Should Ernest Koroma protect his legacy by resigning from politics?

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 January 2019:

The long-awaited Commission of Enquiry in Sierra Leone is due to commence tomorrow Tuesday, 29 January 2019, and this is against the backdrop of accusations and counter-accusations that have dogged the whole process since its inception.

In spite of the variances in interpretations or perceptions of the commission, we can all agree on one thing: Corruption needs and must be tackled in Sierra Leone.

No country is immune from corruption. Sadly, the level of corruption in Sierra Leone had become a normalcy, rather than the exception; and there can be no better reason to tackle this canker worm.

But amidst the political cacophony that is emerging, some quarters in the opposition APC party have been whispering whether the former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma should resign from active politics now.

Ernest is the current Leader and Chairman of the party, but many are now questioning the wisdom of such a decision.

The former President has been included in the guest list for the Commission; thanks to allegations of financial impropriety and by virtue of his position as the former head of the past government; corporate responsibility.

Ernest reportedly confirmed to BBC correspondent Umaru Fofana (Sierra loaded, 31 March 2018) immediately after voting then, that he will retire from politics after a “couple of months”. It is now 8 months into the new regime and he remains the Leader and Chairman of the opposition APC Party; contrary to expectation.

The expectation that Ernest should have retired from active politics may have been born from the examples set by his predecessors. We know that Ernest had tried to install himself as a leader for life. Not even the late Pa Sheki, the main founder of the APC brazenly accorded himself such a title.

But even Pa Sheki retired from active politics after imposing the late President Momoh on us. The same could be said of the late Tejan Kabba, Pa Berewa, and even Valentine Strasser. But why did and does Ernest continue to hang on to an increasingly diminishing power, you may ask. Does the Commission of Enquiry have anything to do with this?

Ernest left the country immediately after the last election results, to enjoy “a well-earned rest”. This coincided with the inception of the Commission of Enquiry, which is largely populated by members of the erstwhile government.

It is no doubt that a political vacuum had set in among the rank and file of the APC party then. That is what you get when you endow one person with all the power, and keep it propped with sycophancy.

It was therefore not surprising that with his absence on the political scene, many people alluded to the APC as a rudderless ship without a captain. This was the time that many looked for leadership to counter the political juggernaut of the SLPP that had set in, apparently brushing aside what it saw as “dead wood” in its path. There were sweeping dismissals and suspensions, laced with new appointments as the change of guard took hold.

Many saw these changes as alarming, and the “victims” needed little reason to conclude that it is a witch hunt and a vendetta against the APC party; thanks to its party political denominator.  Others, especially APC stalwarts, understandably saw the roll call of the alleged culprits of corruption as an exercise of political cleansing, a witch hunt and an attempt to decapitate the APC.

The call for Ernest to return and steady the ship had become deafening. His eventual and long awaited return was not only meant to steer the ship and give direction, but provide a fulcrum and reassurance to a party that was still licking its wounds from reality.

But was Ernest in a good place to provide such a direction, when the clouds of the Commission of Enquiry were also swirling even over his own head? Many would have questioned how much clout Ernest carried or continues to carry in the APC. His attempt to rally the members was seen by many as the death throes of a party in disarray.

Ernest did his best to rally the party by humbly apologising and taking the blame for the party’s failure to hold on to power. A good starting point though. But what many people saw were the embers of a once united party. Many have since concluded the rot had set in after the convention in Makeni.

It is no secret that the APC convention in Makeni left a serious amount of political blood on the APC carpet. The number of aspiring candidates for the flag bearer and running mate positions was unprecedentedly high.

The fact that these candidates continued their campaigns up to the eve of the convention was suggestive that they were all confident of a chance at the opportunity. There can be no doubt that Ernest had wanted to oversee a democratic process, or a semblance of democratic process in choosing his successor.

And there can be no doubt that he may have had a word or two in the ear of all the aspirants; leaving each and every one confident that they stood a chance to succeed him. It goes without saying that the outcome of that convention, which saw the little known Dr. Samura “appointed” as the flag bearer, will go down as one of the biggest political earthquakes in the history of the APC.

The aspirants felt let down, and that Ernest had led them up the creek without the paddles. The rest is history.

If we are going to be honest, that marked the beginning of the visible fissures that is now emerging along the echelons of the APC party. Unlike previous campaigns, people hardly saw any of the top guns campaigning independently for and on behalf of Dr. Samura. It was largely left to Pa Ernest, to chaperone Dr Samura up the length and breadth of the country; first to introduce him to the country, and to show his own supporters that he was the chosen one.

This act was reminiscent of Pa Sheki’s selection of Brigadier Momoh; but unlike the latter, there was no opposition to take advantage of the political void; thanks to the one party state. The emerging cracks in the APC were evident but true to form, the APC members put the party above individual interests, grinned their teeth and soldiered on through the elections.

The dismal showing of the party in the first round of ballots served as a wake-up call. There was a seeming landslide support for the SLPP in the South and East of the country, with in roads made in areas that were once regarded as the strongholds for the APC.

This was glaringly so in Bombali district, the supposed homeland of the APC.  This showing was enough for politicians to capitalise on tribal and regional sentiments. This was in no doubt a rude awakening for the APC, but efforts to rally the troops around tribal and regional lines by both parties proved too little too late.

Sam Sumana’s C4C party had partly put paid to that.  The damage had been done, and Sierra Leone had decided. This moment may have not marked the beginning of the abuse of our tribal affiliations by our politicians, but it took it to another level of unprecedented heights. Sadly, this is how we have found our collective peace and security at risk today, thanks to the unenviable penchant of our politicians to use abuse and misuse our God given rights to belong.

Many people are wondering why Ernest is still hanging about. Is he sticking around to guide the party through the troubled seas that lie ahead? If that is the case, then questions may arise as to whether he is the only one capable of such a feat? Cue the re-entrance of Sam Sumana.

We know that Sam Sumana and Ernest are “komanehs” (In-laws), but his recent homage Ernest in Makeni has set tongues wagging. While Sam Sumana as usual, has remained tight lipped, the conspiracy merchants have gone head and anointed him as replacement to lead the APC to victory, come 2023. I can see Dr Samura popping the champagne, and members of the C4C Party building monuments in honour of Sam Sumana at opera, in Koidu Town. But that is for another day for discussion.

You can vilify Ernest until the cows come home. But we should also be honest enough to admit that in spite of the public scandal surrounding the Hajj gate, Ebola and Mudslide, Ernest did very well with many other projects in our country.

The road infrastructure remains a testament to his legacy; although many will ask, at what price? But like his predecessors, should Ernest retire from active politics now, to protect his legacy? Does he carry the same clout to serve as the fulcrum of the party?

I am sure that “World Best” will be the first person to acknowledge and recognise that it’s time to hang his boots. Politically, Ernest is one of the rare presidents in our history, and in Africa that never imprisoned or killed political opponents. I stand to be corrected.

These are legacies worth preserving. But by clinging on to power, does he run the risk of losing all those accolades “World best”, “Salone Messiah”, etc.?

If Ernest is not experiencing a bout of hubris, is he sticking around to oversee the party through the Commission of Enquiry? As a former insurance man, are the titles of Chairman and Leader of APC another insurance policy against whom?

A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. Ernest should think about his legacy, because he is writing it every day.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King). Don’t forget to turn the lights off  when you leave the room.

7 Comments

  1. No problem Sulaiman. We hope our politicians in Sierra Leone will learn from our examples.
    Our examples will surely draw the attention of many people to discuss the never ending problems affecting our beloved country in this commentary board of The Sierra Leone Telegraph. Frankly, we have a very big opportunity given to us. Lets make good use of it. God bless us all.

  2. Maturri, in your response to the author’s piece,You sound like you yourself haven’t gotten any tangible opinion you would outline as a solution you think would work if applied to the problems outlined by the author. All you stated was more of talking points or so called comments rather than a solidified applicable solution.

    You are unable to really figure out how to tackle these very important issues you raised in your commentary nor even having answers to them. For e.g., you quoted: “just imagine if a warrant of arrest is issued out for the former president?How would he react?How would his supporters react?How would the APC react?”.

    To me, I see it that, such questions are a clear indication that,you believe there is possibility of APC supporters mounting a vigorous resistance should that happens.You believed that,they would cause chaos if the SLPP gov’t issues any indictment arrest for their leader.

    I was looking forward to seeing your own viable points that you thought could help the SLPP government in handling the situation should the APC supporters put up any resistance…but the only advice you gave was this: “My only advice to the SLPP government is not to allow themselves to take a bait that will lead to chaos and anarchy.”

    Well in my humble opinion, you saying that it means government should let go of any situations or even stay away from making any arrest or indictment that would provoke APC supporters to put up resistance for their leader even if found guilty.Which of course is what they would do.

    No doubt about that! But if you say not no take the bait,how is that going to be possible?why can’t gov’t take a bait if someone break a law? Are you saying that,staying away from arresting individuals that are found guilty of breaking the law, will be the only means government have in order to prevent chaos,war,anarchy etc?or is that the way to avoid taking a bait from APC?

    Because also remember that, to the APC members,any attempt to arrest or take their leader away from them,especially from this commission of inquiry,which in their minds believed that it is a witch hunt geared towards eliminating their leader in particular, is a bait that would be the last one every fish in the APC pond is ready to go for by any means.

    Because that would be the only choice they have left to show solidarity to saving their so called messiah,from a commission they first of all started denouncing as witch hunt since day one.No wonder the so called world best or messiah is still hanging on the chairmanship role.

    So if you are advising the SLPP gov’t to not take the bait,then why in the first place the SLPP government is forming a commission of inquiry when they know,its a bait for chaos?and here you are,advising them not to take that bait. Well,in my opinion this is what I believe the SLPP should do. Whatever bait APC gives out, they (the SLPP government) should be fully ready to take it if (they):

    * make sure,the process is fair,credible and impartial to everyone involved.
    * Whosoever is involved in any monetary issues which have dark cloud that requires a clear explanation must be called forward. This should apply to all heads of ministries,Departments,Agencies, etc.

    That way,all parties especially the APC would feel confident over the whole process and will cooperate fully! Once that is done,there would be a clear level playing field for everyone and,any outcome from the commission is surely not going to be seen as a bait to get anyone,neither cause any chaos.It will be fully appreciated by all.And those found guilty (baits,chaos anarchy, etc) will give way so that they can be fully apprehended according to the law.

    • Hi Sulaiman, you are completely taking my comment out of context. I will try and piece together what points you are trying to make, because your essay is very long and difficult for me to understand. I don’t really know what you want me to answer or address. I will summarise to you the point I was trying to make.

      First of all, everyone of us must be real and face the facts. We don’t have any other choice. We live in a real world. What you must realise is this: A former president or head of state is always a force to reckon with – whether you like it or not. Also, in politics, everyone is looking for any opportunity to blame the other side for any problems.

      What you are forgetting is that former president Koroma ruled for 2 terms. You should know that he has his base and support in the political arena. Because you can never predict what will happen if former president Koroma is indicted, the government should prepare for every possible scenario. That is exactly what I was trying to emphasise. How can you find a solution when you don’t know the problem?

      Just like president Bio, before he became president, he has his base and support not only in the army, but in the SLPP party. Finally, just read the last three paragraphs of my comment on this article. May be that will help answer your concerns. Anyway, thanks for letting me know your concerns.

  3. The fact that former president Koroma is still hanging around is because he wants to play the conquerors game. I do not see him relinquishing the party leadership very soon; specially with the commission of inquiry to investigate corruption under his government. I hope he proves everyone wrong.To be honest, he could succeed because of the fragility of both the NGC and the PMDC.

    Just observe what is happening with all the smaller political parties since the election. They are mute. They seem not to exist. If they continue to be silent, then the people who voted for them will start to move towards the bigger parties for cover. Just imagine the way they reacted to the invitation of former president Koroma to the CID. They did not make any serious statements to appease the situation. The APC and the SLPP have to find a way to diffuse the situation.

    If the people who voted in the north for the NGC see themselves insecure due to any disturbances, be it a demonstration, strike or whatever, then they will immediately start to join and give their support to the APC for their protection.
    The same applies to the people who voted for the PMDC and NGC in the south and east. They will also give their support to the SLPP for protection if they feel insecure.

    The Western Area and Kono might be immune to such problems. As we saw in the last elections, NGC and PMDC were not popular in the Western Area and Kono. If these smaller parties fail to do what they should, then they will blame no one come 2023. They might just evaporate.

    Former president Koroma’s hanging around as leader of the APC might cause some problems for the commission of inquiry. How that might happen remains to be seen.

    The people of Sierra Leone want peace and at the same time want the commission of inquiry. People will now be scratching their heads on how the SLPP government will balance between the peace we have struggled for and the commission of inquiry, where probably the former president might be indicted.

    Just imagine if a warrant of arrest is issued for the former president? How would he react? How would his supporters react? How would the APC react?

    To be honest, the fact that former president Koroma is still leader of the APC, will be one of the challenges to president Bio’s rule. If president Koroma was not leader of the APC party, then the problem should not have been difficult.

    My only advice to the SLPP government is not to allow themselves to take a bait that would lead to chaos and anarchy.
    But at the same time, the government should not sit down idle and let people plunge the country into chaos and anarchy which will disturb the peace. The government should always protect life and property.

    The government should try and create a disciplined special force to keep the peace at all times anywhere in the country.

    This is my advice to president Bio – Je demande le president Bio de cree une vrai force de vrappe pour les pagayeur a línterieure du pays.

    • Merci monsieur Matturi, ca cest tres bien. You just read my mind as I was just going to write my next article on the paralysed state of the third political way. Follow my mind.

    • Nope brother Matturi,your words are clearly understood as you outline them. I did not take them out of context. If only you had put more clarity in your previous piece like what you just did, I would not have had any cause to query your points.

      But like I said, if the commission remains impartial to all,there is no way a political party can overcome the power of the people’s majority.No way!!! No political party is bigger than Sierra Leone. That’s just about it.

      For third party leaders in Sierra Leone, my views about them has not changed a bit. As I had always said, it is a shame and disgrace for third party leaders in Sierra Leone. They have never stepped up whenever they are needed.

      That is why, this notion of NGC or any other third party assuming the mantle of leadership in Sierra Leone in the near future is really a myth. That is just my view…because they will ever remain to be distractors.

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