Between the FCC Mayor, national cohesion and political party interest

By Alusine Sesay

Mayor of the Freetown City Council, Madam Yvonne Aki-Sawyer

Over the week, the Mayor of the Freetown City Council, Madam Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, has come under severe criticism from her main opposition All People’s Party (APC) comrades. Her crime for facing such criticism is that she travelled with President Julius Maada Bio to Canada. President Bio traveled to Canada to grace the TED 2019 conference and subsequently delivered a speech on leadership and several other issues. As a visionary leader and one who believes in national cohesion and nation building, the mayor had no option but to make use of such an opportunity that would serve not only her personal self, but the entire Freetonians. This writer would however not cast blame on those APC die-hards for raining attacks on their comrade for the simple fact that such is not a novelty in Sierra Leone, where people value political party interest more than the statehood.

Dr.Kandeh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) was hundred percent correct to have described the APC and SLPP as Alusine and Alhassan-identical twins with the same characteristics. They would always cry foul while in opposition but would behave otherwise immediately they get political power.  While in opposition, the SLPP opposed everything under the sun, including the goodwill extended by former President Ernest Bai Koroma to members of their party, who might have been personal friends to him before he became president. Therefore, it would not be a surprise for the APC to cry down their comrade who might be of the notion that the country should be first in all her agenda. It has always been like that and it would continue until thy kingdom come when thy will be done.

When Dr.Bubuake Jabbie took the Sierra Leone Peoples Party to court on constitutional matter, supporters of the party branded him that he had been bribed by the APC to disrupt the SLPP and deter its chances of winning elections. Also, Dr.Bernadette Lahai was called all sorts of names and was even petitioned by 26 SLPP Members of Parliament because she was accused of undermining the party in parliament, where she served as minority leader. The said decision was endorsed by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the SLPP for her possible replacement as minority leader in parliament. She was only saved by a court injunction which restrained the party from conducting any election that would have led to her possible replacement.

While addressing party members in Kenema, Dr.Lahai’s possible replacement, Hon.Emma Kowa had this to say: “We have agreed as MPs that Dr. Lahai will no longer represent us in parliament and therefore my appointment should not be a surprise to her. You have other SLPP MPs who are as well qualified to take up such responsibility but as God could have it, I am now the Minority Leader because Bernadette failed us and she is a traitor.”  The only crime committed by Dr.Bernadette Lahai was that she was romancing with the ruling APC party leadership to move the country’s agenda forward. Late Tom Nyuma was forced to join the APC simply because he was branded, vilified and no longer embraced by his SLPP family.

When President Bio was elected in 2018, he promised to ensure national cohesion for nation building. And the relationship between him and the FCC Mayor has been very much cordial, although he has a lot to do because the divide along political, regional and tribal lines has been deepened. His cozy relationship with the FCC mayor is not sufficient to bring the nation together. During his swearing-in ceremony at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown, he promised to be president for all Sierra Leoneans, but much has not been done in that direction. In almost all his public addresses, he keeps on citing the failings of the past APC regime of Ernest Bai Koroma, instead of focusing on his successes and the way forward in pushing the development of the country further. Perhaps he is oblivious of the fact that such has become a cliché and the people would not continue to feed on that. In fact, emphasizing the failure of the past regime signals some deficiency in his ability to get things done. It is like the son blaming his own inability on the failure of his father. That sounds funny eh!

 In Achebe’s ‘Thing Fall Apart, Okonkwo constantly lives in the state of fear and ends up committing a crime that takes him to the evil forest. He always wants society to see him distinct from his father, Unoka, who Achebe described as Efulefu-lazy man without title. Therefore, President Bio should not be the Okonkwo type. He should not bank on the failure of the past regime to justify his inability to bring the nation together.

While the APC has taken offence of the demeanor of their comrade –Mayor Aki-Sawyerr for liaising with the president to move the agenda of the city forward, one thing that should be clear to them is that the mayor cannot afford to work in isolation with the central government. Politics apart, she would only succeed if she has and enjoys the blessings of the central government, of which President Bio is the head. When Bode Gibson was not in the good books of former President Ernest Bai Koroma, he never enjoyed his work as mayor because he was constantly undermined by the central government. This writer believes that Aki-Sawyerr would be conscious of the fact that only the APC could afford her the opportunity to serve as mayor in Freetown and that she must remain grateful for that. I am of the firm conviction that working with the central government does not in any way constitute to betrayal of the status quo. She must work with the central government in order to achieve her desire of transforming the city. Take what you have to get what you want!

Evidently, some parts of the country could not move forward in terms of development because certain elected personalities, especially from the then opposition SLPP refused to work with the Ernest Bai Koroma government in the name of party politics. The Kenema District Council was a typical example. They refused to work with the previous government and rendered their district one of the most dilapidated. When one is elected to a position of trust, ones focus should be the interest of the country and not the political party he or she hails from. Although it is vital to maintain the interest of the political party, but that should not be above the nationhood.

Finally, we should not allow party politics to derail the growth and development of the country. Rather, we should maintain our political party interest by delivering on promise. The APC should allow Aki-Sawyerr to Play the Game and achieve her desire of transforming the city that we all should be proud of.

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