By: Winstanley. R Bankole Johnson
As a fanatic of the “Whatsapp” social media, I cannot pretend not to have seen my names in a clip listing potential APC flag bearer aspirants for the forthcoming Presidential Elections.
Quite honestly no matter how modest I try to be, I cannot hide my elation at having been included in dispatches pertaining to occupancy of such an august position in the land-: the Presidency of the sovereign Republic of Sierra Leone.
What I took umbrage at however, is why from amongst such a long list of 21 names, mine were only inserted at a distant No.15, which leaves Lady Clarice (who knows me only too well) to conclude that that list is in fact a fakery..
The two years preceding the elections cycle in the country have always engendered a laxity or non-enforcement of our various laws pertaining to the maintenance of good order.
Empirically therefore, the sooner elections dates are declared, a degeneration into an era of lawlessness gradually but certainly creeps into sway. “Potes”. “joints”, ghettos, “attaya bases” and street bars blaring uninterrupted loud music – most of them unlicensed and unregistered as going business concerns – unsuspectingly metamorphose into existence.
Compounds of residences soon seem no longer big enough to contain their inmates and equally soon, they begin to sprawl chairs and long benches into main roads and thoroughfares with a proximity to their homes, invariably obstructing vehicular parking bays and pedestrians sidewalks. Peaceful citizens could only chastise violators at their peril, as if the laws are on holidays.
It is not that politicians both old and new are not aware of the negative social implications or dangers attendant upon the proliferation of such “potes”. ghettos, “attaya bases” and street bars, it is just that as far as they are concerned, the end for them (obtaining political power at all cost) has always justified the means.
Whether it is morally right or wrong, fair or foul is not their concern. Again don’t get me wrong here.
It isn’t that to our political class the elites – educated or not – do not have political value, it is just that they are out rightly discountenanced because of their persistent protest against the proliferation of those “potes”, “joints”, ghettos, “attaya bases” and street bars within their communities, and the degenerative social implications their very existence connotes such as -:
• The permanent odious whiff emitting from dangerous substances being consumed and polluting the air
• Loud blaring non-stop music throughout the night far above the recommended decibels and its negative health and educational implications both for the aged with or without heart conditions, and for students being deprived of valuable study hours.
• The easy recruitment of previously innocuous youth through peer pressure into gang membership, prostitution and early pregnancy etc.
So at every election cycle, each of such settlements become popular rendezvous or convergence points for existing and rookie political office seekers.
The latter believe their interests are best served from within such locations as their clientele are permanently gullible, far less sophisticated in their demands when it comes to canvassing votes and have the potential to muster riotous crowds for rent at very short notices for political campaigns.
Also arising from those convictions is their fallacious belief that after winning the elections, they (the politicians) can be able to muster the courage to reverse those same degenerative trends they once condoned whilst vying for political offices.
But has any one of those degenerative social behavioural trends been ever fairly and squarely reversed or addressed post several previous elections to date? I think not.
In the pre-2007 election years and as Mayor of Freetown I attempted to spearhead clearances of several such street bars structures prominently located at both sides of the entire lower Adelaide Street end and purportedly owned and operated by two siblings that had transformed the entire locality into an expansive drug haven – less than 100 meters from the Police station.
The political dispensation then not only countermanded my initiative, but even organized a grand special carnival night for their flag bearer aspirant (which he personally attended) all in a futile attempt to win votes.
That visit further popularized the club to the detriment of peaceful citizens in the immediate environs and soon, the adjoining clubs too began attracting political heavyweights.
Regrettably within a week after the flag bearer’s carnival night, a brawl erupted amongst local gangs which ended in a stocky fella being chased into a compound right at the Kroo Town Road / Adelaide Street junction where he was repeatedly stabbed to death.
It was after that incident (which still remains unsolved by the Police as far as I know) that the Police finally decided to act tough (much belatedly) and closed all those street bars along lower Adelaide Street.
But no thanks to our usual pre-election era of lawlessness, our laws are slowing going on holidays again.
“Potes,” ghettos, “attaya bases” clubs and street bars are springing up all over the city again big time, with the more notorious doting the city from Adelaide Street, Ascension Town Road, Fergusson Street, Bathurst Street, the entire Brookfields axis, Guy Street in the West, even unto the East especially throughout the length of Bai Bureh Road. At Adelaide Street, the operators are even audacious enough to be leaving their well-stocked refrigerators, empty crates and barbeque grill on the main street 24/7 – supposedly under the custody of the Police a close 100 meters away.
As we approach yet another round of multi-tier elections, I believe the Police needs to act much tougher this time around, by not only relying on issuances of their (ineffective) periodic public warnings, but they must also be seen to be increasing their beat (patrols) through the length and breadth of the city, not only so as to reduce the number of street joints and illegally operated entertainment spots, but to ensure as well their Landlords operate those outlets strictly in accordance with their licenses.
Political parties too have the sacred responsibility to ensure that their choices of candidates reflect the seriousness of the institutions they intend to represent us in, and the roles they intend to play in them in the governance of this country – whether at local or central government level.
The more responsible and credible those choices (not necessarily only the educated), the more responsible their campaign dimensions, target audiences and their ultimate outputs and contributions to the country at large after the elections. Otherwise the political eligibility bar in this country will continue to be further lowered, as the good guys will continue running away from politics, allowing only the bad guys to continue ruling.