We all welcome the recent signing of the communiqué between the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) as indicative of their mutual partisan commitment to forging the much cherished peaceful relations in an atmosphere of political tolerance. However, there are still questions to be answered about the ugly incidents that followed that fateful March 13 Black Friday and the subsequent mayhem that was let lose in the most barbaric manner on the offices of the opposition SLPP party which still defies any definition. Could those ugly scenes not have been avoided? Was it called for? Is the money to repair the party office not part of tax payers’ money? At a time when we as a nation cannot even cough without letting the international community put aside some money to clear the mess, can we afford the luxury?
If you have been following up issues related to the ClockTower launching, you would realize that there have been new negative twists to its aftermath saga. Can we overlook the trading of accusations between the SLPP and the Inspector General of Police on the one hand and the Civil Society and the Mayor and the IG on the other? We find a seeming stand off between these very important people. Looking beyond the communiqué one needs to give some thought to sorting out these little but critical palavers.
Why some of us give a cautious sigh of relief to the unfolding fence-mending peace overtures, we reminisce over the usually biting dichotomy between deeds and words. This reminds me of my primary school—Union College Practicing School in Bunumbu— which carried the Motto; Deeds not words. Many a time we say a lot of what we never do and this is done in careless frivolity. One of the Krio sayings that I hate to the core is the one that says Word Nar Mot Nor To Load Nar Hade. This is the basis of the deceits that are rampant in our society. You see the politician in particular believes and follows this to the letter. They make great political capital out of the gullibility of the ordinary Sierra Leonean who lives on hand –to –mouth. If you juxtapose the public pronouncements of public officials with what they do, then you see what I mean. Some do not even listen to their own voices, let alone remember what they say.
This country has a long history of hypocrisy in national politics. We have seen ministers who are sworn enemies hug and shake hands in public as indicators of peace and reconciliation while deep down they don’t wish to see each other. To confuse the matter further the average Sierra Leonean believes that you have to be a schemer to be a good politician. Well this is to a large extent true whether you like it or not politics is mainly about activities involved in getting and using power in public life, and being able to influence decisions that affect a country or a society.
To check or minimize partisan excesses there should be the political will on the part of government and other state actors to pursue commitments and maintain the rule of law through leading by example. Many governments past and present have proven short on this. One thing that needs to be made clear is that our partisan politics creates quite a lot of bottle necks for government functions. Political parties tend to have a strangle hold on their members in government so much so that they tend to drift into the tendency of doing the party heavyweights’ bidding. As the Nigerians will say there are those who own the town and there are those who own those who own the town. There is this strong king makers mentality that hunts leaders all through their tenures in office. Political will become difficult to build. It is often said that, If you ride on a lion’s back, you will end up in its mouth. King makers always go for their selfish interests and not the national cause. They will tell you that they put you there and you are obliged to do the bidding of the party big guns. Put in another way people most times do not blame the Leader but the people around him. I don’t subscribe to this thinking. If the leader initially develops a sound political will as an initial step he can move on positively.
You might not like Adolph Hitler of Germany whose hate for the Jews earned him a permanent place in the history books of xenophobic nationalism.
He once said, “The essential thing is the formation of the political will of the nation: that is the starting point of political action”. How many governments have proven they have the essential political will to follow up words with deeds? Yes I can remember. former president Siaka Stevens who saw to it that the Aberdeen Bridge was built despite all odds. There were rumors abound at the time that there were witches and devils at the bridge who were bent on frustrating every effort to complete its construction. It was becoming a scandal and Freetownians made fun of the project and said “If ar nor do am, leh Aberdeen bridge done…or nar dat make Aberdeen bridge nor don tay tidayy”. Well President Stevens got so undaunted and called in the Chinese who put up their flood lights and did the work at night. The bridge was finally completed and humor-filled President Stevens remarked. ..” The devil faint late and we built the bridge ma!” Well everyone is enjoying going to Aberdeen through the bridge and not havig to go round Lumley village. At the height of the rebel intransigence President Kabbah went to Lome quietly defying public opinion that he should never make a peace deal with rebels. He got the deal through and peace, though fragile, was achieved. In recent times President Ernest Koroma fulfilled his promise of providing Freetown with electricity to the relief of many. The issue of the cost is entirely a secondary one. The rest is history but in the three cases programs went through mainly due to Political Will.
Now as a nation we are faced with a challenge over the incidents from the March 13 Black Friday Clock tower launching. With the unsavory clouds still hanging over the truth we look forward to the Civil Society’s stand that the matter be investigated by an independent group and not the police as they are part of the whole impasse. There are even different statements coming form the IG and the Western Area AIG. This cannot be overlooked at a time when the police have suffered a lot of bashing for a number of violent incidents that were not properly handled. The other angle is the alleged rape allegations in this era of Human Rights and women’s empowerment and gender equity etc.
This is not an issue of partisan politics but matters of right or wrong, admitting culpability or otherwise. If this matter is left hanging no amount of communiqués or hugging or handshakes will clear the air. Let there be the necessary political will to get the independent investigation done. Nothing short of bringing out the truth will solve the problem. As we get ready to celebrate our country’s 48th independence anniversary, let us face it with a clear conscience and not riding on the wings of a deceitful façade. Again as the nation let us pray fervently for the rains so we can start enjoying our long awaited Bumbuna hydro electricity. We must not allow the Black Friday Satan to mar our celebrations
We have witnessed a long line of politicians who had failed to comply with agreements compiled and signed by them. Take the Code of Conduct for political parties. That document was desecrated left right and center and the PPRC’s threats did not change the situation. No single deterrent action was ever taken rather the PPRC settled for peace; no naming and shaming; it was all a field day for party hooligans. I can say for sure that all major parties violated the code of conduct with arrogant impunity. Let the issue on floor be different ;let some attitudinal change be demonstrated especially as the Pride week organized by the ABC has just been launched by His Excellency. One hitch though, a French music was played during an interlude while awaiting a performance to start, during the ceremony. How attitudinally oriented is the person that played that lousy French music which had no bearing on the occasion. Indeed where do we start in the attitudinal drive? You can consult Obelisk Crew to tow da ship mek ee nor offload na ya…
Again there is another angle to this whole issue of cascading, window dressing, drawing up communiqués, and political will. You see the monkey and the chimpanzee may claim lineage, but the monkey remains monkey and the chimpanzee remains a chimpanzee. Our democracy will bear fruits only when our political parties themselves exhibit democratic ideals.
I strongly believe that until our political party constitutions are democratic in nature our governments will only pay lip service to democratic ideals. We need to sanitize our internal workings so that that should inform our approach to governance. There is no way you can export what you do not have. You cannot wait to get into government before you start practicing democracy. Take the case of the Electoral Colleges…a poorly constituted Electoral College will not provide for a democratically elected team. Most times we hear of party tickets given to persons not because they are capable but because they are mere party loyalists. Parties should be seen as governments in waiting and must perforce run on democratic lines if they have to make good governance a reality when they go into power. It looks high time parties did some across the board democratizing to avoid governance bottle nets. The time is far gone when the party remains the sole domain of registered members. Start with the constitutions. Remember that structure is related to function. Orinch nor dae bear lem.
By S. Beny SAM