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Wole Soyinka and John Pepper Clark are two renowned poets from black Africa. Whilst in university, I read two poems with the same name but with different backgrounds by both poets. Both wrote about an evil spirited child, called ”Abiku”, whose motive is to torment its mother and family by being born into the human world and later returning into the spiritual world. In their expose’, J.P Clark’s Abiku depicts a member of the family appealing to the Abiku to either stay in the spiritual world for good or stay with the family, whereas the Abiku by Wole Soyinka boasts of its arrogance and resistance to defeat. In the present day politics in Sierra Leone, both of the two main political parties are clamoring for second term presidency. The question is; which of the “Abiku” is John Pepper Clark and which one depicts Soyinka’s Abiku? The two candidates, President Koroma and Rtd Captain Maada Bio (according to Ministry of Defence records), have served the country in different capacities. As the election nears, both are asking the people for second terms. (Photo: Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, author)
Rtd Captain Bio of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party had served the country as head of state under the aegis of the National Provisional Ruling Council. The NPRC under Rtd Captain Strasser had brought sweeping changes into the cream of the country’s political spectrum. Most people had embraced the regime with exasperated breath. For some, the early days of the revolution were a turning point in the recovery of the country from a failed economic hegemony. The world watched, the people of the country jigsawed from economic blackout to renewed hope, aspiration and consolidated democracy. Rtd Capt Bio entered the scene and served as head of state for some months. The rest, pundits say, is history.
President Koroma’s emergence into the political scene is either by mistake or choice. He represents a political party that was considered a taboo to most Sierra Leoneans as a result of failed policies. His party, the APC, was overthrown by Strasser and colleagues in an unprecedented manner wherein millions danced and embraced the coupists as a result of the failed policies of the late President J.S.Momoh. However, in less than four years, President Koroma has turned some of the follies into victories. For some party activists, this is a civilian revolution where there is no celebratory gunfire.
Walking along the streets of Freetown two days ago, I asked a friend of mine, Tajawie, what will happen after November 17 2012? He smiled and said, November 18 will come and there will be continuity. Will continuity be in the form of economic recovery and tranquility? He retorts, whoever wins will continue with the ongoing developmental projects. This is the message from ordinary citizens who spend less time reading about lies, propaganda, character assassination and journalistic bigotry in some newspapers.
The people are caught in this political crossfire. Just few months from now, the people will be appealing to one of the Abikus (Ernest and Maada) to stay and stay for good for another four years. Of the two, one of the Abikus will yield to the demands of the family and improve the lives of the family. The family in Pepper Clark’s Abiku has suffered and would like the Abiku to improve the lifestyle of the entire country.
Sierra Leone is like the suckling mother, some of its children have turned against the mother whereas some are ready to turn the tides towards prosperity. It is disheartening and deplorable for a mother who has suffered for a period of nine months, only for the child to die and re-enter the womb. The people of Sierra Leone are looking to one of these Abiku’s to stay and take the family to the highest heights in the continent.
Walking through the streets of Freetown and interacting with friends at entertainment centers, one gets a unique feeling of the ‘Tahir Square’ mentality. The people have made their minds about their choice. Not that they would gather at Cotton Tree or Parade Grounds, their “Tahir Square” is their mind about their decision of their choice. ‘We are just waiting for November 12,’ one remarked at a popular entertainment center called ‘burn ose’.
As I begin to settle in this Disneyworld of Freetown, one gets a sense of fighting between the journalists more than the ordinary voters. The headlines of some of the papers may tempt you to pack your bags and leave before November 17. The sensationalism of headlines and unsubstantiated evidences is replica of irresponsible journalism. What is disingenuous of this profession is the insult and obscene language used by senior journalists at each other. Did you say where is the IMC?
But this is politics. The fight these days is on an intellectual level. Quite recently, a grotesque photo of a corpse was posted on Facebook by a senior opposition pundit depicting the killings under the APC government. Though it was unfair to the APC government, as the cause of death was unrelated to any act of the government. But it shows the efficacy of the media and the propaganda war waged on social networks. The battle of words between journalists in Freetown will rage till after the elections until a victor is proclaimed.
Rumor is the cheapest commodity in Sierra Leone though some can later turn out to be true. The president has succeeded in delegitimizing the scourge of tribalism levied against him. In most official and unofficial quarters, he has not even spoken about the issue and it seems to be dying a natural death. It is certain that allegations about the president’s team will linger week after week until elections are held.
This is politics eh? Rumors like the opposition leader denied entry visa into the United States is hitting the ground with gravity. As a matter of fact, neither the leader nor the vibrant Sama Banya has refuted this allegation, thus igniting journalistic earthquake.
But this is politics where one of the Abikus will definitely emerge victorious. The people of Sierra Leone will look for an Abiku whose appeal from the populace will be heard and heeded instead of an Abiku that will use words like “in vain your bangles cast, I am Abiku calling for the first and the repeated times”.
As I leave the wonderful shores of this magnificent country with its beautiful people, I pray that Allah sends His blessings on the country so we can have a peaceful election.
I think of thousands of people whose lives are hinged on a single decision taken by one of these Abikus.
I think of the days of Manah Gbakas, Salia Jusu Sherriffs, S.I Koroma, Thaimu Bangura whose lives were devoted to the suffering masses of the country.
As I board my flight, there is one inevitable certainty raging, I will return to see my Abiku ruling the country, the Abiku who will heed to the clarion call of Sierra Leoneans on Novermber 17th.
May Allah bless Sierra Leone.
Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, Freetown, Sierra Leone
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