Salone News

Is the National Grand Coalition a formidable option?

24 January 2018 at 22:02 | 2517 views

Opinion

By Ngozi Cole, Freetown, Sierra Leone

On March 7th, 2018, I will be voting for the first time. Till recently, I wasn’t particularly excited about it, reason being I wasn’t sure who to vote for. The APC and SLPP, who are historically the two main political parties in Sierra Leone, did not particularly appeal to me as meriting my first vote, and I seriously contemplated staying home on election day.Every morning, as I listened to the Radio Democracy 98.1 (who have mercifully kept up good journalism in a shaky democracy) program Good Morning Salone, I heard different candidates and party reps talk about their manifestos and plans for Sierra Leone. One candidate stood out to me-Femi Claudius- Cole of the Unity Party, the only woman contesting in the national elections. Her manifesto sounded amazing, providing solid ideas and a clear vision. However, the Unity Party has a very small following, as voting in Sierra Leone is unfortunately usually dominated by sentiment-not necessarily by practical effective plans, and I feared that my vote would be wasted if I handed it to Unity Party.

Speaking to some friends and colleagues, I found that I wasn’t the only one sitting on the fence. Years of disillusionment and disappointment after grandiose promises of youth employment, a thriving economy and better standard of living,have still not yet been realised. To be honest, things have become marginally better under the APC, but only marginally- not even up to a percent. The government still offers very little in providing tangible opportunities for young people to thrive, grow and reach their fullest potential. Unemployment is still very high and there are a few, if any, functional government led initiatives to boost youth employment and empowerment. The education and health sectors are extremely pitiable and disgraceful, and I am being very polite in using those terms. So as a young woman, taking part in national elections for the first time, my vote is very dear to me and I do not want to hand it over to a damning future for me and the next generation of Sierra Leoneans.

However, it appears there might well be a third option worthy of receiving attention and audience. The National Grand Coalition, led by Kandeh KollehYumkella (KKY), has presented itself not only as a force for change, but for many young Sierra Leoneans, a platform for defiance to the two long standing parties, as well as hope that under a coalition umbrella, ethnic and traditional party lines will be blurred and overridden. When KKY broke away from the SLPP and started the NGC, it initially seemed like a stunt to split votes away from the party. The NGC breakaway reminded me of the vengeful Charles Margai 2007 break away to form PMDC, splitting SLPP votes, especially in the South of Sierra Leone, the SLPP stronghold.

However, Yumkella has positioned himself as a viable third option for the presidency among young Sierra Leoneans who are hungry for a formidable non- SLPP and non-APC alternative. It appears that even if the NGC does not win the March 2018 elections, the party will split votes on both sides, and supporters will remain loyal to the KKY movement-a political brainchild of Yumkella’s, preaching a new dawn of hope for socio-political and socio-economic change in Sierra Leone. The NGC has suddenly become a reckoning force, contending with the two long standing political giants in Sierra Leone. Personally, I am elated that there is now a third option that people can consider, as the binary either or often questions personal integrity. I can’t vote for SLPP because of tribal/regional/family ties so I just must vote for APC instead/I can’t vote for APC because of tribal/regional/family ties so I just must vote for SLPP instead. Such mentality bars critical analysis and scrutiny of our leaders, to call them into question and hold them properly accountable, because we are bound by party allegiances.

I am still not quite sure as to which party I will be voting for come March 7th. But I am relieved that a formidable and viable third option has sprung, if only to keep the two leading parties on their toes.As I warily come out of my voter apathy running up to the elections, I urge us to think about the future we want for Sierra Leone as we vote. Not for now, not for even for our children, but for the Sierra Leoneans who will be here some 100 years from now, who will either blame us or praise us for the decisions we make for our beloved Sierra Leone today.

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