Political Imagery Reflects Public Perceptions : The Crowd Has Spoken

By Titus Boye-Thompson :

National heroes and heroines have been known to come from warrior type generals, fashion icons artistes, entertainers, humanitarian and compassionate philanthropists. In Sierra Leone the current political process is giving way to praise singing of such magnitude that renditions describe in flowery language the bravery, courage and hard work of those in public life and otherwise those seeking elected office. In some cultures, prowess and strength do not go well with compassion and generosity. It is more vaunted to equate a leader to that inner strength that restrains the inclination towards abuse of power, to good governance and to an enviable record in human rights and justice. African societies struggle with corruption in ways that politicians in Western democracies find very hard to understand yet in Sierra Leone, a leader emerged who had the temerity to increase the effectiveness of the Anti Corruption Commission to such an extent that friends and acquaintances in politics or otherwise have been caught in that Institution’s web, prosecuted and convicted. To such a leader may very well come the spoils of public acceptance, admiration and reverence.


While most of the songs revel in the prowess of political opponents, most of the songs that abound tell of the vision of the incumbent President, Ernest Bai Koroma. Songs liken him to a Messiah, a man who has single-handedly raised the hopes and aspirations of ordinary Sierra Leoneans, a hard worker and committed citizen who has the interests of this Country at heart. Songs tell of how selfless he has been, how he has been a man for all seasons, tending to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, saved children and pregnant mothers through the provision of free healthcare; raised the maintenance and rebuilding of roads and other infrastructure as key development priorities. These songs laud the President’s “Agenda for Change” as a kept promise that he made to the Country.


The songs about him sing these praises because on the whole, the overwhelming public view and perception is that this has been a performing President. He has done a  lot of good for this Country. It is significant also that the matching perception is that the Foist Lady has been a significant partner in the effort. The public warms to the First Lady as a woman of substance and a kind compassionate and caring Mother of the Nation who has made deliberate and firm efforts to contribute to the welfare of those less privileged and susceptible to disadvantage in Society. So when they sing of the President’s hard work in Governing the Country they also tell of the First Lady making a positive contribution with the sterling work she has done in raising awareness of infant and maternal mortality, health of women and children, girl child education and other pertinent issues. A popular line is “de pa dey woke en de Mammy dey cook, if you open you yai, you go see for yousef.” Which can be paraphrased as “It is self evident that the President is hard working and his wife does her bit as well.”


The contribution of the First Lady in strengthening the President’s position should not be underrated or taken lightly. They have both equally shown a maturity quite unheralded, a love undiminished and a partnership much admired. At this time of elections, when the President goes back to the Country to ask for their votes, his wife is by his side, giving the Country the assurance of a stable and loving family, a compassionate father an understanding wife and doting children. These solid relationships say much more about the man than anything else.


As the songs tell of the President’s character, charisma and charm they lambast in almost equal measure, the opposition leader for his infamy, his exuberant but errant youth, his lack of respect for authority and high office and his complicity in various crimes, misdemeanours and malpractices. His wasted youth and recalcitrant past go badly against him and the audacity of his approach has also gone against him. The attempt to label himself a bad act was not a good one, hence the reason why when he calls himself “the Tormentor” backfired as quickly as the songs came out. Whilst bad boys in entertainment wows their fans, it is clear that the public was very hard put to attach a positive swing on that word or appellation.


The songs about Maada Bio would not tell of his good works because when he had the chance at high office in the past, he came to that position through the barrel of a gun, he was a usurper, a coup plotter and in the final days became a traitor who instigated a palace coup to overthrow his own friend and was wont to have him thrown overboard an airborne helicopter as he was being taken to exile in Guinea. History has not done Maada Bio well, his youth has been wasted in the sense that his spent that time rather lamely attempting to hold on to power that he assumed unlawfully in the first place. His complicity in the death of ordinary citizens of this Country did not go unnoticed nor is his acts in looting the Treasury through bad and dubious contracts and assigns.


It was indeed laughable when Maada Bio attempted to ride on the wagon of World’s Best, the champion slogan that has endeared President Koroma to more hearts than anyone can imagine. Maada Bio did not see the import of the imagery and his campaign team lost the plot completely when he was advised to take to the streets with a football as President Koroma did, alluding to the comparison with Messi, the Champion footballer. The imagery of World’s Best had nothing to do with a flag bearer and a football so those who advised Maada Bio to be publicly seen holding a football, missed a penalty there and scored an own goal to boot. The imagery is more to do with a central playmaker, who scores goals iin the field of play just as President Koroma’s Agenda for Change is widely regarded as a winning goal for development. It is an imagery that aligns President Koroma as an acclaimed winner in Sport, a champion Squash Player thus President Koroma in a sporting attire, holding and playing with a ball is very much in place but that could not be said for Maada Bio. This is a case of unmatched allegory and unconnected imagery.


The stretch of imagery favours President Ernest Bai Koroma but for the opposition flag bearer, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, imagery has been unkind to him and therefore the songs that tell of his exploits have in the main undressed him as a person unworthy of high office.  If the stretch of imagery is reflective of public perception then there is a clear manifestation of how revered and much loved the incumbent Presidential is and how much he is perceived to be an achiever and a man worthy of praise. The preponderance of political songs weigh heavily in President Koroma’s favor and if public opinion is to be taken as a measure of voting intentions, then projections on the forthcoming election results would not be too hard to fathom. It is clear that President Koroma is leading the pack by a very long shot and for all intents and purposes, he  should expect a landslide victory come November 17th 2012. This time, NO RUN-OFF.

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