Posted on 06 Aug 2007
Why I Would Have Voted APC - Posted by Sheka Tarawalie (Shekito)
Now, from the outset, I would like to state that the thrust of this article is based on suppositions, meaning it is predominantly an opinion, but I would like to emphasise that it is also full of propositions borne out of genuine convictions.
As I am writing, I am in exile in the United Kingdom, which clearly means I cannot vote in the all-important forthcoming presidential and general elections in my country. And far be it from the truth that I am writing with any hard feelings about the events - or the key players of the events - that forced me to seek solace in another country. What I have learnt in life is that God has a purpose for anything that happens, and by all means I should be thankful for being in the United Kingdom where I have just recently got married.
From the outset again, I would like to state that had Johnny Paul Koroma been around to contest as leader of the People’s Liberation Party and I were in Sierra Leone to vote, you would guess right where I would have leaned. But that is the basis of another debate that will be well needed at the proper time.
As at now, as things stand on the political cross-roads in Sierra Leone, a great burden of conscience-searching has been placed on the electorates to choose between the lesser of two evils. But it is not in the manner of choosing between the devil and the great blue sea; or, to put the metaphor in more practical terms, of being caught in a tragic web between a Sam Bockarie and a Moinina Fofanah. After all, the APC and the SLPP have both had an opportunity to govern Sierra Leone with each having things to point at as landmarks.
I would not like to see the PMDC as a contender, but rather as a contestant or at best a competitor of SLPP parentage out with a great flare to primarily create a leveller playing field (perhaps leading to a run-off) for the only two political parties that have ruled Sierra Leone since Independence. And I would rather this article be perceived not as a mechanism to upset the current status quo, but as a piece of art coded in history by which people can either commend or condemn the artist - and whichever side of the scale you are standing or would eventually stand, you would understand that Sierra Leoneans will be making a big blunder if they allow the SLPP to win the elections again. This is primarily to the effect that the elections would be conducted on the strength of not actually the parties themselves but on that of the presidential candidates. And this leaves us with the personalities of Solomon Berewa and Ernest Koroma.
Berewa is the shrewd lawyer who has a history of defending treason suspects but when he found himself in power as Attorney General literally held Kabbah’s hands behind his back to butcher hapless treason suspects, and then he forced Kabbah to displace Joe Demby from the position of Vice President so that now he has virtually unseated Kabbah, with the only hurdle on his way being Ernest Koroma. Ernest is the shrewd businessman who bailed a dying or dead insurance company from the doldrums to make it a national envy, only to leave it and become leader of a once-fragmented if not dying APC which has now been revived to the proportion of becoming the favourite for the formation of the next government - and he has never killed a fly in the process.
If it were all about conscience and nationalism or patriotism, then the choice between the two would not be hard to make. But as recent reports of thuggery, political vandalism and primitive loyalty indicate, it would be far-fetched to say the majority’s eyes are now open enough to change the establishment. The next few days are very crucial in making this possible.
By all indications, Berewa has portrayed himself as the obedient political assistant who has got enough experience from Kabbah’s rule. The facts, as hinted earlier, are that Kabbah had been the king while Berewa was the king-maker (you wouldn’t ask who wielded greater power). You only need to speak to insiders and realize how Berewa’s decisions, even in cabinet, have always carried the day even at the expense of Kabbah’s opinion. So, in reality, it was Berewa’s policies that have been implemented since Kabbah was named president. After all, it was Berewa that influenced the NPRC (through Tom Nyuma and Maada Bio of course! No wonder the chickens are coming home to roost!) to make Kabbah Chairman of the Advisory Council of which Berewa himself was member - and they nearly sold the country’s citizenship to the Lebanese!
But, for the sake of the argument, let’s even agree that Berewa was merely a minister and a vice president who has now learnt enough to feel able to become president. The problem is that Berewa would clearly be seen as an apprentice to a bad teacher not worth emulating. When the dust of the present lie - or, if you like, confusion - about who brought peace to Sierra Leone would have settled and the history books written about Heads of State who bore the greatest responsibility in killing innocent people in the war, and if matched with the other war-time counterparts in the persons of Joseph Momoh, Valentine Strasser, Maada Bio, and Johnny Paul Koroma (all military men), I’m afraid that Kabbah (the only civilian) would certainly be recorded as a villain who had given more directives to kill than all the others combined. Kabbah’s suspicious marriage to the villainous Sanni Abacha could not have helped more. And Berewa cherished the moment!
Or let’s put the analysis on a less negative, but perhaps more tragic, angle. If historians were to record a Head of State who had the greatest opportunity to turn Sierra Leone around but abused and misused it, again matched with the aforementioned former leaders or even extending to Siaka Stevens and the Margai brothers, the lot would fall on Kabbah. But many would hardly see this at the moment, because it is all coated in propaganda perpetuated by the machinery of incumbency. Apparently, Kabbah is not gentleman enough to publicly state, as Momoh did, that he has failed the nation; but those who would remember the promises he made in the 1996 elections, during the exile months, and in the 2002 polls, placed side-by-side with what actually happened in Sierra Leone since then, would have wished that part of our history would not be written at all. But there it is, staring us in the face. And Berewa has got experience from that.
What would he do with such tattered experience? It is Berewa, though claiming to be a democrat, who would say younger people should keep quiet in society or they could die young like Jesus Christ, it is Berewa who would put a certain date as to when electricity supply would be restored in Freetown but would deny making that statement when the promised light was nowhere to be seen, and it is Berewa who would urge Sierra Leoneans to be happy about being ranked the least-developed nation in the world because it would attract international donors. For goodness sake, Sierra Leone is rich enough to be a beggarly nation; but fake promises of not going to bed hungry when the rice meant for the people is sold to another country and virtual control of mineral resources handed over to foreigners for a mess of porridge under a Kabbah-Berewa tutelage have made us look like a cursed people. What would you say when even a chunk of our territory has been literally given to Guinea!
But we are not a cursed people. And Ernest Koroma has the answer. In 2002, I did not feel that way. But after seeing the charismatic leadership he has provided as an opposition leader and has been able to unite his party by bringing together all dissident forces even to the extent of naming a runningmate that is virtually new to the APC without causing a new rumpus, I think Ernest has the potential to turn things around; and Sierra Leoneans would be doing a great service to themselves by electing him as president. It is not rocket science; it merely requires sober conscience. Just compare the formidable nature of the reconstituted APC with the tumultuous crumbling of the SLPP since Berewa was anointed as heir-apparent to Kabbah. The late democracy-drunk kamajor-apparelled Sam Hinga Norman was the first to challenge Berewa’s legitimacy, then the fluctuating Charles Margai broke away cussing Berewa’s appointment, and since then Berewa has stood on slippery ground as erstwhile strong SLPP supporters keep defecting and floundering. The leadership qualities of Berewa are understandably questionable, and be reminded of the age-old saying, “ A house divided against itself cannot stand”. A divided APC could not stand in 2002; a divided SLPP would not stand in 2007.
Therefore, if I were in Sierra Leone at this crucial time, I would certainly have voted for the APC, irrespective of its past (good or bad), and I would have thought it to be a vote for a better Sierra Leone. But I am in the UK and just trying to settle down into marriage life. I can only hope Berewa would not win by one vote. God bless Sierra Leone.