Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 February 2016
Four years ago, Sierra Leone’s ruling APC concocted a new elections strategy they say was their winning formula for the 2012 elections. It was called ‘four-for-four’.
In Sierra Leone there are four levels of elections, hence the aptly named ‘four-for-four’ campaign slogan was adopted by the APC, to ensure that each of those levels was won – the local elections, mayoral elections, constituency elections, and presidential election.
And so, ‘four-for-four’ it was in 2012, when the ruling APC was declared the winner amidst cry of foul play and electoral irregularities by the opposition SLPP.
But will it be another ‘four-for-four’ in 2018, or is the party masterminding a clever plan to achieve its ‘more time’ agenda for the president?
Few in Sierra Leone will ever doubt the political ruthlessness – though some would say shrewdness, of the ruling APC, in planning and preparing for elections across all four electoral levels.
Starting with their choice of presidential candidate, right down to the granting of party symbol to prospective candidates for the other three tiers of voting, the process is tightly controlled by a few senior party grandees including the president, who is also the chairman of the party.
Although there may be acrimony and sometimes mutiny in the camp, one thing that sets the ruling APC party apart from the other political parties in the country, is their ruthless obsession with benevolent dictatorship – powers from above – nothing or nobody moves without the Pa.
But such is the culture of the ruling APC, since it was founded in 1960; its structure and constitution very much centred on a strong and top-down chain of command.
Once a decision has been made by the inner circle of the party as to who shall be the presidential candidate and running mate for an election, the casting of votes at the party’s convention to endorse this decision is purely academic.
The party simply has a way of galvanising the support of its members to focus on the ultimate prize – State House, rather than pursuing endless internal bickering and spending too much time nursing the wounds of those injured during its leadership battle.
This level of discipline and control cannot be said of other political parties, whose laisser -faire and more democratic culture, encourages endless and acrimonious in-fighting before and after presidential candidacy elections, to the ultimate destruction of their party’s chances at general elections
With the ruling APC, once the candidacy decision has been made at the party’s convention, the centre of gravity shifts very quickly towards that consensus, and all eyes are now on the presidential candidate for direction and vision.
This ability of the ruling APC to galvanise and consolidate support for the elected presidential, local and constituency election candidates is an attribute which, other political parties may need to emulate very quickly, if they are to succeed in taking power from APC in 2018.
At every constituency, local and district level, the ruling APC political party machinery functions with military precision, mimicking the Chinese Communist Party, with reverence and respect for their chosen candidates.
Party discipline and respect for the decisions of APC central office is a strength that no other political party is yet able to command, and it works – it achieve results and pays political dividends at the polls.
Take what has been described as the unilateral decision by president Koroma to sack the country’s vice president – Sam Sumana, who in 2007 contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars into the party’s election campaign fund.
Ruthless as that decision may have been, and setting aside the constitutional argument as to whether president Koroma was right or wrong, he made the decision in the face of tremendous public and opposition outcry, yet got away scot-free, with the endorsement of the Supreme Court.
The process of sacking Sam Sumana was a master class in political bullying, through the use of party structures and administrative rules.
Sam Sumana had no legs to stand on, without a power base within the party’s chain of command, be it at district, constituency or local level, let alone party office.
Power is vested in the chairman of the ruling APC, who also happens to be the president. He calls the shots and everyone in the party respects his decisions. This is what party discipline is all about.
Since winning the 2012 elections, a quiet storm has been in the making around the contentious issue of who should succeed president Koroma, as presidential candidate for the elections in 2017/18.
This storm is yet to gather pace, and so far remains weak, until the ruling party announces a date for its convention – possibly later this year or early 2017, to elect its presidential flagbearer, when the battle for leadership of the party will officially commence.
Until then president Koroma and his inner circle of men in red suits, are keeping the lid tightly closed on any public expression of interest in the presidency by potential candidates.
Such is the level of control in the party, through benevolent dictatorship, and it works. It helps in avoiding the pressure cooker effect, which could blow up the party into fragments.
But beneath that simmering volcano, plans are already afoot for the 2018 elections, and these plans do not make for pleasant reading – if you are a democrat.
State House sources informed the Sierra Leone Telegraph this week about a recent meeting of senior APC party grandees, where it was agreed that the campaign calling for the extension of the presidential term of office from two to three years, should be modified.
Having lost the argument for an extension of term limit for president Koroma, new plans are being drawn up to phase the elections that are due in 2018 over a longer period that will inevitably see the president remain in office until the end of 2020.
This is what the State House insider told the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “In February 2018 local elections will be held. In November 2018 general elections will be conducted. And in November 2019, presidential election will take place.”
If this plan, which sources say has been endorsed by the country’s chief electoral commissioner and the Director of Statistics Sierra Leone goes ahead, then president Koroma will not be handing power over to his successor until May 2020.
So while it seems that the ruling APC has lost the third term presidency debate, the campaign for more time for the president is still alive and kicking.
In fact, it appears to have now metamorphosed into a clever, though devious election timetable, which only the ruling APC can mastermind – the new ‘four-for-four’.
I wish all the Presidential candidates best wishes, and God’s blessing in this election in 2018. May the lord give Sierra Leone a suitable leader this I pray in Jesus name Amen
APC and SLPP are the same political systems. They both share similar Governance policies and therefore make little difference in the light of social and economic developments.
It is not an issue which one wins in 2018. We should know as Sierra Leoneans that we have to develop ourselves rather than waiting for APC OR SLPP to develop us. They have not been able to develop themselves, so they cannot change your life. They cannot be trusted.
Jeneba and Mohamed Bangura, I am shocked you guys are advocating violence. You guys came out of a brutal war not too long ago, but it seems you never learnt.
I am a Ghanaian and I believe tolerance and patience pays. Think of King Solomon and the two women who claimed to be real mother of the baby in the Bible. You have to think of the future not just today. Word to the wise ……
I do not think that APC would win the next general elections, due to the way that they handled the Ebola crisis in Freetown and other parts of the country. It was was very poor and the economy is now a problem.
The APC has been rated the best government in West Africa in terms of infrastructure, energy, etc and as a patriotic citizen, I would like to commend His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for his good work towards the people of Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, to my experience as a citizen of this country, I would like to give my opinion on the other side where the APC government has failed. Education! Since APC assumed office, the newly introduced system of 6334 has caused more harm than good.
So then who should we vote for?
The author has given all the reasons why A.P.C. are the force to reckon with in the political arena in Sierra Leone at the moment. They fight as a team, putting aside whatever differences they may have behind the scenes.
The sudden [at least sudden to us ordinary mortals], obnoxious removal of Vice President Sam Sumana testifies to the fact that A.P.C. too have factions, but they dare not raise their head in public, or it may be the last time they shall do it. The party machinery will make sure of that.
The article, as I see it , is making an effort to educate the opposition, to enable them to wrest power from A.P.C. But if the current behaviour of the main opposition [S.L.P.P.] is any guide, failure is the ultimate result.
S.L.P.P. are in a civil war, apparently lacking the common sense [ paradoxically common sense is rare] to understand that unless they unify behind a single figure, they will remain in the political wilderness for decades to come.
Quite honestly, who wants to vote for a party which cannot even organise, successfully, a simple meeting ? Their other half in parliament only know how to collect a pay cheque and nothing else.
Some have contended that the turmoil within S.L.P.P. illuminates their democratic credentials. If this were the case, the party would have a flag bearer by now, challenging A.P.C. at every turn, exposing them [ A.P.C.] as a party which is not used to being stood up to – a trait which became part of their DNA in the Stevens’ era.
But let us give it to A.P.C., they are political chameleons. They know that the days of the midnight knock are gone when opponents were dragged out of their homes by A.P.C. thugs to be given a severe beating, and told not to ever say anything bad again against the pa [Stevens].
Those who were not so lucky faced charges for treason. Tom Nyuma [ Allah/God bless him ] and others set the stage for this.
When S.L.P.P. eventually took power after the removal of A.P.C. in 1992, one would have thought that they would handle the nation in such a way as to shine a light on the disaster that A.P.C. had been. On the contrary, they dived into the same mistakes which enabled Siaka Stevens to trip them in the elections of 1967, upstaging them for close to three decades.
No, Sierra Leone is not yet again heading into a dictatorship, such as we had in the days of Siaka Stevens, nor is it a one-party state, and I don’t think Earnest Koroma is in for an extension . We do have the appearance of all these scenarios only because S.L.P.P. are on life support, struggling to hold on to dear life. But time is running out and the doctors are fatigued.
If the present dictators in Africa are fastly becoming the heroes of the President and Government of Sierra Leone, then, what indignity and disappointment to the people who bestowed reliance and conviction in them and considered the President their hero.
Sierra Leone is one of the most corrupt in the world today, according to Transparency International. As this scourge continues to distress efforts towards good governance, sustainable economic growth, stability, peace and development, the Government of Sierra Leone instead of addressing this grim issue intensely, continues employing dubious strategies to stay in power.
Some good examples are: the appointment of Mr Joseph Kamara (Attorney General and Minister of Justice) who headed the Anti-Corruption Commission without positive results, sacking of the Vice-president, imprisoning top opposition leaders, etc. etc., are not a coincidence and remain very suspicious.
You cannot fool our people and get away with it by using non-democratic and unconstitutional strategies to get around your term limits or stay in power to continue practicing and encouraging corruption.
Be warned! Staying in power is not always possible – consider the case of Blaise Compaore (Burkina Faso) – overthrown by popular protest for trying to change the constitution to stay in power.
If you want to follow the foot steps of authentic heroes, think of people like Nelson Mandela who suffered the best part of his life for his country but stood down after just one term.
Psychologists have concluded that prolonged periods can change a leader’s personality and damage his or her judgement resulting to arrogance, unwillingness to listen and over optimism – which is not good for anyone and definitely not good for the Sierra Leoneans who are suffering the consequences of deep rooted corruption.
With corruption remaining one of the most significant challenges we face in our beloved Sierra Leone to achieve development, in my modest opinion, we need a transparent and democratic government with competent leaders that are capable of taking bold steps to ensure that nobody is above the law, and eradicate politicians with the disgusting political goal of “USAI DEN TIE KAW, NA DE E DE EAT”.
The longer APC stays in power the deeper Sierra Leone will sink into poverty. And what are the young generation benefiting from the state?
No school No college 1977; one month pay after three months. the remaining 2 for charity to educate APC ministers’ kids abroad.
Why will the party so many people fought and died for become the enemy? I was to be RED, NOW I AM THINKING GREEN.
Red has been the enemy since..is just like people don’t understand that…they are green snake in green grass. ..we don’t need to trust them. .
AS a lawful citizen of sierra Leone I strongly disagree with the president. We should be thinking of ways to provide more jobs and ways to build the country.
We the people of Sierra Leone need the change. We cannot be suggesting more presidential term.
I agree with you …we need change
Jeneba I disagree with your comment. Although APC is being led by a bunch of crminals I do not believe the use of force has any place in our democracy.
APC will and must be removed through the ballot box. Ultimately the leaders of APC will be held accountable for their misdeads and corrupt ways.
The only way this APC Governmemt can relinquished power is through force. So the people must be ready to force them out of power.
The use of force will further plunge the country into another cycle of violence, and thus result to more suffering for the impoverish people of Sierra Leone.
We only need a strong opposition that will serve as checks and balances against government policies, and seek legal means to unseat the government, should they try to manipulate the constitution for an extended term for the president. Violence begets Violence.
I agree with you Jeneba. ..If that is the only way the power can come back to the people we are ready to do all it takes. ..