Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 January 2020:
The 2018 elections victory that trumpeted Julius Maada Bio as president into State House, was largely seen by many in Sierra Leone as a beacon of hope for a post-APC governance. But after almost two years in office, some Sierra Leoneans are now scratching their heads about their decision in choosing a former military strongman, whom they believed could turn the nation’s fortunes around within the shortest possible time.
Julius Maada Bio’s party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is now mired in countless internal wranglings and infighting.
What is happening to the Tokpoi party?
The ordinary supporters of the SLPP party are disgruntled and disenchanted, while the elite continue to preach textbook principles about governance. Is it because he has employed far too many academics, dogged in classroom ideologies? What is wrong with the president’s mantra, the “New Direction”? Is there anything new in its approach?
Oh yes, some may say: It is new and novel for a First Lady to deliver an Independence Day Message to the nation and everyone seems content. There is a new direction where millions of Leones are missing in the finance ministry and there is no hue and cry about it….the list is endless.
In 1996, the world watched as the Sierra Leone Peoples Party swept into power with more than 50 percent of the votes. Led by the late Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the party was viewed as a uniting force for the country, which had for decades been divided by war and bad politics. From the onset, Kabbah preached nationalism, unity and patriotism; and many saw it from his actions, words and policies.
Kabbah never wavered when talking about national inclusion; to an extent that some of his party stalwarts accused him of being a sell-out. His revulsion to party politics made him an icon in the country’s politics, to an extent; he dined with the rebel leader who was on a mission to destroy the country. He dined with the devil to achieve peace.
Several years on, however, the Sierra Leone People’s Party bears little resemblance to Kabbah’s vision. The SLPP’s reputation has been significantly tarnished in recent years by simmering frequent infighting, with the First Lady – Fatima Bio joining the fray with her numerous speeches.
Speaking in Bonthe, lambasting traditional leaders whom she said are stabbing her in the back, followed by her speech in London where she caricaturized PHD holders as anathema to the country’s economic development. While many admire the First lady as an abled appendage to the president, others see her as an irritable inconvenience in Sierra Leone’s politics.
One does not need to be a scientist to know that there are cracks opening up fast in the SLPP party. It may be surreal, but there is consternation among the diehard supporters of the SLPP that President Bio is not living up to expectation as of now.
There is now an increasing spate of political violence and rioting by unemployed marauding youths; the economy is still on life support, whiles talk of tribalism rear its ugly head once again.
Many in the SLPP party now talk of Maada Bio centralizing power around his presidency and grabbing the leadership position of the party – the same mistake made by the former president. Whether this is true or not, Maada Bio is indeed taking on too much power unto himself.
And by allowing his wife to assume and perform key roles meant for ministers and senior government officials, many now see her as having her fingers in pies, thus exposing the president to criticisms.
So, should Tejan Kabbah be blamed for putting in place a legacy that is hard to replicate within the party by Maada Bio? Late Tejan Kabbah was criticized by some for not empowering the party stalwarts; rather he focused on building a nation. But Tejan Kabbah’s dream of an equal and just society played a role in creating a niche for himself in the annals of the country’s history.
So where do we go from here?
President Julius Maada Bio has the opportunity to carry out some major damage control within his SLPP party before the next elections in 2023. But he must rule the country in such a way that people can believe his presidency is for the entire nation and not for a particular tribe or region.
The majority of Sierra Leoneans welcomed his election victory to the country’s top office, with many hoping he will improve the economic situation in the country and create job opportunities.
Sierra Leoneans are always hopeful of a new beginning. With elections and new players on the field, many tend to wonder whether the beautiful ones are still unborn to lead the nation to compete with other African nations – Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia.
Maybe, just maybe, one day, God will answer our prayers and Sierra Leoneans will say, indeed the beautiful ones are here. May Allah help Sierra Leone and her people.