BY ALPHEUS ROGERS  


Legitimacy is accorded a government not necessarily on the basis of winning an election, but more so when that government meets the basic needs and other expectations of the electorate. This is what most governments especially those in Africa are not aware of.

A government must from time to time gauge public perception regarding its policy decisions so as for it to be strategically positioned to meet the electorate's expectations. This is a responsibility of a responsible and responsive government. The idea of a government thinking that the people are oblivious of how it operates is not only misplaced, but suicidal! That is an erroneous thinking of a gargantuan proportion! It tells you that the men and women who constitute that government do not know better. The great reggae star, Bob Robert Nesta Marley, affirmed that ''You can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool all the people all the time.'' This assertion always holds true regardless of the perceived low level of consciousness of the Sierra Leonean electorate. It will come a time when disillusionment will ultimately set in, especially when hard times continue to hit hard. Of course, hardships occasioned by bad governance instigate consciousness.

By Alpheus Rogers

One thing that some people do not recognize is the fact that the social media are a public sphere that enables citizens to make informed choices in a democratic state. These media can be used in best ways possible to address our political, economic, cultural and social situations. They can be considered as vehicles for social and political engineering. They are avenues for the reproduction of national consciousness. They are agents of change. They are crucial to a fledgling democracy like ours. They are imperative to national cohesion.

However, all these can only be realized when the social media are used in the best way possible. Otherwise, they have the potential to set society apart like what we are now experiencing in Sierra Leone, where these media are used rather recklessly and irresponsibly.

Jurgen Habermas, a German sociologist, postulated on the public sphere in relation to a space created by individuals, who, in the past, assembled at coffee shops to discuss social and political issues so as to enable them make informed choices. This is an affirmation that the public sphere, viz, where individuals gather together to intellectualize and rationalize, is healthy for the growth and development of a democratic state.

According to Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP), ‘’the notion of the public sphere is at the centre of participatory approaches to democracy. The public sphere is the arena where citizens come together, exchange opinions regarding public affairs, discuss, deliberate, and eventually form public opinion. This arena can be a specific place where citizens gather (for example, a town hall meeting), but it can also be a communication infrastructure through which citizens send and receive information and opinions. The public sphere is a central aspect of good governance. Without a functioning and democratic public sphere, government officials cannot be held accountable for their actions, and citizens will not be able to assert any influence over political decisions. The idea of the public sphere is normative. It is ideal for good and accountable governance. Its requisites are free flows of information, free expression, and free debate. The ideal public sphere is truly participatory and the best protection against abuse of power. In reality, we only find approximations to this ideal. However, promoting good governance means striving toward the ideal of a truly inclusive public sphere.’’

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