Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 July 2016
The ‘All Aspirants Alliance’ plays an important role in unifying the SLPP and establishing the idea that aspirants can work together without meting out the kind of violence, abuse and threats against each other as they have encountered from Julius Maada Bio’s thugs.
It has also played an important role in ensuring that the governance arrangements within the party, so badly impaired, are not dismantled by these clandestine operatives.
However, Yankuba Kai Samba deals with the “elephant in the room”, which at some point and well before the convention, would need to be addressed head on by the Alliance.
It is important though to recognise that notwithstanding the violence and abuse, the anti-Bio block within the SLPP is increasing and the 2011 flagbearer election outcome, which posted 60% of votes against Bio, has moved significantly since then.
A lot has happened since 2011, and SLPP members and voters are aware of the developments.
They know that during 2013 and 2014, when Ebola raged in Sierra Leone, Bio was resident in the UK and only surfaced in Sierra Leone at the end of the Ebola crisis, to undertake an Ebola Sensitisation Campaign.
The people continue to experience a worsening water crisis, and Freetown in particular is now regularly prone to natural disasters.
Against this backdrop, citizens are trying to cope within a failed economy, increasing high rates of youth unemployment and persistently poor achievement of other socio-economic indicators, while corruption, orchestrated from Fort Thorton, continues at an alarming and industrial scale.
The people of Sierra Leone will recall that this same government has been endorsed by Julius Maada Bio, as “effective”. They will contrast this to Kandeh Yumkella’s statement to his supporters, when he said “By mid August, I would have completed a full year in Sierra Leone. I have learnt a lot and have been amazed at the dismal state of the economy, the misery of our people and how far the cancer of corruption has metastasized.”
The people would have read recent media reports of the new home acquired in Sierra Leone by Julius Maada Bio, and would see that it is not much different in its opulence and extravagance from the home of IB Kargbo, which was so widely discussed on social media.
They would lament, that a man, who has been long term unemployed for two decades and who by all accounts is penniless, is able to acquire this property, but not able to publicly demonstrate how he facilitated the acquisition.
The people are not stupid and can no longer be taken for granted, and would ensure that Hope, Opportunity and Transformation, triumph over the violence, abuse and fear associated with Bio.
While not taking anything for granted, we can credit the Alliance for their resolve, not only to regain control of the party, but to ensure that the party reflects the constitutional principles of its founding fathers.
The Alliance has succeeded in debunking the myth of Bio and exposed the lie of his south-eastern hegemonic and strong man world views.
However, the Alliance now needs to begin to consolidate around two or three candidates, and to identify the candidate best placed to take on the Bio and the APC.
But merely comparing recent leadership developments within the Conservative and Labour parties is simplistic.
Since 2012, the contribution that party grandees, those chairs of national or regional associations and chiefdom representatives bring to any political movement towards building a united and cohesive opposition, has been destroyed by the clandestine actions and machinations of Bio.
The independence which the party’s National Executive Council should provide has been done away with, as Bio embarked on Balkanising the SLPP.
Therefore, there are not that many wise counsellors who would encourage some aspirants to step aside, even where it is clear that an aspirant may not have any traction with the voters.
Secondly, by retaining the position of “presumptive flag bearer” following his failed attempt at the 2012 elections, and using it as leverage against the current administration, Bio has established in the psyche of our politicians that – failure at the presidential elections is no longer a zero-sum game.
Thirdly, the absence of robust and routine opinion polling does not provide credible evidence to members of the Alliance with a clear indication of how they are performing and whether their message and appeal resonate with Sierra Leoneans at home or abroad.
As such, all will continue with their campaign, rather than coalesce around two or three viable candidates.
However, the decision by the PPRC on 19 July 2016, not to rerun all the SLPP Lower Level Elections again, marks a turning point as it present members of the Alliance with a clear indication of the relative strength of their campaign – vis a vis other aspirants in those constituencies where the results would be declared, especially if they perform badly in areas where they were expecting to perform better.
Again, these results can provide an idea of the strength of anti-Bio feeling within the party and more importantly, his ability to broaden SLPP’s appeal beyond its core voting block, if it were to succeed against the APC in 2017.
So we need to evaluate these results and begin that conversation with those aspirants who have performed or are performing badly and challenge them to explain, in the light of the declared results, how they intend to mount a successful campaign for the flagbearership.
As a declared supporter of Yumkella, I would leave that task to those who are not conflicted and who are more experienced in political analysis.