Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2017
Peace may have returned to Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP, but the hard road to selecting the party’s presidential candidate for the 2018 elections is paved with thorns.
There are difficulties ahead that need to be resolved now, before the party national convention in a few months. This is also true for the ruling APC, who are yet to publish the names of those contesting for their presidential candidacy.
According to the constitution of both parties, nomination for presidential flagbearership must be received at a date prior to their national convention, at which election will be held respectively to decide who will lead and contest the 2018 general and presidential elections.
Although a peace accord has been agreed and signed by all the aspiring SLPP candidates, outlining the principles upon which the various factions of the party can be united, it does not resolve the issue of who will contest the presidential candidacy at the convention.
Last night, the All Aspirants Alliance of the SLPP which includes Kandeh Yumkella, Alpha Timbo, Munda Rogers, Andrew Keili, Earnest Domahena and Mr. Franklin Rogers, issued a public statement explaining the process they have agreed upon to decide who in the Alliance shall be nominated as their presidential candidate. This is what the statement says:
We the All Aspirants Alliance (AAA) came together as a group of like minded politicians committed to peace, constitutionality and transparency in our Sierra Leone People’s Party.
We are very proud that our continued public advocacy and tenacious commitment to our party’s values has contributed to the success of the Ever Green peace initiative.
We are convinced that peace can be achieved quickly, but we firmly believe that it should be “right and just” and as such we must address all the grievances of various interest groups.
As we pursue the peace, we have also listened to the resounding call from our supporters for the Alliance to present “one leader”.
Many have argued that the Alliance should demonstrate its ability to coalesce around “one leader” rather being a mere “collection of aspirants”.
Each of us in our media interviews over the past three months have also assured the public that we will choose a leader without delay. To this end, we negotiated amongst ourselves for months as to the best way to achieve the selection of “one-leader”. We held consultation with various stakeholders.
Our diaspora groups organized conference calls amongst aspirants and their supporters to soften the ground for the negotiations. At the end all 10 of us agreed on a hybrid process to first reduce our contestants from 10 to 4 and then proceed to select one.
We recognize the exceptional leadership of Chief Earnest Domahena and Mr. Franklin Rogers who graciously decided to step down as aspirants in front of all their colleagues and the interview panel.
This interview short-listing Mr. Alpha Timbo, Mr. Munda Rogers, Mr. Andrew Keili and Dr. Kandeh Yumkella as the top four candidates for stage two.
After weeks of further deliberations and consultations, Mr. Timbo and Dr. Yumkella decided to subject themselves to an electoral process in their North-Western stronghold. They identified representatives to work with a team to design the process, set the rules and supervise the actual election.
We commend the two gentlemen for their courage and cooperation to subject themselves to the will of the delegates in the North-Western region, and for convincing their supporters about the importance and credibility of this process.
The result of the election which took place on Saturday February 17, 2017: We are pleased to announce Dr. Kandeh Yumkella as the winner of this contest.
We will continue the consultative process in the South-Eastern region this week and complete the selection of the leader by end of the month.
We recognize that the supporters of some of our colleagues who did not make the cut might not be happy. We implore them to accept the results and stay with us to continue the quest for peace and success in the SLPP.
Their leaders have shown exceptional courage and magnanimity in agreeing to choose one from amongst us. It is a truism that only one person will eventually lead the SLPP, and that ultimately the Almighty that will decide who will become President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. (End of statement).
The main non-alliance members of the party, who will be contesting against the elected AAA candidate are: Julius Maada Bio and Alie Kabba (Photo).
Another leading contender for the SLPP flagbearership – John Oponjo Benjamin has pulled out of the All Aspirants Alliance (AAA). He too will be contesting against the elected AAA candidate at the SLPP convention.
John Benjamin published a statement last weekend addressed to members of the AA Alliance, expressing his feelings about the SLPP peace accord and his personal intention as a presidential aspirant.
He also called for an end to ‘campism’ in the SLPP party. This is what he said:
I have taken a decision in consultation with my strategic advisers and senior members of Team JOB to divert from previous ways of communicating with the Alliance to which we are members; and have this time decided to write a formal letter addressed to each and every one of you as colleagues with Copies extended to the Team JOB advisers. (Photo: John Benjamin).
The Alliance has come a long way to stay the course in ensuring that our party does not succumb to disregard for the Rule of law and unconstitutionality.
In order to ensure that as Aspirants who hold on the common ideas of ensuring that internal governance remains cardinal to the operations of the SLPP, we were ‘pushed’ by the prevailing circumstances of disrespect, intimidation, disregard for rules, etc. by some of our Colleagues in the party to establish a – united front to rescue the values for which our party has national and sub-regional reputation, to come up with the Alliance – alias ‘AAA’.
I mean, the primary objective for establishing the Alliance was to ensure that democratic norms prevail and are respected; and a related secondary objective was to facilitate harmony and collaboration, so that unity and common purpose is nurtured among us as Flag Bearer Aspirants in the face of a ‘seeming fractured’ party, which regretfully has given rise to a reality we tend to ignore – having a divided party built on factions.
I will like to take this opportunity to comment on the fact that we have been talking about an Alliance, but what we actually have is a ‘ loose group’ of individuals – all fighting individually for one coveted position – the position of Flag Bearer for the SLPP. I say a loose association, because we have failed to devise any formal structure, rules and guidelines.
We have been excessively ad hoc and mostly operated as individuals more than we have as a group. The manner in which the Alliance has been functioning has the potential of making all of us lose the secondary objective, which I have stated in one of the preceding sentences.
In recent times, the Alliance has also allowed itself to be infiltrated by groups such as some MPs who have been pushing not an Alliance agenda, but that of individual members of the Alliance.
And most disheartening is the realization (albeit) belatedly that some Alliance members have been working at cross purposes – while we were working to promote the Alliance, by ‘marketing’ it to potential delegates, some supporters of us the Aspirants were campaigning against other supporters (with whom they are expected to have common purpose) simply because they do not support a preferred Aspirant in the Alliance.
I will also like to inform you with humility that with regards to the crisis being experienced by the party and the existing polarization – Alliance versus Paopa – I have been the most targeted by ordinary party members as the Alliance’s protagonist and anti-Peace agent. I have been attacked severally, in the media as well as physically.
In the last several weeks, our party has received calls for peace more than ever before, and there has been pressure on all of us to respond to the peace which is also the yearning of our people.
Our collective commitment to restoring peace is now clearly reflected in the Evergreen Peace Communiqué to which we have all appended our signatures.
You are all living witnesses that the simple delay (of one day) for John Oponjo Benjamin to sign, made headlines in both the print and electronic media. And despite having a genuine excuse, I was misunderstood as attempting to undermine a genuine Peace effort.
I have upon careful reflection come to the realization that I could multi-task myself and Team JOB, so that we will continue to agitate for rule of law and constitutionalism in our Party – something we have done so well as an Alliance and this seem to have produced some results in awareness from all parties.
I will like to also meet the expectations of my advisers for me to ‘dedicate real time, energy and resources’ from now onwards to the search for lasting and genuine Peace in our Party – the SLPP.
I have been repeatedly reminded by Party members, non SLPP friends and contacts in the International community that I must embrace Peace more as the immediate past Chairman and Leader of the SLPP.
To this end, I will like to take this opportunity to inform you that upon careful reflection and the prospects for Peace in the SLPP, I think having the Alliance will be seen as further perpetuation of division in the party and therefore I will like to kindly inform you that going forward, I will henceforth pursue my own Flag bearer ambitions without recourse to any Alliance arrangement.
I hope that with time, we will all realize that the Alliance’s task is completed and we could now move on with plans to advance our various Flag Bearer intentions in the spirit of brotherhood, love, respect, rule of law and constitutionality with the SLPP without being in either the Alliance or Paopa.
Looking forward to seeing all of you and other stakeholders joining the SLPP Peace Wagon
Yours Faithfully – John Oponjo Benjamin
Addressed to: Kailie Andrew, Lahai Francis, Ndomahina Ernest, Rogers Franklyn, Rogers Munda, Tengbeh Jonathan, Timbo Alpha O, Wurie Umaru B, Yumkella Kandeh K.