Yankuba G. Kai-Samba
Former Secretary General – SLPP (UK and Ireland)
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 March 2014
It was obvious to me from the very beginning, during the 2010 SLPP flag bearer election, that Julius Maada Bio (Photo) was not fit to lead the SLPP, nor was he the ideal person to win a competitive national election.
I wrote my reasons in the SLPP discussions forum, but decided against publishing them in local newspapers, as the unreasoned minds would have made me the scapegoat for the defeat.
Today, I have decided to reach out to the party and the general public at large, because the very existence of SLPP is under threat, due to Bio’s selfish and misplaced ambition. It is either him or no one else. Such arrogance is detrimental to the survival of the SLPP.
Under Julius Bio’s leadership, the SLPP lost all three parliamentary seats held in the north. We lost a seat in Kailahun District for the first time in a competitive multiparty election. In Kono, where we had all but one of the seats before his leadership, all but two went to the APC.
Whereas in 2007, the party pulled 48 percent of the votes even when Charles Margai (Photo: Margai – left, Koroma – right) left the party and took a chunk of SLPP voters with him, the party’s share of national votes was drastically reduced to 38 percent.
Furthermore, whereas President Ernest Koroma increased his votes in the south east from the 2007 elections, our votes in the north were significantly reduced.
Overall, these results represent the worst election defeat for my party under any leadership in the party’s history.
Is Bio not aware that in the entire history of the SLPP, no presidential candidate of this great party has made so much noise, and produced so little a result where it matters most: winning an election?
No other candidate could have done as dismally as Bio did, in an election that was held during severe economic hardship, afflicting the vast majority of our citizens; high inflation; lawlessness and corresponding high levels of crime – including armed robbery; inadequate health conditions and social services; decline in our education system; high unemployment among youths; high levels of corruption; and unjust deals for our natural resources – favouring foreign economic predators.
In spite of these government failings, Julius Bio woefully failed to convince the voters that he was a credible alternative, who would make their lives better.
The voters did not see the presidential candidate we presented them as credible and trustworthy, given his past records when he briefly became head of a military junta.
For the oldest party to have elected a presidential candidate with such serious unresolved questions hanging over him, regarding his fitness for office, and in connection with alleged crimes he had committed in other circumstances outside the party, is a disservice to the party.
The question now is, why should any rational person entertain the idea of keeping Julius Bio (Photo: Bio left – enjoying the support of Chairman Benjamin – right) as the party’s flag bearer again for the 2018 elections, when it is apparent, from these results that he would never win a national election?
The party should never have elected Bio as the flag bearer in the first instance. His campaign was notable for indiscipline, violence and disrespect towards other flagbearer aspirants in a manner never seen in SLPP’s leadership election.
Julius Bio was the least person among the entire candidates, capable of uniting the party in post-elections. He was the nosiest and weakest, as well as the least accomplished in both experience and institutional management.
Being a head of a former unconstitutional military dictatorship for two months, when he was forced to hold an election in 1996, does not qualify him to lead SLPP or civil governance.
Maada Bio has already caused enough embarrassment and problems for the SLPP, and seriously dented the respect people once had for this great party, even when they don’t support the party.
How can he continue to be oblivious to the obvious, and impervious to reason?
Our former presidential candidate is allegedly barred from entering the USA – the most powerful country in the democratic world. His campaign for the SLPP leadership was based on despicable lies, deception and misinformation.
(Photo: pre-election violence suffered by Bio and his supporters in Bo district).
He claims that he gave power to Tejan Kabba, as though the SLPP should reward him with the leadership.
What his supporters did not tell the people was that, Bio and others had formed the NUP party to replace the SLPP as the dominant political force in the south east. But that project failed when SLPP won, amid intimidation by the NPRC of which Bio was the head.
What if Bio’s NUP had won the 1996 election, would he still claim he gave power to the SLPP?
Besides, these were really not the relevant issues in voters mind. Voters were not going to elect him simply because he was the “father of democracy”, as his supporters led people to believe.
The issues that mattered most to people in the last elections, were; the poor state of our economy; lawlessness and escalating crimes – particularly armed robbery; the decline in our education system; poor health care and social services; debilitating high unemployment; poverty, corruption and the gross inequalities in wealth between those in power and the ordinary people.
Was Bio the right person from the opposition to articulate a frontal assault on the failings of the APC, and gain the trust of the people in addressing these difficult problems, when he himself was accused by our own former president Kabba of theft and corruption when he was leader of a military junta? (Photo: Kabba – left; Bio – right, handing power over to Kabba in 1996).
Clearly, in my view, he was not. Here, I suggest that in any analysis of why the SLPP lost the 2012 elections, Bio’s marketability and the allegations of criminality must be put at the centre of discussions, in the light of the party’s inability to sell him across the country.
The electoral dichotomy, based on the November 2012 results, suggests that no one can now win the presidency, unless such candidate has the capacity to win some sizable support of the floating voters, especially in the swing regions.
Thus, it stands to reason, that Julius Bio should not even contemplate leading the SLPP again in 2018, because he attained the worst election results in the overall score of national votes, and did extremely poorly in those swing regions which the party must win in order to form a government. (Photo: Support for Bio in Freetown in 2012).
Bio’s leadership, if he is indeed leading at all, is factional and a complete farce.
He cannot continue to stay as a refugee in the SLPP, but should extricate himself from the serious allegations levelled against him – including extra judicial killings on one hand and the theft of state funds and other alleged criminality during his NPRC days.
These are allegations that blighted his campaign, and no self-respecting SLPP should support or protect him.
The SLPP must drop Bio soon, and not allow the tough job ahead of reorganising the party and improve its future elections prospect, be shackled and haunted by his past conducts and actions, committed in a different set of circumstances, for which the party is not responsible – but was forced to defend, fruitlessly.
Bio has to accept that he has failed to deliver and do the decent thing – leave the scene.
In the history of warfare, a “general” who led his troop to such a humiliating defeat would resign or be replaced.
Bio cannot use the election petition in court to prolong his hold on the leadership, which will be in breach of the party’s constitution as the national chair has made it clear.
Someone had suggested that whichever presidential candidate the SLPP had elected for the 2012 elections, the APC could still have rigged those elections.
But this was not what Bio’s supporters told the party. We were told, mostly by people who tried to conceal Bio’s inadequacies, that any of the 19 candidates would defeat Ernest Koroma.
I rejected that argument in a forum discussion. The fact remains that the party elected a candidate with old baggage, serious enough that had it been in a developed and sophisticated society, he would never have passed through the vetting process.
If as SLPP we accused the APC leadership of corruption and mismanagement of our country’s resources, then it was imperative, that we presented to this country, a credible alternative that would have gained the trust of the people.
Clearly, we failed to do that, as the election of Bio left the voters with no better alternative. We elected a candidate for the SLPP constituents only, and not with the national voters in mind.
The election petition does not vitiate the fact that, we as a party have to accept that we did not do justice to our hard working supporters, by electing a presidential candidate we cannot sell, and whose acclaimed popularity does not go beyond his vocal pa-o-pa factions within the party.
These pa-o-pa fanatics are a new, but dangerous menace in the party. They do not represent the vast majority of SLPP, nor do they have respect for our ethos, tradition and vision of our forefathers.
Many are indiscipline, violent and rude, however educated they may be. As long as they display these menacing characteristic within the SLPP, they will continue to repel voters from the SLPP.
The SLPP has to move on from the blame game and learn how to win an election.
When next the party elect its presidential flagbearer, it should take into account the mood of the national voters and not just sections of the party.
The results of the 2012 elections have demonstrated beyond doubt, that whilst it is possible for certain interest groups to manipulate the leadership election to their advantage, it could turn into a national electoral disaster, once such candidate is outside the closet of the party, facing the electorate.
Bio was like a lost child, who has no idea of how to handle or pre-empt the APC tactics and strategic plan of winning, without a single shot being fired.
When are we going to stop the blame game and do the right thing, by electing the right people, so that the voters can trust us again?
What is wrong with us as a party that even our own appointed chief electoral commissioner can turn against us, and “rigged elections” twice, in favour of the APC: First, when we were in power and conducted the elections; and second, when in opposition?
It is time the party accept that we are not doing certain things right, and it is time to put this right.
The SLPP cannot afford to keep Bio in refuge from the series of allegations of criminality, which he is said to have committed outside the party, because we have already seen how these allegations overshadowed the campaign and lost us the 2012 elections.
Those who seek the support of others to build unity, must never have resorted to campaign of violence, abuse and intimidation of rival party supporters. This is what characterised Bio’s campaign methods.