Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 September 2018
After a weekend of excitement and drama, wrapped up in political machinations and chicanery at the SLPP convention in Kenema, the party has in the very early hours of this morning, elected a new National Executive Council that will oversee the election of its presidential candidate for the 2018 national elections.
The list of elected executives clearly shows an overwhelming support for the former military brigadier – turned politician – Julius Maada Bio (Photo: Bio in uniform), by the majority of national delegates, who were qualified and bothered to turn up to vote at the convention in Kenema.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that many delegates were either disqualified or declined to attend the convention to vote, in protest at what they described as naked aggression, intimidation and abuse hauled at them by ‘Paopa’ supporters of the former military brigadier.
As a result, it was looking pretty obvious, hours before the votes were cast, that the new look SLPP National Executive Council was going to be a cloned Maada Bio supporters club.
This outcome will have profound implications for the SLPP party in many ways. Firstly, not only are the majority of members of the elected NEC perceived as pro-Maada Bio, they are regarded as hard-lined ‘Yes-men’ from Bio’s Mende tribe.
Secondly, none of the presidential aspirants in the party can boast of having a strong power base in the norther half of the country and Freetown – the capital, where SLPP would need to poll at least 40% of its total required number of voters to win the 2018 general and presidential elections.
The ruling APC are fast working on building a political fortress in the Eastern district of Kono, where SLPP must also put on a massive fight to win control, if it is to govern Sierra Leone. Not a single seat was won by SLPP in Kono at the last general elections in 2012. And 2018 is going to prove even tougher.
Maada is poised to win the SLPP party’s presidential candidacy next week, but is clearly laying down the foundation for a resounding defeat at the national polls in 2018.
In 2012, his party could only manage to win about 37% of the total votes cast, with over 50% of its ballots polled in his southern political heartland. Why should this change in 2018?
Supporters of Maada Bio say that he has grown massively in popularity across the country, and has improved his image rating especially in the north of the country.
But far too many northerners are still reeling from the execution of dozens of people – mostly from the north, when Bio’s military junta toppled the northern tribal based APC government in 1992.
The problem for the opposition SLPP, come 2018, is also one of image. It has and more so now, regarded as a Mende man party, by large sections of the population of Sierra Leone. And looking at the list of their elected national executive council members, critics may be forgiven for believing that the SLPP is a Mende man party.
But Yousif Keketoma – one of Maada Bio’s media handlers, says that the list shows that “SLPP leads by example on regional balance, in its new national executive, showcasing a party of one country, one people”. He listed the names of the newly elected officials, also showing their respective regional origin:
1. Prince Alex Harding – Chairman and Leader – from the South.
2. Umaru Dumbuya – Deputy Chairman and Leader – from the North.
3.Umaru Napoleon Koroma – National Secretary General – from the North.
4.Sheku Lexmond Koroma – Deputy National Secretary General – from the South.
5. Manso Dumbuya – Vice Chairman, Western Area – from the North.
6. Edward Suluku – Vice Chairman, Southern Region – from the South.
7. Philip Tondorneh – Vice Chairman, Eastern Region – from the East.
8. Abu Abu Koroma – Vice Chairman, Northern Region – from the North.
9. Lahai Lawrence Leema – National Publicity Secretary – from the East.
10. Musa Moiguah – National Young Generation Leader – from the South.
11. Emerson Kamara – National Young Generation Secretary General – from the North.
12. Jimmy B Songa – National Organising Secretary – from the South.
13. Rex Bonapha – Deputy National Organising Secretary elect – from the East.
14. Fatmata Sawaneh – National Women’s Leader – from the East.
15. Fatmata Bockarie – Deputy National Women’s Leader – from the East.
16. Lawyer Anthony Berewa – Legal Adviser 1 – from the South.
17. Lawyer Eke Halloway – Legal Adviser 2 – from the West.
18. Lawyer Hindolo M. Gevao – Legal Adviser 3 – from the East.
19. Dr J. D Rogers – National Financial Secretary – from the South.
20. Martha Kanagbo – National Treasurer – from the South.
21. Mohamed F. Sheriff- National Internal Auditor – from the South.
21. Rev. Dwight French -Chaplin – from the West.
22. Alhaji M. N. Koroma- Imam – from the North.
23. Alhaji M. B Fadika – Trustee West (Urban) – from the West.
24. Frederick A.S. Walker – Trustee West (Rural) – from the West.
25. Sidi B. Sowa – Trustee South 1 – from the South.
26.Luretia M.Sheriff -Trustee South 2 – from the South.
27. Alhaji M.L. Kallon -Trustee East 1 – from the East.
28. Agnes K.Sebba – Trustee East 2 – from the East.
29. Alusine Fofanah -Trustee North 1 – from the North.
30. Alie Badara Kamara-Trustee North 2 – from the North.
But in reaction to this list of newly elected SLPP executive council members, critics point out that the list does not provide the regional balance that is necessary for promoting national inclusion and cohesion in Sierra Leone.
The list shows the North has 8 executive members; East 8 executive members; South 10 executive members; and Western Area – Freetown has 4 executive members.
With a total of 60% of the executives originating from the south-eastern half of the country, critics say that the SLPP is showing its regional bias – not balance. But is the ruling APC any different? This remains to be seen when the ruling APC goes to its national convention. (Photo: Bio – left, sitting alongside his strongest opponent for the presidential candidacy – Alie Kabba).
Yousif Keketoma – a staunch supporter and member of the Maada Bio media team was asked by the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “How do you respond to those who say that this executive is designed in the image of Maada Bio? Is this not a pro Bio executive?”
“There is no legal restriction stating Bio’s supporters should not be elected. If anything, it shows the overwhelming support Bio enjoys in the Party. We have a new executive and very proud of them,” he said.
And that response about sums up the confidence in the ‘Bio for President’ camp, as the SLPP heads into next week’s presidential candidacy election. But will its national delegates stop short of crowning Maada Bio as their presidential candidate for 2018?