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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Koroma the Political Okonkwo vs. SLPPís Amalinze the Cat
By Sankara S. Kamara (USA)
Aug 17, 2011, 17:00
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The Sierra Leone Peopleís Party has taken a calculated risk by choosing Maada Bio as the partyís helmsman in next yearís presidential elections. The contest between the Head of State and the politically unappealing Maada Bio promises to be so one-sided that President Koroma could be likened to Okonkwo, the truculent character in Chinua Achebeís Things Fall Apart who enjoyed all the advantages he needed to prevail over his opponent, Amalinze The Cat.

At first glance, Maada Bio looks like a good proposition for electoral victory. The man is a battle-tested soldier and former military activist who staged a palace coup to hasten the rebirth of democracy in Sierra Leone. Maada Bio can, in theory at least, argue that as a man that briefly ruled Sierra Leone during tumultuous times, he has the national security credentials to ably lead a needy nation. Unfortunately for Maada Bio, presidential profiles based on national security arguments alone cannot win elections in Sierra Leone. Despite being militarily touched by Charles Taylorís rebel menace, our national mindset does preoccupy itself with national security arguments. Besides, the {old} Sierra Leone Army in which Maada Bio served was driven by a mania for violence against civilians. Arguments invoking military service could politically hurt Maada Bio because our national memories are still embittered by the treachery of the old Sierra Leone Army. Recall the term ĎSobelí?

Handicapped by poverty, Sierra Leoneans will respond more to populist politics, and less to a presidential candidate who looks at national security through a conventional, military trajectory. After all, the greatest national security threat Sierra Leone faces can be found in the squalid poverty that threatens the tenuous peace holding us together as a post-war nation. The odds against Maada Bio are impossibly high, and, on top of that, the political party he will be representing at the polls, the SLPP, has a public relations problem that has never been addressed. Whether fair or not, the court of public opinion in Sierra Leone continues to opine that the SLPP is a tribal contrivance modelled on regional exclusivity. As well as being unpopular in the Western and Northern parts of the country, the SLPP has to contend with Maada Bio, a presidential candidate that cannot even compete, let alone win votes, in APC heartlands. Ultimately sealing the SLPPís fate is the fact that Maada Bio cannot even boast of his military service to Sierra Leone without being associated with a traitorous national army that had to be disbanded for sanityís sake!

Apart from the regional and tribal variables arrayed against the SLPP, the vanity that comes with democratic politics also stands against Maada Bio. Likeability is a factor in democratic politics, hence the choreographed appearances made by power-hunting politicians. In comparison to Maada Bio, President Koroma is a very likeable man. The presidentís smile and gait have combined to give him the persona of a harmless gentleman. In order to compete against Ernest Koromaís ebullience, Maada Bio must transform himself from a podgy-looking man, into a lean and physically fit aspirant, beaming with an aura of good health.¬†

Since Ernest Koroma already enjoys the advantages of incumbency, the SLPP should have chosen a candidate that can appeal to some constituencies in the Western and Northern parts of Sierra Leone. Seen as a Mende catís paw, Maada Bio possesses neither the cachet, nor the magnetism, to put up an electoral fight in APC strongholds. Next yearís elections will amount to nothing more than a lame SLPP attempt to legitimize the APCís hold on power. Presidential elections are generally primed to frighten the ruling class into honouring its obligations to the common man. Maada Bioís candidacy is so ungainly that Ernest Koroma can win the presidency without doing anything strenuous to enrich our rickety, political system.¬† Buoyed by the demographic variables he enjoys over Maada Bio, President Koromaís victory could evoke the image of Okonkwo, the allegorical character in Things Fall Apart who prevailed due to the sheer use of his God-given advantages.

EDITORíS NOTES: The writer, Sankara S. Kamara, is a Sierra Leonean scholar of Political Science and International Relations, based in Atlanta, USA. He hails from Kailahun & has hitherto always held strong views in support of SLPP against APC.


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