming elections. This can only be good for our democracy because when we vote, we do so because of our convictions that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people. At face value, Democracy is a government by the majority. Realistically, it is a government by the majority who participate. As for the irreparably apathetic and disillusioned voter, remember that if you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you.
Is there any scope for a third political party in Sierra Leone?
Sierra Leone has seen a lot of third parties erupt like volcanoes, only to fizzle out unceremoniously. One common denominator is that they have all being scions or former appendages of our either APC or SLPP. They were borne out of reactive stress reactions that were emotionally laden. We known that coalition is a synonym for conspiracy. Coalitions though successful have always found that triumphs short lived. Coalitions, as every married man will tell you have their troubles.
Despite the imperfections of our political system, we still need perfect participation of the citizens. As the electorate, we cannot just be consumers of good governance, but also co- creators and participants. Our elections should therefore represent our greatest participation and political reform. We can only achieve this through “Free, Fair and PEACEFUL elections”. We hope that our elections will come to pass freely, fairly and peacefully. After all, there is only one Mama Salone.
Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.