Elkass Sannoh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 February 2019:
Disaster awaits the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), if president Bio does not tackle the growing instability caused by the Prince Harding and Batilo Songa leadership war. The ruling SLPP is confronted with a lot of challenges that are now shaking the fundamental unity of the party, and potentially poised to destroy its credibility and undo all that president Bio is achieving for the country.
All this while, I have kept sealed lips but now is the time to speak truth to power, so that peaceful and lasting solutions are promptly brought to the altar to end this insanity.
The SLPP came to power in March 2018, after winning one of the most fiercely contested and controversial elections in the county since independence. Its presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio was pilloried and scorned during the elections campaign yet sailed through to occupy the most sacred seat of the land – the Presidency. That was almost a year ago.
Eleven months on, all is not well in the SLPP and getting worse as an internecine war for the leadership of the party – between the National Organising Secretary Jimmy Batilo Songa and the Chairman and Leader – Dr. Prince Alex Harding (now bitter enemies) is poised to destabilise the party. (Photos: Jimmy Batilo Songa – above, and the Chairman and Leader – Dr. Prince Alex Harding – below).
The SLPP is currently facing two main challenges: Intra-party division and Governance.
Whilst in opposition, the deep rooted internal conflict besieged and bedevilled the effective management of the party as a united political party waiting to take over governance.
It all started after the August 1, 2011 National Delegates Conference held at the Miatta Conference Center, Freetown. Despite the fact that all 19 flagbearer aspirants pledged their support to the winner, the hatred for Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio intensified beyond comprehension.
Since then, instability has become an inseparable companion of the SLPP and not a day passes without new threat of political tribulation.
The SLPP is not even a year old in governance and the youth are now on each other’s throat for the Chairman and Leadership position.
I totally condemn the chaos that took place last Saturday 16 February 2019 at the party’s headquarters in Freetown that led to the cancellation of the party’s National Executive Council meeting.
If prompt action by the President is not enforced, there is likelihood that the power struggle between Jimmy Batilo Songa and Prince Alex Harding could destabilise the country. This threat is real and immediate, because one cannot divorce party politics from national governance.
Batilo and the SLPP party youth
National Organising Secretary – Batilo, is making inroads in his appeal to the hearts and minds of the SLPP stalwarts and the grassroot youths because the current Chairman and Leader – Prince Harding has practically abandoned the party Secretariat and by extension his duties.
Batilo is well known to have successfully served as Chairman of the SLPP for the UK/Ireland branch for two terms, before coming home to help president Bio win the elections. But he is not a radical political strategist like Prince Harding.
The political tension Batilo is fuelling is wrong and his supporters are in a rush to drive Prince Harding away from the party – especially its leadership.
After last Saturday’s commotion at the party office in Freetown, Batilo did not issue a statement condemning what took place, but rather went on to demand that, “Prince Harding must go.”
I will not dwell on the ugly occurrences among youth groups supporting Batilo and how they chased away those believed to be supporting Prince Harding.
Batilo is not happy about his perceived role of Prince Harding which he believes is undermining his authority and hijacking the functions of the National Women’s Leader and her Deputy.
The difference between Batilo and Prince Harding is that the latter is desperate to give a meaning to the lives of the SLPP grassroots members. He is out there making sure that the SLPP youths are employed.
Prince Harding and NATCOM
Prince Harding is a seasoned politician who promised victory for his party at the 2018 elections; and he strategically fulfilled that promised. He lost the SLPP National Secretary General position to JJ Saffa who had left his job at the World Bank in 2005 to become an active politician.
He later became the Deputy Chairman and went on to launch an internal revolution in the party aimed at deposing former chairman and leader – Chief Somano Kapen.
It is alleged that Prince Harding brought unknown persons from elsewhere to guard him and secure the party’s headquarters yesterday, instead of allowing the party’s youth to do so. He caused the unfortunate incident yesterday by not communicating with Batilo to execute his own duties ahead of the NEC meeting.
Prince Harding has a very quintessential role in the effective functioning of the party, but he is no longer playing that role. He has alienated himself from the youth and some executive members who supported him against Dr. Morie Manyeh – the current Mines Minister.
Prince Harding’s insistence on becoming the Board Chairman of NATCOM was a wrong and untimely decision. Since his appointment he has become difficult to reach by the party’s youth who are struggling to gain employment.
This is the sad reality. He is responsible for the current declining state of the SLPP.
Governance and the SLPP
SLPP is not only a political party but an institution, according to Dr. Peter Tucker in his book, ‘History and Philosophy of the SLPP’. The institutional aspect is a challenge. What must be accepted is that without SLPP there is no ‘New Direction’.
SLPP is the vehicle used for the effective leadership Sierra Leoneans are enjoying today. President Bio should know that all is not well in his party and that the youth are deeply unhappy.
Life is difficult for the majority of SLPP youth. Some are being mocked because those who are to seek their interest have become a complete disappointment.
Dr. Abass Bundu, current Speaker of the House of Parliament once said, “we shall make the administration of the SLPP no longer a one-man show, it is a collective leadership.”
Amid the high unemployment rate and battered economy inherited by the New Direction administration, the SLPP youth are now suffering the brunt of that inheritance. This trend must change. Time for effective action is now
Those who are to provide the jobs are closing their doors and the party’s leadership is not helping the situation. Where is the SLPP National Secretary General, Napoleon Koroma?
Napoleon and Prince Harding are two highly important personalities in the SLPP and their absence is opening a huge gap.
Mr. President, the SLPP youth sacrificed their lives for you to succeed at the 2018 elections, and it is time to put some smile on their faces. Act now before you allow the rivalry for Chairman and Leader position to fragment the party and deepen the injury in the hearts of our youth.
President Bio is still struggling to get the right team but just like he bulldozed the APC, he should stoutly bulldoze those detractors in the SLPP who are undermining the peace and stability of the party and the nation in general. Hope President Bio is listening.
Our president should not continue to give deafening ears to a problem that will affect the smooth running of the state. He must summon an immediate meeting as Fountain of Honour because the SLPP youth made him what he is today.
President Bio must now be ready to tough decisions against anything that will undermine his New Direction government and undo all that he has achieved for the country. I therefore urge president Bio to act tough to save the credibility and image of the SLPP party.
Author: Elkass Sannoh