Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 February 2016
In the past eight months, I have carefully watched how the important process of uniting Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP Party is playing out.
Peace and Unity have become the political catchphrase of the party.
And it seems almost every presidential aspirant of the party, is quickly associating their campaign with this topical and resonating theme.
Not wanting to be outperformed, every aspirant is now on the unity bandwagon; such that, having words like ‘SLPP peacemaker’, ‘ambassador for peace’ or ‘unifier’ imprinted on baseball caps and several other souvenir items, is commonplace.
But who started the peace process en masse, and in earnest? (Photo: Jonathan Tengbe).
Many would argue that sometime around August 2015, it became crystal clear that the general membership of the SLPP was yearning for peace, amidst a lot of mudslinging and premature calls for coalition among aspirants who were seemingly oblivious of what the Party needed to be done at that time.
Concerns about this ‘boiled frog’ attitude of the aspirants and stakeholders alike, were expressed everywhere, and at every opportunity among members of the party.
This is not to suggest that Dr Tengbe is the only flag bearer aspirant who wants peace and unity within the SLPP, nor will it insinuate that he is the only aspirant who has brought about the process to fruition.
But by making that initial call globally, his action does however put him in the meritorious category of ‘pioneer’ of a process which is now variously claimed as an achievement by many aspirants.
It pays to be reminded of the quietude and anticipation in all regions of the SLPP, on that August 11th day, when Dr Tengbe made the global call to action, as he wrote to his colleagues via social media.
“I am addressing you on an issue that is very close to my heart in this campaign”, he wrote. “It concerns the need for all of us to unite as a Party and set the pace for all our supporters to do the same.”
Thus started a process that is now rightfully in its concluding moments, set to usher in an era of peace and unity in a party to which, few ever thought peace would return.
This peace process seems to have also set the necessary ripple effects in the spine of the incumbent APC, which may have been secretly hoping for a perpetuation of disunity within the SLPP.
But don’t get me wrong, the final nail for unity has not been struck. Yet, the successes gained from two hierarchical meetings, the latest involving eleven flag bearer aspirants, are enough to urge the National Executive Council (NEC) of the SLPP to commit to the conference resolutions and wrap up the process of unifying the Party, whilst simultaneously avoiding the usual procrastination that ‘more meetings’ will cause, at a time when ‘more actions’ are precisely what SLPP needs.
It is not just the pioneering nature of Dr Tengbe’s peace and unity process that distinguishes him. Rather, it is the solution-focussed approach that he stubbornly proposed.
Since much of the Party’s problems were flag bearer related, it was his view that the most reflective and sustainable solutions could be obtained from deliberations by all flag bearer aspirants.
Hence, the September call for a conference involving all aspirants. Not rocket science – one would say.
Yet to date, one aspirant is seemingly not fully on board the protocols of the Pemagbi communiqué for peace, which may well have been tabled to the NEC for approval.
Before he made that clarion call, Dr Tengbe has been the de-facto ambassador of peace; so echoed by the then Chairman of SLPP UK&I – Jimmy B Songa, at a prestigious dinner and dance ceremony held in honor of the erudite Engineer and Politician.
Evidently, Mr. Songa made this conclusion based on Dr Tengbe’s efforts in building unity as leader of the Movement for Transformation of the SLPP (MTS).
At that time, Tengbe was preparing to undertake a national exploratory tour that would enable the aspirant to understand the root cause of the Party’s problems, which was insightful.
This motivated Tengbe to articulate solutions beyond the supreme court cases and other internal problems, which ultimately paved the way for the much acclaimed ‘Flag bearer aspirants’ approach to seeking peace and unity within the SLPP.
After the tour, the man now known as ‘the tireless Party stalwart’, called for and organized the first peace conference at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex on 26th September, 2015, which was attended by aspirants or their representatives, key stakeholders from the Party Executive, the Minority leader of Parliament and the general SLPP membership.
The committee formed after the deliberations was mandated to escalate the resolutions to a next level conference, which took place on 7th November, 2015, chaired by Professor Pemagbi and attended by all, but one flag bearer aspirant.
The resolutions of this second meeting, designed to collate all the initiatives into a single communiqué, is due to be tabled for ratification by the NEC.
The most appropriate way of patronizing the efforts of all peace agents, including peace pioneer Dr Tengbe, is to collectively consolidate the hard won peace, not necessarily by public celebration, but by following the roadmap set out by the communiqué that will be released by the Pemagbi team.
Talking to Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas – the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, Dr Tengbe intimated that there are some important peace action points, such as the moderation or cessation of cross aspirants attacks, which would resonate with the Party membership.
“As peace is a process, it gives a breath of fresh air that the aspect of this process dealing with meetings and conferences is now over, as the curtain rises on the action implementation phase,” says Dr. Tengbe.
“The hope for us – the members, is that all aspirants are on board the peace ship, with guaranteed success if all of them subdue their personal ambitions to the objectives of the Party,” a veteran of the party, speaking from Freetown, explained.
On the implementation front, Dr. Tengbe said that he is working ceaselessly to ensure that the ‘All Aspirants Alliance (AAA)’, which is an essential product of the peace efforts, is fully functional and all-inclusive.
For this purpose, he was in Freetown during the early part of January, 2016, to steer the Alliance in the direction of structured leadership, with a view to working together towards a common goal.
Many other aspirants have been active in the country in the last two months, and some have concluded their national tours with no reported incidents, indicative of a clean break from the past.
This is significant, because it does send the signal to the general membership of the SLPP that, peace is finally here and that the party can continue the serious business of campaigning, instead of castigating, and of consolidating the hard earned peace, instead of procrastinating. This must be healthy for democracy in Sierra Leone.
“Well done Dr Tengbe for this brilliant initiative, and well done to all the aspirants who are supporting his efforts to a successful conclusion,” a member of the party enthused.
According to Dr Tengbe, the general membership is anxious to start rebuilding the SLPP in readiness for the important work of regaining governance and nation building.
Will all the aspirants follow Dr. Tengbe’s lead, and give peace a chance for the sake of unity and for the benefit of building on the democratic credentials of the founders of the party?
I am very happy to see somebody who want peace for the SLPP MEMBERS. If there is no peace, there will be no agreement about forming a government.
Gbessay Ehlogima Sam Momoh: I last saw you in the late 1990s at the Assembly of God Church in Bo. As a graduate of NUC and once Varsity Christian Union member, I ask that you hold your peace and let the political process of Sierra Leone go forward without undue disturbance from people like you. It is not good to launch at anyone with belligerent or bellicose statements. Stop being rhetorical. I hope you understand this.
Maada, which means respect to the elderly Mendes, is from Bonthe district, my home. But, I do not support him to be President of Sierra Leone. For he is a practicing Roman Catholic, and not godly like you are. Regards and best wishes.
“But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked. Psalm 37:38 (NIV).”
One more question for you who have made alliance. Are you fighting to defeat the APC or Maada? If you want to fight the APC, then do the right thing and give Maada his last chance.
Dr. Tengbe, I am not sure you are up to this task. Your interview over the Eastern radio in Kenema indicated that you also hate Maada.
It is not a crime to have many people aspiring for the highest stake in the running of a party or a state. The more people we have aspiring to lead the SLPP shows that democracy is gaining ground. Gone are those days when only few of you at the helm of the party (that is the Kabbas) sit down and select two or three people to contest for the leadership of the SLPP.
If we want democracy to really work and to select the person who will be the choice of the people, flag bearer election should involved all registered members and not only few who have been at the helm of decision making in the party for many many years.
This will make the party to have more membership and money to stay strong even when they are not in power. It will also let us know if the person selected is the choice of the people. It will minimize buying the few selected zonal, district, regional and constituency voters by any aspirant.
As peace maker you should not be one sided. You too have joined the rest to gang against Maada. In your interview you said because Maada said you have ganged against him he is referring to you all as gangsters. As a doctor, please look for the meaning of the word gang and digest it properly for yourself and your team.
What you people are preaching in the SLPP by joining forces is very strange in the politics of the whole world. How can you and others who want to lead the party and the nation come to together to fight one candidate? I have never heard or seen party aspirants make alliance against another party aspirants.
Which single candidate do you wish to present? None, because you are all greedy and desperate to grab power and what you have lost during this eight years of the APC. Trust me if we go to the flag bearer election genuinely and if you leave it competitive without buying votes, Maada will defeat you all individually or collectively.
But even where you use money we will chop your money and vote for Maada. I was expecting someone who do not have intention to run for flag bearer position to be the peace-maker and not you. You can eat your cake and have it.
All the aspirants know how popular Maada is. Give him this last chance and try another man like KKY the next time. If you want to divide the party and prevent it from winning any election in the next 50 years, play your old game and put the one you want and not the the choice of the people, you will see SLPP crumble and be divided into many pieces.
I like the epistemological and ontological perspective that Dr. Temgbe brought to bear on this issue. Combining scholarship, practical and proactive methods of solving the teething problems facing our country is one of the best strategies potential leaders should utilize to analyze and then find lasting solutions to problems, be they political, social or economic.
Sierra Leone is therefore looking for leaders with Dr. Temgbe’s attitude to bring to the issues that affect our communities. The learned gentleman has demonstrated that he has not just been paying attention to what’s going on within the SLPP, but has shown commitment, and has systematically used his technical and academic knowledge to work on the problem, and therefore the result we are now seeing.
The fact that these gentlemen, i.e., potential flag bearer contestants agreed to appear in a picture is testament to Dr. Temgbe’s hard work. I doff my hat to you Dr. Temgbe, and as long as we have leaders like you within the ranks of the SLPP, there is hope for the party and Sierra Leone at large.
I hope you use the same methodology in contesting for the flag bearer position, as it is a winning strategy.
Dr Tengbeh is more intelligent and well matured to go with misguided perception Kaisamba is propagating. Thank you Dr. Tengbeh you are above such a narrow thinking. Maada is highly educated and well informed about the dangers such alliance poses. Besides, Maada thinks far more ahead of narrow minded and vindictive persons whose weapon in politics is to use derogatory remarks on people they dislike. If anyone want to form an alliance that person or those individuals should launch it at the party headquarters and not in a hotel complex. Maada is not interested in any alliance and cannot be forced to join one now and in the future.
Kai Samba, spinning and and re-spinning what Maada Bio says in your articles is not good for peace in SLPP. It will be a lot better if you keep quiet and help peace, rather than spinning Maada’s utterances and becoming part of the disunity in the party.
I agree with Dr Tengbe that the problem in the SLPP is due to the obsession by the aspirants with flagbearership. Therefore all aspirants should find a solution to these problems. Indeed I had emphasized on this point in one of my latest articles entitled:SLPP versus Julius Bio and his paopas. Earlier Bio had dismissed the Alliance of All Aspirants as an unholy alliance ganged up against him and that he was not going to join them as he is confident of beating anyone of them. Dr Tengbe failed to acknowledged the arrogance and polarising statement of Bio in his article.