Congrats Sierra Leoneans

For reasons unknown, it can be recalled that there was a lot of worry and anxiety among the populace prior to the last Wednesday, 7th March, presidential, parliamentary and local council elections.

Ask people why they were so mentally tormented and visibly on edge, many said they were afraid that the series of bloody confrontations, skirmishes and exchange of xenophobic words between supporters of mainly APC and SLPP did not give them any confidence that the March 7 would pass without serious ‘gbos-gbos.’

Well, as our old people say, a man who has been bitten by a snake will run if he sees an earthworm that looks like a snake. Sierra Leoneans of these generations will not easily forget the pain, strain, losses and reversals they suffered during the ten years civil war whose cause was mainly political. Therefore, for us to see any heightened tension on the political landscape that points towards unfriendliness, intolerance and violence between the supporters of parties definitely gives us the shakes.

Thankfully, the hand of the Lord God Almighty has always been on this country, letting wisdom and commonsense to prevail when hot-headedness tends to take over our brains during electioneering periods which all over the world are also cause of enmity. Remember the recent one in the US between the Republicans and the Democrats that brought underdog Donald Trump to power?

With violence never too far away from African elections, we can remember how frightened we were as we went to the polls in 1996 with the RUF rebels threatening particularly our people in areas under their control that anybody on whose finger they see NEC’s indelible ink will have that limb cut off. We also remembered how in the Western Area and provincial cities and towns the ‘so-bels’ who did not a return to democratic civilian rule angrily firing their guns everywhere – “Po! Po! Po!” – Clearly intended to scare voters from going to the polling stations.

Then you remember how tense and explosive the atmosphere was in 2007 when everywhere people were silently mumbling, “We want change”. With a regime clearly eminent, and fearful whether the party in power would hand over power without putting up a fight as happened after the 1967 elections, many people who could afford it packed their bags and ran away saying, we shall be back if what we fear does not happen. Thankfully, what they feared did not happen.

2012, like 2002, was not tense and potentially explosive because the majority of us could easily predict their outcomes.

But when we roll the film forward to 2018, definitely we could see ominous signs to make us feel alarmed; particularly when that scene starring Franklyn Rogers in Brigadier Bio’s village and when after, a similar but more frightening display of open hostility and violence took place in Dr. Samura Kamara’s village.

With the entire nation on tenterhooks and fed up with the tension that had built up in us, we started shouting from every roof top – Enough!!! We do not want any gbos-gbos!!! Even the international community which has invested billions in our return to peace and development was alarmed. The American Embassy released a cautionary note. EU sang the same tune; so did ECOWAS and AU.

Sensibly, the political party leaders and their spokesperson for the peace and safety of the state and its people dissociated themselves from any act of political violence and sided with the SLP to take tough actions against any offender. The tension lessened. But as said earlier, a man who has been bitten by a snake…So even as we prepared for D Day, many people bought excess stocks of food, just in case.

Well…we have past the worst. Surprisingly, Election Day was the quietest and most civil, peaceful and friendly this country has ever seen since the 1996 elections. People supporting the different political parties cast their ballots with no trouble, they came out of the polling stations, laughing and patting each other on the back and retired to nearby entertainment sports to celebrate. Yes, celebrated we all know what.

Any pupil who does very well in an exam naturally receives a lot of praise from his parents, relatives and friends. Our brothers and sisters from the ECOWAS Community who came to monitor the elections patted us on the back. That’s good Sierra Leone; you did excellent in successfully holding peaceful, free, fair, credible elections they marked us.

Maybe, the most heart-warming commendation comes from the US Ambassador who sent us this message: “The US Embassy wishes to congratulate the people of Sierra Leone who expressed their commitment to democracy by voting in the March 7 elections…”

However, in that same note, called for sanity to continue to prevail: “We encourage political parties and their supporters to exercise restraint as we await the full announcement of the election results by NEC,” adding that “NEC is the only constitutionally mandated authority responsible for announcing the election results.”