Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 April 2023:
With dozens of opposition politicians including the former UN Energy4All and UNIDO Director – Dr Kandeh Yumkella who also served as parliamentary leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party, and the parliamentary leader of the Coalition for Change (C4C) – Saa Emerson Lamina, now members of the “Keep Bio at State House” 2023 election campaign team, it was no surprising yesterday in parliament that the President was in buoyant and ecstatic mood, as he addressed MPs and the nation for the last time in the wells of parliament, before elections are held in June 2023.
Last Sunday, Yumkella signed and shook hands to an Alliance Agreement on behalf of his NGC party with President Bio (Photo below), that could potentially see all 170,000 votes won by Yumkella in 2018 disappeared into SLPP’s ballot box on June 24, making a second ballot for the presidency highly unlikely.
But an even more spectacular political gymnastic was seen yesterday in the committee room of the country’s parliament, where Saa Emerson Lamina and two of his eight C4C parliamentarians defected and declared for the SLPP.
(Photo: After the dissolution of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic by President Julius Maada Bio, Coalition For Change (C4C) Party leader in Parliament, Saa Emerson Lamina and two other C4C MPs defected to the ruling SLPP. They are now members of the SLPP)
The question is: Is this another 2007/2012 Charles Margai PMDC moment in the making? Has history taught anything?
On 22 November 2012, the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph (Abdul Rashid Thomas) wrote in an article titled “2007 elections king maker in awe at prospect of not winning a single electoral seat” at the 2012 elections.
We reproduce that story below:
The Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) headed by Charles Margai (Photo), may be the third largest political party in Sierra Leone, but if the unofficial results of the just concluded elections are anything to go by, then the party is set to lose every single constituency that they won in 2007.
This bitter prospect, has brought shock and horror among senior PMDC party chiefs, as they contemplate the possibility of becoming irrelevant in Sierra Leone’s political landscape.
In 2005, after losing the presidential candidacy election held by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Charles Margai left the party, taking along a significant number of SLPP supporters with him to form a breakaway party – the PMDC.
Elections held in 2007 saw president Koroma failing to win an outright majority, which prompted a run-off election.
With Charles Margai winning 10% of the popular votes in the first round, he immediately became known as the most powerful and highly sought after politician in the country.
During the nail biting second round of voting, which saw a huge chunk of the SLPP’s votes cancelled by the National Electoral Commission in their strongholds, Charles Margai threw his weight behind Ernest Bai Koroma to give him the necessary 55% needed to win the 2007 run-off election.
Senior PMDC official – Karamoh Kabba, said after the 2007 elections that by going into coalition with the APC , his party “is ensuring a more representative government, the survival of the PMDC as a political party and the creation of a third formidable political force for smooth running of democracy in Sierra Leone”.
But analysts say that Charles Margai’s instantaneous elevation to the most powerful politician in Sierra Leone in 2007, was achieved at the expense of a disunited and fractious SLPP.
Charles Margai’s PMDC was in turn rewarded by president Koroma, with the appointment of at least five of his party officials to ministerial positions, though surprisingly, Margai himself did not accept nor demanded the vice presidency position, which could have kept him as the second most powerful man in the country.
That political miscalculation, was to cost him and his party very dearly, as his political influence gradually waned and most of his officials unceremoniously sacked from the government.
Fast forward five years on (2012), the political canvass in Sierra Leone has been re-woven.
By October 2012, the majority of PMDC supporters had either returned to the SLPP or joined the APC party, whose penchant for buying off political adversaries had become well known.
With the 2012 elections just weeks away, the PMDC was caught up in a bitter internal power struggle, which many political observers saw as the final nail on the party’s coffin.
But still, Charles Margai stood tall, convinced that he would pull off a victory in 2012, more spectacular than he did in 2007.
Listening to the announcement of unofficial results from across the country, in the last few days, it is difficult to believe that in most of the seats contested, the PMDC could not have polled a single vote.
And as Charles Margai himself told the media in Freetown, he is in a state of shock to find that not even his own vote cast in his constituency for himself, appears to have been counted.
What really happened? Is this also the result of massive vote rigging?
As senior PMDC party officials contemplate their response in anticipation of the announcement of the official elections results by the NEC, possibly this weekend, the party has issued the following statement:
“The Leadership of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change Party (PMDC) in expectation listened to the press briefing by the Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on Wednesday, 21st November, 2012 at about 8PM instant, which not only ended in total disappointment, but also indecisiveness, thus confirming the ineptitude of the Chairperson of NEC as had always been expressed by the Party.
“The Party considers the convening of the press briefing as a total waste of much needed resources.
“In her opening remarks, the Chairperson led viewers and the audience to believe that she was about to address the concerns raised by the SLPP and PMDC of rampant malpractices and irregularities in the electoral process.
“Rather, the press briefing was nothing but a prevarication of the issues raised by the SLPP, thus abdicating her responsibility in addressing such serious matters and asking the SLPP Party to refer the matter to the Police, contrary to the mandate given her as enshrined in the Public Elections Act No. 4 of 2012.
“As to the concerns raised by the PMDC, she simply ignored them or at best inadvertently did not refer to them.
“The Party therefore views the conduct of the Chairperson of NEC with disdain in treating matters of such serious magnitude with utter contempt and frivolity.
“The Party views the above conduct as one falling far short of what is expected of a National Chief Electoral Commissioner at such a critical time in the political life of this nation.
“The malpractices and irregularities highlighted by the SLPP and PMDC are unprecedented in the history of politics and thus deserve a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
“As a Party, we hold the Chairperson of NEC and her cohorts responsible for consequences that might flow from their actions, which is a total robbery of the franchise of the citizenry bestowed upon them by Law, and we again call on NEC to immediately address these concerns instead of incessantly holding unto the abuse of the integrity of the people of Sierra Leone and an affront to the democratic values which are most needed to propel the country forward.
“Finally, the Party has been reliably informed that the Chairperson of NEC on Tuesday 20th November, 2012, spent the night in Makeni with senior members of the governing All People’s Congress Party to consider her response to the series of improprieties listed by the SLPP and PMDC in the electoral process, as well as deliberating on her reactions towards the over-voting in the Northern axis.”
As Charles Margai today seeks a united voice with his old adversary – the SLPP executive, it will certainly be interesting to see the outcome of a run-off in December and the role he will play in the coronation of the new king.
The outcome of the 2012 elections we now know – Ernest Bai Koroma and his APC won a massive victory.
Is 2023 another history repeating itself? And what lessons for Yumkella and his NGC, as well as Sahr Lamina and his C4C? Are they now facing political extinction?