October 2, 2022

Finally, the cat is out of the bag. The SLPP is making moves to create a one party state that will usher into Sierra Leone the President for Life phenomenon that has failed in failed states, of which Sierra Leone is not an exception. And while some SLPP supporters would say that sounds farfetched, the indicators are however there for the observant.

We can safely say that since their time in the opposition during the Ernest Bai Koroma presidency, SLPP strategists were very busy conjuring scenarios for instituting a one party state that would see them in power much longer than the late President Siaka Stevens.

But how do you trick the people into giving you a mandate after Ernest had run the country so well? You promise over and over again to do away with the bane of their existence as a state and people: corruption, financial leakages, violence, lawlessness and indiscipline.

Tired of how the aforementioned have rendered them poor in a land blessed with riches, the ever hopeful and trusting people of Sierra Leone, who despite so many failed promises still believed in and were then still searching for responsible leaders, bought into PAOPA’s promises of a New Direction for Sierra Leone, and gave the SLPP the mandate.

But three years down the line, after this government have lost the wars on corruption, financial leakages, violence, lawlessness and indiscipline by taking them to levels of absurdity only witnessed during the pre-civil war years, the true plans of PAOPA have been made very clear – the party is creating the scenario that would make necessary the perceived need to depoliticise our governance space for the ushering in of a one party state, with Bio taking the role of Siaka Stevens.

But fate is on the side of the people of Sierra Leone because almost every move PAOPA thought would be an easy sell to the people of Sierra Leone have ended up backfiring. Among such critical national-disaster-prone moves are the Local Council Bill, the Cybercrime Bill and the Midterm Census.

By seeking to do away with local council elections, the New Direction government is attempting to steal local council governments it woefully failed to win from the people and putting them under the direct control of State House through the Ministry of Local Government. Their target of course are the bigger city councils across the country, but more so the Freetown City Council.

When their move to take over the FCC by imposing the Deputy Chief Administrator and Environment and Sanitation boss without considering their needfulness in council backfired, a sleeper or dormant informant was activated to illegally record the Mayor during a heated moment, when all her guards were down, which comment was then misconstrued in an attempt to stoke tribalism. (Remember, the late Joe Demby was hated by the SLPP for saying the president is a stoker of tribalism.)

But the public could not be misled as the Mayor’s issue died down much faster than it was concocted. That was the final straw for PAOPA though who then decided to stop playing around and go for the ‘Full Monty’ by coming up with the Local Council Bill aimed at depoliticising local council elections. But for what? To bring councils under the absolute control of the presidency, hence give the president a much wider power base. We all know that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

But PAOPA in their wildest imaginations was wholly unprepared for the kind of backlash their move has elicited from the media and opposition parliamentarians. Referring to such a move as the foundation for a one party state, the deputy leader of the opposition in parliament, Hon. IB Kargbo warned against such a day, going as far as positing that should it happen, the next move would be to depoliticise and bring parliament, which is supposed to be a separate but equal arm of government, under the control of the presidency. Seeing that as the groundwork for a one party state, the deputy opposition leader gave us a heads up on PAOPA’s reprehensible plans.

In a carrot and stick move aimed at satiating the very active but underpaid media, PAOPA gave them a carrot by amending Part V of the dreaded Public Order Act that had been a crown of thorns on the head journalists and other national commentators, by which they had been arrested, jailed, exiled and cowed for over 50 years, only to turn around with two sticks: sending them to the Independent Media Commission (IMC), that is not so independent as its leaders are handpicked by the president, and by tightening the screws on freedom of speech, expression and association with a much more draconian instrument, the proposed Cybercrime Bill.

Locally referred to as the ‘Adebayor Bill’ in reference to this government’s most outspoken online critic, the instrument will in essence be used against anyone that the government deems as outspoken, with the police and minister being made judge and jury. We know that the police always work for and on behalf of the government of the day, and not in the interest of the people. As a matter of fact, and going by very recent happenings, the police are more likely to shoot and kill or maim you in the street for any slight breach of their instructions, than protect you.

Lastly, the government is trying despite widespread opposition, which resulted to the recent embarrassing display of hormones at Bintumani Hotel, to execute a midterm census Statistics Sierra Leone is incapable of executing, all in an effort to create new districts and constituencies in the party’s home-base or stronghold of Southeastern Sierra Leone. Why? In case PAOPA fails to get its way through its many un-procedural and seemingly illegal instruments, it would attempt to ‘win’ or ‘carry’ more districts and constituencies in the 2023 election, outside of Freetown. As if to rub it all in our faces, PAOPA tabled the Midterm Census and Cybercrime Bill together, something that shouldn’t be done. But, hey, that’s the PAOPA way.

So now that the cat is out of the bag that PAOPA through all these actions have been trying to consolidate power to the point of not only rigging the 2023 elections but to have its leader as president for life, what is expected of the people of Sierra Leone, who are the power behind the presidency?

The people, including MPs from all the different parties, should vote in the interest of the people, not the party. By depoliticising local elections, shutting us down and arresting us for our online and social media comments, and creating new constituencies and districts, PAOPA, in a move that is an affront to the basic tenets of democracy, is trying to tell us that they have the power to do as they please.

But ‘na by so now?’ Really? Are we the people who put our brothers and sisters in power to run our affairs not able to remove them? If we allow PAOPA to have their way, their next move will be a referendum on extending the president’s terms to go beyond two terms, citing more time to accomplish their manifesto promises, for which they would refer to Paul Kagame and further afield China’s Xi Jinping.

But surely only a mad man would compare any of our leaders past and present, except Ernest Bai Koroma, to the Rwanda and China leaders. If New Direction plans to accomplish it the way they have for the past three years, then PAOPA will enrich itself at our expense. What a NEW DIRECTION indeed!