It looks like since the president, Ernest Bai Koroma took office in 2007, speculation and rumours have been doing the rounds in equal measure. Political pundits have since tried to give reasons for his political appointments. These have ranged from the objective, the cynical to downright defamation. In between these have been accusations of nepotism, favouritism, tribalism paddyism, sakom-noh-ism, etc. But among all these accusations, no position has come under more scrutiny than the office of the Vice President, Sam Sumana. Sam Sumana is Kono by tribe, his wife is Kono by tribe and the president’s wife is Kono by tribe. The political cynics and detractors did not seem to need further excuse to brand Sam’s appointment as a form of appeasement for the president’s in-laws.
Others have seen the role of Kono, in relation to the whole political landscape of the country as a significant denominator in deciding the political configuration. History shows that unlike other districts, Kono tends to return their politicians en masse. In other words, there are no half ways when it comes to voting in Kono. Kono District seems to graduate from the George Bush Academy of “we are either for you or against you”. If my history serves me right, when the founding father of the APC party, the late Siaka Stevens needed to unseat the incumbent party in the 1967 elections, it was the vote from Chief Songu Mbriwa that swung the results in his favour. Kono has since been seen as a district with affinities to the APC Party. It was therefore not surprising that Siaka Stevens had the tendency to reward the district with the highest number of ministerial positions in its hey days. That is no suggestion that Kono continues to enjoy the same status in today’s politics. However, the cynics still continue to tar the district with such historical baggage.
Among all the speculations that have dogged EBK’s government, none so has ratcheted gossip miles than the fate of the Vice president. The political violence that took place in Kono last year was attributed to the internal jostling for the VP position between Alhaji Sam Sumana and Musa Tarawally. Nestled between these two “political giants” are names like Morie Manyhe, Chernoh Bah and more recently Dr. Kaifala Marah, as possible candidates for the now most coveted post. The recent “Timbergate” by Sorious Samora added more to fuel the rumours; as the integrity of the VP was put under serious scrutiny. In politics, rumour, speculations and hearsay are the usual currencies of the day. So it was not surprising that the press and other political analysts had gone to town in predicting the demise of Sam Sumana. Rumours became rife about the atmosphere of detente between the president and his number one man. Some body language experts even mentioned that their body language during official duties even displayed an air of detente between the pair. To the seasoned politician in Sierra Leone, the rumour is part of the political psyche in the absence party political broadcasts. With the rumour mill going into overdrive on the fate of Sam Sumana following the Timbergate affair, the least that was expected was a decisive statement from the president’s office. But the deafening silence that greeted the speculations was not only surprising but also did little to dampen the efforts of the rumour merchants. The public was therefore led to believe that the APC house was not in order and that it was a party that was apparently united in diversity.
While some will see such silence as a matter of political expediency, others will see it as a sign of weakness on the part of the president’s office, which may turn out to be costly. There were some analysts who saw this as an act of weakness, especially when rumours were bandied around that the “people of Kono District” had threatened to vote against the APC in the coming elections if their “son of the soil” was deposed from his post. If there was any statement issued about the president’s stance on the issue, indications are that it was not loud enough to flush out any lingering doubts about his choice of running mate.
The fact that the office allowed the questions about the president’s running mate to run and run was not only a miscalculation but also a PR disaster. Staying silent or relatively mute gave the rumour merchants an unnecessary mileage with the story. To all intents and purposes, the president’s detractors would seize on this as a sign of weakness. Others with favourable inclinations will see such dithering as a way to gauge the political temperature before taking a stance. Either way, such dithering could be seen as very costly. Decisiveness is the willingness to make decisions, even in the face of complexity or uncertainty. Decisiveness means taking the risk that we may be wrong, but knowing that perfect clarity is rarely available and indecision can be costly.
There is no doubt that because of the ongoing investigation into the Timbergate affair, the government had little room to manoeuvre. Nevertheless, and until the Vice president was conclusively indicted or castigated, a strong statement on his fate was required in the face of all the rumours that had become the political staple diet of the day. There is a popularly held belief that the direction of a man’s thought is always the decisive factor in his personality; but it is better to be boldly decisive and risk being wrong than to agonise at length and be right too late. If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
We have seen how snippets of political violence have flared up recently in the country; to a point that pundits, soothsayers, pessimists, all and sundry have started predicting doomsday scenarios running up to the November elections. The challenger Maada Bio reportedly said that “the ruling All People’s Congress has embarked on transporting ex-combatants from different parts of the country to register in the South and Eastern Provinces, the strongholds of the opposition SLPP”. Such dire remarks are bound to increase the unease and trepidation that seems to capture the imagination of suffering masses. These remarks have been preceded by the kind of violence like as the one that was witnessed in the Fourah Bay bye elections recently.
The recurrence of such violence has got some people wondering whether any decisive actions are taken to prevent them. The apparent audacity and impunity with which such acts of violence have been committed have lead people to even question the role of the law enforcement authorities; prompting others to remind them of their civil duty and the need for their non-partisan role. The recent spate of violence may be seen by many as a coincidence, but will it be a reflection of some people’s idea of taking advantage of the situation; sensing a chink in the armour of the leadership? It takes two to tango, but the sitting government should realise that having inherited a “peaceful” Sierra Leone, it owes it to the long suffering people of Sierra Leone to observe, cherish and participate in a trouble and violent free elections come November.
The APC government is currently the ruling party and must be seen as the political midwife that will deliver a safe, free and fair election. As Sierra Leoneans, we don’t deserve anything less. There have been a lot of accusations and counter accusations about parties brewing trouble. Blackmail, accusations of kidnappings, mudslinging and every imaginable trick in the idiot’s guide to dirty politics seems to take a firm grip of the modus operandi. President Kabba presided over a relatively “peaceful” election at a time when the country had just been weaned off a decade of violence and interregnum. The least the people of Sierra Leone would expect, after five years of consolidating democratic principles is a free and fair election. If the recent violence is anything to go by, it’s scary to think that some people might be dancing themselves lame when the main dance is yet to come. Without any doubt, it is a scary prospect. Many believe that the election is for the APC to lose.
Unfortunately, some of us are not blessed with such powers of the crystal ball. However, both parties should remember that the people of Sierra Leone do not deserve whatever atrocities that some elements of their respective parties would want to dish out this time. Political leaders need to wake up and stamp out this cancer worm that seems to be gnawing at the very fabric of our political, social and economic life. The whole country needs some serious reassurances that the politics of violence is a thing of the past. Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, investors, partners and friends of Sierra Leone need to go to bed, safe in the knowledge that the upcoming elections will be a democratically free, fair and safe exercise. Let’s see a show of leadership in that direction.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.