5 November 2012

Sierra Leone: All the President's Men


When the former American President Richard Nixon in 1976 was involved in the Watergate scandal that caused his resignation as President and almost tarnished the esteemed image of the Presidency, it was the great American writer, G. Gordon Liddy, in his book "will", who chronicled in graphic details all the events that unfolded during this sad episode of American history. All the President's men were deeply involved in the dirty works! Richard Nixon, one of America's best presidents, bold and filled with unquenchable nationalism, bowed out and resigned during the heat of the crisis. His closed aides and associates betrayed and implicated him. They entered the offices of the opposition, hired some prostitutes and political thugs, disguised as party faithfuls. They bogged the entire building of the opposition and did a string of dirty works. President Nixon was embarrassed and honourably resigned, which ended a sad chapter in American history. This was in 1976.

No doubt, President Ernest Bai Koroma is a likeable and charismatic figure. He, in person, has won the admiration of many Sierra Leoneans and foreigners alike. Even the kindergartens in the nursery schools roar his name in unison ---- "Ernest, Ernest -----" each time he criss-crosses the country. He personifies warmth, charm and charisma. But he has to be cautious! His men need to tread cautiously especially before, during and immediately after the November polls. Let the security agencies, especially the police, handle any impending fracas likely to happen. Though I don't envisage any such fracas during or after the polls.

The president's men should not be swayed away by any impending threat from the opposition, especially the SLPP. Its flag-bearer, Rtd. Julius Maada Bio is also a warm and friendly character. As he told me recently, he is ready to concede if the elections are conducted free, fair and credibly. "I love Sierra Leone and I'm a peaceful citizen," he remarked with a chuckle and a smile. The other side of the coin is also expected from the other party.

The President's men should not be too overzealous! The presidency is the oval office in any country. It symbolizes respect, decorum and reflects the supreme fountain of authority. Its occupiers are bonded by sacred codes of conduct. It is the people who decide who are the occupiers. If they so choose, you vacate the offices! Solomon Berewa has set the pace by honourably conceding defeat, though his party still contested the outcome of the elections. In the interest of the country, he conceded, amidst applauses and praises, especially from foreign leaders. It is the leader of the party who controls the followership. The followership in any political procession or rally does not necessarily determine the outcome of elections. Some do not even register to vote, others have even lost their voter identity cards while, amazingly, a few others have even sold their cards to balance off the chronic poverty levels many Sierra Leoneans are enmeshed in, on a daily basis. Some even join political rallies to calm social stress while some others do so to be stigmatized with the euphoria prevalent on rally days.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is constitutionally tasked to conduct elections. Let NEC do its work devoid of any intimidation from any quarters. Its head, Christiana Thorpe, I'm firmly convinced, is equaled to the task. As she told me during the handing over of the 24 vehicles and $1m cheque to NEC at the Nigeria High Commission recently, she said nothing will deter her from conducting free and fair elections.

All the President's men, in my estimation, should take the back seat for the moment. They can campaign, as is done in other continues, but not be seem openly fanning flames of anger, anguish, exasperation and melancholy. The country should not return to its ugly past! Former President Kabbah handed over power to the then opposition, now ruling APC, for the love of the country. There are a thousand ways he could have reneged! This is what is expected in modern democracies and a patriotic leader. Politics is service and politicians are servants. The people are the sacred custodians of the destiny of the country. It is the people's will that is supreme and it is the people who choose those who will serve them.

Abubakar Hashim is former West Africa Bureau Chief of the African Concord, now a Media Consultant

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