October 7, 2015 By Titus Boye-Thompson Communications Consultant
The announcement of Francis Kowa as prospective Parliamentary candidate for Constituency 107 was made amid some consternation amongst party members in the Western Area. Amid the disbelief are some pertinent considerations to be made. No doubt the rank and file of the party will accept the candidate and support his bid for election. The rumblings that will follow that decision would necessarily go underground but the gamble would turn on whether such a decision would make people reconsider their allegiances or otherwise accept the inevitability of marginalization. In the recent past, the Party is looming large with new powers and a stature unsurpassed in local politics. The key question now is whether the wisdom of those who guide our political affairs should go unremonstrated, unchecked or unchallenged.
Francis Kowa may be a good candidate for the Constituency, but whether he was the best in that pool will need to be demonstrated to some who have come to regard that decision as wholly questionable. The reasons that have come out to justify the decision to choose him was that the APC wanted to show that it is a national party, so it was sending a message to the Mendes in the South that it can put one of their own in an elective capacity and secure representation in Parliament. What this tells the avid observer of politics is that considering that the seat of Constituency 107 is a safe seat for the party, Francis Kowa is sure to be elected and that assurance guarantees another Mende man in parliament under the APC. That happens, then comes the next question, will he represent the people of the constituency or would he be there to raise issues with other Mendes in Parliament but outside of the APC. Would he be there to demonstrate a national character of the Party or should he be concerned about whether Samba gutter is safe during the rains. In the event, the reasons for his selection would be inordinately flawed and may constitute a very bad example, setting a very dangerous precedent.
Having said that, one must consider that politics being what it is, and development meaning that people in Sierra Leone will soon be free to settle wherever they are, I am hopeful that the APC has made a very magnanimous decision and has set the precedent for what should be the epitome of political plurality for Sierra Leone. Very soon, we would see candidates being selected for what they have done for the party and not for where they have that filial bond or lasting affinity. There would be Creoles and Mendes alike being set up in safe seats in Kambia, Port Loko and Makeni, to represent the people there and to be counted as another Creole in a northern seat in Parliament. We would see the emergence of political fluidity, wherein the tribe or ancestry becomes of immaterial significance as to where they should stand under the party ticket. That being done, the potential to upset strongholds would be greater, because the new comers will be so charismatic that their political candor would efface any subjectivity that belies current political aspirations. The issue of tribe would be seconded to ephemeral significance whilst the mantra of party ideology takes hold.
Those who oppose Francis Kowa would wish that some sensible or otherwise reasonable conditions should be set down to guarantee that the people selected for Parliamentary seats have a historical link to their constituency. For example, a requirement that a potential aspirant for party symbol should be able to demonstrate that his GRANDPARENTS owned landed property in the constituency would be a very strong bond. That would mean that the aspirant is rooted to the constituency or would have had those roots implanted for him by his forebears. If that requirement was to be applied at this selection, the question of whether Francis Kowa would be eligible is a matter for conjecture.
The decision must ignite a debate in the Party and for that matter in the country as to the eligibility criteria for parliamentary representation. In the United Kingdom for example, a prospective candidate is not required to have been born or even lived in the Constituency but is required to demonstrate that he or she would seek to establish themselves in the constituency once elected to Parliament, and this invariably means that the prospective candidate should be looking to buying a house and living in the constituency subsequent upon being elected. In Sierra Leone, there is nothing that requires an aspirant to own a house in the constituency, before or after election. It is also significant that if what is touted in the grapevine is true, then by this decision, Constituencies across the country should now be ready to accept candidates who are recommended by the party and more especially those who are on record to have been financial supporters of the Party rather than those who can demonstrate support from the people.
For what it is worth, it should be made clear that no grievances are being entertained on the party’s selection for Constituency 107 because all the candidates have been reconciled to the party’s decision. The crux of this decision will be the manner in which the various scenarios the decision portends would be played out in subsequent decisions by the party for its symbol. To have that fluidity of candidature must be a welcome development because it opens up the chances of people who have settled for some time in certain areas to put themselves forward for election. It would be a welcome event to have our representative in Parliament taking a national rather than a parochially tribal view of their responsibilities.