Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 May 2023:
Loyalty is a fine quality, but in excess fills political graveyards. Nothing is more attractive than loyalty. Patriotic citizens always show loyalty to their country, but to the government only when it deserves it.
Unfortunately, the politics of today demands unbridled loyalty to politicians and political parties alike. However, we expect politicians to put their loyalty to the constitution ahead of their loyalty to their political party. This is not the case in Sierra Leone, as many align themselves and their loyalties to political parties, thanks to their regional and tribal affiliations.
Other loyalties are bought with money, even though such loyalties could also change hands with financial inducement too. Loyalty should be a continuous phenomenon where people give support, whether right or wrong. Some call it blind loyalty. However, in giving such support, you should be able to tell when it is wrong and help get it right.
Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara is by far the “chosen one” for the APC Party’s “back to power” odyssey . His popularity among his base is unquestionable. He enjoys an unadulterated loyalty from especially the “grass roots’ ‘ of the party. But is this support and popularity broad based?
There are many who still see Samura as a handpicked candidate. In the events leading to the 2018 election, there were rumours that the erstwhile President Koroma was toying with the idea of a 3rd term. They say that what happens in Makeni stays in Makeni. Some tagged Samura as Ernest Bai Koroma in disguise. But is it possible that what happened in Makeni in 2018 still rankles some big wigs of the party?
While some see Samura as a handpicked candidate and extension of Koroma’s fingerprints on the APC party, others see him as the favourite of the majority of the APC supporters. Many might disagree with these views, but if the “commitment” and “enthusiasm” of the major players in his party are anything to go by, it is lukewarm at best.
Many critics have questioned why Samura is not flanked by the APC big hitters during his public appearances. Most of his former competitors for the flag bearer position in 2018 have been conspicuous by their absence on the scene, apart from his vice aspirant Chernor Maju, Peter Konteh and Alhaji Yansaneh who are permanent fixtures.
In politics, like in every walk of life, people tend to remember, not the words of the opposition, but the silence of our friends. Is Samura conducting a one-man orchestra? Is that why Samura’s distractors see his victory as the flag bearer a pyrrhic victory? Do they see Samura as a “hard sell”? Are the critics right to view the APC as a party that is all sail and no anchor? No, not by APC standards.
Well, If ever one needed proof that the bowels of the APC party is still constipated, “In a last minute dramatic twist to Sierra Leone’s presidential elections slated for June 24, the candidacy of All People’s Congress (APC) flagbearer, Dr. Samura Kamara is being challenged to court by rebels within the party.
Former Sports Minister and Publisher of FOR DI PEOPLE newspaper, Paul Kamara and Ex-Deputy Ambassador to the Sierra Leone Embassy in the U.S have filed an application for constructions, interpretation and determination to Sections 35 (4) and 76 (1) D of the national constitution 1991, Act No. 6 of 1991. (Cocorioko newspaper-May 20/2023).
With friends like these, do you need enemies?
Some political poltergeists already see this election as Samura’s last chance saloon. Some even compare him to Donald Trump; that he has the “back to power” support from the base, but lacking the national appeal to bring the bacon home. This might sound true for some, but seasoned political connoisseurs would caution against any such hasty conclusions. Time will tell. But if Samura fails to make the cut this time, you can bet the next cycle will bring out some political piranhas for the position.
Let us look back on 2018. Samura Kamara was the surprise candidate for the APC in 2018. He was fondly ridiculed as “You Sabi am? – a connotation not lost on many. He contested against Maada Bio, whose glowing CV carried phrases like “retired brigadier”, and “former President of Sierra Leone ”. In comparison, Maada Bio had clocked more motorway miles on our political landscape and was a household name, from NPRC until the “dawn of democracy” as we know it in Sierra Leone.
While many questioned Samura the bureaucrat’s track record, Maada Bio was fondly lauded, especially by his followers as “the father of democracy in Sierra Leone”. With such a CV, such exposure, a household name status and as a relatively more seasoned political player, the foregone conclusion was that Maada will sign the tenancy agreement for State House with a landslide victory.
Did he? Yes, but it took a 2nd round Presidential runoff to see off Samura (“you sabi am?”).
But those in the green corner would say that Maada was the opposition and not the incumbent. By African standards, they would see Maada’s victory unseating an incumbent ruling party as a laudable feat
So, is the 2018 election a vivid reminder and the reason why the SLPP is promising “NO RUNOFF” in its party campaign slogan this time?
While some might see it as arrogance, others view it as self-confidence. Either way, where is such self-confidence or arrogance coming from? They say that a bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch but on its wings. Others will say that “If kondo say e dae werr trosis, e don geh side for pull en tail”. (The lizard that decides to wear a pair of trousers has already negotiated a slot for its tail).
So, what has changed?
For starters, President Bio is the incumbent, and has had five years to justify a request for the renewal of his tenancy agreement for State House from the electorate . In 2018, the NGC was supposedly mistaken as the main threat to the ruling APC – courtesy of the two-sim saga.
This time, the NGC and SLPP are officially strange bedfellows. While Kandeh Yumkella made headlines following the signing of alliance agreement with Bio, many are still waiting for even a handshake between Samura and Sam Sumana.
In 2018, the SLPP was busy telling us all that was wrong with the APC’s 11- year tenure. This time, the SLPP has embedded a catalogue of its success stories in its 2023 manifesto.
Is it any wonder that a recent Op Ed, “ In just five years, President Bio has done far better than 11 years of Ernest Bai Koroma” (thesierraleonetelegraph.com), has been gaining traction in mainstream and social media?
In 2018, despite the acrimony from the APC flag bearer contest, the party spoke with “one voice”. This time, Samura Kamara, like Donald Trump has been beset with court proceedings from within and outside his party. His party has seen the emergence of splinter groups from Dove cut right up to Mathoir.
A lot has passed under the bridge since the last election cycle. One striking criticism from Samura’s critics continues to gather airmiles on social media. His critics say that like Maada Bio in 2018, Samura has been very good at highlighting the failures of president Bio. But unlike Bio, he has not told the electorate how he is going to right the wrongs of the current government. Perhaps his manifesto will address that in due course.
So, as we prepare to go to the polls, let us remember that we cannot use old solutions to solve new problems. Many believe that the SLPP and APC are political Siamese and that they share a common DNA in most of the adverse red and white blood cells of our political bloodstream. If that is the case, then don’t vote for the best candidate, vote for the one who will do the least harm.
As we prepare to go to the polls on 24th June, let us remember that elections belong to the people. But if you turn your back on the fire and burn your behind, then you will just have to sit on your blisters. If you have a vision for Sierra Leone, make the right decision.
Lest we forget, there is the small matter of our dear old Cotton Tree calling it quits. The eulogies continue to flow in rivers of teardrops. Some blame it on global warming, while others put it down to the Darwinism of old age. But that has not stopped the poltergeists forming their own explanations in the realm of causality. But in a country where everything and anything is translated in political terms, there has been no shortage of raison d’etre. I once saw a driver refuse to move his car in traffic on Blackhall Road, Freetown, because the traffic lights turned green. He was an APC supporter and said that the green light was for SLPP supporters to go. He decided to go when it turned red. His relationship with the oncoming traffic at the time remains unknown to this day.
Shakespearians believe that “when beggars die, there are no comets seen”. Some predict an undesirable omen. Others say that the fall of the Cotton Tree marks the fall of the Bio government.
Others say that the Cotton Tree was the vault for everything that held back Sierra Leone’s development and progress. They think that Bio has broken the spell and the country is now onto a winner. But my cousin in Mathoir continues to blame Arsenal Football Club, and that the Cotton Tree was an Arsenal fan.
When your team collapses, you collapse too. Either way, we’ve lost an icon. Maybe, just maybe, the death of the Cotton Tree would mark the birth of a good beginning for Sierra Leone. Who knows?
Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches. In asking for our votes, we therefore urge our leaders to think of the next generation and not just the next election.
With the election pledges signed, sealed and delivered by our leaders, let us hope for a FREE, FAIR and PEACEFUL election. That’s all.