Everything seems to be in the flavour and favour of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) at the moment. But one thing that seems to be against her is history.
Most of the antecedents which led to the demise of the now opposition, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), in 1967 seem to be crawling back to infect and affect the APC.
I was not yet born in 1967 when these antecedents infected and affected the SLPP. So I only rely on history and oral tradition. The history books tell me that when its was time to dish out party symbols, three of the most popular candidates of the SLPP were not given the party’s stamp of eligibility which made them to break with the party’s ‘rank’ and went Independents, taking along the party’s ‘file’ with them. During the general elections of this period under review, these Independents won in their constituencies which followed in their track series of behind-the-scenes monkey-trading that finally led to the first demise of the SLPP.
But history, they say, is an ass (figuratively, so don’t think I have mammy-cussed here), as it always has the malevolent habit of repeating itself. Then came its second demise in 2007 after about 28 years in the political wasteland and eleven years in power. It was time to dish out the party symbol. Again popular candidates were hoaxed, and the rest is now political backwoods for the SLPP for God knows how long this time!
Now the ruling APC has planned or is planning her demise nearly six months after taking over the Seat of State– in the SLPP style!
Rewind the clock to the activities of the Symbol Award Committee set up by the APC to award party symbol to aspirants for the July 5th Local Council Elections. There were allegations, counter-allegations and counter-counter allegations of Leones and United States dollars changing hands in the awards of the party symbol. These allegations were further given some weights when the party backtracked and revoked its symbol from aspirants whom she said were later found out to be members of other political parties.
Back to the present. Twenty-four former APC aspirants who are said to have large followings, and who were denied the party symbol, have gone Independents in the Bombali District, courtesy the “New Vision of Friday April 25, 2008”. This has been the trend in the capital Freetown, and the Standard Times reported in its “Tuesday April 29, 2008” edition that the “symbol crisis hits Tonkolili district” also. Many ‘APCians’ are now breaking from the party’s ‘rank’, taking along a large chunk of the party’s ‘file’ with them to contest the July 5th Local Council Elections.
The catch here is that if her strongholds like Freetown, Bombali and Tonkolili districts are showing cracks in their ‘rank’ due to the perceived “unfair” awards of the party’s symbol, is this not portending a bad omen for the party when her ‘file’ will be filing their discontents in the ballot come July 5th? Was the 2004 Local Council Election not the precursor of the SLPP’s demise in 2007?
The APC may now not see this danger because it is not yet clear and present in the midst of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s high percentage in the polls in terms of fulfilling his electricity campaign pledge. But if these Independents should win in their Wards during the July 5th Local Council Elections, then the APC should start thinking of whether the ‘landlords’ have not changed their minds of giving her an ejection (I won’t write “Injectment Notice” for the educational decency of my little daughter) come 2012.
Here again comes another issue which shows that the “New APC” is planning or has already planned her demise nearly six months after taking over the Seat of State; albeit in this case in an un-SLPP style! One of the issues that repeatedly came up during the last general elections was whether the “New APC” would shy away from violence to settle political differences. Those of us who were and still are sit-on-the-fencers when it comes to political allegiance believed then that the “New APC” should be given a try because her flagbearer was unblemished politically, and that because that party had been in the political wilds for a decade and half she would have been refined and matured. But some of us are yet to come to terms with the fact that her supporters would have to resort to violence at Aberdeen, west of the capital, to overturn a decision made by the Symbol Award Committee of the party.
Does that mean APC supporters and party stalwarts would resort to violence if the results of the July 5th Local Council Elections show strong inklings of their party’s slide to her demise? Again, looking at how the party’s symbol was awarded calls for questions on whether the “New APC” has really shredded off her oldness. Because how can a whole party give out her symbol to a member of the opposition only to do thorough investigations later before withdrawing it? Is this not a classical example of putting the ‘Omolankay’ before the pusher? Or is it not a typical example of the APC “palm-greasing” of yore which the “New APC” says she will have zero tolerance on?
Or is the alleged violence or perceived violence said to have been perpetrated and perpetuated by the “New APC” on SLPP supporters during the last bye-elections a dress rehearsal of what we should expect before, during and after the July 5th Local Council Elections? What would be the roles of the various APC Task Forces? If some of these Task Forces could allegedly put up gangland-Hollywood style performances during the recently conducted bye-elections in constituencies which they were supposed to win and which they won anyway, how would they behave when faced with tight contests?
Another area where the “New APC” seems to be planning her demise so soon is that of disappointing some of her pre-2007 elections sympathisers in the print media. Some of her ardent sympathisers like Olu Gordon of Peep! satirical newsmagazine and Philip Neville of the Standard Times newspaper now seem to be disenchanted with the modus operandi of the “New APC” which is showing many traits of the Old APC, less than a year in power.
Reading accounts of the junta-style behaviour of some APC supporters and party stalwarts in Peep! newsmagazine; and how Philip Neville seems disgusted with that “State House baby” who, in one of his (Mr Neville’s) publications he claimed, bagging government contacts in the same ‘IJism’ pattern of the Tejan Kabbah era and his dismay at the entrapment of President Koroma in “Bombali, Tonkolili and Port Loko”, are pointers that some members of the printed word are not seeing what they think should have happened when they decided to give the “New APC” a try in 2007. Even David Tam-Baryor of the Citizen Radio, looking at the way things are now going, is frightful of whether President Koroma is not trapped and entangled the same way former President Joseph Saidu Momoh was (as he wrote some time ago).
As I noted elsewhere in this piece, I was not yet born in 1967 and even in 1977 (another landmark historic event in the history of Sierra Leone) I was still a toddler, but I examined historical papers and read how Ibrahim Bash-Taqi, Dr Sirleaf Esmon, Sam Metzger et al used the printed word as an antecedent to wrong-foot the SLPP from the Seat of State.
In the pre-2007 presidential and parliamentary elections, I can still remember the indefatigable steam of print journalists like Olu Gordon, Philip Neville, Paul Kamara, and the rancorous undertones of David Tam-Baryor on his “Dialogue” programme on Citizen Radio. Now these journalists, from their recent writings and private off-the-cuff comments, seem to be putting their original enthusiasms for the “New APC” in check.
The final area where the APC seems to be planning her demise or has already planned so soon is that of losing the propaganda war to the SLPP. While in opposition, APC stalwarts like her Secretary General Victor Foh and Presidential Spokesman Alpha Kanu were setting the media agenda for either debate or the pace of the campaign in 2007. They were a sort of “gatekeepers”, in Mass Communicationsspeak, of what should go in the newspapers or on radio.
Now in government, both Messrs Foh and Kanu seem to always run out of ideas whenever closets from their past are either opened or threatened to be opened, while the once vociferous President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, now as Minister of Information, is more on the defensive than steering an information policy that will clarify salvos from the opposition.
What I have noticed about the current “New APC” propaganda machine is that it is too loud but unclear! I am still trying to decipher the rationale for a government to have an Information Minister, a Presidential Spokesman and Presidential Press Secretary at the same time. This is one of the reasons why the “New APC”’s propaganda machine seems to be all noise but with no clear message. What one senses during the Information Minister‘s Thursday press briefings, the Presidential Press Secretary’s “Update On Presidential Activities” and the once-in-a-while public speeches of the Presidential Spokesman is that of a ‘Cold War’ amongst the three with each trying in a subtle way to outsmart the other.
This is again a sort of replay of history, and how the “New APC” is following the antecedents of the SLPP’s second demise. It seems that the “New APC” is now doing things by the style book of the Tejan Kabbah SLPP. During this time, the SLPP’s propaganda machine was too loud but unclear with its Publicity Secretary Victor Reider saying something different from what the Information Minister Professor Septimus Kaikai was saying which was very different from what the Presidential Spokesman Kanji Daramy was saying.
What the “New APC” needs to know is that propaganda, in its basic or simplest form, is the synchronisation of a message or group of messages from a single source which is responsible for agenda setting and moulding of public opinion. There is no way the Nazis would have succeeded if their propaganda machine was not revolved around Dr Josef Goebbels or Tony Blair’s New Labour around Alistair Campbell’s spin. Or President George Bush on Tony Snow’s White House press briefings or even President Robert Mugabe’s Jonathan Moyo before the latter became independent.
What we are now having from the ruling party’s propaganda machine is a cacophonous concerto from the APC Radio, We Yone newspaper, the Information Minister, the Presidential Spokesman and the Presidential Press Secretary. Each with its or his own agenda. But as my journalistic mentor, Sheka Tarawalie (Shekito) who happens to be the current and first Presidential Press Secretary, used to write in the Torchlight newspaper under his Blank Tank column: “Let’s pray for Sierra Leone!”
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By Mohamed Sankoh