WHAT IS AN OPPOSITION IN DEMOCRACY THAT THE APC MISSES?

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An Op-Ed
By Kef Dukulay

Democracy is people centered. The people are very important for any democracy to survive because it is normally the people that select the few that govern them. The few in both the executive and legislative arms of government cannot select themselves to rule over the people. In other works, they are mere representatives of the peoples’ voice or ‘la voix des peuples.”
In a democratic practice, players are often organized in political and social entities known as political parties and pressure or interest groups. The voice of the people is articulated through these channels; and the decisions of the executive and legislative are always people-driven and in their interest.
In this political play of democracy, the players making up political parties that present themselves for elections by the people, there are always “ruling” and “opposition” parties. Most modern democracies give five years’ mandate for a given political party leadership to be at the helm of state affairs or governance. There is virtually no way two political parties can be in governance together or at a given period. There are thus, always “ruling” and “opposition” parties in every democratic dispensation all in the name of the people. The opposition party is always wishing to one day be in governance. For this, they often call themselves “government in waiting.”
Well, for the opposition to attain that feat, its leadership must cultivate the culture of persuasion as against the antics of threats of violence or violence perpetration either overtly or covertly because their actions are being measured by the people since no political party can come into governance without the will of the people.
Coming into governance requires an electoral process; and each stage of the process requires the participation of the people. At the early stage of preparations for national elections is the voter registration exercise. Here, all political party leaderships (both opposition and governing) are expected to encourage citizens of voting age to come out and register, hoping they would in turn vote for their party. All that requires persuasion, not the use, or threat of force.
Campaign stage of the electoral process is the most crucial for the survival of any political party, especially for the opposition clamouring to gain or regain the seat of power. During campaigning, the opposition must be very active, persuasive and determined to prove to the people that they can do better if given the opportunity. We saw this in the recently conducted polls in neighbouring Liberia.
Then opposition Unity Party canvassed the people to vote them in based on calculated ideology of change for the better. They hooked up the people to the promise of doing better when they come through persuasion, not use of force or threats of violence.
It actually takes the opposition a gut to defeat an incumbent, especially just after one term of rule as it happened in our neighbour’s case. But with great persuasion and determination, the Liberian voters got convinced; hence their willing to accept Boakei’s opposition Unity Party to form the government, after defeating incumbent President George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change party.
In the Sierra Leone case however, we are seeing a rather outlandish and very bizarre approach of the opposition to attaining governance or leadership of the country. Since democracy was re-introduced in the country; with the first election held in 1996, two major political parties continue to occupy the governance space – the ruling ‘Sierra Leone Peoples Party’ (SLPP) and the opposition ‘All Peoples Congress’ (APC) party. The coming of democracy itself was premised on the evident societal inequalities of more than two decades of a one party oligarchy by the APC that is in opposition now. Because the party had lost fame owing to their past records in governance, the first democratic election in 1996 saw the APC at the bottom rung of voters’ choice. In that election, the SLPP was the people’s choice, closely followed by the defunct United National People’s Party (UNPP) of late Dr. Karifa Smart.
Before 1996 there was a military regime following the overthrow of the oligarchic APC regime in 1992 that had plundered for over 23 years. There was constitutionally no other political party allowed to operate except the APC (the 1978 One-Party Constitution). This had sent the SLPP and other parties into political oblivion until war was imposed on Sierra Leone in 1991.
The SLPP re-invented itself when multiparty constitution was used to restore democracy by the solders. Thanks to both local and international pressure, the then APC leader, President Joseph Saidu Momoh agreed to sign the enacted 1991 (Peter Tucker) Constitution.
For the SLPP, its ideology had been always been based on persuasion and determination which won the hearts of millions to bring it back to power in 1996.
Intolerant opposition to the SLPP rule destroyed democracy again in 1997, but through the resilience and will of the people, democracy was restored twice in Sierra Leone in 1998 and 1999.
After the reign of late Pa Kabbah, the people decided to test the APC (through a democratic means) this time to lead the country in 2007. Though the process was flawed as it was fraught with irregularities and threats of violence from the opposition leadership, the process of transition was peacefully done by the defeated SLPP party.
However, after the first term in governance, ruling APC became desperate to retain power (the orgy of oligarchy resurfaced) that they became very intolerant to opposition. Leading to the 2012 elections, APC party operatives felt eliminating the opposition candidate would do the job for them so as the SLPP in opposition continued to market their candidate through the ideology of persuasion and determination, opposition operatives dastardly attempted to get rid of opposition SLPP candidate, Julius Maada Bio. But that did not deter the SLPP candidate to continue to create pathways and make inroads through persuasion non-violence campaign. It was no wonder that President Bio’s second attempt earned him the presidency in 2018.
Like how they were intolerant with Pa Kabbah’s SLPP, so they have always been since 2018. Even as the SLPP had accepted the flawed 2007 and 2012 election results in favour of Ernest Bai Koroma, APC operatives have refused to be tolerant when the people’s will brought the SLPP back in 2018.
Operatives within the APC have continued to demonstrate hate and intolerance to ruling SLPP. They have failed to cultivate the democratic culture of tolerance and persuasion to win the hearts of people. There have been several breaches in security since the SLPP won the March, 2018 elections, with glaring dissenting voice from both the leadership and members of opposition APC. Even as the party is swift in dissociating itself, its membership is always complicit in insurgencies; with the November 26th failed coup being the most glaring evidence.

The people continue to silently record these threats to our democracy by the lack of persuasive employ of methods by APC to win their hearts. No amount of violent overtures will bring the people to choose a political party for governance. A party’s inability to cultivate the culture of persuasion and tolerance will ever continue to rob it of political victory in any genuine national elections.

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