Many have either wondered, or asked the question, “What is new about the National Grand Coalition?” It is a fair question considering how many political outfits spring up every election cycle only to either evaporate to smithereens under the heat, or disappear into oblivion immediately after the elections. It is only fair that this question be answered. I am going to attempt answering this question as a mere supporter of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), not as an official spokesperson of the party.
In their bid to question the validity of any claim to “newness” by the National Grand Coalition, people have pointed to the fact that KKY, Dennis Bright, Joe Demby and others who are now leading the NGC, all came from the SLPP. In other words, they are “political migrants” from another party. That, they argue, makes them old politicians who have been in the game of politics.
Well, it is not a sound argument to make that because people come from other parties, the party they now form is not new. That is a conflation of individuals and the institutions they form.
We may need to remind ourselves that both SLPP and APC were “new” at some point in history but none was formed by “new” humans from Mars or Jupiter, but by people from other political dispensations; people who had dabbled in politics before forming the “new” SLPP or APC. The SLPP was formed in 1951 by combining the Sierra Leone Organization Society which was founded in 1946 in the Protectorate, and Lamina Sankoh’s Freetown People’s Party founded in the Colony. Siaka Stevens left the People’s National Party to form the “Elections before Independence” movement which later became the All People’s Congress in 1960. Those who joined him in the “new” party were people who had been members of SLPP and other political outfits. Yet, in 1960, APC was a “new” party. Thus, it is not so much the individuals and their past affiliations that make the party new, but something more sublime: the culture and philosophy of the dispensation that is being created.
Besides the name which is obviously new, the National Grand Coalition is new for other reasons:
While both the SLPP and APC are forever tethered to the apron of region and tribe, the NGC is tethered only to the Nation. Their tribe is National Interest and their region, Sierra Leone. This is the kind of “new” we should celebrate. It is the beginning of a new way of seeing Sierra Leone; a new way of governing Sierra Leone; a new way of treating our young as Sierra Leoneans not as Mende, Temne, Limba, Fula, Krio, Loko, and the like. It is the road to a Nation, not just a Country.
Tribalism has been the sable vehicle of our graft, corruption, and underdevelopment. I hate violence and dictatorship, and by implication, SLPP and APC. But even there, I derive no pleasure from the way SLPP and APC, the two oldest political parties in our country, have been effectively reduced into fiefdoms ruled by their feudal lords, Maada Bio and Ernest Koroma respectively.
Democracy is not only an abstract/theoretical construct; it is objectified in the activities, policies, processes, cultures, and ideas of political parties, and the governments that emerge from them. When the culture of a party or a government is stifling, the country is suffocated.
Another thing that is new about the NGC is that it is the first political party in recent history in my country to present a Presidential Candidate who has used his office to bring jobs and development to his native country before asking the country to hire him as their President. Kandeh Yumkella has done something for the country whose mandate he now seeks.
Do people miss the class act of the NGC during the launch at the national stadium? The peace, calm, decency, and violence-free nature of the event is another “new” worth celebrating.
I may not like the politics of lawlessness and corruption which both SLPP and APC exhibit, but it gives me no twinge of schadenfreude to witness the ritual of self-destruction both parties are engaged in. We can’t wait to inhale the fresh air of the new political culture.