By Bashiru Vandi……
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, my aim in this piece is to advocate for a formidable third force in Sierra Leone without displaying the prevalent selfish, often erroneous, superficial and myopic partisan prejudice that permeates social media!!
Amidst the seemingly infinite gloom of immoral decadence & primitive backwardness, I have been suddenly struck by a pleasant sense of elation! So in my study one morning, I wrote :
**Change is awesome ! It’s visible yet opaque; dynamic but motionless; thunderous yet silent! Oh the voiceless power of change! It unveils its course yet advances in stealth and, with lightening speed, descends on all : the willing, unwilling and neutrals !!!**
The above sentiment foretells our nation’s future inevitable change. But real Change cannot spring from the colonial, static and inherently corrupt mentality of our current political establishment -APC & SLPP; but from a modern, progressive political movement endowed with a developed & pertinent ideological acumen to constructively tackle the African Problem in the interest of all citizens! But how & why should this happen? Is it feasible? Why do I harbour such optimism?
The answers lie in our colonial history, reasons for independence, outcome of self-rule and the promising emerging signs of the awakening of progressives & youths of the New Age! We gained independence to escape undignified slavish oppression and demonstrate our ability to competently & intelligently manage the affairs of our naturally endowed nation. But conversely, our two custodians of political power, SLPP & APC , have cruelly succeeded in plunging our nation into a permanent state of fraudulent impoverishment!!
The SLPP has unconsecutively ruled Sierra Leone for almost 17yrs since our so-called independence. From 1961-67, there were positives: most of today’s academic institutions were actualised, education standards were better & cost of living was more affordable.
But since the British Queen was still our ceremonial Head of State represented by Governor-Generals, one can deduce that the positives of that period had some connection with colonial supervision. However, there were also glaring negatives. The further we got away from direct rule, the more useless self-rule became and has become. Sir Albert Margai’s leadership of SLPP entrenched rabid autocracy & tribalism. The devious & thuggish one- party concept which was later fully implemented by APC, was actually devised and proposed in the Sir Albert Margai-led SLPP. So if SLPP had continued in power, it’s logical to believe that it would have also presided over a one-party state! During SLPP’s second tenure in office, 1996-2007, multitudes of heavily impoverished & traumatised RUF victims thought they had sought refuge in SLPP . During this period, the international community mercifully wrote off our debt, poured in financial aid and SLPP launched its Poverty Reduction Paper (PRP).
Although it established salient institutions like NASSIT, bequeathed reasonable funds to its successor, secured funds for & initiated infrastructural development , it was nevertheless kicked out of power because of the overwhelmingly disastrous impact of the same impoverishment, corruption/bad governance that caused the war in the first place!
Then came the governance of APC -Sierra Leone’s notorious communist party that has ruled the nation for almost 34 yrs since independence ! For most part of this virtually eternal era -1978 to end of the 80’s-APC presided over a thuggish, murderous, totally corrupt & despotic One-Party State which directly led to the gruesome RUF war – the darkest episode in our sorry history. Ironically, our impressive, amicable religious tolerance & co-existence was entrenched during this period. The onset of President Koroma’s Agenda for Prosperity in 2007 ignited a new sense of optimism. Indeed the Koroma-led APC government’s initial strategic focus on improving basic infrastructures like roads & energy, was plausible because these are prerequisites for national development. Other popular but cosmetic policies like free healthcare for lactating mums, granting the ACC prosecutorial powers and elevating the youths ( at least theoretically) to national political recognition helped enhance APC’s current public image.
Nonetheless, the habitual mentality & hazardous impact of chronic greed, corruption, extreme poverty, soaring crime, ideological bankruptcy, crumbling economy , litany of injustices & oppressive rule have yet again overpowered the positives and we are back to square one . NO CHANGE!!
Consequently, after almost 57 yrs of self- rule; over half a century , one can irrefutably assert that the collective outcome of APC & SLPP rule, even after considering their positives, is extensively appalling. It has been a humiliating spectacle of ideological IGNORANCE, unintelligence, the blind leading their unassuming & innocently gullible blind flock to the slaughter house! Their combined rule has essentially produced a FAILED STATE where the 4 Estates-political, Judicial, media and civil- are , with few exceptions, infused with the dibilitating traits of corruption, bribery, dysfunctionality and unproductivity. .
Therefore, the best way to respond to our sustained predicaments is by overwhelmingly endorsing the idea of a real & formidable third, progressive political force capable of being a credible alternative party of governance. The reasons for this are pretty straightforward : it will automatically raise the standard of political debate because the two political giants will no longer be complacent, it will give all disgruntled or protest voters ,especially Progressives, a much needed viable option; this improved political competitiveness could force our major political parties to embark on substance and delivery instead of empty propaganda.
Above all, the potential ascendancy of a real third political force will send a clear message to the dominant parties that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and that we are no longer blind to the destructive duopoly of autocratic power as displayed in the recent political conventions! The SLPP is now in the firm grip of the religiously tribalist ‘PAOPA’ brigade that has ruthlessly taken over vital instruments of party administration to impose its whims & wishes on the entire party. Similarly, the APC is effectively shackled by the blind ‘TOLONGBO’ & iron-fist mentality of life Chairman, President Earnest Koroma, whose ubiquitous tentacles tightly control all internal levers of power within APC!!! He has circumvented constitutional limitations to ensure continuity by unilaterally SELECTING a supine, uninspiring puppet and powerless lame-duck with a very weak or no meaningful fan-base in the APC to lead APC! Oh yes ! The politics of corruption, oppression, injustice, sustained impoverishment, power monopoly, primitive backwardness, thuggery and ideological emptiness are alive and kicking in both APC & SLPP. ! THE NATION IS ACHING FOR CHANGE ! These are the main reasons why we MUST have a credible third political force in Sierra Leone!
Moreover , there are those who question the plausibility of a real third political force .They rightly allude to the consolidated homogeneity of old guard mentality of the Political Estate, extensive illiteracy and proven unsustainable viability of previous ‘third forces’ as their reason for instinctively sneering at current prospective third forces like NGC.
However, almost all of our previous so-called ‘third forces’ have largely been protest enclaves & kingmakers; NOT REALISTIC ALTERNATIVE PARTIES OF GOVERNANCE! Besides, inter-alia, the obvious self-implosion of our major parties, realities of the hopeless failure of self-rule so far, supreme power of the modern Information Age via social media, the awakening of the New Age and hypocritical but positive resistance of western donors to modern African despotism have given ample optimism to Progressives, like myself, of subsequent inevitable change in Sierra Leone & Africa. Yes! It will be irksome indeed, beset with thorns; but the cracks in the armoury of our Old Guards can only get wider until the back of the beast is broken! The writing is on the wall ! People power of PERESTROIKA eventually overcame the mountain of the former Soviet empire; so modern African progressives CAN also replicate this in Africa! The end of our political wreckers looms !!!!!
Conclusively, modern progressives, especially those of Blue mentality like myself, pledge our loyalty to the NATION; not political parties or politicians. We LEND our votes to carefully chosen politicians not for selfish or materialistic reasons but based on eight substantive VALUES known in the Blue Movement as THE 8 PILLARS: Patriotism, Rights, Integrity, Innovation, Independence, Democracy, Discipline & Empowerment. We expect the real third force of our time to espouse & entrench ONE- NATIONISM; NOT TRIBALISM and to consolidate sustainable development through the adequate intellectual & practical replenishment of the nation by creating an enabling environment where all citizens can effectively & productively extricate themselves from the humiliating prison of POVERTY