By KABS KANU
While All People’s Congress ( APC) supporters in Sierra Leone and the world are jubiliating because the first round deadlock gave them a second realistic shot at the presidency during the runoff on Tuesday March 27, 2018, supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) are distraught, disappointed and angry with their own officials , even though they should have been the ones rejoicing after finishing the first round with a mere 15,000 votes lead.
MAADA BIO : DID HE PERPETUATE THE HOAX ?
The runoff was the last thing SLPP supporters were expecting because while the counting was going on their officials assured them fully and gave them high hopes that they had the final results in their possession and that their presidential candidate, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio , had already won the elections and would be sworn in as President of Sierra Leone on Monday March 12 , after the announcement of the final 25% of the results.
THE PHOTO SLPP SUPPORTERS SHARED TO LIE THAT EVEN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAD ENDORSED BIO’S PHANTOM VICTORY AND WERE GROOMING HIM FOR HIS SWEARING IN CEREMONY ON TUESDAY.
The whole ruse was started soon after the elections last Wednesday when the Chairman of the SLPP, Dr. Prince Harding, a man from whom much was expected , went to the national broadcaster , the SLBC and declared that the SLPP had won the elections. He called on supporters of the party to go into the streets to celebrate. By then, nothing had been announced by the National Elections Commission ( NEC) by way of even any percentage of the votes. Dr. Harding’s behaviour surprised Sierra Leoneans who believed that there were sinister motives for the SLPP declaring themselves winners rather prematurely. Some people believed that it was not only A WELL-ORCHESTRATED PLAN to undermine the credibility of the NEC whom they would then accuse of rigging the elections if it did not turn out to be a win for the SLPP, but to incite supporters into a frame of mind where they would protest against the results if a different outcome ensued. True to conjecture, SLPP supporters everywhere , especially on social media, started threatening that they would resort to violence and a tribal war if a different result was announced by the NEC.
To prove that it was a concerted plan, SLPP supporters went on the rampage on Saturday in Freetown , when NEC announced the first 25% of the results which placed the ruling APC in a 17, 000 votes lead. Some men armed with matchets and sticks attacked APC supporters rejoicing around PZ. Had it not been for the security forces, which quelled the serious public disorder, the result would have been unfortunate. Because the next two percentages of results announced on Sunday and Monday seemed to favor the SLPP, who reduced the APC lead to a mere 2,000 after 50% of the results were announced on Sunday , and then went ahead by 15, 000 votes when 75% of the votes were reported on Monday, there was no public disorder.
However , SLPP supporters went wild with joy all over the country and in the diaspora , asserting that the next 25% to be announced would be a mere formality because they had already won the elections at the first ballot by making the mandated 55% required for an outright win. Some less discrete SLPP supporters said in the social media that people within NEC had already given them the result and that Maada Bio won the presidential elections and would be sworn in as head of state on Monday. Nothing could talk the SLPP out of their false optimism , not even statistical data provided by analysts on social media that because the results stood at SLPP ( 43 % ) and the APC ( 42%), it was statistically impossible for any candidate to reach the 55% threshold .
By Monday afternoon when NEC postponed the announcement of the final 25% , pushing it off to the next day, SLPP supporters had upped the ante. They had stated circulating stories on social media that the international community had gone ahead and already assigned state security to Mr. Bio, which they said was an indication that he had already won and would be sworn in as President the next day. They further lied that even President Koroma had accepted the result and was in negotiations with Bio for indemnity from God-knows-what.
The sad thing was that gullible people on both sides of the aisle believed the SLPP hoax. Some erstwhile respected civil society activists and NGO workers supporting the SLPP and even Mustapha Wai of the SLPP Mamba TV announced on Facebook that they too had information that Bio had won and would be sworn in as President on Tuesday. Some APC supporters, who started believing that it could be true after all, because of the confident manner the lie was being told by the SLPP, started worrying and some sent personal messages to this newspaper that their blood pressure had gone up. SLPP supporters, including one Henry Sheku , who works for the UN in Africa , even circulated a photo depicting Bio and former Ghanaian President Mahama , Nigeria’ ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, the former Liberian interim President Dr.Amos Sawyerr ( All heading observer teams in the elections ) and some international personnel to demonstrate that international stakeholders were already in knowledge of the outcome of the elections and were preparing Bio for his swearing in ceremony.
There was no doubt that the SLPP believed their own lie and supporters took the bait . The SLPP lie was responsible for the fearsome tension and anxiety that gripped the nation on Monday evening through to Tuesday night when the final results were finally announced by NEC.
After the result, many SLPP supporters described the outcome as rigged, but the only saving grace going into the runoff was that they had a 15, 000 votes lead over the APC ,which probably dissuaded them from going on the rampage as they had threatened. Some other supporters are now displeased with the officials of their party for fooling them as APC supporters mock them on the social media for their self-deceit, which many Sierra Leoneans described as shameful. .