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Poken or Poken


Elections are scheduled for this October 11, 2011 and right now voter registration is ongoing. As ususal, presidential candidates spring up almost as clockwork. Some of the aspirants are so unconventional that a popular Liberian musician came up with a song: “Even baboon wants to become president.” As individual candidates gear up for their campaigns, some political parties are scrambling for mergers and anything that will give them the political fulcrum for victory come elections day. It is heating up and I can’t wait to see how everything will shape up before the official end of campaigning.

One interesting thing that is happening is how individual voters are really indecisive as to which presidential candidate or party to support. Such delirium started a little during the 2005 elections but it has now become full blown as we enter another election year. Besides many crossing carpet to the ruling party, some opposition figures are finding it hard to make up their minds as to whom to support. This is not necessarily because those political parties or candidates have competing platforms but those individuals want to support a winning candidate. As the political climate changes every day many are unsure who may take the day and pay them political dividends.

“What’s in it for me?” is a common assessment of where to hang one’s hat in a political climate but as the pendulum swings and new candidates continue to appear many are uncertain which way to turn that will yield political returns. Even higher-ups in staunch pre-war political parties are now saying things like “even though I am still a member of party X, at this time I am supporting party Y.” They don’t think that their “original” political party has a chance in winning so they are joining or supporting a rival party while they still maintain their party membership. It may sound silly but that is all part of the indecisiveness and uncertainty as we count down to elections 2011.

The Indecisiveness in these upcoming elections reminds me of the story of two towns - Poken and Poken (pronounced PĂ”ken), located at opposite ends in a certain geographical area. One day, the two towns hosted two separate feasts scheduled at the same time. They respectively threw out blanket invitations. But because of their locations and the timing, it was just impossible to be present at both programs. So the way the preachers who often told the story said it was “are you going to Poken or Poken? Poken residents are having a cow feast and Poken residents are also having a feast.” Put literally, they asked “you going Poken or you going Poken? Poken people killed cow; Poken people killed cow.”

The first time and in fact all the time I heard this story was in church. Preaching from the book of James about double mindedness or drawing on John’s revelation about the lukewarm church, the challenge would be thrown “mi Poken; dey mi Poken?” As a child, I hated the story and the question that went with it on grounds that it lacked the necessary details on which to base an earnest response. For example how does the feast in Poken compare with the one in Poken? How big is the cow killed for the feast in each town? What else is on the menu? How many people are already in each town and at which feast will there be surplus? How does each town treat its guests and so on. To me these details were not provided and so the question made no sense.

As I grew older and obviously wiser, I realized that the lack of details was the whole point. Invitees were not 100% sure what they were going to get but they had to make up their minds either to go to Poken or Poken. So as elections come closer and closer and many are not sure whether to go with this Party or that party, or not sure which one will win, I am reminded about Poken and Poken conundrum. Is it the congress for Democratic Change or the newly formed National Union for Democratic Progress? Is it Liberty or Unity? Or is it better to stand one’s ground with their original party although there seem to be no chance of winning? Poken or Poken? Remember, there is not plenty of time left to keep standing in the middle of the road. You either go Poken or Poken.

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