Can Sierra Leone’s opposition APC party rise up again? Op ed

Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 October 2018:

To millions of Sierra Leoneans in 2007, the All Peoples Congress party (APC) was a beacon of hope in post Tejan Kabbah governance. But more than a decade on, the party has been mired in countless corruption scandals and infighting, and now the once ruling party is in a passive opposition.

What went wrong? Has the party lost its values? Is the party yearning for new leaders with visionary ideas? Does the party need another constitutional conference?

In 2007, the world watched as the All Peoples Congress led by erstwhile president Ernest Bai Koroma swept into power with more than 50 percent of the votes. (Photo: Author – Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray).

Led by veterans like the late Serry Kamal, Kaloko, Eddie Turay, the party was viewed as a unifying force for the country, which had for decades been divided by party politics.

The Tejan Kabbah led SLPP government had recovered the country from a devastating war that nearly tore the country apart. There was mistrust, animosity and deep-seated suspicion between the North and South and East and West respectively.

To see an opposition attaining power from an incumbent was unheard of. The people of Sierra Leone voted the APC with high expectations, and hopeful that the new era was at the doorsteps of the ordinary citizens.

More than a decade however, the All Peoples Congress bears little resemblance to the vision of the true patriots.

Although it still commands widespread support in the north and western area, its reputation has been significantly tarnished over the years by numerous corruption scandals, economic mismanagement and frequent infighting.

The APC was founded with the main goal of ensuring a level playing field for the ordinary people, with sustainable economic growth and empowerment as its focus. But alas, this vision seems to be fading speedily.

What really went wrong? 

By mid-2017, discontent within the party was becoming apparent. In late 2017, Ernest was rumored to be life president of the party.

Many party members were concerned about the party but remained quiet, for fear of being bullied and disgraced by the emerging autonomous power planted in the leadership.

The ordinary people started talking about the leadership of the APC party centralizing power around the Ernest presidency, and how he seemed to be building an imperial presidency.

Whether this was true or not, Ernest was becoming too powerful and more than the grass root supporters who gave him power.

The perception was that Ernest was taking too much power for himself. Unfortunately, there were no antidote to this. All the intending presidential flag bearer candidates never criticized this bad system. Rather, they pretended to be followers of Jesus Christ – loyal, humble and obedient.

Even though allegations of corruption against the APC were already out in the open, no one was able to capitalize on this menace and correct the system. Ernest remained hero worshipped; a man who could do no wrong.

He capitalized on his popularity within and outside the party. He emerged as a charming, charismatic and lovable personality during his presidency. Even though allegations of corruption were widely known, his popularity was always above 50 percent.

He had the tenacity to quell simmering problems within his party, able to win sympathy from non-party supporters. His magical gimmick of including ‘outsiders’ from the other side into the APC with high positions, earned him a top place in his party’s echelon.

Ernest never saw the defeat of the party as a referendum on his rule, as he strongly believed that his popularity reigned high.

However, in recent times, he accepted blame for the party’s defeat as he was the custodian and leader of the party. A blame that is shared by many party supporters who strongly believe that as a leader, he gave many unfettered leverages to the opposition to clinch the presidency.

To his credit, Ernest was good at appeasing members of the opposition more than his own party loyalists. He made many good friends on the other side of isle. Good fences make good neighbors.

So, should we blame Ernest Koroma for the downfall of the party? Or does the issue go further back? Or was Ernest just playing the role of a statesman by creating an equal and just society for whoever wins to occupy the seat of power?

There is certainly a great deal of anger perpetuated at Ernest by die-hard supporters of the party. Some consider him as a sellout, someone who, instead of making sure that his party retains power, rather created some bottlenecks for the succession battle which engulfed the party before the elections.

Indeed, the party was fraught with succession imbroglio – itself a sign of disarray in the leadership, barring a political earthquake.

Rightly or wrongly, many expect the elders of the party to steer the fate of the party when one man decides to hold the party to ransom. One may not be tempted to say that the victory of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party has marked a political obituary for the APC.

Though the APC party may be “rotten in its entirety”, the APC party has the will power to rebound and claim victory in the next election, provided the party is in order.

The emergence of the NRM and its clarion call for APC reforms is gaining momentum every now and then. There are thousands of hard-core supporters clamoring for change, not necessarily the National Advisory Council (NAC) – the highest executive body in the APC party but some changes to reflect the desires of millions of the party, including the selection process of the constitution.

With Ernest out of power, the party has the opportunity to do some damage control within the APC before the next elections. Whoever replaces Ernest as leader of the APC, will be charged with reversing both the financial rot and the extraordinary slide in the APC’s moral standing.

There should be enough time for a new leader to lead the party into the next elections in 2023. There should be a national conference determining the depth of the party and its decline.

The APC party has lost its traditional support in the east of the country because of the emergence of the new Coalition for Change party (C4C).

APC has also lost some of its overwhelming traditional support in the north because of the National Grand Coalition party led by Dr. Kandeh Yumkella.

Since the Sierra Leone Peoples Party came to power, there has been a drift in policy making and national cohesion.

The economy has not properly recovered from the 2016 financial crisis and, though no longer in technical recession, is still shrinking in per capita terms.

More than one in five Sierra Leoneans are unemployed and business confidence is at its lowest.

Notwithstanding, the free education program is a laudable gesture and a novelty. It is the hope of every Sierra Leonean that it succeeds, as education is the foundation upon which a country can achieve its economic and social development goals.

Over to the APC, the clarion call for reforms within the party must be heeded and it must be considered as the lasting solution to the myriad of problems besetting the party. There are millions of competent and dedicated servants who should now take the mantle of leadership and lead the party.

Those who have served the party with diligence will be rewarded in the name of history; and those on the wings of taking leadership should be given the responsibility and opportunity to manifest their potential.

The aspect of indispensability should be absent in the APC, as there are many competent members to take over the party – given time and opportunity.

APC lost the 2018 elections, but there are competent servants that should be given the responsibility to reform and rebrand the party. Did I hear you say that  APC will live forever? History will tell.

4 Comments

  1. The major problem the APC faces now and the near future is the former president Earnest Koroma who did a marvelous job of uniting the south easterners by the level of disrespect and hatred he displayed towards his two former Vice Presidents.
    So may the force of Satan continue to be with them.

  2. The previous APC government has destroyed Sierra Leone with massive corruption, They may have to wait another 20 years to come back to power.

  3. It seems many in the opposition party are now crying for what the people have done. I am confused – what the ex-president promised in 2007 was never done. Not even the major projects they had for the country were put on hold.

    As it seems there is division in the APC and fight to secure the leadership. The SLPP is not responsible, nor anyone else from overseas or in the country. The record of corruption during Siaka Stevens era was still making its way into the new APC. It is going to be difficult for the party to come together again. The party has been marred by corruption, nepotism and direct control without thinking about the fact that life for politicians is as short as any other thing you can imagine. Brothers and sisters in the APC – eat the bitter leaf and drink water.

  4. Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray is extensively correct in his analyses of where APC stand in what is really a new political environment – so new that it has inflicted spatial disorientation on them.

    Psychologists say that when one suffers spatial disorientation the immediate action to take to mitigate its effect is to have something to concentrate on till one’s head clears and returns to normal.

    Sadly for APC the battering which they received last April sent so many conflicting signals to their brain that they cannot momentarily concentrate on anything and now operate on the border of depression.

    But let us don’t count them out , they have staying power, although their confidence currently stands sapped and they are embroiled in recriminations.The old guard are fighting for their political life against a younger and aggressive cadre who insist that the loss to Maada Bio was a disaster waiting to happened because the older folks were still in romance with the Stevens era where the culture of a strongman who dictated everything within the party first exposed its ugly fangs and claws.

    Implicit in Mr Mansaray’s article is the need for APC to check themselves into a reeducation camp for the sole purpose of coming to terms with the facts that the north and east shall never again be solidly APC and their ninety nine political tactics have lost their glow and bite forever.

    They have to pray and hope that it is not the blood and ghosts of those they sent to an early grave that that are beginning to haunt them.Dr M.S.Forna,Ibrahim Taqui ,John Bangura and many more – remember them?

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