Before coming to Salone, I knew that politics were a big deal here. I had heard and read that almost every conversation, one way or the other, is eventually diverted toward the subject of politics and government.
And while I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about American politics, following the highly anticipated showdown between Democratic candidate Barack Obama and the Republican John McCain, social sciences have never been my forte or my primary interest.
So you can imagine that I was a bit nervous about coming here, knowing that I would most likely be reporting on politics, an issue that seemingly consumes the Sierra Leonean people.
I’ve visited the Parliamentary building a couple times, and I even went out to Waterloo to interview Solomon Kargbo, a PMDC candidate running for the chairmanship, but this week was truly the first time I got a glimpse of what politics in Salone is really all about.
Earlier this week, I witnessed the various street rallies that go on in support of a particular party. And, amazingly enough, an exciting, newsworthy incident occurred right outside of Awoko when the SLPP rally got extremely passionate.
I won’t talk too much about the rally itself because fellow reporter Abibatu Kamara and I wrote a story about it for the following morning, but I remember as I walked outside to get a closer look at the rally, I consciously tucked the red lanyard hanging from my neck inside my shirt, because I was a bit nervous about someone mistaking me for an APC supporter. I looked around as I stood amongst the lively crowd; and despite the rather chaotic atmosphere, most people were smiling or just standing still, watching. In the spark of the moment, I, too, cracked a small smile if only to try and blend in and stay calm myself.
Two nights ago, three Awoko colleagues – Ophaniel Gooding, Ishmael Bayoh and Mohamed Saidu Bah – and I covered the Freetown Mayoral Debates held in Aberdeen.
The voter turnout wasn’t as large as I initially anticipated, but the passion and emotion exerted by the present audience was immense.
As the debates pasted past the late hours of the night, the crowd cheers only seemed to get louder and last longer. It was truly an impressive sight.
And then, of course, there were the ubiquitous APC rallies yesterday that seemingly filled every street and intersection.
Now it’s as if I feel pumped up and ready for tomorrow’s action when the long-anticipated Election Day finally arrives.
With this much excitement for the local elections beating from my timid, not-so-politically-savvy heart, it makes me wonder how I would have felt if I were lucky enough to come to Salone last year, when the monumental presidential elections were going on.
I guess I can only crack another nervous smile and think to myself: If only…
By Yu Nakayama