By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
One of the most memorable phrases by the former Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Commander-in-Chief of the Palestine Revolution, the late Yasser Arafat, can be found in his first ever speech delivered at the Twenty-Ninth Session of the United Nations General Assembly on 13 November 1974. In that speech, he created a lot of cliff-hangers and waited to the very end before dropping what could be compared to a classical Shakespearean line. He told the world that, “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand…”
And the world allowed the olive branch to fall from Arafat’s hand. The result was, and still is, the Middle-East crisis because of a missed opportunity. And just as how the world missed, and is still missing, an opportunity to solve the Jewish-Palestinian problem, so also is the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government of Julius Maada Bio missing every opportunity to unify Sierra Leone and bring peace and unity amongst all the tribes.
Every leader in the world always has one choice in statecraft: To implement policies that will either bring peace and prosperity to the country or disintegrate his/her nation through negative “isms” and provoke conflict of any nature. The SLPP government of President Bio met Sierra Leone a unified country. They met the country enjoying enviable peace and security, which the erstwhile All People’s Congress (APC) government of Ernest Bai Koroma built and sustained for ten years. But the alleged policy of “Mende-nization”, which the Bio-administration appears to have adopted, seems to have set alight a plantation full of olive branches.
Sierra Leone’s history has the hydra-headed habit of appearing unwantedly in a sort of cyclical manner. And that’s the thing which is interesting about it all. During the run-up to the 2007 General Elections, one of the mouthpieces of the SLPP, The Democrat newspaper edited then by the late Pious Foray with offices at the defunct Stop Press Restaurant at George Street in Freetown, had a slogan: “Slay the dreamer and see what happens to the dream”.
What that slogan meant was that the main opposition leader then, Ernest Bai Koroma, should be taken out of the political scene so that his dream of a “New APC” would be stillborn. And when he would have been taken out by whatever means deemed necessary by the SLPP government of the late Tejan Kabbah, the APC as a party would have become leaderless and its followers could have become driftwood (to borrow the phrase of the South African poet Denis Brutus).
And by some wicked twist of fate, history seems to be coming full circle again with the current SLPP government of President Julius Maada Bio appearing to be adopting that same “Slay the dreamer and see what happens to the dream” philosophy. But this time, they have re-engineered it into Robert Green’s Law 42: “Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will scatter”.
That’s exactly what the Bio-administration has been doing since it came out with its now discredited “Governance Transition Team (GTT) 2018” Report, which is a crude way of witch-hunting some of those whom the SLPP thinks are potential Presidential candidates for the APC for the 2023 General Elections. It is no gainsaying that most of those who the GTT Report painted with the broad brush of corruption have been shepherding the APC flock in their own ways. So by striking at the APC shepherds with allegations of graft, the SLPP thinks they will be neutralizing their influences on their APC flock for the 2023 polls.
But my One Dropian take on that is: If President Bio, with all the monstrous allegations levied against him since 2005 unto 2018, could still become Head of State; then even if the SLPP alleges that it were the APC leaders that crucified Jesus Christ it won’t prevent their flock from giving them their support for the 2023 ballot onslaught. What the SLPP is now doing in relation to corruption reminds me of the fabled monkey in Ayi Kwei Armah’s “Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born”, which while climbing higher to shit on the people’s heads doesn’t know that the people have seen its scruffy buttocks and have turned their faces in disguised laughter!
And by further striking the shepherds with consistent “invitations” to the CID headquarters and their subsequent detentions the SLPP thinks the APC leaders will chicken out; they are just toughening them and their supporters the more. In fact, the intimidations and harassments of APC supporters might drive them underground and transform the APC into a Resistant Movement. When a particular political group feels that it is being targeted and pushed to the wall; it will definitely fight back!
The hard-core tribalists within SLPPdom believe that their party should dump the APC with its supporters in political squalor. But what they are failing to comprehend is the fact that even in the midst of squalor, a beautiful flower can blossom—just like the “tree” in David Diop’s “Africa”. Whether it will be out of spontaneity or not; from the current spate of intimidations and harassments of APC supporters another generation of APCers will surely rise. It will rise out of the spur of the moment; it will rise because of the felt need to show their APCness, and another generation of APCers will surely rise because the Bio-administration is serving as a catalyst for a would-be political rumble!
The alleged policy of “Mende-nization”, which the Bio-administration appears to have adopted, is eroding Sierra Leone’s peace, unity, and justice which are the fundamental principles on which the country’s foundation was built. But as I noted in one of my One Dropian droppings not too long ago, the SLPP government of Maada Bio still has the time to exorcise all the negative “isms” from its fold. They still have the opportunity to do political atonement for the unspeakable sins committed against supporters of the APC or those perceived to be part of the APC flock. If not, the SLPP might be inadvertently driving the APC underground which might lead it to become a Resistant Movement.
But for the moment the APC, as a party, has no Yasser Arafat that will threaten to let go of an olive brand and clutch an Automatic Kalashnikov created in 1947 (AK-47). Except that the only weapon which the APC has now is the majority of the electorate, which is always capable of demolishing an SLPP government in any free and fair election.