Yusuf Keketoma Sandi
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 May 2015
On Thursday 30th April 1992, in a very passionate address to the nation, a young president of Sierra Leone – Captain Valentine Strasser (photo), had this to say about the APC: “Fellow citizens, for over 23 years we have been misruled by an oppressive, corrupt, exploitative and tribalistic bunch of crooks and traitors, under the umbrella of the APC (All people’s Congress) government.
“This regime has perpetuated nepotism, tribalism, gross mismanagement, total collapse of our economy, education, health, transport and communication systems. This regime has brought permanent poverty and a deplorable life for most Sierra Leoneans. This regime has failed us woefully. For Sierra Leone, the past 23 years can only be described as the lost decades. It is all over now!”
In 2015, almost eight years into the Koroma presidency, memories of that same old APC has been brought back to life – oppression, corruption, exploitation, nepotism, gross mismanagement of natural resources, near collapse of our economy, near collapse of our health sector, the falling standards of education, abuse of state institutions and the erosion of human rights.
This sad state of affairs has created an opportunity for the SLPP to at least assure a public that has lost every faith in this present government and ruling party, that Sierra Leone can become a better country.
But this means that the SLPP has to be more pragmatic in the face of challenges. And one of the recent challenges has been the expulsion of Ambassador Allie Bangura.
It is no gain saying that the media war surrounding his expulsion, is nothing other than a mere distraction as the matters brought before the Supreme Court.
Even as someone who believes in the right of everyone to seek legal redress if aggrieved, it must be said that the courts have never been the most appropriate platform for resolving political grievances or internal party disputes – especially for an opposition party. (Photo: Allie Bangura).
For instance, after years of court battle in the run up to the 2007 elections, by April 2007 the APC party had to settle their internal party disputes out of court. This was an indication that without an internal party settlement – whichever side might have won in the court, could have left the APC more divided and exposed to public ridicule.
Therefore, in the face of an application to seek an injunction against the SLPP, the party had to act pragmatically by issuing an expulsion order as a last resort, after several peace initiatives had either failed or proved unproductive.
No doubt, Ambassador Allie Bangura has made his own contributions to SLPP. But it is equally true that SLPP contributed so much to making him what he is today.
It is the responsibility of every well-meaning SLPP member to ensure that the party is united. This means it is about making political compromises, and put an end to the mentality which says: “If I do not have it, no one else should have it” or “It’s us versus them”.
Unfortunately, I heard Ambassador Allie Bangura on Radio FM 98.1 on Thursday last week, making the claim severally, that his expulsion is part of plans to coronate a “single flagbearer”.
But it was this “single flagbearer” in August 2011, who contested alongside 18 other candidates and won, even when he did not have the backing of the then Executive.
So why should this “single flagbearer” require a coronation, when he has always subjected himself to the electoral process since 2005, and regardless of the outcomes, has always put the SLPP above his personal interest?
With respect to Ambassador Allie Bangura making such a claim, he is exposing himself to the rather unfortunate charge and accusation of being used as a proxy for certain flagbearer aspirant(s). And his utterances and associations do not make him any neutral either.
We must be pragmatic enough to know that we cannot spend more time demonising fellow SLPP members, than exposing the gross incompetence of an APC government which cannot even be trusted with an Ebola swab result of a nine month old baby in Kailahun.
But similarly, in our pursuit to unify the SLPP we have to be pragmatic enough to ensure there is internal party discipline and respect for party authorities.
Therefore, the expulsion of Ambassador Allie Bangura should create an opportunity for him to reconsider his court actions against the party, as well as use every available means to settle his grievances through internal party mechanisms.
To be pragmatic, we also have to create a culture in the SLPP of having the ability to have disagreement without being disagreeable.
Every political party with a rich history of internal party democracy like ours, must ensure that every member or group of members is entitled to their opinion, whether it is about the choice of leadership for our party or its direction of travel.
We must respect and value those differences and engage in civilised and decent debates. But such disagreements should never make us disagreeable to a point of becoming hateful, vile or offensive to one another.
I passionately believe in the SLPP as the only party to rescue our country from what will be a decade of poverty under APC, by the end of President Koroma’s second term.
I also very passionately believe that the best person with the credibility, the test of character, the overwhelming popularity, the wealth of experience and the abundance of energy to lead SLPP to embark on that rescue mission of our country is the Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio (Photo).
If anyone disagrees with my beliefs we can have a decent debate without being disagreeable, because for us to prepare SLPP for governance we have to be pragmatic, which also means that we have to settle internal party disputes through internal party peace process.
We must stop demonising fellow SLPP members and show internal party discipline and respect, for those elected to manage the party’s affairs.