Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 June 2018:
The recent elections have thrown up a lot of unprecedented political permutations with a lot still to be desired. Throughout our political history, our country has witnessed one-party, multi-party, dictatorship, military interregnums and now DEMOCRACY.
Our newly elected parliament has up to four different political parties. And for the first time in our history, the opposition party is in the majority. That makes for an intriguing 5 years ahead.
Bio is yet to hit the proverbial “100 days in office”, and we have already started hitting the political gridlocks.
That is what makes it a collective responsibility for all Sierra Leoneans to “put Salone first” irrespective of our respective political persuasions.
No matter which party one supports, Sierra Leone and its citizens stand to benefit or lose in these political gymnastics.
If we ever needed to come together as a nation, there can be no better or demanding time.
We now have Coalition for Change (C4C) and National Grand Coalition (NGC) as the newly promoted parties to the political Champions League. It is no longer the usual duel between the APC and SLPP.
Interestingly, both new parties carry the same surname, and you wonder if they share DNA or parenthood. Ironically, both were conceived on the back of protests and toy throwing antics from their political parental prams. How effective these two baby parties will be among the grown-ups is anybody’s guesses.
One thing is for sure; the SLPP will have its hands full. The recent election outcome may represent a by-product of breakaways and protests. Some may say it was a vote for change.
It’s plausible to conclude that voting pattern was laced with protests, especially Kono District, where the status of its “leader” remains paradoxical; at best. There is the temptation to conclude that Sam Sumana and his C4C swept Kono in the polls; courtesy of the undying love of his people. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
It is an open secret that Kono district has always voted for the winning party. Kono is seen as one of the main midwives of the late Pa Sheki’s APC Party. Pa Sheki presided over a heavily manipulated plebiscite from 1978 until he retired in 1985. Kono District has since been similar to swing states in American politics; as fulcrum of the political pendulum or seesaw.
It is no surprise that Kono had since enjoyed favour with the APC party. People like K.C Gbamanja, Fasuku Tamba, Alhaji SHO Gborie, the Matturis, and many more enjoyed political favours, as ministers or in high profile positions for their troubles.
It is a bitter truth to admit, but even with the presence of the NDMC, what has the district got to show for it? It still remains one of the most underdeveloped areas in the country.
Fast forward to 2007, Kono was “blessed” with the VP, the First and second ladies under the Ernest koroma government. There was a collective sigh of relief and hope for the better for the district. Don’t hold your breath.
But the fallout between Ernest and Sam Sumana is now local folklore, and the rippling effects were felt nationwide; more so in the recent elections. Many have erroneously concluded that the reason for Kono swinging to C4C in the last elections was a protest vote.
This is true, at face value. In reality, it was a sympathy vote. The anger that welled from Sam Sumana’s sacking was palpable.
His sacking was questioned as a constitutional aberration nationwide.
But for the people of Kono, it was personal and they felt aggrieved and slighted. That is what sowed the seeds of the protest vote.
But if it was a protest vote, you would expect the district to vote for the other side SLPP.
That was the expectation, until the C4C was conceived. The protest vote then morphed into sympathy vote when Sam returned like Jesus Christ on Palm Sunday from Ghana. He was seen as the saviour and the rest is history.
Even though Sam’s party won the district by a landslide, many have always wondered about its lack of national appeal. It is one thing to win with a new party, but what and where next? Political purveyors would agree that the results in Kono were the defining moment that ushered the SLPP back to State House.
The question that is on the lips of many seasoned observers is where and what next for C4C?
This question was vigorously put to the test during the run off for the presidential polls. What transpired on the political landscape of Kono from 12th -31st March is what appears to have generated a lot of doubts about the durability status of C4C.
With the possibility of a run off becoming blindingly obvious, the expectation for a political bazaar for some horse trading loomed large. Many expected a flurry of carpet crossing among the political parties.
Although some politicians, low profile at that, changed horses in mid-stream as trade-offs for the run off, they were nothing seismic enough to shift the balance of power.
All eyes were firmly on Yumkella (NGC) and Sam Sumana (NGC), who are political scions from the SLPP and APC parties.
Some expected prodigal son scenarios; but to his credit some will say, Yumkella was first to state his intention to remain neutral.
His decision was met with the usual barrage of condemnations, against the backdrop of some sucking up to, from the APC.
Yumkella knew that aligning with any other party would have been high stakes manoeuvre, and would have signed the death knell of his NGC party instantly. With his declaration to stay true to his beliefs, all eyes were trained on Sam Sumana, whose personality and political credentials were put to the sternest test.
It must be recalled that it took an eternity for Sam to declare his intention to run for the elections. Even the launch of his party took forever and that was a monumental mistake.
When Sam returned from Ghana, and on the back of a supposedly court victory against the APC for his sacking, he was undeniably on the crest of a wave. That was when many of his supporters would have expected him to seize the moment, launch his political party and declare his intentions.
But no; he dilly dallied and allowed the wind of expectation to blow past him. When he finally launched his party and declared his candidature, the moment was a mere damp squib at best.
Fast forward to the elections and rumours were rampant that he was going to throw his hat into the APC ring. Even the likes of Victor Foh went on the media to boastfully and confidently declare that “Sam Na we (APC) Pikin”, fuelling expectations and rumours of his return to base. (Photo below: What was Foh on the left, thinking?)
Sadly, Sam’s silence, amidst media demand for clarification only gave mileage and credence to Foh’s statement. With the media frenzy surrounding his decision and rumours that he will switch to the APC, Sam reportedly arranged for a press conference which never happened in the end.
This led to rumours that he had actually decided to return to the APC but that he was given death threats by his supporters, if he did so. With the presidential run off looming, so it came to pass that Sam never stated his decision. His decision was confirmed, unlike Yumkella by his deafening silence.
Now then, what is there for C4C? We know that elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody. With what has gone on, is it fair to say that Kono voted against Ernest Bai koroma rather than for Sam Sumana?
Now that Kono appears to be neither aligned to the APC or SLPP, does Sam provide that direction and fulcrum for a meaningful political axis for Kono? Should the people of Kono trust Sam; that he would lead them to the Promised Land?
How much national clout does he have to take C4C to the next level? If Sam does not succeed in taking Kono and his “supporters” to the next level, would those who voted for him look back and feel that they wasted their vote?
Some may find it difficult to admit but Kono is politically at cross roads here. No matter how you look at it, the district and its politicians carried some sway in both parties. This was a reflection of how the two main parties recognized the district’s swing ability in elections.
By throwing its weight behind Sam, in an emotionally charged election fury, have the people of Kono cut their nose to spite their face? But again, there are some who would believe that it is better to be a king in hell than to be a slave in heaven.
If Kono is to regain its premier league status in the national politics, it would require a monumental effort to bring all and sundry to the table and sing with one voice. That is where the old woman died. The last APC government made sure Kono was so divided into various political camps that “Kono e Kono fa” was a far cry from the Nimi hills.
You see, Ernest was very clever. First they pitched two media giants – Sylvia Blyden and Tam Mbayoh, supporters of Koroma and Sam respectively as the best of enemies. Diana Konomanyi, Balogun Koroma and Karamoh Kabba, all indigenes of Kono District were conveniently turned against Sam and were rewarded with sweeteners for their troubles.
The final nail in the coffin came when they successfully turned Tam Mbayoh, once the darling of the downtrodden, the voice of the people, Sam’s blue-eyed boy, and made him the APC’s “publicity secretary”.
Ernest was very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his party. The Konos were amused by his appointments and allowed him to stay. He won the brothers and sister; and Kono district no longer acted as one. He put a knife on the things that held them together and they have fallen apart.”
Which way now, Kono?