Mahmoud Tim Kargbo: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 March 2021:
It appears President Julius Maada Bio has drawn up his victory plan for 2023, and it looks like an enhanced version of the successful plan laid out by his former campaign manager Alie Kabbah in 2018. But this time around, it seems Bio has figured out that he does not need Alie Kabba to win. In his place, he’s got very ineffective democratic institutions, an inept main opposition party Parliamentarians and other fantastically corrupt politicians within the APC to do his bidding. He couldn’t have asked for a better political environment.
Bio knows that due to the excessive economic hardship in the country, he is very unpopular and that his Presidency has been nothing but an addition to his predecessor who failed to delivered his manifesto. Even if he should ‘win’ another term in office, he still would have nothing to show for it – a fact relayed by JJ Saffa, the current Minister of Finance, when he said that another government and three Finance Ministers, after him, will not be able to fix the Sierra Leone, Economy.
A key objective of the Bio 2023 election Plan is to ‘convincingly’ win at the first round by at least 56% of the popular vote – And to also capture a commanding lead in the number of Parliamentary seats. To do this, Maada Bio has to buy legitimacy within the International Community and the sub-region. He’s got to do so very early in the game – this explains why he will spare nothing to get the ‘Mid-term Census’ done before June 2021.
Ostensibly, he can claim that he has very strong numbers to beat the opposition at the polls. It is a ‘smart tactics’ that must be combated not only in the trenches, but also at an intellectual level. Thus far, the main opposition is light years away in developing a strategy to combat this onslaught. We will provide pointers in subsequent sections of this column to discredit this hoax.
Meanwhile, between the SLPP Secretariat, Statistics SL and NaCRA – opposition members are saying the Census data will be sexed up to show a huge voter count in both the South and East of the country. To them, new Districts and Constituencies will be created at the expense of the North and North West. It must be pointed out that the main opposition is hopelessly divided in key Districts in these areas, such as Port Loko and Kambia Districts.
There is a high likelihood that the SLPP will be able to come off with moderately strong numbers to compliment what some people believe would be the inflated figures from the South, but not necessarily enough to win the said Districts.
Kono remains a toss up due to Coalition for Change (C4C) presence. We anticipate that C4C will continue to hold sway over Kono for a few more election cycles. Still, Maada Bio will be faced with a shortfall to get 56%. And that’s where the battle for the Western Area will lead to bloodshed.
Tactically, for all we know about the SLPP blueprint for victory, Bio goes with the conviction that troop formation, distribution of arms/artillery and deployment of internal security will be watertight at the Southern front and Western Seacoast; yet there are major gaps in his plans. The plan does not think too far ahead and that will be its undoing.
Even though the SLPP go largely uncontested in the South and East of the country, Bio underestimates: the level of voter dissatisfaction and the devastating effects of poverty in the deep South, especially in Bo, where an educated and enlightened youth demographic is questioning the national political structure and even the progressive movement.
From bye elections violent experience, it appears many stakeholders in the SLPP are trapped in the time warp of 1996 – the war never ended for them; they paid no price for blood spilled on the battlefield, nor for tears shed by mothers in the still of the night.
Violence, intimidation and brute force is all they know. For which reason, it will be a mistake for the APC to match up the living corpse Samura Kamara as a counter force to Maada Bio in 2023.
Kamara lacks the oratory power and inspiration to lead a defiant ‘grassroots’ to challenge the bulldozing power, intimidation and expected mal-practices at nightfall after the polls close – the critical hours in which real battles are fought to determine the winner.