By M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States
I have often told my colleagues and close ones around me that Sierra Leone is blessed for having a tolerant President who believes in political tolerance and inclusiveness.
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has demonstrated those qualities since he took the reins of power in September 2007. His latest show of political maturity is the embracing of his political opponent and former presidential candidate of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.
According to reports, Retired Brigadier Bio on Monday 12th October, 2015 paid a courtesy call on His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma at State House following the former’s visit to Sierra Leone from the United Kingdom (UK) where he is studying for his PHD at Bradford University.
Both political figure heads discussed various issues ranging from the 42-days countdown to the end of Ebola, national cohesion and the need for every Sierra Leonean to focus on ending the deadly epidemic. The reports also state that President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma entreated politicians to focus on ending Ebola instead of politicking.
Of all the reports I read about the Retired Brigadier’s courtesy call on the President at State House, what impressed me the most was his commendation of President Koroma. According to one of the reports; “Brigadier Bio commended the effective leadership displayed by President Koroma in the fight against Ebola and catering for the welfare of those affected by the flooding on September 16, 2015.”
Reports furthered that Retired Brigadier Bio hailed the substantive progress made by the Government in breaking the chain of transmission and controlling the spread of the deadly disease, whilst he offered to complement government’s social mobilization and sensitization drive to end Ebola in Sierra Leone. On this note, he was supposed to travel across the country to talk to the people to continue adhering to the health protocols and medical regulations in the fight against the epidemic.
The fact that Brigadier Bio praised President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s development strides and his achievements means that the former has now come to terms with what politics is all about. Politics and elections are not about verbal attacks or belligerence; they are about embracing peace, unity, togetherness and working harmoniously to achieve political stability and sustainable socio-economic development. I appreciate the fact that the former SLPP presidential candidate, who on several fora criticized the APC –led Erenset Koroma administration on many issues, has finally acknowledged the President’s development strides and the effective leadership displayed by him in the fight against Ebola.
This is what we naturally expect from matured politicians in emerging democracies like ours. Instead of always criticizing the President and his Government on flimsy grounds, opposition politicians need to appreciate the massive development taking place in the country such as road infrastructure, energy and power, health and education, agriculture, etc.
I can still remember a few months ago when the opposition in Kenya criticized President Kenyatta and his Government for importing sugar from Uganda instead of Europe or the USA. The President in a press conference responded that the importation they made was based on the spirits of South-South trade for the development of Third World Countries in the South. He retorted that he expected his elder – that is, the main opposition leader Raila Odinga – to support him instead of criticizing his Government meaninglessly.
This is the general practice of opposition political parties in Africa; they criticize Governments because they are not in power. But the belated acknowledgement of President Koroma’s achievements by a former ‘antagonist’ means our politics has started maturing to the surprise of many Sierra Leoneans. Retired Brigadier Bio must be commended by Sierra Leoneans for his latest move in bridging the gap between the Government and the main opposition SLPP which is very good for peace and national collision.
But again, I learnt from many reports on his State House visit that it did not go down well with some members of the opposition who have openly condemned Retired Brigadier Bio for his courtesy call on the President and acknowledging his achievements. But this does not come as a surprise to those familiar with the current state of affairs in the opposition SLPP where fifteen party members have already declared for the flag-bearership ahead of the 2018 Presidential Election. So naturally, you don’t expect all members and supporters of SLPP to commend the retired military officer for praising our President for his development strides.
I believe that Retired Brigadier Bio has taken the right steps in the right direction for which he does not deserve bashing. Every well-meaning politician in the opposition with national focus on development should always cooperate with the Government for national development. As the Kenya President insinuated in the news conference; “I expect my elder brother to support me and my government because if I am in the opposition tomorrow, he will expect me to support him and his Government”.
A good opposition leadership is the one that works in earnest to complement the efforts of the government of the day. ‘Antagonism’ is not a synonym for ‘opposition’. It is natural for political parties to agree to disagree about how to run or develop their country, but that should never mean being at each other’s throat forever just for personal gains; and it should neither mean refusing to acknowledge progress made by the ruling party. Recognizing one’s opponent’s tenacity and achievement should be viewed as an honour, not a weakness.
Where political maturity prevails, all political parties should work in harmony in the interest of their people whom they primarily represent, especially in times of calamities befalling the country like in the case of Ebola and the recent floods which have both left indelible marks on people and infrastructure. It is indeed in such trying times that opposition parties should have all hands on deck side by side with government to tackle the staggering problems of the day. I think this is exactly what Maada Bio is trying to prove to the other opposition parties and to his opponents in the Sierra Leone’s People Party as well. It is, no doubt, a novelty in Sierra Leone politics.
So, let the opposition members emulate the good example of Retired Brigadier Bio for the sake of peace, togetherness and to work in harmony in order to achieve political stability and sustainable economic development. Please think about it honestly !
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