Will our politicians learn from the democratic race in the USA?

1 July 2008 at 20:39 | 593 views

By Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, California, USA.

Just a few days ago, the Unity Meeting between presumptive frontrunner Democratic presidential candidate Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton took place amidst pomp and pageantry.

It was not only remarkable to watch but serves as a lesson of governance especially to our African politicians that consider politics as a brutal game. It may even be a lesson plan for Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and in particular to our own politicians and students of Sierra Leone.

The event reminds me of the fierce days when Clinton would tear the threads of Obama’s life by bringing out his weaknesses, and Obama with his charming smiles reciprocated vice versa. It took months of political wrangling with each candidate presenting their manifestoes to the populace. It was not only interesting, but it sent a message to certain people in Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone who consider politics as a cruel game where friendship is absent.

There were fears that the two candidates would never see eye to eye when the contest ended. Alas, Friday was historic and momentous as the two candidates stood by each other and expressed qualities and potential each candidate possesses. That is the whole concept of politics. It is for this reason that America is considered the “Father of Democracy.”

Furthermore, the whole world saw the importance of unity in politics. It drove many messages to Democratic stalwarts and the entire political scene in the US. It is a message of tolerance that shows how powerful, civilized people operate. Politics is about divergent opinions but also betterment for the people. This is the lesson the people of Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and other African leaders should imitate.

The Sierra Leone scenario is completely different. As long as you are in the opposition, you should not even wine and dine with the opposing member of another political party. It is arrant nonsense.

Recently, before the inauguration of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) radio station, it was reported in Awareness Times that the Secretary General of the SLPP opposition party JJ Saffa was allaying the fears of members about the invitation of the President to witness the occasion. According to Awareness Times, the invitation may appear as a sign of defeat. Saffa further said, “(the invitation) does not mean we are aligning ourselves with the APC and called on members of the party to have trust in the leadership of the party.” What a nonsensical thought that was. What is wrong with the former ruling party inviting the president to inaugurate a radio station? Is it a crime?

Just recently, some members of the SLPP lambasted other members of the party for accepting the invitation of traveling with the President on oversea trips. What is wrong with that? Utter ignorance. It is not only with the opposition party but also with the ruling party.

When the President traveled with some members of the opposition party, there was a hue and cry within the APC camp, accusing the President of snubbing some members of the APC party who would have traveled with him. What a myopic way of thinking. Has it dawned on party stalwarts that once you are elected president, you are serving the entire country and no longer a political party?

Why do some Sierra Leoneans always think of politics as a battle ground of confrontation? Look at the jovial and friendly relations now existing between the Obama and Hillary camps. That’s the way politics should be played. The individual human being thinks differently and opinions are different, but that should not act as the battle ground for attrition.

It seems the country has been polarized on political lines. When Prince Harding was in the company of the President, even Saffa considered Prince Harding as not a true blooded SLPP stalwart.

This contagious disease has caught the minds of students at the university level. Now certain students do not mingle with their friends simply because of party affiliations. How do we expect unity from our graduates? The Black Man Camp, Status Quo and White Man Camp have torn the students apart, and that is the mentality the graduates take into national politics. The cankerworm of grudge, malice and hatred is planted in students even at the university level. It is a bad lesson students should refrain from.

During our days at the university, a male Status Quo student union president can be a close friend of a female Future Shock fraternity camp and love still continues to flow regardless of the different fraternities. That is what the fraternity ideologies are meant for and not the current malice existing between camps.

Politics in Africa can be crude, and the politicians in Sierra Leone should take notice of the conduct of Obama and Clinton during the US presidential campaign. History books teach that it is always good to be on good terms with people even if you fail to share the same views as life on earth is too short for mankind.

Clinton and Obama are now using the same podium to sell their party’s policies and urge all Democrats as well as Republicans and Independents to rally behind the presumptive candidate so that victory would be achieved in the November elections.

That should be the goal of our politicians; to be on good terms with your adversary and try to win his or her votes by campaigning on policies and not using intimidation and hatred to cajole and appeal for votes.