Abdulai Mansaray:Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 March 2022:
In little Gambia, a relatively unknown Adama Barrow, acting as the arrowhead of an opposition coalition, defeated Yaryah Jammeh against all odds. Yaryah Jammeh took power in 1994 and vowed to stay in power “till death us do part”. His firm grip on power was laced with dubiously won elections in a regime that was largely described by his opponents as brutally autocratic. Many saw his “democratically” conducted elections as mere sham offensives to “legitimise” his grip on power. Under Jammeh the opposition remained politically asphyxiated. They concluded therefore, that only a “Coalition of the aggrieved” would depose Jammeh.
Barrow was meant to serve as transitional leader for three years, but instead decided to finish the full term. Sadly, the coalition could not move forward; for it had served its purpose to remove Jammeh. In 2019, President Adama Barrow broke ranks and formed his own National People’s Party. He later signed a controversial alliance with Jammeh’s party and christened it the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).
The once heralded coalition disintegrated into its previously known tributary parties. Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the country’s largest opposition political force defected. Other coalition politicians like Mama Kandeh, Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh, Halifa Sallah etc all morphed into independent political parties. It was no surprise that Adama Barrow won the elections in 2021.
So, what does that tell us about coalitions in politics?
Like in the Gambia and other countries, it shows that political coalitions have short shelf lives. It tells us that coalitions are borne out of necessity. But we also know that necessity never made a good bargain. Just like marriage, coalitions have their own problems. Their triumphs never last, because they are a compact majority. Any house that is divided against itself cannot stand. This shows that one of the most difficult things about coalitions is to determine their missions. That is why some people see coalitions as collections of conspiracies. Often, most political coalitions hardly share common DNAs. In most cases, the only common denominator is “Opposition”.
In September 2021, 10 political parties in Sierra Leone collectively became the Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPP) and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 15 main headings. It is believed that the APC, NGC, C4C and other parties complete the membership. Notwithstanding the thematic repetitions, the MOU states among others, “The parties maintain that their main aim is to defend democracy in Sierra Leone and to vigorously oppose all types of political oppression, intimidation and authoritarian tendencies”. Amen to that.
When you look at the phrases used in this MOU like, “harness the collective strength”, “condemn bad governess”, “eventually put an end to the suffering of the people of this country”, “tighten our collaboration as opposition political parties”, “to function individually or collectively as political parties”, “challenging tribalism and sectionalism” etc, you cannot help but hope that the Promised Land on the horizon. Article 10 (if one can call it that) states, “the parties resolve that no official of a party that is a member of the consortium shall for whatever reason leak out information to non-consortium bodies or individuals or act in a deceitful manner that will negatively affect the consortium”. Article 11 backs this with a non-disclosure agreement. No, it is not a secret society. It is not a cult either. Don’t rush for George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” yet. Suffice it to say that this has attracted some cynicism and mockery from some political connoisseurs; and especially from the SLPP wing. Some even described it as a playbook for boy scouts.
So, how do The Gambia and Sierra Leone compare on the coalition Richter Scale?
Like in the Gambia, some see the COPP’s sole aim as, to remove the SLPP from power. While many have hailed the consortium as a good move, unlike Sierra Leone, Jammeh ruled for 22 years while President Bio has been in “proper” power for under 5 years. Our recent history shows that until 2018, the APC was in power for 11 years consecutively, while the SLPP party remained politically comatose. The APC party has been in power longer than the SLPP party. There are some political analyst who find the inclusion of the APC in the Consortium baffling.
For starters, it is the MAIN opposition party. Others have interpreted the APC’s inclusion as defeatist and an admission of weakness or failure. Some have described it as an admission by the APC, that it is no longer a viable opposition to unseat the SLPP. Others have gone as far as saying that joining the consortium is symptomatic of the APC’s withdrawal symptoms from power. On the other hand, could it be an indication that the SLPP is believed to be so entrenched, that it would require a monumental coalition or consortium to remove it from power?
Inspite of the negative views that some have attached to the APC’s inclusion in the Consortium, many see it as a positive move. There is a view that the Consortium has sent the jitters across the SLPP spine. We saw President Bio ask KKY, the prodigal son to return to the SLPP. They see it as President Bio’s recognition of the potential of such a consortium, and that “Den dae yagba dem”. The SLPP wing may want to dismiss it as a coincidence; and that KKY was always going to “come home” after all.
But again, others would wonder why not asked until the Consortium went large? But as we already know, and up to the time of writing, KKY “hold word”, even though Dr Dennis Bright, the NGC Party Chairman and Leader seems to have danced himself lame, when the main dance was yet to come.
So, what is the position of the NGC party on our political landscape?
It goes without saying that the National Grand Coalition (NGC) is the youngest political party in our country. The NGC emerged as “the third way”, the alternative for many who are fed up with the perennial humdrum from both the SLPP and APC. Many see it as the “third way”, the “alternative” etc. Does the inclusion of the NGC mean that we now have a “coalition” in a “Consortium”? Who says politics is boring, when political alchemy is in vogue?
But like many third political parties in the world, some see the NGC as political bridesmaid, with no chance of leading this country. Time will tell. Nevertheless, it is increasingly becoming a king maker, as the SLPP and APC seem very keen to woo it to their tents. The NGC is like the most beautiful girl in the village, and everyone seems to want her hand in marriage. We all know how the NGC scared the living daylights out of the APC in 2018. Is that the same fright that lead President Bio to court KKY’s allegiance? Only time will tell.
Mr Ezra M Bangura, the Parliamentary candidate of the NGC reportedly withdrew his candidacy from the bye elections in Constituency 073 this month. According to reports, Ezra said “NGC is a member of COPP and so is the All People’s Congress (APC) We are already together, so if we are, there is no need to get two candidates. COPP is trying to present one candidate come the election 2023, so it has to start now and as such we should not been seen fighting each other” (Awoko Newspaper, 14/03/22). If this is anything to go by, and if this is the shape of things to come, does it sound like there is some “sorbeh” in COPP?
But while some see this as a tactical manoeuvre, straight from the MOU of the COPP, others have dismissed it as sour grapes. They say that the NGC candidate did not have a chance in cat’s hell, to make a meaningful impact in the race, and hence cut his losses in disguise.
So, how deep is the love in COPP?
Remember that it is a CONSORTIUM and not a Coalition. There is already one coalition in this consortium. Does that mean that the consortium will combine to just get the SLPP out, but not as one political party? Will it be a collection of political parties under one political umbrella? Will it be a consortium that will lend its collective might to the individual party that stands a better chance to win a seat in a particular area? Is the love among members of this consortium skin deep enough to withstand and survive the test of time? Will it be a case of unity in diversity, or the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Which political party will lead or spearhead this consortium? Is President Bio and his SLPP going to lose sleep over this? You deal with the political rubrics. Ar hold word.
With the election transfer window officially open, and the league slated to commence on June 24, 2023, the SLPP has been busy in the market too. They signed Alpha Khan and Victor Foh on free transfers. The party has expressed its interest in signing the hottest property and box to box midfielder KKY from NGC FC. While the player has said “Ar hold word”, his super-agent Mino Raiola- Dennis Bright has described the possibility of KKY wearing a green jersey as “Impossible”. How deep is this love? Only time will tell.
But there is the small matter of arch rivalry between former teammates, Patrick Alpha Viera Khan and Osman Foday Roy keane Yansaneh. Let the games begin. I wanted to declare for my own political party of choice, but “Me sef hold word”.
Before you vote, ask yourself this: Other than tribe and regionalism, what else do these politicians exchange for our loyalty and support? Don’t answer that.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.