Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 March 2012
The debate surrounding allegations of president Koroma’s offer of cash, lucrative contracts and senior government job opportunities to members of the opposition parties for their votes at the forthcoming general election rumbles on.
Does the decision of John Leigh – a losing presidential aspirant of the opposition SLPP, to resign from his party only to join the ruling APC, reinforce and fuel speculation that money or the promise of lucrative contracts and jobs by the president is the motivating factor?
This is the view of one political observer:
Mr. John Ernest Leigh’s decision to wear the red ronko and scream “orsaii orwaii” has drawn different reactions from different folks, which all makes for a good debate.
While there are those who have called for Mr. Leigh’s rights to free association to be respected, there are those who have lambasted the former ambassador’s conversion to the All People’s Congress as a betrayal of democracy in Sierra Leone.
Yet there are still those who are trying to muzzle free speech by screaming for Mr. Leigh to be left alone.
There is nothing wrong with appraising Mr. Leigh’s move in the context of his right to free association. But on the same token, Mr. Leigh’s rights to free association do not mean that the exercise of such rights would not aggrieve others in the Sierra Leonean community.
The reality is that there is a small group of loyal Leigh supporters who feel let down by his decision to go red. Therefore, it is important that the feelings of such folks are not summarily dismissed on the altar of political correctness.
Indeed looking at the photo of the former ambassador in a well-fitted red hat with a matching tie in the company of ‘Timbergate’ Sam Sumana , RUF-APC Leatherboot, AFRC-APC Foday Government Wharf and a bunch of other APC crooks and thugs was bound to provoke laughter, given the former diplomat’s frequent proclamation of being Mr. Clean.
And those with ties to the APC’s high command have even disclosed that the charade was watched live by President Ernest Koroma, I.B Kargbo – information minister, Alpha Kanu – political affairs minister and Kemoh ‘Cocainegate’ Sesay – political adviser, on closed circuit TV at State House.
Like it not, these are now Mr. Leigh’s new friends – thugs and crooks employed in the business of stifling development in Sierra Leone.
It’s unbelievable how people change with time. As Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the USA, the razor-tongued Leigh developed a reputation for lambasting the APC and calling them names that many journalists wouldn’t print in their tabloids.
This confrontational attitude continued even after the fire and brimstone diplomat was fired from his job. Yet despite this seemingly patriotic stand, Leigh was never without his detractors/critics.
This group of Sierra Leoneans has always argued that Leigh was a phony who shouldn’t be trusted with power. Judging from the activities of the last week, this group may well have been right. Leigh has put his self-interest above the national good, thereby putting himself and his supporters to shame.
In Bintumani – www.bintumani.com – the globally renowned Sierra Leone internet discussion forum, Leigh’s supporters have always included MKK, Sengbe, ART, Nonpartisan, The One and Only Musketeer (TOOM), Zakmal, Kalos and a few others that cannot readily come to mind. While MKK and Sengbe are SLPP, the others are independent.
This demonstrates that Sierra Leone’s growing constituency of independent voters cries out for political leadership. Many are tired of the rottenness of both the APC and the SLPP.
But since the constitution does not permit for non-party candidates to run for the presidency, independent voters are likely to be attracted to any candidate that displays independent values within the context of party politics.
Leigh was such a candidate until he metamorphosed into a full blown APC backscratcher.
On the other hand, Leigh’s critics in the Bintumani discussion forum – include Head Boy, Reality, Devuyama, Gahinteh, Tamisilleh, and others. To his critics, Leigh has not hurt the SLPP – because the SLPP has never given a damn about Leigh as demonstrated by his poor electoral results.
These critics also argue that Leigh’s cyber and public persona have always been a gross misrepresentation of what he truly is. To them, since Leigh has more in common with the APC than he has with the SLPP, his departure from the SLPP is a blessing in disguise for that party.
Although cross-carpeting between political parties weakens the democratic foundations of any polity, it will be unfair to blame the APC for fishing out weak and greedy politicians from the opposition.
The APC had to do what they had to do in a psychological warfare with the opposition.
In this respect, what could have been more humiliating to the opposition than for the APC to drag to its headquarters for a rite of passage ceremony, a man who had often bragged about winning the presidency for the opposition on the first ballot?
Thus, to get this so-called SLPP tough guy to publicly denounce his political beliefs and swear an oath of allegiance to the APC that he once vilified – is indeed a psychological victory for Ernest Koroma.
Yet in John Leigh’s tumultuous journey to APC land, what probably may be lost on his supporters at Bintumani is that Leigh is not on record to have ever directly attacked Ernest Koroma.
In his usual broadsides against the APC, Leigh never directed any bullets at Ernest Koroma. Instead, as a form of endearment, he always referred to Ernest Koroma’s APC as the new APC, thereby distinguishing it favourably from the APC of Siaka Stevens and Joseph Momoh.
Does this mean that Leigh wanted to be in the good books of Ernest Koroma while hypocritically fighting to replace him? If this is really the case, then the SLPP delegates were right to reject a man that could well have embarrassed their party had they voted him.
Additionally Leigh’s internal contradictions can also be looked from the perspective that much of his venom at Bintumani in the months prior to the SLPP convention was directed against the SLPP and not the APC.
Using multiple monikers, Leigh busied himself painting the SLPP as a tribalistic party that was not interested in giving a fair chance to members of other ethnicities. And to cover his deceit, he imposed the ‘Kadi Cole’ rule that exiled forumites to the notorious ‘Dog House’ for attempting to guess the name behind any moniker.
Tamisilleh, a renowned Leigh critic languished in the Dog House for over a year. Does this mean that Leigh was acting as a double agent? Purporting to be “Mr. Clean” in the SLPP – while being a covert sycophant to Ernest Koroma – is bound to raise suspicions of double agency.
It will be interesting to see how Leigh’s political future shapes out. If he complained about tribalism in the SLPP, then he better start taking crash courses in Temne, Limba and Loko – for he will need these languages to navigate the rough and primitive terrain of APC politics.
Lastly, would the APC compensate a 73 year old man with no political constituency, or would they simply relegate him into oblivion, given that he does not fit the APC archetype? Only with time, will we know the answer to this question.
However, no matter what hand Ernest Koroma deals Mr. Leigh, one sure thing to have emerged from Leigh’s political conversion and indoctrination is that he has been weakened politically. Consequently, if he attempts to raise hell in the violent APC environment, he will be told to shut up.
And knowing that he cannot return to the SLPP, Leigh will have no alternative but to put up and shut up. Indeed it is understandable why Leigh’s supporters feel betrayed.
Readers of the Sierra Leone Telegraph are encouraged to visit and take part in discussions at the Bintumani Forum – www.bintumani.com – the most popular internet forum for ALL Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of tribe and political affiliation.