By Alusine Sesay
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is the only opposition party expected to provide a formidable opposition and put the ruling All People’s Congress on its toes. Currently, the grand old party is the only opposition party that is being represented in the Sierra Leone Parliament with forty-six (46) seats. But sadly though, issues about the welfare of the citizenry are left unsolved and everything remains stagnated, while they are heavily engulfed in internal conflict, thereby abandoning their traditional role of providing formidable opposition.
The entire conflict has been centered on who should be the flag-bearer of the party. The issue has festered since the reign of John Benjamin as chairman and leader, with the party being factionalized. While majority of the grassroots supporters belong to the Maada Bio camp – the Straight Line, others are advocating a level playing ground where everybody should be given the opportunity to contest for the flag-bearer position.
There is a seeming clash between the grassroots in support of Maada Bio and the veterans who think have the wisdom to decide for the party. The grassroots supporters are very adamant that no other person could lead the party to political victory unless Maada Bio, who is undoubtedly the most popular political personality after President Koroma. But the fact remains, the party’s constitution does not make room for Bio to contest in any party convention and this I believe has been the bone of contention in the party. People like the current chairman Chief Somano Kapen must have emerged as chairman simply because he was with the Straight Line. Alie Bangura, who many supporters believe should have been a better option, did not make it in the convention because he was not supported by the Bio camp.
During the 2012 National Delegates Convention of the party, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio emerged as the flag-bearer of the party amidst serious controversy. Prior to the said Convention, there was serious row among the party with regards the position of the then chairman John Benjamin. He was accused of not supporting Maada Bio for the most enviable position in the party. He was humiliated and accused of conniving with the ruling APC to destabilise the SLPP and that he was putting his weight behind Usman Boie Kamara, who contested the flag-bearer position with Maada Bio and others. After Bio emerged as the flag-bearer, there was a little calm until after the 2012 elections, which the party lost.
Also, there was a Supreme Court matter involving Lawyer Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi against the party on grounds of flouting the party’s constitution. The matter went on and on until later when party members, after realising their fault, decided to apologise to Dr. Jabbi for him to withdraw the matter from court. At first, he was taunted and painted with all sorts of allegations, accusing him of being bribed by the ruling APC party with the sum of five hundred million Leones to put the party in disarray. Party supporters were so angry with him taking the party to court, failing to realise that the move was to save the party from constitutional doom. Alas! This allegation was later proven wrong and Jabbi crowned constitutional hero of the party.
As a party which prides itself of having the best academics in Sierra Leone, it is but disheartening and disgraceful that instead of being rational, party executives continue to display outright emotional sentiments at the expense of the nation. It is gospel truth that the essence of being educated is to make a difference in society. Though they pride themselves to be the most educated in society, members of the SLPP have proven otherwise. It is an outright truth that the party has since been factionalised, with some members belonging to the Maada Bio camp – the Straight Line – while others are advocating a level playing ground where everybody will be given the opportunity to contest for the flag-bearer position.