By *Abdulai Bayraytay :
The politics of post-colonial Africa has usually been replete with the nauseating phenomenon of the winner-take-all syndrome which, according to some scholars, has been attributed to the political instability the continent’s nascent democracies face at independence.
It is against this backdrop that some Western commentators have even gone to the extent of tossing the idea of power-sharing in recent times as a way of settling emergent post-elections challenges the continent faces as evident in countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe which, to say the least, have degenerated to what one would call fledgling and façade peace.
The West African state of Sierra Leone is no exception to insinuations of such arrangements, especially with clarion concerns raised both internally and internationally that the country is still reeling from a devastating civil conflict with all the attendant human rights abuses and the abrasive killing of thousands of innocent, unsuspecting and defenceless civilians.
Last November 17, the country held its third simultaneous Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections that the International Community, including the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union et al described as peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible.
Indeed, there is every reason for the elections to be described thus because a cross-section of the usually skeptical media had published or aired that the elections were going to be chaotic. But Sierra Leoneans once more demonstrated their resilience as over 80 percent of registered voters cast their vote without any rancour.
This time round, incumbent President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was given a resounding victory with a comfortable 58.7 percent of the total number of votes cast against Mr. Julius Maada Bio, the main contender of the opposition grand old party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), in the Presidential elections.
This did not however come as a surprise because President Koroma went into the race with a report card to the electorates that he should be given a second chance to consolidate on the achievements his All People’s Congress Party (APC) has scored in the free health care initiative, the education for all programme, the massive road and infrastructural development across the country as encapsulated in the “agenda for change”. The people believed in him and voted him en masse for what would be economic empowerment of especially the youth and the most vulnerable in society as envisaged in the “agenda for prosperity”.
The will of the people was tested by the SLPP by initially refusing to eat humble pie and accept defeat. But as democracy is adduced from the mandate of the people as defined in “people’s power”, it eventually prevailed last Monday when the Body of Christ under the auspices of the Council of Churches facilitated a face-to-face meeting between the leadership of the SLPP and President Koroma in what culminated to burying the political hatchet.
But this dark side of the post-elections challenges had earlier being dulled by President Koroma’s magnanimity of extending an olive branch when he called on all Sierra Leoneans, including the opposition parties across the political spectrum, that the time for politics was over and it is now time for all to join the bandwagon for the rapid transformation of the country well-defined in the agenda for prosperity.
The SLPP had a golden opportunity to have capitalized on the tumultuous commendation the National Electoral Commission (NEC) had received across the world and join other parties in congratulating the President for his landslide victory, with the promise that indeed Sierra Leone is bigger than one’s party affiliation. Afterwards, President Koroma did the honourable thing by conceding defeat to President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah following the latter’s landslide victory in 2002 Presidential polls.
This is where one would extend profound kudos to former Vice-President of the SLPP Solomon Berewa and erstwhile President Tejan Kabbah who placed Sierra Leone first in congratulating President Koroma for his victory to the apparent anger of their party.
The bottom line therefore is, whilst the electorates who voted President Koroma in would certainly salute his “olive branch” to the opposition, one way he would however consolidate our democracy and peace is by resisting any form of hoodwinking, or euphemistically put, blackmail, on the part of any opposition party, including the SLPP, into that scandalous paradigm of “power-sharing”.
This is particularly so because such an arrangement would in itself undermine the country’s fledgling democracy with the tendency of giving the undue license to any group of political hustlers to form a party, contest elections, lose them, and then trumpet that they have been “rogued” and then canvass for a political settlement that would give them what they would hitherto not get in a free, fair and transparent political contest.
If for anything, President Koroma already has democratic laurels to show the world based on his impeccable human rights record by being the only president since the country gained her independence 51 years ago not have executed anyone, never intimidated, harassed or jailed any journalist and the country’s Human Rights Commission rated a class “A” by the United Nations for its independence.
Not all is lost though as reports indicate that the leadership of the SLPP last Monday finally met with “world best” and conceded defeat. This, to say the least, is the right thing to do since it was a decision that rightly resonated with the majority of Sierra Leoneans, the holders of political sovereignty in any civilized democracy.
This is where I think Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio also deserves commendation for mustering the soldierly mustered courage in publicly conceding defeat by his pronouncement that the coveted presidency of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was not in contention by any means, as some of his desperadoes might want others to believe otherwise.
Indeed, Sierra Leoneans had romanced with the old adage of democracy being a government of, by and for the people and determined their political destiny last November 17 by overwhelming voting in President Koroma. This is what democracy is all about as the will of the people had prevailed. My congratulations to my fellow Sierra Leoneans!
*Author, Abdulai Bayraytay, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in political science from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, and a Master’s degree in political science from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.