Ibrahim S Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 August 2020:
It was shortly before the 2018 presidential election, President Ernest Koroma told supporters in Kailahun, a stronghold of the then opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party that the ruling APC will win the elections hands down as a result of his massive infrastructural developments he had initiated in the country.
Another politician, Mohamed Bangura, now a member of parliament under the APC stated over the national television that the APC will rule Sierra Leone for the next forty years. As for Alpha Khan, a prominent politician in the APC said, he would consider it an “insult”, if the people of Sierra Leone chose the opposition party over his party. Well, the rest is history.
Sierra Leone did it anyway. The opposition won the election by the stroke of a thread. I know, former president Ernest would feel the “sting” as unfair and unbearable. Since then, the ruling SLPP has been steering the ship of governance. President Maada Bio, by his standards has improved the corruption fight against a society that considered graft as the best way to attain the pinnacle of life. A society where celebrated crooks are admired, and ordinary hardworking teachers are scorned at.
Little wonder, Mr Ernest Koroma remains one of the most popular figures in Sierra Leone politics. There is no poll to confirm this but his popularity in his stronghold of the North seems unwavering. However, his popularity in the party at the national level seems to be taking a nosedive.
Several reformists are now calling for reforms within the party, some for genuine reasons and others for their own personal goals. To some, they consider this time to attack the former president as the best way to win appeals from the general party supporters. Quite recently, at a AYV talk show hosted by Dwight Neal on his “Night Life Train”, a member of the reformist group, National Reform Movement (NRM) appreciated the efforts of genuine members like a former strong member of the APC, Robin Fallay , calling for reforms.
Sherridan, leader of the NRM had offered a passionate defense of voting rights at a time when most people think the rights of the National Advisory Council (NAC), the second highest decision making body in the party was based on cronyism and not fair representation on regional lines.. The calls for reforms are raining on the executive of the party, though, to be fair to the present executive, they are preparing for the October deadline.
History has shown that presidents cannot always transfer their personal popularity to others, as Mr Ernest Koroma was reminded at the last election. And while he has deep affection for Dr Samura, advisers say the former president harbors his own concerns about his former Foreign Minister’s chances. He had originally picked Samura as putative successor, though he never groomed any younger figure to follow, leaving the party in 2018 with weathered leadership.
So, who will really rescue the legacy of Ernest? Ernest failed in some areas of his governance, but there are many areas where he excelled as a leader.
This and many more have left many party supporters anxious for him to play the bigger role that until lately he has resisted. Mr Koroma has been reluctant to fully engage with the party, only occasionally emerging from his Bombali home where he is still writing his overdue memoir to take on the current debacle hitting his party, as he did energetically during his own elections. The party may have won two elections on a landslide platter, but some harbingers of peace emerging from the new trench is posing a serious threat to Ernest’s legacy.
Mr Ernest Koroma and his team have spent some of the past years asking themselves where things went off track, wondering whether they had misjudged the mood of the country and their own accomplishments.
The Koroma presidency lost a great deal of luster because of President Maada Bio’s surprise victory. The people saw his presidency and decided to have a new turn of life by choosing the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party. If former president Koroma is to restore his legacy, his party needs to be united and effect reforms within and outside the party. The simmering calls for reforms may just be a voice in the wilderness urging and trying to win minds in the next battle of the leadership of the party.
The APC party may have abandoned some principles in allowing certain figures accessing the highest secrets of the party and depriving others who have fought tooth and nail to preserve the party feeling dejected. The calls for reforms by some loyalists yesterday and pretending to be reformers today just confirm what many believe that in “politics, there are no permanent friends but interests”. To call for reforms is an understatement, it is desperately needed, and it should be done fairly, respectfully and genuinely.
The legacy of Ernest will only linger if the party is reformed and united. As the October deadline looms, the country will only enjoy the democracy of multi-party politics when there is unity, peace, and justice in the country.