Alhaji M. B Jalloh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 December 2021:
We have seen in post-independent Sierra Leone where many politicians had allied with their political leaders but would later antagonize them for selfish reasons. It all started with Sir Milton Margai and his younger brother, Sir Albert Margai, who were not only brothers but the younger one allied with his elder brother who was leader of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).
Before the 1962 General Elections, the first democratic elections after independence in April 1961, Sir Albert Margai challenged his elder brother for the party leadership and won. When the elite group in the SLPP pleaded with Sir Albert Margai to step down for his elder brother, he vehemently refused to step down after he had consulted with members of his radical group in the SLPP, including Siaka Probyn Stevens.
Together with Siaka P. Stevens and other radicals, they left the party and formed the People’s National Party (PNP), which Sir Milton Margai mocked as ‘Pikin Na Pikin’, meaning a child is just a child.
Within the transient span of PNP, the relationship between the two brothers became so acrimonious, frosty and tense that many prominent stalwarts in the SLPP had to intervene to broker peace between the two political allies. They succeeded in brokering peace between the two and consequently, Sir Albert Margai returned to the SLPP which many of his colleagues that joined him to form the PNP vehemently opposed, especially Siaka P. Stevens, who vowed never to re-join the SLPP.
Though Sir Albert Margai re-joined the SLPP, the lesson his elder brother learnt was that even your political ally could have the propensity to stab you in the back out of selfish reasons. Sir Milton Margai died later in 1964 and Sir Albert Margai was controversially supported by the party caucus to succeed his late elder brother and that decision was final.
As Prime Minister, Sir Albert Margai’s politics of nepotism and patronage made him very unpopular with many of his political allies in the SLPP with whom he had enjoyed maximum internal support for the party leadership. He favoured many of his personal friends around him for the party symbol to contest the 1967 General Elections much to the trepidation and chagrin of many of his political allies who had to contest those elections as independent candidates and won hands down.
They severed their relationship with Sir Albert Margai and cross carpeted to the then opposition All People’s Congress (APC) to get majority in the House of Parliament after both SLPP and APC had got 32 seats each in the august body. His political allies suddenly became his political foes and their decision to cross carpet to APC denied him the Prime Minister position he inherited from his elder brother. It was a bitter lesson for Albert Margai after his political allies abandoned him and pitched tents with the APC.
The late erstwhile President Joseph Saidu Momoh unarguably received the presidency of Sierra Leone on a silver platter because he neither campaigned for it nor did he struggle for it. He wooed several political friends when he acceded to power as the Second President of the First Republic of Sierra Leone.
But when it became evident that Joseph S. Momoh was just a nominal President whilst Inspector General James Bambay Kamara was the real wielder of political power, they pitched tents with the latter and started undermining their leader. They even hated him more when they were detained at the Pademda Road Maximum Prisons by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) military government and had their landed properties confiscated by the State following the overthrown of the APC Government in April 1992, whilst he (Joseph Momoh) fled to neighbouring Guinea where he was later abandoned by most of his political allies.
Therefore, it did not surprise most Sierra Leoneans when many of Joseph S. Momoh’s political allies abandoned the APC during the 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections to either form or join new political parties like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP – Sorbeh), United National People’s Party (UNPP), People’s Political Party (PPP), Unity Party (UP) amongst many others.
Even when the late former President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah proposed to Parliament that former President Joseph S. Momoh to be on retirement pension, all the political parties that were in Parliament after the 1996 elections overwhelmingly blocked the President’s proposal and he wasn’t given a dime from the consolidated revenue fund. He ever regretted having political allies that abandoned him in midstream when he needed them most.
Then came former President Kabbah, who was extremely popular in the SLPP when he won the 1996 presidential runoff. Like his predecessor, he also had close political allies, but when they discovered that he was treating party affairs as not expected, they started deserting him and almost torn him apart when he pronounced to their disbelief that he was President for Sierra Leone and not for SLPP.
Besides, many of his allies could not stomach his support for the late former Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa for the 2007 SLPP presidential candidacy during the 2005 national delegates’ conference in Makeni. They did not only abandon him, they followed someone who they believed was robbed of the presidential candidacy and SLPP eventually lost the 2007 presidential runoff.
What is more interesting was that the late former Vice President Solomon E. Berewa who the late former President Kabbah supported to lead the SLPP into the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections accused his former boss of not campaigning for him ahead of the elections. I was told that after Solo Berewa had lost the presidential runoff, his relationship with Tejan Kabbah became acrimonious and they never met eye-ball to eye-ball until the former President died in 2014.
As President, the APC Chairman and Leader, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma maintained his friendship with comrades he had struggled with in opposition and placed them in eye-watering positions to help him deliver his manifesto promises to Sierra Leoneans. In 2015, however, one of his close political allies, Samuel Sam Sumana was accused of undermining his power through “anti-party activities” and was eventually expelled from the party and sacked as Vice President – albeit the erstwhile main opposition SLPP, the ECOWAS Court and other institutions claimed the sacking was illegal.
Then came the much talked about 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections, when many of former President Koroma’s comrades declared as flag-bearer aspirants. There was information from the grape vine that the former President assured many of them of becoming the 2018 presidential candidate. But at the 2017 National Delegates’ Conference in Makeni, it was a different ball game because the unexpected became the expected.
Someone who never declared for the flag-bearer position was chosen surprisingly by the former President as the 2018 APC presidential candidate. Most of the flag-bearer aspirants who had invested much in their nationwide campaigns were so annoyed with their boss that they did not only distance themselves from their comrade, they also took the backseat instead of campaigning for the former President’s ordained presidential candidate.
Even when the APC presidential candidate lost the presidential runoff, many of the former flag-bearers have never taken part in party activities, while others have claimed quitting active national politics; all because of the grudge they have for their former boss, including one of the longest serving stalwarts in the APC that was appointed Vice President, Victor Bockarie Foh following the sacking of his predecessor.
During the recent Emergency National Delegates’ Conference in Makeni for the endorsement of the new APC Constitution, former President Koroma called the leaders of the different factions in the party to stand in front of the party membership. After they had lined up, he told the delegates to look at them, saying they are the people responsible for all the problems in the party. The former President vowed to declare a Jihad against any stalwart that will attempt to destroy the party.
With all the friendship erstwhile President Koroma showered on his comrades and elevated them to mouth-watering positions in his Government, some of them have now abandoned him for reasons believed to do with political power. They suddenly forgot that he made them what they are today, yet they have decided to desert him because he didn’t give them the opportunity to lead the party in the 2018 polls and for other reasons best known to them. They were friends yesterday but today, they are branding him as their number one political enemy.
I don’t want to touch on the fallout between Captain SAJ Musa and Captain Valentine Strasser. The same with Valentine Strasser and Brigadier Juluis Maada Bio after the 1996 Palace Coup when Strasser was reportedly handcuffed in Cockril and flown to Guinea. President Bio knows the full story.
Therefore, President Brig. (Rtd) Dr. Julius Maada Bio should learn from what his predecessors had experienced at the hands of their close political allies who later turned against them. Some of the “Paopa” diehards who currently see President Bio as their friend and political godfather can be wolves in sheep clothing and could desert him tomorrow because of selfish political reasons or over-ambition to succeed him. Mr. President beware of your political allies.