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Why VP Sam-Sumana Should Not Resign!!

March 17, 2015 By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff

Vice President Chief Alhaji Sam-Sumana

Vice President Chief Alhaji Sam-Sumana

Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana has again been thrust into the limelight for the wrong reasons. In the middle of an Ebola outbreak in which Sierra Leone has been bested by Liberia and Guinea, the least expected from the current leadership was a politico-constitutional imbroglio. Alas, that is the case as the ruling party by all indication is hell-bent on humiliating and disgracing the vice president out of office.

The plot in this saga commenced on 6 March, 2015 when a hurriedly arranged press conference at the APC headquarters announced the expulsion of the vice president and a close ally – Kainday Bangura – from the party. The reasons given were dishonesty, deceit, stocking violence and undermining the APC party, among others.

However, when the vice president subsequently spoke on Radio Democracy, he did not only debunk the allegations, he succeeded in winning empathy from an Ebola weary masses more concerned about the virulent virus which is still on the prowl than a seeming political conspiracy to oust a democratically elected vice president.

From the outset, many Sierra Leoneans doubted the veracity of the charges against the docile vice president. They suspected, and rightfully so, that the game plan has been to tarnish the image of the vice president and throw his political image and future in doubt. But as his accusers have been left with no doubt that he will not go without a fight, the next option employed was to persuade him into resigning. And when that seems to have failed, intimidating him into throwing in the towel appears to be the most viable and urgent option.

As things stand instant, it seems the last option is what the ruling party has opted for, and for obvious reasons. No doubt they would have calculated, and rightly so, that they can only come under section 51 of the 1991 constitution (forget about those wrong citations by apologists of the government). And by further calculation, they would have realised that despite a parliamentary majority (by default), removing the vice president is almost an impossibility because an independent judicial tribunal has to sustain allegations of whether he had violated the constitution or committed gross misconduct in the performance of his official duties.

Since this is a party matter, well according to the APC, even though we have now seen state security agents being dragged into this “macabre (political) dance”, one would have expected the ruling party and the presidency by extension to handle it with class and character. But by sending security officers to the quarantined home of the vice president was simply classless and out of character, and if anything desperate. It perhaps sums up the story of a cabal willing to defy health emergency rules imposed by the president himself just in order to cower the vice president into submission.

The vice president is not a stupid man. He knows the system and probably saw the urgency to leave his house, where he had been on self-quarantine for 19 days, before the ugly incident around his home. The state and the presidency must ensure his safety, security and dignity as an elected official of the state. No one needs telling that both a flag-bearer and his running-mate run on a single ticket and that they both add value to the platform on which they contest. Hence they are elected because they are both electable. In this case, both men were elected twice by the masses. Thus, you do not need a rocket scientist to tell you the vice president contributed positively to the election of his boss and vice visa.

On that note, therefore, every democracy loving Sierra Leonean with the rule of law as his credo, should urge the vice president not to resign but to soldier on and allow due process and the rule of law to flourish in our country. If the vice president is guilty as charged, then he should face the music. But if as suspected the charges against him were concocted then we could be in for a “Watergate scandal” wherein those who diabolically schemed against the vice president should get their just dessert.

That said, I would want to applaud former vice president Solomon Berewa for his conflict mediation skills in this unfortunate political melodrama. At least on more than one occasion since his defeat in the presidential election of 2007, he has shown Sierra Leoneans that may be some of the things written about him prior to that election were mere propaganda. Only posterity can judge. But, in all of this, he has come across as a real statesman who puts country ahead of party.

Yet on the current saga with the vice president, I would disagree with Mr. Berewa that the vice president should leave his post in order to get his full retirement entitlements. Such entitlements are guaranteed by law and not granted by the say so of the president. In fact any president who refuses to accord that to those who are entitled to such benefit would be in violation of the law.

Again, part of strengthening our burgeoning democracy is to allow due process and the rule of law to play out. We may get to what seems to be a travesty if we sweep this uncalled for political debacle under the carpet by pressuring the vice president to “resign”. If those who accused him of “dishonesty, deceit and violence” can prove it, let them initiate the process of his removal. But if on the other hand that is not the case, then the man should be allowed to carry on as “Principal Assistant” of the president and to be given unfettered access to do his work with dignity and respect. After all he was voted for by Sierra Leoneans, isn’t it?

We have allowed negotiation to take primacy over the rule of law in recent times in Sierra Leone, thus sacrificing due process and equity to the altar of political intrigues and injustice. For instance, while the courts in Ghana and Kenya allowed elections petitions to be heard and adjudicated upon, our Supreme Court was more than pleased to dismiss a similar case here, not on merit, but on technicality. Are we still in pre-equity years when the Common Law clogged the wheels of justice on technical niceties?

Also, when vice presidents Atiku Abubakarr and Joyce Banda of Nigeria and Malawi, respectively, clashed with their presidents, either of them was pressurised to resign. Instead, the rule of law and the wishes of the masses were allowed to hold sway, above any other parochial justifications.

In view of the above, if Sierra Leone continues to set such bad governance precedents, any president would get up one day and say he doesn’t like the looks of his vice president. What would we do in that instance, persuade the vice president to resign?

  • Tommy

    Thanks for a well written piece. I must start by letting readers know that, I have never been a supporter of both VP and APC not to talk of SLPP.
    Moving forward, The issue of VP resigning in the these circumstances seems to be at odds with not just common sense, but also rule and due process of law. H E should have been given proper advice on his badly managed failed plot on constitutional and administrative law. Ok, they have expelled VP From their party, but VP has a contract with the people of Sierra Leone via our 91 constitution, which if broken we the people will seek appropriate remedies from the courts, not From anywhere else. What does he wants to tell the people who voted them in twice, some mainy because of their support of the VP? That, their votes mattered then,but not now? He may well reserved that right after their five year contract comes to an end in about two years time.
    Why the rush to send delegations to VP to persuade him to resign? I wouldn’t blame Solo B for being part of that team. However, the message he took was untimely (can’t shoot the messenger) given he is a law enforcement man himself. By my estimation, by the time VP finishes his internal party fight for his reinstatement as a party member and possibly fighting through the law courts for his constitutional rights, we would have gone to the pools and a new government would have been in power before their legal battle would end.
    Arguing on the alternative, given that they both came to power on the same ticket, if this failed plot is really about indiscipline within their part that has unnecessarily spill onto our constitution thereby threatening its legitimacy, then both of them should resign and call for an earlier election. Something, that is unlikely to happen.
    All they can do is wait until his terms expires, but they should be mindful,that their internal party politics does not spill over to our national issue. And if they fail to maintain peace and Security for all Sierra Leoneans , the long arm of the law awaits them. Remember Gbagbo? Somewhere, waiting for his day in court and sometimes the wait can be long.
    As I see it,those in waiting can certainly occupy the VP’s position but only if the present man resigns without undue pressure, mentally unstable or deceased. The last two options are NOT available at this time. Only other option is they must be voted for. Sorry no side entrance to that seat.
    Please let’s go back to basics and fight the EBOLA . I don’t blame the advisers either, I blame the receiver for lack of sound judgement!! Any takers??