What next for the SLPP?

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 April 2013

Yusuf Keketoma Sandi

bio in reading9At last, it was down to the courage and bravery of illustrious men and women, who have served – and many others who continue to serve the SLPP party to say enough was enough.

Yes, congratulations to all the members of the National Executive Council who met two weekends ago to map out a way forward, after weeks of rancour, animosity and in-fighting.

No doubt, our APC friends must have wished for the political soap opera to last longer. Their party’s defeat at the polls in 2002 led to internal strife that lasted for over four years.

But, for the SLPP, there is too much at stake to continue holding dagger to one another’s head.

Here is a party, four months or so after elections, with a good number of its members demoralised and shame-faced, because of recent happenings; a party which still has a number of its grass-roots members still facing politically motivated criminal charges.

law courts building freetownThe party, in the last few months has engulfed itself in a false debate as to whether the famous “Resolution 3” has been constitutional or not, rather than keeping politically and pragmatically focussed on the very real issue at the Supreme Court – like our sister party in Ghana – the NPP.

The party needs to regain its credibility in the eyes of voters, to show that we are serious about state governance, and that we can relate to the present concerns of ordinary people, after months of mudslinging.

The party will have to demonstrate to ordinary people that the SLPP still prides itself in Accountability and Transparency, after months of accusations and counter accusations of financial impropriety.

At the same time, we all know too well that whilst the task at hand for the SLPP to regain state governance may be daunting, and that the past few months might not have helped, the mere launching of a MOVEMENT FOR TRANSFORMATION (MTS) in my opinion, is a far cry from what the SLPP requires.

andrew Keili and jobMany of the party cynics have expressed, rightly or wrongly, various views on the MTS – ranging from the issue that the MTS is more of a movement to secure delegate status; that the MTS has a democratic deficit, as its members are hand-picked, rather than elected; or that the MTS is a ploy to support the flagbearership ambitions of its Central Coordinator – Andrew Keillie (Right). (Photo: courtesy of Awoko).

But, I have tried to look at the more substantive issues about the MTS. And after reading the whole concept paper of the MTS, I can hardly disagree with anything written in that document.

But the problem is that almost all of the aims and objectives of the MTS, would be perceived as the functions and, or responsibilities of the elected National Officers of the official SLPP Party Structure.

And, as the recent NEC meeting has shown, the existing party structure can handle the party affairs in the face of crisis, even though some will argue that the NEC should have been more proactive rather than reactionary.

The MTS highlights in their “Introduction” section of its concept paper, among other things: that the SLPP have lost two consecutive elections; that there has been widespread frustration and diminished moral among party members; a fractious in-fighting within the party, etc.

But it is worth noting that these are similar issues that affected the APC in opposition, after losing both 1996 and 2002 elections, and I am not quite sure the APC members had to form “movements” to regain power in 2007.

President Koroma greeted by Traditional LeadersThe APC party instead relied on internal party structures, and even after the 2002 elections, when their in-fighting worsened, following a series of court cases, the party leader (now president) – Ernest Koroma, led the transformation of his party through the official internal party structures, whilst being supported by his elected party officials until he was declared President in 2007.

Of course, any call for the transformation of any political party, must be welcomed. But that transformation must be led by the elected party officials, otherwise the MTS will have the multiplier effect of “group breeding” which can lead to many divisions within the party.

This is why the recent Resolutions of the NEC meeting, must be welcomed by every well meaning party member, as a road map to move the party forward:

• The resolution setting up a committee to review financial reports and statements of the Party.
• The resolution to set up a Constitutional Review Committee to review the party’s 1995 constitution.
• The resolution to establish the Peace and Harmony Committee to build party cohesion and manage future crisis.
• The resolution to set up the Gender Policy Implementation Committee to enhance the participation of women in our internal party and national politics.
• The resolution to establish the Policy Monitoring and Propagation Committee to develop alternative policies for governance and critique government’s policies.

Bio ready for State HouseA couple of days back, my APC friend asked me a very simple question: why is Maada Bio still carrying the title “flag-bearer”, after four months of losing the November 2012 elections?

Well to my good friend, the answer is simple: as far as the SLPP is concerned, the party did not lose the elections and hence have filed a petition at the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the 2012 election results.

As a matter of fact, when the Supreme Court of Ghana resumed on Tuesday, 2 April 2013 to adopt issues to be raised by lawyers in the NPP’s petition – challenging the legitimacy of President Mahama, following the December 2012 elections, the Chairman of the NPP – Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey still refers to Nana Akufo-Addo as their Presidential Candidate and Party’s Flag-bearer.

This is why I welcome the pragmatic approach taken by the members of the NEC at their meeting, to continue to regard Maada Bio as “Flag-bearer” and not “Former Flag-bearer”.

As a party, it was preposterous to claim on the one hand that the SLPP did not lose the 2012 Presidential Elections and for which the Party filed a petition at the Supreme Court, whilst claiming on the other hand, that the Presidential Candidate should be regarded as a “former flag-bearer  – when the petition surrounding the very election has not been resolved by the court.

And when I was told about the April fool prank by the Radio FM 98.1 that Maada Bio has resigned from the party, it took my memory back to the post 2005 SLPP Makeni delegate conference, when resignation fever gripped the party.

parliamentary history - kabbah berewaAfter former Vice President – Ekuma Berewa (Photo: Left) – was elected as Flag-bearer at the 2005 delegates’ conference, came the political exodus, which saw the formation of the PMDC by Charles Margai.

As usual, you would have expected that after the departure of the candidate who came second in the race, for Maada Bio who came third to leave the SLPP, despite many temptations and attempts to persuade him.

But, I suppose he simply shut his eyes to those temptations and ignored the persuasions.

In 2007, when the general elections were approaching, I was a very young leader of one of the largest student support groups at Fourah Bay College and across the country – for Solomon Berewa, and I noted Maada Bio’s financial support for the campaign activities of a large host of “Solo B” support groups.

So this is a man who has always been committed to the success of the SLPP, whether or not he is a flag-bearer of the party.

However, after the experiences of the past few months, it is also imperative that Maada Bio has to continue to preach Peace, Love, Respect and Harmony amongst party members.

But, for a handful of SLPP members (most of whom live in the Diaspora), who continue to measure the popularity of Maada Bio on social media or internet, against the backdrop of the 2011 flagbearership race – where Maada Bio secured 238 out of about 601 delegate votes, a reality check is needed.

The reality is that the popularity of Maada Bio amongst many senior party officials and the majority of grass-roots members, have grown beyond leaps and bounds – since the 2011 Flag-bearer race.

And the incontestable fact is that for a Presidential Candidate who secured 37.4% of the national votes (the highest share of votes in our post-conflict history for any Presidential candidate – running against an incumbent President) in the face of all the attempted character assassinations, then that candidate must have a very huge national appeal – both within his party and throughout the country.

Therefore, whilst I recognise that whoever represents the party as the flagbearer for the 2017 elections will have to be chosen by the party conference – sometime in the future, we will become complicit if few people start this debate with the same smear campaign tactics, which we all fought off so successfully against the APC in the recent elections.

Sierra-Leone-ParliamentAs a party in opposition, the SLPP must also continue to support its Members of Parliament in holding the government to account, on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone.

In a country where state resources know no bounds, the MPs must withstand the many temptations and serve as the beacons of hope.

Whilst in opposition, after losing the 2002 elections, whatever we may say about President Koroma, he was an outstanding minority leader, who admirably led his APC MPs in critically holding former President Kabbah’s government to account.

Therefore, with the leadership of Dr Bernadette Lahai as a Minority Leader in the country’s parliament, I hope that the SLPP will showcase how women’s empowerment can transform the politics of a nation.


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