Maada Bio calls for dialogue with opposition SLPP Alliance

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 January 2017

Presidential and general elections in Sierra Leone are less than fifteen months away. Yet the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is far from being ready to contest those elections, let alone position itself as a government in waiting, despite the popularity of the ruling All People’s Congress Party (APC) now at rock bottom. (Photo: John Benjamin and Maada Bio).

Since its catastrophic defeat at the polls by the incumbent APC in 2012 and at almost every by-election held since then, the Sierra Leone People’s Party has fast become a shadow of its former self, torn by infighting, indiscipline and lack of strong leadership.

But it is the fight for the party’s presidential candidacy for the 2018 elections by no fewer than eight strongly willed contenders – including Julius Maada Bio, that has now become the fast moving torpedo that is about to sink the SLPP ship.

Even those elected by the party’s rank and file at their last national convention to manage the affairs of the party, and maintain order and discipline, are being hounded out of office by a faction believed to be loyal to the 2012 presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio.

Bio has been accused by many of destabilising and dividing the party – a charge he and his campaign team have continuously denied.

What is not in dispute however, is the polarising effect of Maada Bio’s military approach to leadership, which is not based on consensus building – but the command and control of those loyal to his cause – to become president of Sierra Leone at all cost.

Standing in his way of achieving this objective, are members of an Alliance of aspiring SLPP presidential candidates – John Oponjo Benjamin, Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, Andrew Keili, Alpha Timbo, Munda Rogers, and Jonathan Tengbe.

The battle for the presidential candidacy and leadership of the SLPP is also being fought by the two sides in the country’s Courts, where issues of legitimacy and constitutionality are being decided.

SLPP is now deeply wounded by these divisions and in fighting. And this will make it impossible for the party to successfully contest the 2018 general and presidential elections, irrespective of who becomes the presidential candidate.

Maada Bio knows this all too well, and is looking for a way to consolidate his grip on large sections of the party, while trying to legitimise his claim on the presidential candidacy.

Today, the Julius Maada Bio Media and Communications Team issued a report of Bio, calling for dialogue with members of the Alliance, to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

But is this a clever ploy by Maada Bio to present himself as a man of peace who cares about the party? Or does he genuinely want to work collectively towards building a strong and united SLPP; embrace all of the other candidates for the presidential candidacy; respect the constitution of the party; accept a level playing field that gives equal chance to each of the candidates without intimidation, subterfuge or rancour?

Will some of the members of the SLPP party and indeed the Alliance, find some of the language used in Bio’s statements – inflammatory, provocative, and divisive?

This is the report:  

“The leading flagbearer aspirant of the SLPP for the February 2018 election, Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio (Photo) has offered olive branch to members of the Alliance to dialogue for the sake of the people and the country.

“Bio made this offer during a “thank you” visit to the people of Pujehun District on Friday, 13th January 2017 for their continued support for him over the years.

“He informed the jubilant crowd that in 1996 when he was head of state, he told Foday Sankoh that for the sake of peace and the country he should come to the dialogue table. Using that as an inspiration, Bio said he is appealing to “our brothers and sisters in the Alliance” to dialogue and have peace in the party for the sake of the people and country.

“He said he is available any day and any time to dialogue, however, he stressed that the dialogue should be based on the party’s constitution and respect for elected officials of the party.

“Bio also called on members and supporters of the SLPP to conduct themselves in a manner that will make peace conducive in the party. He told his supporters that because they are in the majority across the country they should always be peaceful. “PAOPA in the majority is democracy,” Bio asserted.

“Bio also expressed his disappointment about comment from the SLPP Minority Leader. Using sarcasm to describe her as Minority Leader, “in the true sense of the word”, Bio said that he had hoped the Minority Leader would have been engaging her colleague MPs to solve their differences.

“However, Bio said that SLPP is more important than any group or individual and no single person will be allowed to destroy the SLPP. He also revealed that the Minority Leader was even defeated in her own village by his supporters during the lower level elections.

“Bio assured the crowd that SLPP will form the next government. In reminiscent of the 2012 election, Bio reminded the young people about one of his education pledges of the last election on the abolition of “SS4” and free education until “SS3”. He promised the excited young people that his presidency will ensure that quality education is accessible and affordable for all.

“During the event all the SLPP delegates in the Pujehun District for the forthcoming SLPP Flagbearer election scheduled for February pledged their supports for Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.

“In attendance at the event was the lovely wife of Rtd. Brigadier Bio, Fatima, the Acting Chairman and Leader, Dr Prince Harding, Regional Vice Chairman South, Hon Edward Soluku and host of national officers, senior party members and Members of Parliament.”

Will members of the SLPP Alliance take up this offer of dialogue? And if they do, on what terms and conditions will they be prepared to have a dialogue with Maada Bio?

Is this a serious and genuine peace offer from Julius Maada Bio?  

13 Comments

  1. Gbassay Momoh

    In reference to your comment addressed to me in terms of presidential flag bearer recontesting, let me plainly refer you to Solomon Berewah’s dubious election defeat in 2007 and why he did not recontest the 2012 flag bearer ship.

    I read it in Solo B’s interview with Dr Sylvia Blyden after the 2007 election; and I can direct you with permission of the Awareness Times newspaper’s past editions between 2007 and 2008 when that interview was conducted.

    If not I can direct you to Solomon Berewah himself a British trained Barrister why he was not allowed to recontest the 2012 SLPP presidential flagbearership and he is qualified to explain to you.

    Solomon Berewah set a precedent on the one term presidential flagbearership that provides an equal playing field for other competent and highly qualified candidates to show their qualities, abilities and potential, etc. to the electorate that will stear the nation of Sierra Leone from it’s present predicament to a glorious and prosperous nation the founding fathers had dreamt of as one people and one nation

    • Senesie, I thought in countering what Gbassay Momoh wrote as a response to your earlier post you would direct us to somewhere within the SLPP constitution that says people are not allowed to contest twice or as many times as they like for the SLPP flag bearer position.

      Unfortunately, you roped yourself by referring your readers to what Solomon Berewa said in an interview with Awareness Times, a paper that seems more like the ruling party mouthpiece today than the We Yone Newspaper is.

      Nonetheless, I would without quoting the SLPP constitution to which I am not privy, inform you that Charles Margai vied for the SLPP flag bearer position in 1995, 2002 and 2005. He left the SLPP when he saw that the process of electing the flag bearer was not in his favour.

      Back in 2005, it was not a hidden secret that Solomon Berewa was not the preferred candidate of the grassroots SLPP members. It was through the manipulation of the late President Kabba that he clinched the party flag bearer position to context the 2007 presidential elections. Because it was not the expressed will of the SLPP traditional supporters, he lost the election even though he had the incumbency advantage over his opponents from the APC and PMDC.

      If you do not know, this was how late President Kabba manipulated to have Berewa a novice and what our people call ‘a just cam’ in the SLPP to win the 2005 flag bearer context in Makeni. Before the contest, the late President Kabba ensured that he appointed many northerners and westerners into cabinets, ambassadorial and other positions that would make them automatic delegates, as long as they were registered with the party.

      This was done to negate the fact that the north and western area had few, if any Parliamentary or Council membership that would qualify as a delegate. Next, he went ahead to bribe and coarse those northern and western area delegates to elect his chosen successor who was Berewa at the delegate conference in Makeni.

      Unfortunately for Kabba, Berewa as a person was not marketable and this was compounded by his long absence from the southeast where he was counting on his most votes.

      Furthermore, the APC actively campaigned especially to the Themnes that candidate Ernest Koroma – now President, was their Themne brother and son. The trick worked because traditionally, the Themnes would not vote for a Mendeman against their ethnic brother.

      Berewa’s perceived supporters from the north and west that he had relied on in his campaign did not turn out to vote for him in the 2007 presidential election. He was fooled by the likes of Okere Adams, Fatmata Hassan, Pa Morlai sidom Kamara and Y.D Kamara (who had all since returned to the APC in 2008), that they would make sure he wins the northern votes. He swallowed the lies at his peril.

      In the South East, Margai PMDC took most of the traditional voters who were aggrieved with the SLPP establishment in Freetown for not listening to their voices. Berewa learned a bitter lesson that you can buy the few delegates, but you cannot force the people to follow the delegates. He saw his political demise especially when he fell out with the late President Kabba even before the 2007 elections were over.

      So, in a nutshell, you cannot compare Berewa who was 76 years old when he lost the 2007 election to Bio who was 47 years old when he lost the 2012 election. Berewa did not have the stamina and political clot to further engage in politics.

      I hope my little inset will help you stop arguing erroneously in the future – Mr. Senesie.

    • The Sierra Leone Telegraph is committed to providing a level playing field to all aspiring presidential candidates in the country, irrespective of which party or political faction they belong to.
      We do publish stories sent to us by the Bio communication team as well as publish comments written by supporters of Bio despite those comments being critical of our editorial policy.
      We will continue to protect your right to express your views subject to the principles of decency. Thank you.

  2. Dear Senesie,

    Your analysis of the SLPP constitution was done without any reference to the constitution. There is no where in that document which states that flagbearer should not contest more than one election.

    Secondly, if you think SLPP will not win if Bio becomes the flag bearer who would you consider as more popular in the four regions than Bio? None!

    Bio is cherished and admired by all (women, youth and the aged) and if SLPP gives him the flag to lead them he will surely and definitely defeat APC. APC will be worried, confused and tormented if Bio is given the SLPP flag.

    Take it or leave it, Bio is the choice of the people and he is heading for State House.

    Thirdly, Bio has the right to praise the leadership of his country if they are doing well in some areas. Criticism alone will not solve our problems in this country.

    • Is Bio the right person to lead the SLPP in 2018? Lets put all loyalty, tribalism and personal ambitions aside, but put the SLPP and the country first. And in doing so lets consider only two reasons why Bio would not lead the SLPP in the 2018 Elections:

      In all the countries of the world where democracy is practiced, no candidate contests leadership of his/her party twice in succession after they have been defeated once in national elections. Bio has been defeated once and Bio is not the sole owner of the SLPP.

      The SLPP will lose all the Elections in 2018 if Bio is chosen to lead the SLPP. Bio has a “baggage” which many people in the country find unacceptable. He was once a coup leader.

      No candidate will become the President pf Sierra Leone without winning the North and the West (Freetown Area). Bio has no chance winning the North, and let it be remembered, today, Freetown is dominated by Temne/Northern voters. In the last General Election there was not a single SLPP MP elected in the North and Freetown. Bio has no chance of reversing this trend.

      President Koroma recently said: “Kandeh Yumlella was expected to join the APC, but because his father was one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the SLPP and therefore his loyalty lies with the SLPP, and if any APC candidate has to beat anybody, that would be Kandeh Yumkella” (not exact words quoted, but the exact expressions).

      Remember this: Supporters of Bio may ‘intimidate’ the SLPP Members, but they cannot intimidate the APC supporters and the people inside the VOTING BOOTHS. The SLPP Members alone cannot elect the president of Sierra Leone.

      Let me quote the President addressing the APC members. He said: “One of you would be the president in next elections, when we gained power it would last 20 years at least…”.

      In all realistic aspects of Sierra Leone politics Bio is not the SLPP candidate to unseat the APC. In fact as our elections or voting patterns are based on tribalism, let the SLPP choose a candidate without a ‘baggage'(past impediment) and one that has a chances of winning the Temnes in the North and in the Western Areas And by doing so the SLPP would have the best chance of defeating the APC. But definitely, Bio is not that candidate.

  3. Maada Bio has the right to extend an invitation for unity to all Flag-Bearer Aspirants, though formal election of candidacy must take place in the party conference this year. When the winner emerges, it will raise more confidence of winning the General and Presidential election for the SLPP government.

    Let us realise that we are in the process of political Party elections and all due processes must not be overlooked or underestimated or else it may give birth to political catastrophe we are trying to avoid.

  4. Peter Swaray you’ve got a good poit there. However if one candidate is chosen by the aspirants themselves, then the significance of the delegates becomes defunct.

    I suggest they come up with at least three names and the normal protocol of having the delegates elect the flagbearer takes its natural route. But this is a great opportunity and an olive branch sent to the alliance by Bio.

  5. I hope the alliance do take Bio’s invitation seriously as this is what they have been calling for all this while. Failure to do that will be tantamount to them being accused of bringing the party into disrepute.

    The party is for all citizens of the country as purported by its popular slogan of ‘one country one people’. Our country is in its most fragile and vulnerable state and until there is unity our people will remain in the abyss of poverty.

    This is an important and significant step towards peace that should not be ignored by the flag bearer aspirants on the other side.

  6. I hope all the people who want to become the SLPP Leader will seriously consider getting together in the national interest before the convention and ironing out their differences and agreeing on only one candidate. Failing that, the SLPP will create such chaos at that convention there won’t be any reason for an election the following year because they will already have lost.

  7. Pujehun District is just one of the 12-13 districts in Sierra Leone and those so-called supporters of Maada Bio are not enough to create any breakthrough, if the other members are united against Bio. My appeal to so-called grassroots supporters – if you truly love the SLPP party then you should respect the constitution of the party.

    All your energies and support must be in line with what is stated in the SLPP party constitution in choosing your candidate for the flag bearer position of the party. The constitution stated that a presidential flag bearer must only contest for one term as was clearly demonstrated by Solomon Berewa when he contest the presidential election in 2007 and lost due to dubious means by Christiana Thorpe, who was then the chief electoral commissioner.

    Solomon Berewa was told his term had expired and that allowed fresh elections for the presidential flag bearer for 2012 when Maada Bio won to contest the 2012 presidential elections.

    He lost that election and instead of respecting the mandate of the SLPP constitution as Berewa did in 2007 Maada wants to contest again as a SLPP presidential flag bearer and you youths who are claiming to be members of the SLPP, are violating the mandate of the SLPP in your support for Maada to contest again for the 2018 presidential elections.

    From 2012-2017 as opposition Leader of the SLPP party in parliament, there has not been any constructive and critical analysis of Bio as Opposition leader.

    Most of the criticisms have come from non politicians such as Dr Raymond Awooner-Gordon, Dr Alie Kabbah, and Dr Kandeh Yumkellah etc. For example about the failed and misguided socio-economic policies of the current APC government in alleviating the plights of the populace at home in Sierra Leone

    The only comment that Bio made after his studies from England was to go to state house with his team to praise the EB Koroma-led government of work well done.

    We know of the abject poverty now in Sierra Leone but my appeal to you youths is that any decision you make in terms of the presidential flag bearership of the SLPP, you have to respect the laid down rules of the party which Bio has violated and disrespected in his quest to contest again as a SLPP presidential flag bearer for 2018.

    And I tell you in advance, if you allow Maada to win this flagbearship for the SLPP presidential candidate, the party will lose the 2018 presidential and general elections and you will have no one to blame but yourselves – for your stubbornness, hardheartedness and foolishness.

    The party has competent candidates whose records are very good to the outside world and can change the image of Sierra Leone to attract the much needed investors to create jobs, industries, factories and improve our educational standards that are needed for the 21st century.

    Please, my fellow Sierra Leoneans, especially the youths, let your discussions about politics especially if you claim to be members of the SLPP, be guided by the rules and regulations governing the SLPP – the constitution of the party – and it tells you what to do and the decisions you should make.

    Especially, look for candidates who are obeying the constitution and those who are not. Don’t allow tribalism, sectionalism, etc. to blindfold you in your decision or else we are going to lose the 2018 presidential elections.

  8. I find all these so called aspiring contenders to be jokers. With a party that is broke and disorganized its only a matter of time before they realize that the claim for any of them forming the next government is a serious joke.

    There is no doubt that the APC popularity rating is very low at this point and they know it too. But is the SLPP really taking advantage of this? No, instead of these leaders to make compromises and come together to get the ultimate prize they are fighting each other.

    There is no doubt that Bio is popular with the grassroots of the party, and as such has a chance of winning the flagbearer election but is that enough to win State House with a divided party?

    Well the answer is obvious unless one is not a realist. In these flagbearer elections anything is possible and one cannot be too complacent as we saw in the last elections when Usman Boye kamara perceived to be a newcomer surprised many.

    In my opinion, Bio is doing the right thing if genuine by calling for dialogue with other aspirants. But he should go further than that and make concessions. The name calling and pointing of accusing fingers will not take this party any where, other than the opposition benches.

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