An open letter to the leaders of the Sierra Leone opposition SLPP

Yankuba G Kai-Samba

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 July 2016

SLPP party bosses at party anniversary celebrations 27 April 2016

Fellow members of the GOP – the SLPP

I have made my opposition to the re-election of Julius Bio as our party’s flagbearer abundantly clear, as far possible as I can. I believe Bio is bad for SLPP unity, progress and election victory.

Today I want to turn my attention to the multiple aspirants and warn them of the dangers of inadvertently helping re-elect Julius Bio.

I am getting fed up with the multiple aspirants who are united by their determination to save the party, yet going their separate ways without any common strategic coherence as to how to defeat Julius Bio, who by common understanding is the major barrier to SLPP’s chances of victory.

It just does not make sense when they believe Bio is the problem and the least equipped and likely to unite the party and win a general election, yet they are not seeing the real risks of splitting the anti Bio’s votes among eleven aspirants.

Bio has demonstrated all the issues that made him a divisive and polarising figure and lacking leadership.

Yumkella Keili and kabbaThe All Aspirants Alliance (AAA) has a noble idea, invented to deal with some of the major issues that divide the party and stalling progress.

They may have achieved some of their aims, but the critical issue facing the party is to restore the party’s damaged reputation and elect a credible centrist presidential material.

This can only be achieved if Bio is stop from being elected again as the party’s flagbearer for the 2018 election.

For this to happen, the AAA or other aspirants, needs to maximise their strengths and resources to put up one candidate against Bio. Such a candidate should have the capability or had demonstrated the potential to unite the party even after the election, something which Bio could not do following his election in 2011 as the flagbearer.

The way I measured up things is that Keili and Yumkella can become president. But it seems to me that unity command paramount principles in any negotiation and only one is more likely to demonstrate that quality to lead a united front in this particular contest.

I am reluctant to give a clear opinion or preference on this proposition, though I have, but would rather live it to the AAA themselves.

Multiple candidates against Bio in a first past the post election system is fraught with uncertainties. And in my view, this existing voting system still favours Bio, who could win by a single vote with the smallest percentage of the total votes.

If this were to happen, which cannot be ruled out because of the multiplicity of aspirants, we might see the same problems as in 2011, where the winner was rejected by over 60% of the delegate votes but nevertheless led the party with a far lesser mandate. This, as evidenced in the past could engender further disunity and defections.

slpp musical chairsThe anti Bio delegate votes, if we use the 2011 results, over 60% had rejected Bio. But in the absence of a preferential voting system as in 2011, that 60% could split among the eleven other flagbearers, making it more difficult and uncertain to stop Bio.

An amendment to the current first past the post system to a preferential voting system is most democratic and suitable, where there are multiple candidates. More importantly, the preferential system will elect a consensus presidential candidate with overwhelming support from across various factions in the SLPP.

That will make unity easier, when led by a flagbearer elected by at least over 50% of the delegate votes.

The chances of a national party wining a general election is lowered by the type of leader the party elects. There are some parallels between what the opposition Labour Party in Britain has been experiencing in general elections with SLPP, although SLPP’s sister party is the ruling conservative party.

Whilst Labour leadership election favours left wingers and elected their leaders from the left, those leaders, though with popular mandate from the party have never won general elections.

There is no doubt that the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was elected by 60% of the party membership. While he seemingly maintains significant grassroots support, Jeremy has lost the overwhelming support of the parliamentary labour members who have passed a no confidence motion against his leadership.

Technically, this rendered his position untenable. But he believes he still has the support of the Labour grassroots and is relying on their support.  But Labour grassroots do not elect prime minister in a general election. Just as in Sierra Leone, it is the general public that elect president.

Two candidates have now challenged his leadership in just over a year since he was elected. Both candidates are now under pressure from the Labour party to present one candidate, if they are to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn.

They have agreed and recognised the need to defeat Corbyn, whom they regard as lacking in leadership – with a no confidence motion to prevent him from taking the party down an electoral defeat.

Like Labour in UK, the SLPP in Sierra Leone has never won a general election on the basis of the flagbearer’s popularity within his party. Jeremy Corbyn can rightly claim genuine popularity among the Labour grassroots, as he got 60% of the leadership votes than Bio in SLPP who got 38%, with 60% not in his favour.

SLPP presidential candidate - Maada Bio
Maada Bio

But Jeremy, like Bio, is unelectable. Even the former failed Labour leader who is also a left winger – Neil Kinnock, has acknowledged this and is working with others to save the Labour party by replacing Jeremy Corbyn.

Tony Blair was the only Labour prime minister who won three general elections in a row. He was not popular among the Labour grassroots. Similarly, President Kabba was the only man to have won two general elections for SLPP in a row. He also like Tony Blair was not popular within his party.

Britain elects their leader from the centre or centre right of the political spectrum. Bio and Jeremy are far from the centre. Jeremy is too far left and Bio is polarising and controversial with heavy baggage. They are both divisive and lack the support of their party’s establishment.

Michael Foot, that brilliant Oxfordian former Labour leader was left of centre. He lost to the conservatives at the time when the conservative government was deeply unpopular.

Labour replaced him with Neil Kinnock, another left of centre. He also lost to the conservative at a time when the country was looking for a change of government.

Labour again elected a left of centre leader Ed Milliband – rejecting his older brother David Milliband who was a Blairite. And the conservatives admitted they feared David.

But Labour’s Electoral College generally favoured left wingers and the trade unions within the Labour party were anti Tony Blair, whom they accused of promoting conservative policies. So they gave their bloc votes to Ed, stopping David wining as revenge against Blair.

Ed Milliband, another Oxfordian but more left than his failed predecessors, lost the election to the conservatives with a surprising overall majority for the conservatives.

Had David Milliband won the Labour leadership – rather than Ed, the conservative party could have found it very difficult to win the last election as David was centre right, the same position in which Blair had won three unprecedented election for Labour.

What is sad for the Labour party is that they have lost successive elections at a time when the ruling conservatives were unpopular in the country, and people were looking for change.

As if the Labour party has not learnt its lessons, they elected Jeremy Corbyn after Ed Milliband had taken them to the worst defeat at the hands of the conservatives. Ironically, Jeremy is further left of centre than Ed Milliband.

Jeremy is not electable. A credible UK newspaper reported with names of some conservative supporters who revealed they had registered with the Labour party and voted for Jeremy Corbyn, as he is seen as the surest way of perpetuating conservative rule.

This is very similar to what is happening currently in Sierra Leone, where the ruling APC saw the re-election of Bio as leader of SLPP, as strategically favourable to their ambition of remaining in power after the 2018 elections. There are many reasons for this, which I need not repeat here.

About the Author

Yankuba G Kai-Samba is a former SLPP (UK) Secretary General and Retired UK Civil Servant.

6 Comments

  1. No Maada Bio – No victory for SLPP come 2018.

    But with Maada Bio in front, backed by Yumkella, victory is assured.

    Maada Bio is popular than any other politician in the SLPP, and the day the party choose someone apart from Maada Bio as presidential aspirant, that will be the day SLPP will lose the 2018 general elections.

    If Mr Bio does not form another party or defect to APC, he will ask his supporters to vote for APC just to punish his party for being ungrateful to him.

  2. I want to solidly thank all of you Messrs. Gbessay Ehlogima Sam Momoh, Alieu M. Bah and Francis Kpaka for unreservedly rejecting in totality, the argument of Mr. Kaisamba; and for injecting the truth into him in response to his article “An open letter to the leaders of the Sierra Leone opposition SLPP”.

    Given the length and quantum at which he has been adequately responded to by your comments, I really do not have much left that I should add, other than to thank you and thank you once more for a job well done.

    I hope Mr. Kai Samba will reconsider his opposition to Maada, who is widely believed even by those members of the Alliance he had referred to in his piece, as the most popular politician in the SLPP and the only person that have the wherewithal to defeat any APC Candidate come 2018 General elections.

    Maada has demonstrated this many times before that the 2012 election was massively rigged beyond every human imagination by the APC, in connivance with our then Chairman and Leader of our party Mr. John Benjamin, who in mortgaging his own integrity and conscience (for his personal interest and deep seated hatred for Maada), also sold our rights and our votes to Ernest Bai Koroma, which subsequently denied Maada and his SLPP the victory he (Maada) sacrificed his life for.

    Maada has demonstrated his overwhelming popularity (both among the grass root and the Country at large) many times after the 2012 election as referenced by Alieu Bah, specifically during the Kenema/Kailahun districts bye elections. Not to talk about the many visits he Maada during the Ebola era and his sensitization tours.

    It is therefore sad and extraneous to always see Yankuba Kai Samba making reference to this extraordinary 2012 elections, the 38% that was given to the party and blaming Maada for losing that election.

    But as a democrat, he has a right to his opinion. But presenting a fake or false picture of an event with poor analysis cannot be accepted just for the sake of democracy. This is the reason why we are vigorously rebutting his analysis posted in his open letter as being very poor and dismal. But I, like Mr. Bah’s conclusion in English which I can reduce in Latin ‘Nemo dat quod non habit’.

    I want to also add to the fact that Maada is not only popular among the grass-root of the SLPP, but popular right across the country. It is unfair to Maada and misleading by his earlier statement that Maada is only popular to the grass root but not countrywide. To this, I can safely refer Mr. Yankuba to the ‘Alliance’ for their views and honest opinions. I know all the members of this ‘Alliance’ are honourable and honest people. They will not lie just because they are opposed to Maada becoming the next flag bearer.

    It is even absurd and completely unnecessary to compare Maada’s position in Sierra Leone politics to that of Jeremy Corbyn in British politics. Too petty unfortunately, to see Mr. Kai Samba aligning the SLPP to the Conservative Party and APC to the Labour Party. I cannot really fathom the necessity for this comparisons or analysis.

    Reminiscence: Sierra Leone 10 Years Rebel War. The All People’s Congress was in governance when the terrible rebel incursion broke out in this country. It also coincided with the Labour Party of the UK in governance. (FUL STOP).

    The British government under the Labour Party did not do anything much then in support of their ally the APC government, that one could write home about. Then change of governments took place in succession in Sierra Leone while the war was still going on, with the Labour Party still in governance in the UK.

    The sooner a democratically elected government of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) took over governance of this country (again by the blessings and wisdom of Maada Bio), we saw coming to our aid the then Labour government of the United Kingdom (UK), unilaterally taking full charge of our war on behalf and on the side of the SLPP and the people of this country to free us from the carnage of the rebels. Hope this makes sense.

  3. Yankuba, you have a right to your opinion just as anyone else. Except otherwise, your analysis will not work. To many of us Bio is the only person that can change the destiny of this nation and minimize corruption. People like you hate him for no good reason that you can justify.

    You can not substantiate your comment that Bio can not unite the party or the nation or he is the problem by correctly responding to these questions how, what, where, when and why .

    I would like to know what you will do the day Bio takes the mantle of power of the SLPP, followed by the state.

    Your continued criticism of Bio is making him even more popular day by day, while the other aspirants are getting less popular by the tick of the clock.

    Trust me, Bio is the only person who can change your status and that of the nation. When ten people form an alliance against just one person without identifying a single candidate, that tells you how over ambitious each of them are for power.

    if Bio should join the alliance today, what will the rest of the team do – ask him to step down for them?

    Do not underestimate Bio’s popularity. It is God who makes people popular and not what you write or say about others, as you have just done. Bio’s visit to Kailahun created a very huge impact that led to the victory of the SLPP in the recently conducted by-election.

  4. Yankuba, I have read your piece and have realized that you are far from the truth. It is an established fact that within the SLPP Bio seem to be more popular than the entire Alliance, as it was shown in the just concluded Bye election in Kailahun; and even the local bye election in your home town Kenema where an Independent candidate that was tagged with Bio, won that election.

    KKY movement could not even impact the bye election in Port Loko District – a neighbouring district to his birth place, not to mention distant places.

    What is very clear is the fact in the 2012 election, while others were promoting the ideals of SLPP, John Ben and some of his kind were busy promoting Agenda 2017. If a candidate cannot win an election in his own home town where else my brother?

    You cannot give what you do not have. For the sake of democracy let us preach peace and live with peace.

  5. Your analysis of the SLPP dilemma is absolutely spot on. What I disagree with is your suggestion that Kandeh Yumkella and Andrew Keili would be presidential material.

    I would have preferred you to elaborate on that, so as to give the readers a wider knowledge of those two choices of yours. I have my reasons for disagreeing, but would prefer to leave that for another day.

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