Yumkella’s national cross-cutting appeal and the 2018 Elections

Jimmy D. Kandeh

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 September 2017

In a country where social cleavages seldom cross-cut, it is refreshing to have a candidate in the person of Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella whose political appeal cuts across parties, regions, ethnicity, religion and other solidarities.  The APC and SLPP, as presently constituted, will be hard pressed to settle on a presidential candidate who is above, or can rise above, the many parochial divisions that continue to prevent us from coming together and transform our country.

National cohesion and the elaboration of a national character that transcends primordial loyalties is best pursued by a leader who transcends the ethno-regional polarization that we must overcome, if our country is to progress. The incumbent APC is threatened by Yumkella’s presidential bid but not by Bio’s.

Yumkella (Photo) strikes at the APC where it hurts the most, the north. He can put the north in play, make it competitive and have an electoral battle in the APC stronghold.

Yumkella, in my view, will take as many votes from the APC as he will from the SLPP for the following reasons:

(1) He is a northerner who is likely to carry the same districts (Kambia and Koinadugu) Kabba carried and may even top Kabba’s 32.7% share of the northern vote in 2002. Northerners are, for better or worse, as disinclined to vote for the SLPP as southerners are averse to voting for the APC; they would, however, vote for a candidate who is not SLPP, especially when that person is a distinguished and accomplished individual who hails from their region.

(2) It is doubtful whether the APC will be as united for the 2018 elections as it was in the 2007 and 2012 elections. How the incumbent president handles the flagbearer issue in his party would impact the cohesion of the APC. The fallout from the APC convention and who emerges as the party’s flagbearer will help determine the outcome of the 2018 presidential race. The APC will lose the north and the other three provinces if Victor Foh is the party’s flagbearer; this will undoubtedly provide an easier path to the presidency for Yumkella.

(3) The APC brand (first damaged by Stevens, then by Momoh and Koroma) cannot come out on top in a free and fair presidential election. Brazen and unbridled corruption, not to mention the crass impunity that accompanies it, has impoverished and turned many ordinary citizens against the government. Emmerson’s ‘Munku’ only begins to capture the stench of corruption and sycophancy that pervades every public institution and facet of social life in our country. Any APC flagbearer who has worked for and is the preferred choice of the incumbent President is likely to lose because no one, other than the beneficiaries of APC largesse, want to see a ‘third term’ of the Koroma presidency. Even Kabba’s choice of successor in the 2007 elections could not beat back the rising unpopularity of the SLPP at the time and APC unpopularity makes it objectively more vulnerable to defeat in 2018 than the SLPP in 2007.

(4) All northern districts are likely to be competitive in 2018, as the APC has to contend with the likes of Kamarainba in Bombali and Yumkella in all districts. Bio has no electoral traction in the north so the contest for northern votes will be mainly between Yumkella and the APC candidate, with Kamarainba taking votes away from the APC candidate. A competitive north reduces the APC’s chances of winning the 2018 presidential election.

Yumkella also stands to peel away substantial votes from the SLPP because of the following factors and considerations:

(a) Many progressive Southerners who supported Bio in 2012 out of party loyalty have since deserted the party and are now supporting Yumkella. The violence, thuggery and intimidation introduced into intra-party affairs by Bio’s ‘Paopa’ faction has alienated many SLPP stalwarts who arew increasingly likely to split their votes by choosing Yumkella in the presidential election and the SLPP candidate for parliament.

Like most Sierra Leoneans, most SLPP members who have either left the party and/or are supporting Yumkella’s presidential bid are convinced that Bio cannot win a presidential election. Compared to Bio, the preference for Yumkella is a no-brainer.

(b)The plurality of former PMDC members and supporters are backing Yumkella. The PMDC won ten seats in 2007, all from the south, and with the PMDC having receded into oblivion even those that returned to the SLPP remain soft in their support for the party and many are not supporting Bio.

The PMDC’s Margai received 41.2% of the southern vote and 14.7% of the Eastern vote in the 2007 presidential elections. If Yumkella can match Margai’s southern vote total and do better than Margai in the East, he is likely to knock Bio out of the presidential race in the SLPP’s stronghold.

(c) This is the most disunited the SLPP has ever been entering an election. The SLPP is clearly in disarray, has not functioned as an effective opposition and, like the incumbent party, is hemorrhaging support by the day. A party that is dysfunctional and not united is not in all likelihood going to win presidential elections.

(d) The SLPP cannot win presidential elections when the south and east are competitive and that is exactly the scenario we should expect in 2018. A competitive south does the SLPP no good just as a competitive north does the APC no favors. Yumkella benefits immeasurably from dissension and discord within the SLPP and APC; the same cannot be said for the flagbearers of these parties.

With respect to region, Yumkella’s emerging regional stronghold is the western area, which he must win if he is to capture the presidency. Historically, the western area is the only region that swings from one party to the other (SLPP in 1996 and 2002; APC in 2007 and 2012) and is bellwether for presidential elections.

To win the presidency, a candidate must at minimum be competitive in the western area. Western area voters tend to be relatively more enlightened, less susceptible to ethnoregional appeals and demagoguery and more likely to hold leaders vertically accountable at the ballot box.

Based on what I sensed during a recent visit to Freetown, support for Yumkella is growing exponentially in the western area, especially among the numerically preponderant segment of our population, the youth. He/she who wins the youth vote is likely to prevail in the presidential contest.
In addition to the western area, Yumkella will give the APC presidential candidate a run for his/her money in the north and will also be competitive in the south and east. Bio is poised to lose to Yumkella and the APC flagbearer in the north while the APC candidate will lose to Bio and Yumkella in the South-East.

In short only Yumkella is likely to be competitive in all regions. He is acceptable to anti-APC southerners because he is not APC and he is also acceptable to anti-SLPP northerners because he is no longer SLPP. KKY will do better in the south than the APC candidate, trounce Bio by huge margins in the north and carry the west, the most competitive of regions.

Whatever Bio gains in votes from the south and east will be offset by his losses in the north and west; and however well the APC does in the north and west is not going to make up for its poor showing in the south and east.

The APC and SLPP flagbearers will not be competitive in all regions but Yumkella, from all indications, is primed to more than hold his own in all four regions and all twelve districts.  One of the good leadership attributes of Yumkella is that he is not an ethnic chauvinist.

Bio and Koroma are polarizing and have a track record of favouring ethnic compatriots and manipulating cultural differences for political gain. Yumkella is different. For him country trumps party, region and ethnicity. He sees exaggeration of the cultural differences that divide us as just another mechanism for fragmenting and undermining our collective opposition to bad governance, corruption and repression.

While ethno-regional loyalties and allegiances have allowed the two established parties to be dominant in national elections, these primordial and affective loyalties have also inoculated the APC and SLPP against accountability at the polls. Rising above what divides, and embracing what unites, us is part of the promise of a Yumkella presidency.

Sierra Leone has shown remarkable religious tolerance throughout the years and religion has not fuelled political divisions, in contrast to ethnicity, region and party. Yumkella, like the late President Kabba, is a devout and highly tolerant Muslim who appeals to Muslims and Christians alike.

Also, not unlike the late President Kabba, Yumkella’s wife is catholic and a great asset in his campaign especially in the southeast. To the degree that religion is not an important source of political divisions in Sierra Leone, support for presidential candidates in the forthcoming elections will not be based on religion.

Yumkella is not a savior or messiah (no one is) but he is head and shoulders above the other presidential aspirants and a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stinking political environment. He is highly educated, competent, disciplined and committed to improving governance in our country by first ensuring that public institutions work in the interest of the average citizen.

It is only when state institutions function in the interest of ordinary citizens, or operationally privilege their needs and aspirations, that state power can be institutionalized and we can develop as a people.

Liberating our country from the stranglehold of the APC and SLPP is not going to be easy and predatory incumbents will not be defeated at the polls without a fight. But if ever there is a right time to dump the APC and SLPP, that time is now.

Both parties are obstacles to our country’s progress and we cannot continue electing these unreconstructed patronage outfits and expect different outcomes. Our country has not progressed under these two parties and there is no reason to believe it will if we continue rewarding them with state power.

The APC’s record under Ernest Koroma is horrendous, revolting and indefensible. Koroma won in 2007and 2012 because the plurality of our people voted not so much for him as against Berewa and Bio.

The forthcoming presidential election will be a referendum on the APC in the same way that the 2007 elections were a referendum on the SLPP. In contrast to the past two elections, however, the 2018 elections feature a candidate who gives people a reason to vote for him.

Assuming the elections are free and fair, neither the APC nor the SLPP flagbearer will be elected President of Sierra Leone. Yumkella is prepared and well-positioned to be our next president and the timing for a successful third party candidacy cannot be more propitious.

About the author

Dr. Jimmy Kandeh is a professor of political Science at the University of Richmond, Virginia, USA and was in Sierra Leone this year from June-July 2017.

9 Comments

  1. I don’t have access to to any solid statistics which Jimmy Kandeh seemingly has,but my guts feeling is that S.L.P.P. and A.P.C. are in for a rough ride in the forthcoming elections. The monopoly on power which they have enjoyed hitherto is about to be annihilated,thanks to the third force which I have been advocating for the better part of a year.

    The analyses of Jimmy Kandeh are quite encouraging and,if they hold,I am envisioning a grand coalition presidency with it’s current de facto leader,Kandeh Yumkella heading to State House.

    A probable Yumkella presidency is within the realm of possibility simply because the character of the Sierra Leone voter has altered,especially in greater Freetown,which any candidate should win outright to stand a chance of winning the presidency. The typical Freetown voter is more sophisticated because of being so close to the seat of power and seeing all the evidence of what Kandeh Yumkella has started talking about,such as a street light costing $250,000 to fix and politicians displaying their ill-gotten wealth, while ordinary people are entrenched in filth and unimaginable poverty.

    If Kandeh Yumkella sharpens his message to take to all corners of the country A.PC. and S.L.P.P will start having sleepless nights soon enough,especially if he keeps reminding the people that in nearly sixty years of independence all they have known are these two parties which have only succeeded in bringing untold misery to the country and that both of them are one and same – there is no difference in their DNA.

    With S.L.P.P. and A.P.C in the back benches of parliament there will be fireworks in the political superstructure as they engage in a do or die effort to regain power,spitting fire at Kandeh constantly,who,I hope,won’t spare a minute in further exposing the callous and sadistic manner with which they have been impoverishing the nation for decades.The beneficiary of such a climate will be us,the ordinary people.

    Charles Margai should be part of any coalition, everything should be done to recruit him;he has a forceful disposition. I followed him into the Earnest Koroma camp in 2007 thinking that he must have seen something about him which I could’t see. Little did he know that the tiger he saw in Earnest was actually a clever butterfly,able to steal without leaving his fingerprints anywhere, as well as a foster parent of corruption.

    If we vote in a coalition in 2018, both A.P.C. and S.L.P.P. will implode and catch fire, with recriminations fanning the flames.Well, S.L.P.P. is already disintegrating. The only thing that is keeping a firm lid on things within A.P.C. at the moment is the tussle over the flag bearer which must be heating up intensely thanks to the indecisiveness of Earnest.

    If A.P.C. were to lose the presidency next year the civil war that would ensue in the party will make the current state of S.L.P.P.look like a picnic and the credibility of Earnest will go up in smoke,leaving him cold and lonely,retrospectively regretting many things,including the actions of people that he thought were his friends.

    I and Jimmy Kandeh are partners in a desire to see the respective backs of A.P.C. and S.L.P.P.

  2. Interestingly, all or most of the pundits forecasting about Sierra Leone’s election outcome in 2018 are not giving us data relating to the impression the currently registered voters have about potential presidential candidates or political parties. Everyone seems to have talked to few people in Sierra Leone who apparently are a “representative samples” of all the registered voters.

    Depending on who you talk to or where you are most likely to visit on your trip to Sierra Leone or where you are most likely to get your information about Sierra Leone (facebook, twitter, various online portals, etc) you would be certain some people are “sure to win” the presidential election were votes held today.

    I am looking for the day that folks would actually give us data on surveys/polls carried out among various demographic categories that constitute a complete representative sample of registered voters. Until then the outcome of the forthcoming elections are any one’s guess.

  3. What Sierra Leone need now is a complete reset. You can not put new wine into old bottles. Sierra Leone needs something like the second coming of Rawlings in Ghana. WIPE OUT THE ROTTEN RULING CLASS. Who for over 50 years have connived to rob the people of SL.

    Now this much talked about coalition is just another reincarnation of the same old rotten ruling class. Let them prove to us that they or their parents before them have not been part of the WATERMELON POLITRICKS NA SALONE OVER THE PAST 50 YEARS. New coalition for cam chop. Yes Sierra Leone desperately need a new breed of patriotic, selfless politicians and Civil servants, not Vampires.

  4. There goes Jimmy Kandeh again. The guy loves to jump on the gravy train. In 2005, he jumped on the PMDC train lambasting the SLPP in the process. To Kandeh, PMDC was the best thing to have happened to Sierra Leone.

    And when PMDC formed an alliance with APC, Kandeh was there attacking Solomon Berewa while abundantly praising Ernest Bai Koroma. So Kandeh is a man that can wear any political color as long as that is the color of the gravy train.

    Interestingly, Kandeh is now making pronouncements and predictions without the benefit of a scientific survey of voters. But this is exactly what is to be expected of folks of Jimmy Kandeh’s ilk who love to jump on Sierra Leone’s political gravy train. Poor Sierra Leone.

  5. Based on my observations in Sierra Leone during my recent vacation from December to February, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenema,Bo and Pujehun districts but I was shocked with the type of response I received from real people or raw voters on the ground anytime I mentioned Kandeh Yumkella’s name and I was left with no option but to conclude that Maada Bio was their favorite. There and then I believed that in life ” FAVOR IS NOT FAIR “. My opinion is Kandeh Yumkella is so qualified to be President that I hoped he should have formed his own political party after he retired from the United Nations.
    Some people will perceive him as joining a “COALITION OF LOSERS” by associating himself with the former corrupt Vice President who abandoned his duty to seek asylum in the US embassy and Charles Margai who handed power back to APC on a silver platter by the betrayal of his Father and Uncle because of pride or entitlement mentality.
    Although I respect Mr. Yumkella for taking a shot at opportunity, I will like to remind him that “NEW LEVEL HAVE NEW DEVIL ” , so he must be prepared for a new fight.
    The reality will soon kick in after the APC convention (HOPEFULLY ?) after the Northerners ( Limbas and Temnes) have eliminated the the current Vice President( who as former secretary of the party was responsible for President Earnest Koroma’s first victory) because of his tribe or region.
    Hopefully that will be an eye opener for the south/ easterners who as far as the APC government is concerned, are just “POLITICAL PAWNS ” that can be used, abused and dumped whenever it’s necessary as in the case of the late Vice President Francis M. Minah ( who was framed and hanged) and former Vice President Sam Sumana ( Who fled for his life to the US embassy during the height of the Ebola crisis) .

  6. I am very sure that KKY will emerge victorious in the forth coming elections inshallah, because take a look at both parties the APC and SLPP. They have completely failed the masses in their tribalist and regionalist ideologies.

    so fellow sierra leoneans lets look forward to install this man who is ready to take country to higher level.

  7. Hi Abdul, I have been closely following your stories on activities of Dr. Yumkella and your seemingly belief in his ideology and ability to provide sound and credible leadership for mama Salone. I beg to differ based on his past activities as Student in CKC, Student Union President in Njala University College and a member of the Vienna Sierra Leonean community.

    Furthermore, his political inconsistency put him at a cross-road rendering his ambition very slippery. I would have encouraged him this time round to vote for people, so that in the future he can be voted for. Just my take.

    • I think Dr. Yumkella has learnt a lot more now than his student days – high school and undergraduate. So, I think judging him on his activities as student at CKC and Njala will be unfair. I am of the opinion that his leadership style then was influenced and limited to what operated then in the conventional classroom. But this time round his leadership will be based on practical experience and competence (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes-KSAs).

      His time with the UN is indeed a success story, why loose sight of this.

  8. In order to enhance success in his presidential 2018 bid, Dr Yumkella must now/immediately/urgently consider appointments/elections of Sierra Leoneans with integrity and credibility to provide management and administrative leaderships for his new party based in each constituency, and, in the diaspora.

    Sierra Leone desperately needs this new party, considering the history of SLPP and APC’s, etc. failings.

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