Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 April 2017
The return of former vice president Sam Sumana to Sierra Leone politics has set the wagging tongues into overdrive. Since his return, there has been talk of a new political party, which in its embryonic state is just referred to as a movement – Coalition 4 Change (C4C).
Well we had 4 4 4 the last time we played with our ballots. So there is no crime for an offshoot – so it looks. But the return of Sam has given rise to a lot of political permutations. There are those who believe that his return is a flash in a pan, and that it will all fizzle out, come March 2018. March 2018 is indeed a long way off but as we know, a day in politics is a long time.
Nevertheless, our political Einsteins have wasted no time in working out a balance sheet or better still, the road maps with their political sat navs to March 2018. Some have gone as far as predicting via their crystal ball that C4C will die a slow and painful death, and that the figure head will be hushed with a cushy job as compensation for pulling out of the race.
Some people can be forgiven for making such assertions, as they have based their prediction on their professed knowledge about Big Sam. While many were busy breast beating and spitting feathers for his unceremonious sacking, some of his disciples felt let down by the grovelling sermon he spewed out in the aftermath of his demise.
While his sacking was seen by many as a grievous bodily assault on our constitution, Big Sam was busy reminding those who cared to listen that, Ernest was his “big brother, he respected him, blah…. Blah… blah. Sometimes, opposition only enflames the enthusiast, never converts him.
In spite of the official reasons given for his sacking, there are a lot of people who believe that the real reason was because Big Sam was suspected of pitching his tent as successor to Ernest. This was not in the APC script, and Big Sam was seen as dancing himself lame when the main dance was yet to come.
Many see the succession to the throne as a natural progression – from VP to President. If only late S.I Koroma was around to prove you wrong.
As we wait for the metamorphosis of C 4 C into a political party, there is no doubt that some aspirants will cross the aisle and join the bandwagon. Will the C 4 C have the momentum to survive till then?
Some would do so out of frustration, disappointment with their parent party or just for the fun of it. As we all know, the lack of principles or stupidity is not a handicap in our politics. A lot of them don’t stand for anything and would fall for anything.
Who would imagine that Charles Margai (Photo) of all people, will desert the SLPP? Albert and Sir Milton Margai would have done 360 degrees in their graves, on the day Charles fled the ancestral SLPP nest. But that is the kind of politics we witness, where politicians can change their tune at the drop of a hat.
If there are any out there with genuine political reasons to join C 4 C, why are they not flocking to this church now? The floodgates will open, post flag bearer selections. It is for this particular reason that our pundits believe that C 4 C is not grounded in principles, but will be a reservoir for sour grapes and the disgruntled.
Take for example Mohamed Bangura. He was seen by many as the only man who could stand up to the APC as a formidable opposition. He was everywhere in the media. He was the FIFA and EUFA political referee rolled into one.
With the SLPP sinking into political coma, some people had gone as far as seeing his party as the only viable opposition in the country. It took just a ministerial position to apply the silencers, and the drums fell silent.
Today, he is the chief Rabbi and fire-fighter for our government. He might not be the first; Peter also once denied Christ, and those who shouted “crucify him, later chanted “hosanna”.
But these and many other instances are some of the reasons why some people may welcome the C 4 C with a hint of cynicism, as an alternative voice. The fact that some see it as a bye product of political disgruntlement, ironically fronted by Big Sam, there would be little room for optimism. But as they say, given a sufficient number of people and an adequate amount of time, you can create insurmountable opposition to the most inconsequential idea.
Although others will see any future defectors as products of self-serving interests, we should never underestimate the power of protest votes. Like I once mentioned, that elections are usually won by people who vote against somebody rather for someone, there is every reason to believe that the upcoming elections will be marinated with a flavour of protest votes.
It is therefore not surprising that some are still holding their cards to their chests. No rush to play their hands yet. But if anyone is nursing any hope of redemption from these political chameleons, you might as well hope that foxes will vote for the welfare of the poultry.
But again, the APC party has a lot of positives to point to, as developments in the last eight years. From the miniature clinics mushrooming in our rural communities, flickers of solar power, road infrastructure, etc., its followers will see these as some of the signatures of the APC under Bai Koroma.
But the struggles of the majority to put food on the table, the unemployment rate – especially among the youth, allegations of institutionalised corruption and the bitter pill of austerity will be seen by many as the other side of the coin.
The problem for the party opposite will be how to convince the masses that they will be a better alternative. It is all well and good to diagnose the political malaise of the APC, but a political prognosis and prescription is an entirely different matter.
The SLPP will need to tell the nation what and how it will do better if elected. A lot of its disciples will hate to admit this, but there is a major problem with image and branding for the SLPP.
There are those who see the party as spending too much time with the kind of internal squabbling that you see in student politics. There are others who believe that if the party is not capable of corralling its members into singing from the same hymn sheet, what hope is there to get the nation to sing the same anthem?
It is this self-destruct image that seems so prevalent, that some cynics in the party believe the APC has its operatives and sleepers buried deep in the party, with orders to cause maximum disruption from within the very entrails of the party.
So what will the political landscape look like, come 2018? The SLPP will try to keep its ship afloat, and if lucky, go for image bye pass surgery and brand reconstruction. The APC will try to rein in any potential dissidents.
We are no strangers to how ruthless the APC can be – for political expediency; just ask the chairman from Port Loko. The C 4 C will leave the nation with the herculean task of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is no secret that the APC will face some internal wrangling over its election, selection or imposition of its flag bearer.
Rumour has it that the President has been elected as the APC Chairman for Life, after the termination of his tenancy agreement at State House. There have been other rumours too, that Ernest is bent on “imposing” his cousin John Bonoh Sisay as the Presidential candidate. Others believe that JFK is his preferred “safe hands” candidate – the man he believes will carry the torch of his legacy. There will be no shortage of rumours and fake news.
There are many things you can say about Ernest, but second guessing his next move is not one of them. He has always come up with bags of surprises. If I was a betting man, I would hazard a guess on a political sex change for 2018. But that is for our political architects to ruminate on.
As we prepare for the next general elections, there are those who feel the SUN has become too hot for too long. But again, there are those who are yet to be convinced that the PALM TREE will provide adequate shade for the suffering masses.
By virtue of my DNA, I am allergic to party political allegiance; eh…for now. Some of us have an ionising tendency to be attracted to the opposition party, without the photosynthesis. Some of us just want a viable “OPPOSITION” to any ruling party, irrespective of their nomenclature.
Opposition is true friendship. It is only through the opposition of ideas that we can learn to be self-critical. I believe that a ruling party is only as good as the opposition. For a ruling party to function well for the good of the majority, it requires a formidable opposition to be functional and fit for purpose. Opposition is not necessarily enmity; it is merely misused and made an occasion for enmity.
Political gerrymandering in Sierra Leone? Let the games begin. Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.