From the Editor’s Keyboard

On Hooliganism, “Blackman and “Whiteman” Politics at FBC

12 June 2008 at 11:48 | 663 views

Commentary

By Abdulai Bayraytay, Deputy Editor, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The recent spate of violence that came after the resurrection of student politics at Fourah Bay College, (FBC) University of Sierra Leone, has left tongues of many concerned Sierra Leoneans and international observers alike wagging. The legacy of the political divide that characterised the university seems to have been replaced with hooliganism under the guise of the dubious, notorious divide of “Blackman” and “Whiteman” politics.

Democracy is expected to thrive in a society where the electorate are provided with an alternatives to determine who should exercise power over them. This clearly resonated with Rousseau’s “social contract theory” that aims at not only empowering the real custodians of power, the people, the solid holders of political sovereignty in a democracy, but as a reminder to the political class that once power is misused, the people would have the electoral mandate to oust it from power.

The above view of democracy, however westernized it might sound, has been a working model at FBC wherein the will of students is respected. I could vividly recall my days as Secretary-General of the Julius Sandy led student union government in 1995 wherein politics was about what policies you could best offer the student body. In essence, there was a political opposition to reckon with and it would use diplomacy to persuade members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) to support policies that would be in the best interest of all students.

As such, it was no surprise that students would unite against a repressive administration that would want to expel students for handling of leaked Economics exam questions without disciplining the crop of spent-force lecturers who leaked such questions in the first place. The same could be said of the march to the Ministry of Education to protest against astronomical increases in fees and or late payment of student grants. But, at the end of the day, the power of students triumphed over the ill-informed administration, thanks to the solidarity and support of all students irrespective of what camp one belongs to.

While a cross-section of particularly Freetonians have attributed the shameful hooliganism that has permeated student politics at FBC and other higher institutions of learning for that matter to what was dubiously termed “Access” that saw a mob of high schoolers admitted to the university, others have condemned the wielding of knives, swords and the pelting of stones at political opponents as a scathing and scandalous reminder of the by-products of rebel-like tactics unleashed on the country from 1991 through the infamous period of the civil conflict that Sierra Leone witnessed in the hands of the psychopathic rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the ill-groomed Westside “sobels”.

But a senior lecturer who prefers anonymity begs to differ. According to him “access has nothing to do with the hooliganism that we are now dealing with at FBC. It is a matter of parents working hand in glove with teachers at the high school level and the university for youth to realize the decency of democracy and political tolerance”.

The above contending views have provoked a controversial debate among current students and alumni of the respective higher institutions of learning where cultism (as one foreign observer dubbed the Whiteman and Blackman debacle) has eclipsed other progressive debates that would have united the country’s student body against whatever perceived central government weakness and lackadaisical approach in addressing the already decrepit and deteriorating living conditions students are contending with in hostels where sanitary conditions are just too abysmal.

But as the political drama, or rather hooliganism unfolded at FBC, one thing though remains crystal clear. It were the college administrators under the supervision of the Sierra Leone Police that conducted the just concluded student union elections thereby lending credence to the infantile minds of the new crop of students.

However skewed the political results might have been, the test of the political leadership the president-elect lies in how best he will be willing and able to extend the olive branch of peace and reconciliation to the “Blackman” camp in galvanizing the unqualified support of all students irrespective of political affiliation for the common good of all students in ensuring that the college administration uses the subvention given it by the central government in the best interest of students, so that students will also confront the central government to ensure that it is accountable and transparent to the people it is poised to serve.

*Deputy Editor Abdulai Bayraytay(photo) served as Secretary-General of the Students’ Union Government at Fourah Bay College in 1995 and later as Secretary-General of the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) for two consecutive years from 1996 to 1998. He holds a BA(Hons.) in Political Science(FBC) and an MA (Political Science and International Relations) from Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada.

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