John B. Sesay: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 August 2019:
Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana was Sierra Leone’s Vice President from September 17, 2007 to March 17, 2015. He was in 2015, expelled from the All People’s Congress, after he was accused of trying to form a breakaway party, among other charges, all of which he denied. This decision paved way for his sacking.
Sumana then went on to form his own party, the Coalition For Change (C4C), less than ninety days to the 2018 general elections. The C4C won all, but one of the nine parliamentary seats in Kono district, also winning both the Kono district and city council elections.
Close to two years after the general elections, Sam Sumana’s relevance in the political sphere remains intact, recently winning a local council seat in his Kono hometown in a bye-election.
But are there plans by the former VP to return to his former party – the APC, after his recent meetings with the APC leadership at the party’s headquarters in Freetown and Chairman Ernest Bai Koroma’s residence in Makeni?
In this exclusive interview held at his residence, Chief Sam Sumana cast aside discussions about any possible return or otherwise to the APC to “providence”; saying, there is no reason to spend time on “issues that had put us apart”, rather, “we should dwell on those issues that would bring us together…”
He also criticized the current government, especially their refusal to pay him his pension and benefit, something he referred to as “pettiness”, saying emphatically that he will not be intimidated because he is not a coward.
He called on the SLPP government to be seen running the country “as a government, and not as a political party.”
He started this exclusive interview, speaking about his C4C party and why they did not win the 2018 elections, though winning eight parliamentary seats. This is what he said:
Chief: The Coalition For Change came into being as a result of our enthusiasm to bring positive change in the political landscape of our country. As you would agree with me, it is a very young political party.
When we received our certification less than two months to the 2018 general elections, we indeed were able to show to the general public that it was a force to reckon with.
Our expectation was to win the elections but we accepted the outcome. We are today carrying parliamentary seats, eight in total and two local councils – the district and city councils of Kono.
C4C is a national party as we are entrenched in other parts of the country in terms of party establishment. We were not fortunate to win seats but we were very close, in some areas, to have won seats. We were almost going to win a seat in Bonthe and Moyamba districts.
We did not have enough time as a party to establish ourselves strongly but we made sure that our presence was felt as the third most populous party in terms of representation and in terms of candidates. So, we continue to sustain that as a party. We believe that change would come positively for the people.
Ques: It is a national party, from what you said, but you tend to be concentrated in Kono district?
Chief: We were registered as a national party and not for Kono district. We have our offices and membership across the country. Political parties have their strongholds. You would agree with me that the north is the stronghold of the APC, the south is stronghold of SLPP and Kono is our stronghold.
If we reflect back to the late 1960s, the era of the forerunners of political party representation in Kono district, Kono has always been following a particular pattern. That pattern we have been following and that is the same thing we are carrying today. Irrespective of that yes we know Kono is our stronghold but the ideals of the party will continue to spread across the country.
Ques: Prior to the 2018 elections, there was supposed to be a coalition of smaller parties that would have formed a third force to the two main parties. That failed to happen. Do you however see a coalition of the willing, coming together towards a common goal in 2023?
Chief: I won’t refer to it as a third force. I refer to it as an alternate force. Yes we had a desire of coming together and it was not just smaller political parties. The C4C was comprised of members of other political parties before and Sierra Leoneans that were nonpartisan.
Yes we wanted to have an alternate force from the conventional two political parties but that didn’t work. I am a Sierra Leonean first. My options are open to merge with other political parties or for them to come to the coalition for us to have a formidable team.
Ques: Let us look at your relationship with the All People’s Congress to which you were made running mate for the 2007 elections. Along the way, something happened and you were removed as Vice President. How was it like?
Chief: I believe in destiny and by providence that is the path my maker had paved for me. There is no issue of animosity. We should accept destiny. Having been privileged to be given the opportunity by President Koroma and the APC to take me from my little corner in Kono and come out to be a national figure, I am very grateful for that.
I am not an ingrate. I served my country diligently during my first term and also the second term. Like you said, some issues happened but we have gone past that. There is no reason for us to be spending time on those issues that had put us apart. We should dwell on those issues that would bring us together, and that is my drive.
Ques: What is your relationship with the former president, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma someone you worked with and supported in transforming the country?
Chief: I have a very healthy relationship with former President Koroma. If you recall, the time I was removed from the APC, I made it very clear that President Koroma was my boss and at the same time an in-law and my elder brother according to the tradition and culture of Kono. He is married to my cousin and I respect that. Party politics would come and go but we have a binding relationship which is matrimonial between him and my cousin and that will never change.
Ques: There have been talks regarding your recent visitations to the former president. You also just recently visited the APC headquarters. Are you looking forward to, sooner or later, mending fence with that party?
Chief: I understand that. For now, I have a political party. You can never tell whether the APC would come and join the C4C. It is an option. Whatever it takes for us to bring a positive change for Sierra Leone, it is my drive. I am not very particular about which vehicle we will use to bring the change. I am open and whatever it takes to bring that change, I am in for that.
Ques: Has the APC ever approached you?
Chief: No. I had extended an olive branch to any party that might have thought they wronged me. At the same time, I have asked for forgiveness if I have wronged any party. I am a peace ambassador and charity begins at home. So, if am going out there in the world preaching peace and if I cannot consolidate peace in my backyard, then I am being hypocritical. I have to give peace a chance, forgive and move forward. So, for me, approaching me is a good idea but to be honest, I have gone past that.
Ques: How did you receive the decision by the APC in 2015 to expel you?
Chief: It was not a piece of information that was pleasant but I did make a statement that I had the responsibility to uphold the dignity of the constitution of Sierra Leone- there was no need for violence. At the same time, I stood my grounds and won my case at ECOWAS. Knowing what had happened before in the civil strife, coming back to office after the verdict at ECOWAS maybe, could have created another issue. So, I decided that enough was enough.
Ques: At present, both the C4C and the APC appear as bedfellows. In Kono, though there was no official position, it was muted that the APC supported the C4C in winning a seat during a bye-election. Is the C4C going to do same for the APC in constituency 110, in Freetown?
Chief: APC at some point took a decision that they were not going to contest any bye-election. It was after the Kono bye-election that they decided that they will be participating henceforth. In Kono, they were not ready to contest. Don’t get me wrong, but Freetown is the stronghold of the APC.
I am sure that APC have political mavericks that can do things to win the elections. In politics, you have to be calculative. It will be foolhardy on my part to put a candidate up for a bye-election somewhere that I know is a stronghold of another party. Yes I can participate, yes I should participate but my party normally decides what to do and it has decided.
Ques: What is your assessment of the current government?
Chief: I don’t feel very comfortable talking about this current dispensation. My advice though is for them to lead the country as a government and not as a political party.
We have to look at the bigger picture, Sierra Leone. We should not be seen dividing our country.
There were issues in Port Loko following my arrival; there are issues with my pension and benefit; paying everybody and then refusing to pay me. To be honest enough it is immaturity. I cannot be intimidated. If you deprive me, so be it. Maybe one day somebody would pay me.
Don’t forget, this is the same party-the SLPP that used the verdict of my case five times to campaign; in 2015 they came out with a press release against it; when I won the case they came out with a release; in their manifesto they mentioned it; in their Government Transition Team report they mentioned it and when the President had his inaugural address in parliament, he mentioned it.
So, having done all of that and then they reneged on those statements, to me it is pettiness.
Ques: Are you in communication with His Excellency the president?
Chief: Before I would call him and we would talk. But now he doesn’t answer my calls and that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me most is if we can only look at governance from a nationalistic point of view than the partisan point of view.
Ques: In Nigeria, Atiku Abubakarr was expelled from his party, later re-joined and took it to elections though he couldn’t win. What next for Sam Sumana?
Chief: I saw same at one point in the newspapers that I was to lead the APC. Like I keep saying, providence. I don’t know if that would happen in my case like Atiku but it is all about providence. Should that happen, I don’t know if I can deny or accept but when the time is ripe we would know. I will continue to maintain my position as an active politician and as a goodwill ambassador preaching peace around the world and maintaining that status quo in my country.
To be honest with you, I cannot be intimidated. I am not a coward. I believe in the rule of law and I believe that I have to contribute to the socio-economic development of our country.