Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Who is the Real Opposition?

Indeed Sierra Leone’s march towards the August 11 Presidential and Parliamentary elections would not really be easy for anybody to steal the show under the carpet as it used to be in the previous times in 1996 and 2002 respectively.
This one is different as three tough contenders are hooking on each other’s throat and trying to pull apart.
But interestingly, two of the three prominent parties are in the line of duty doing the job of the opposition as much in expected from them to advocate the much needed changes and convince the public why they are serious to replace the government of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party.
The main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) is the traditional north-western led party of indigenes that has ruled Sierra Leone for close to 24 years before it was toppled from power in a military coup in 1992. It represents the values of national unity, security, peace, development and better economic management and people’s welfare. Under its two leaders, Siaka Stevens and Joseph Saidu Momoh administrations, much of what Sierra Leone can boast about development today was achieved in their reign.
Thus, such a party which has served the country and revived itself as a formidable force has a nationwide support than even the ruling government party, SLPP, and its chances to win the polls are great. Nothing is so important to the APC than its crowds.
The other is the newly formed Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). The party is a splinter group of the SLPP over the leadership succession of the party formed in 2005.
It’s Leader and Founder is Freetown’s erudite legal practitioner Mr. Charles Francis Margai. Mr. Margai hailed from Gbangbatoke in the Moyamba district in the southern province of sierra Leone. Believed to be a man of principles, fearless, outspoken, most of Margai’s supporters profess to have similar qualities of life like him. They believe that only the likes of Margai can confront Sierra Leone’s problems especially on corruption to resolve them. With benevolent dictatorship as he has always professed to introduce if he comes to power, his supporters believe his in fist can mould the most crooked man to be straight in Sierra Leone.
Standing poles apart, while the APC boasts of the crowds, the PMDC boasts of the voice.
This has been demonstrated on many occasions in the quite recent past.
The APC rallies in Freetown and up country have been remarkably dubbed as victorious to be the likely winners of the August polls if those crowds are maintained and convinced to vote them in. From Makeni to Port Loko, Freetown to Kono and pockets of well-wishers and supporters in Bo and Kenema who remember the good old days of the party while in power, the party really boasts of the crowds as a forte to win.
But how about the voice on issues of serious national importance such as security, undue politics interference, the clandestine plans to rig the polls and many others now coming to light?
Virtually speaking, the APC is silent on these, and this is where the PMDC takes the credits.
With a vociferous leader like Charles Margai, the PMDC has been in the line of duty firing every missile at opponent positions to counter or forestall any political magament aimed at rigging the elections of August 11 2007.
First the party came strong in opposing the government’s monopoly over campaigning through sensitization and commissioning of programmes by taking the matter with NEC and the Political Parties Registration Commission, PPRC.
This action was followed by NEC and PPRC convening a meeting in 2006 to address the issue. The outcome harmonizes a situation which guarantees that all parties must abide by NEC’s political code of conduct on campaigning. The PMDC did not only stop there but demonstrated its commitment to the process by challenging a recent IMF projection that the SLPP party will likely win the elections in Sierra Leone as political interference by the global financial institution. The PMDC opposition was aptly demonstrated through press releases, letters to the IMF and many other forms of opposition to the pronouncement. The result forced the IMF to later withdraw the statement saying it did not say so. That was a major victory of the opposition by the PMDC which demonstrated that despite the role of the international community such as the IMF is recognized in Sierra Leone, yet it cannot be allowed to middle too much or dictate for the country especially in such a time when the Sierra Leone people should take the cause of deciding their destiny and not the international community.
Another important development the PMDC demonstrated it vociferousness is the Obasanjo pre-ordination of Berewa as successor of be head of the state. That development too saw the PMDC flexing its muscles and opposition over such irate pronouncement of the ex-Nigerian president.
But the latest outburst and show of opposition the PMDC has demonstrated is the visit of the Libyan leader Muarmmar Al-Ghaddafi. The PMDC did not only demonstrate its displeasure, but its leader Mr. Francis Margai went on international radio over the BBC on Focus on Africa and Network Africa programmes both and challenged Ghadhafi’s visit as a provocation. Caring for the Sierra Leone people Mr. Margai said Ghaddafi should apologize to the Sierra Leonean people for the atrocities his sponsored one time war machinery, the RUF, brought to Sierra Leone.
While all these developments were unfolding the main opposition APC has been quite and busy with other things and is none performing its traditional role.
Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma, the leader is known much as an administrator than a representative. His historical background says he doesn’t talk much than his actions. However though it is said action speaks louder than words, yet in the political chess game, words speak more than actions especially when dealing with issues bordering the peoples’ lives. The impression has left many people doubtful who the real opposition is, APC or PMDC?
Although some of the actions of the PMDC are politically irate and done out of desperation such as attempts to technically elbow the vice president and leader of the SLPP Mr. Solomon Berewa who was being challenged as not qualified to contest the presidency because he was alleged not qualify as a member of parliament under the present constitution which case was thrown out of court by the Supreme Court, yet the party has demonstrated that even if it does not win the presidential elections on a large percentage and probably too, would not control parliament, Sierra Leoneans would stand to benefit from a good representation of the likes of MPs like Charles Margai in the next parliament of the next republic of Sierra Leone.
Unlike its counterpart the APC, despite all the crowds, the big wigs, financialists, and top Vons of the state secretly supporting it, yet it has shown very little impression as the main opposition party.
The likes of Victor Foh and Alpha Kanu, the spokesman of the presidential candidate, Ernest Koroma, supposed to be the main advocates and hawks set against the preys are being dormant on issues bordering the people such as the Ghaddafi and others.
Though it is understood that the APC is trying to bolster a new image in the southeast by penetrating moderate politics in the region and avoiding antagonism with its arch rival, the SLPP, yet their dormancy is not being appreciated. Compared to the PMDC, it is bigger, better and stronger collectively and individually but forgetting its traditional role may lead the PMDC to steal the show and probably influence the electorates especially those still sitting on the fence to decide their minds at the last moment for the orange party.
The elections have not commenced yet and are still far from over. Thus there is only one winner yet, and that is the SLPP.
Until proper consolidation is made, intensified campaigns are mounted, better issues are addressed and the votes cast, counted and announced before a winner emerges. Therefore the road to victory is a long way and complacency is the first factor to destruction.
The APC should be seen to be a better opposition even at this dying moment than what it has been representing through out its parliamentary life span as main opposition. To the PMDC, bravo up keep it up till the polls.

African Path