This day 16 September, was a Sunday last year. The cloud was gathering. Not for the sky to open its mouth. The political cloud I mean. Two forces baying for each other’s political blood. Either wanted the other to haemorrhage to death. Tension was palpably high with everyone suspicious the other would do something funny or even stupid.
An old lady who recognised me along PZ where I’d gone to gauge the mood called me and asked whether doom’s day had passed off. The storm was over, what remained was just a passing shower, I told her in a vain attempt to assuage her. She did not believe trod on, with her frail but apparently weighty soul adding to her trepidation and weighing her leftward on her walking stick. She looked confused. Uncertain! Anxious! And even hopeless and hapless!
She was not alone. Millions of us shared her fears. On tenterhooks we all were. The situation could erupt with volcanic eruption potentials. Both sides of the political divide felt they’d won the presidential election. Flyers were flying all over the place and other papers being pilfered by people to score their political points. The two sets of supporters were on knife’s edge. Edgy and cagey; making the situation clayey. But it remained solid and rocky.
The governing Sierra Leone People’s Party supporters swore by their creator that they had won elections that had been held almost two weeks. The opposition All People’s Congress party believed and would tell God to his face that victory had been theirs. With the last atom of energy both sides argued to justify their apparent conviction that was peppered with confusion. Waiting for tomorrow.
The APC were particularly confident. They had repeated the 40-year-old history and had defeated the SLPP again. Their supporters looked confident just as those of the SLPP. Morale at the opposition camp was sky high; in contrast to that at the headquarters of the governing party headquarters.
But no! Followers of the palm tree believed gains made in Kailahun would cancel out the margin that already existed. The rays of the sun of the APC had not burned out the green leaves of the palm tree. The people had spoken their voice, both sides believed.
An irony in Africa you may consider this move. But proof our democracy had come of age. On what was yesterday last year, Saturday 15 September 2007, the governing party had gone to court seeking, among other things, an injunction to stop the National Electoral Commission from announcing any further results. Results of a runoff presidential election to determine who should lead the country; A country where suspense gave birth to anxiety and silence could be interpreted to mean trouble. Trouble everyone thought would break out. Outbreak of maturity we were greeted by on the following day.
As Sunday 16 September turned into Monday 17th, nothing seemed uncertain. The two protagonists – Ernest Bai Koroma or Solomon Berewa – were called upon by the public to put the country above their individual interest and the interests of their cronies. Spare the country another cycle of violence and mayhem that loomed large. And the stakes were getting higher and higher. Why not! Power seemed to be slipping through the fingers of the SLPP. The APC seemed to be getting closer to it more than ever since 1992.
Who would have thought we would have survived it? Some believe had our elections been held before Kenya’s and Zimbabwe’s the outcome would have been different. That is a conjecture. What is sure is that we exhibited a level maturity those countries could not. And the writing was on the wall here as well as it was in Kenya. Rig the election Mr Incumbent, and get the wrath of the opposition. Some also believe that even if the Mr Berewa had won genuinely, the opposition supporters would have called it rig, and the ring of mayhem would have engulfed the nation.
How much have we learned? Well the clouds are gathering in Ghana as they were here. That country’s election chief, Afari Jang was brought here during our last two elections, or so to TEACH us. If anything, he needs our NEC to provide pillow for his commission’s neck. Lest it falls off.
I ask again, how much have we learned from the clouds we managed to pass off? The two political parties and their supports still hate each other’s guts. Thanks to the political leaders. Government has not made any serious overtures to the opposition to make them relevant let alone feel so. Not necessarily by not sharing power with them. But by not involving them at state functions. At least not as far as I know. The cleaning-up of the stable still continues with many qualified people from – let us face it – opposition areas, being purged. The level of violence and intimidation that visited hitherto SLPP areas like Kono and Tongo ahead of the local council elections, passed off without receiving the condemnation they so deserved.
But the opposition have also not taken off the gloves even if the boxing ring is closed. They have hardly been conciliatory in the way they have challenged issues. We surely need them to proffer alternative solutions to our situation which is very challenging these days, to put it mildly.
The country is practically sharply divided along political lines. That, one may argue, is what obtains even in America and Britain. Conservatives and liberals are largely born into families. But when we use that as a benchmark for development and to settle old scores, it is bad for our future as a nation state.
On the eve of our epoch-making record of holding such roundly hailed elections, I would rather the government and opposition took a deep breath and reflected on the country’s past and looked ahead with one thing on their mind – the country.
Let our tribes and regions, which we are not responsible for anyway as we were born in them only, be not the determinant for our decision-making. Our country needs bipartisan approach to issues at this time more than ever before. That will provide jobs for our jobless youth who are at the beck and call of any one who can pay them. Our leaders must cohere and let that to trickle down to the rank and file who need a job so as not to become soldiers of mayhem.
Last year, on this date – 16 September – it was a Sunday. A day regarded as holy by many of our compatriots. May the blessing of the day, which probably saved us from mayhem last year, influence the decisions of our political leaders and their supporters – in government and in opposition. So that we make this place a better place for its inhabitants. Remember we have not inherited this country from our fathers; rather we borrowed it from our grand children. So let us preserve it for them. See you tomorrow By Umaru Fofana