Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 April 2023:
The All People’s Congress (APC) Party has launched a series of election campaign posters for the 2023 elections, highlighting the significant increase in food prices since April 2018 when the party was voted out of office, compared to March 2023 under the tenure of President Julius Maada Bio.
As a former member of NGC, knowing the effort that went into conducting those quarterly market surveys, producing the NGC Hour broadcasts on national TV and radio, it was disappointing to see the APC leading the bread and butter campaign going into the 2023 elections, instead of NGC.
Nonetheless, I was equally relieved to see that at least one opposition political party has decided to make the cost-of-living crisis, the bread-and-butter issues, the politics of the kitchen, a central plank of their election campaign strategy. This was one area where NGC was undisputedly the trusted voice, before the party decided to throw away the trust it had earned from voters, in preference for a strategic alliance with the SLPP.
The NGC’s quarterly economic survey reports were so impactful, that the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, also undertook their own survey of food prices in Sierra Leone in 2021.
With NGC’s decision to ditch the bread-and-butter concerns of most voters, APC has moved into the vacated space as it seeks to win hearts and minds that they can provide effective management of the economy by controlling prices and halting the depreciation of the Leone and addressing other economic fundamentals.
However, we need more than just election posters. Voters need to know what the APC will do differently in 2023, so that prices will come down even lower than they were in April 2018.
Voters need to know what they will do to create an investment climate that will encourage job creation; but more importantly, what will they do to end endemic graft.
What this shows is that with their decision to align with the SLPP, Kandeh Yumkella and the NGC leadership underestimated the impact of their party’s ideas and their resonance with ordinary people, the majority whom earn minimum wage or less, or are unemployed.
Yet these are the same people who had been inspired by the party’s message in the 2018 election campaign – of hope, opportunity and transformation.
The decision to align with SLPP has not gone down well with the electorate. Despite Yumkella’s claims of doing this to save Sierra Leone, the alliance with SLPP is viewed with suspicion and deemed to be motivated by self-interest and the strong desire to join the gravy train.
The strategic alliance also appears to be unravelling. Although a resolution was passed at the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on 25 April 2023, sources at the highest echelons of the SLPP suggest that the party is not interested in an alliance, because of the perception that it would send a negative message to voters, that it does not believe it can win on its own, not an admission a ruling party will want to make.
At the SLPP NEC, three incumbent councillors and the Northwest Region Women’s Leader, left NGC to join SLPP, with more changes of allegiance expected.
Meanwhile, NGC is not expected to elect a flagbearer anytime soon, even though the deadline has been pushed back twice. This will also have a significant impact on other races, including aspirant for the Freetown Municipality election, since the leading candidate for the position resigned from the party in the wake of the party’s disastrous NEC meeting on 28 January 2023.