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Decision September 2017: SLPP’s Bio confirmation and APC‘s elect or select

August 11, 2017 By Alusine Sesay

September is just around the corner and the two main political parties-the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) are expected to go into their delegates’ conventions to either elect or select their flagbearers who would contest the March 7, 2018 presidential election. Momentum within the parties is high and dozens of people have aspired for the two enviable positions. The ruling APC has set out criteria for people who would aspire to run for the flagbearer position of the party, while the SLPP has demanded each candidate to pay a whooping sum of one hundred Million Leones to be eligible to contest for the position.

Almost nine people including Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio have aspired to contest for the flagbearer position of the party. It is quite clear that the said convention would just be formality .We don’t need to study rocket science to read the writing on the wall that, Maada Bio has already been decided upon to lead the party in the 2018 presidential election. Deputy Chairman and Leader of the party, Dr. Prince Harding, has openly endorsed him as the man that would lead them in the 2018 election. Aside from Dr. Kandeh Yumkella who would have given him tough time, all other aspirants in the likes of John Oponjo Benjamin among others, are innately not hopeful to emerge victorious. They are just participating to magnify their loyalty and sense of belonging to the party. More importantly, they would want to be recognized for being with the party in thick and thin and subsequently be considered for any ministerial positions should their party wins the 2018 elections.

With all sincerity, Maada Bio is already a political battle tested soldier. He has undergone all the processes and the convention would only be a confirmation of his position as flagbearer of the SLPP to contest in the 2018 elections. Like any Catholic Christian, Bio has taken political baptismal classes, politically been baptized, taken first Holy Communion and now awaiting confirmation come September, 2017. He contested in the 2005 Makeni convention and secured a third position. With his resilience and enthusiasm as a true political battle tested soldier, he contested the 2012 SLPP flagbearer race and emerged victorious .He contested the 2012 presidential elections although he lost to President Ernest Bai Koroma. Above all, he has been called all sort of names and there is nothing new, in my view, his political opponents would say against him. The question that now lingers in the minds of many is that, does he has the national clout to win the presidential elections? Many of his fellow SLPPiens, if I may lend that word from Mohamed Sankoh aka One Drop, who are dissatisfied with his persistent move to lead the party, are of the view that he would not win an election for the party because he has a lot of clean up issues.

Like the SLPP in 2005, the ruling APC is currently at a cross road as to who would take after President Ernest Bai Koroma. The outcome of the September 5-7 convention might make or break the party .It is possible that they might be obsessed with the fact that they are in governance and that they have all it takes to win the 2018 elections, even with the weakest candidate. But that will be a complete misjudgment and a possible political own goal. Although the APC Party’s Constitution is open to two options-either elect or select, it is glaring that they might make the same mistake as the SLPP in 2005, when Tejan Kabbah greatly influenced the outcome of their convention in Makeni. Having enormous powers as president then, Tejan Kabbah   influenced the outcome of the convention which left an indelible scare on the party and led to it downfall. Eight people contested in the said convention but former Vice President Solomon Berewa emerged victorious.  People like the late Joseph Bandabla Dauda who contested in the convention suffered severe consequence after the process in Makeni. He was relieved of his duty as Finance Minister and replaced with John Oponjo Benjamin. But sadly though, Solomon Berewa whose flagbearership was grossly manipulated by late Tejan Kabbah, turned out to be  an unpopular choice for not only supporters of the SLPP,  but also the general voting population across the country, hence lost woefully to President Ernest Bai Koroma in the 2007 elections.

While President Ernest Bai Koroma has not made any public pronouncement as to who would succeed him, it is glaring that he has somebody in mind and he would use all his powers as president, chairman and leader of the party to influence whatever decision the party would arrive at regarding the party’s  flagbearer position.  During the APC youth conference in Port Loko, he made series of innuendos and stated that flagbearer aspirants had beaten the gun by declaring for the position. Cleverly, he has won the hearts and minds of the APC youth wing and they would be willing to support whatever decision he might influence. Evidence of that fact is that they have already coronated him as a lifelong chairman and leader of the party. As President, chairman and leader of the party, he wields enormous powers which he has been using to stampede whosoever within his cabinet that aspires for flagbearer position. He ordered the removal of Hon. Ibrahim Bundu as Majority Leader of Parliament because he openly declared his intention to vie for the flagbearer position.

 Using Alpha Khan as bait, he succeeded in getting some of his ministers, who vest interest in the flagbearer, to resign their positions. Although Khan has vested interest in the position, but he clearly knows that his chances of becoming the flagbearer, either through election or selection, is very slim. To me, he is just a playmaker around whom the political game of President Koroma is centred.His resignation as adviser was a complete ploy to lure people like Dr.Kaifalah Marah and others to resign, knowing fully well that their chances are narrow. Through his utterances, he triggered the sacking of Alimamy Petito Koroma and Hon. Ibrahim Bundu as members of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) of the APC.With over ten people now vying for the position, who would be the choice of the king maker-President Ernest Bai Koroma? Would he decide on a familiar face that has little to convince voters or put up a candidate from the blues like it happened to him prior to the 2007 elections? Maybe the APC political history would provide better answers to those questions. And it is possible that President Koroma would do like Siaka Stevens, who handed over power to Brigadier Joseph Siadu Momoh to the surprise of the entire APC and the country as whole. Going forward, speculations are rife that the APC convention would send a shock wave to not only the contenders but the entire nation.