A COMMENTARY BY ALIMAMY LAHAI KAMARA
“Many of you were in the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) before and you regarded the SLPP as home. Feel free to come back home. They often say home is where the heart is. So as we mark the signing of this alliance, I am hopeful that this journey takes you closer to where your heart truly belongs.’’ President Bio sounded emotional at the launch of the progressive alliance at Bintumani in Freetown. A voice speaking from the heart, speaking from the mind, and speaking from the conscience – inviting brothers who separated themselves from the family on the belief that they have attained a political maturity that will award them a political leadership in a country bifurcated along ethno-regional divide.
I saw passion on his face; I heard sincerity in his voice; and I felt the determination in his action. The momentary pause in his call and his gentle nodding of his head communicated an inner pleasure that ushered itself outside a President that had committed so much time and effort for a rapprochement with an erring brother who sojourned in search of a political power that a single compromise today has now brought him closer to the very power he eschewed himself from five years ago.
Seven or more years ago, Yumkella broke away from the SLPP after a neck-breaking flag bearer contest – an election fought with an overwhelming might, some convoluted tactic, and an astounding experience by aspirants who had mastered the internal party politics of the SLPP, who had nurtured their grassroots support through patience and confidence building, and who had built their recognition at the international sphere for years. It was a match fought by equals, a show that nearly pitted the party into instability engendered by disaffection.
Yumkella formed the National Grand Coalition (NGC), drew its strength from the North, particularly Kambia district, where he had four parliamentary seats, and championed an ideology rooted in transformative development that caters for the welfare of the common man in a manner that offers him unhindered access to social utilities in an economy tolerant to foreign direct investment.
He is a man considered to ‘think big’. Many people understand him to be loquacious, stubborn, and brilliant. Is he impetuous or impulsive as well? President Bio said he has lofty ideas on political administration. But he is bereft of a platform to transform those ideas into projects for onward implementation. That was what Yumkella did not get. A political platform! Parliament could not afford him that either. And he wanted it! The only place to locate it is at cabinet – the executive arm of government. The progressive alliance has got him that!
In his address at the signing of the alliance at Bintumani, Yumkella said: “we recognize that it is our duty to work for the betterment of our country regardless of our political affiliations. We acknowledge that progress and development cannot be achieved individually but only through collaborative efforts and partnerships.” Yumkella, no doubt, will be in cabinet and is expected to apply his expertise and employ his connections to parachute and strengthen, for example, the country’s international trade diplomacy where Sierra Leone now signs bilateral trade agreement with influential nations right in Freetown, and where investors now queue in competition to plough multi-million dollar investment in Koya chiefdom – which has been identified as Koya Industrial Economic Zone pioneered by ARISE IIP.
Sierra Leone marvels for an investment as huge as the Koya Industrial Economic Zone that defies the economic hardship ravaging Africa, challenges an unprecedented inflation that threatens democratic stability in Africa, and withstands the twin impact of the war in Ukraine and the Corona virus on the social livelihood of a continent careened to the brink of a collapse. Events in the continent – as in Sudan, where the war in Ukraine has precipitated a catastrophic conflict in Khartoum; as in Ivory Coast and Mali, where the twin crisis has engendered a political misadventure characterized by state failure; as in Ghana and Nigeria, where precipitous inflation has battered the economy, destabilized the local currency, and driven uphill prices of basic food stuff in the face of massive shortage; and as in Guinea which sits on hydrogen time bomb awaiting an explosion that might carry fearful consequences for the sub region – fan waves of a blitz of political cataclysm for our democracies. Liberia is no exception. There are queues for rice and other basic food items there.
It is not out of good luck Sierra Leone escapes these misfortunes even though it battles inflation and high cost of commodities. It is out of a selfless political leadership sound in mind and judgment and sincere in rolling out programmes that touch upon the lives and livelihoods of the common man. It is only in Sierra Leone that people’s perception about corruption prevalence in the presidency has declined from 40% in 2012 to 31% in 2022 due to employment of salutary administrative measures. This explains why Sierra Leone is a quintessence of states enjoying donor and investor confidence. While investors shun Africa, Sierra Leone attracts them; while investors halt partnerships, Sierra Leone signs them; while investors face repatriation of their business on accounts of onerous political instability and gory military conflicts across Africa, Sierra Leone provides them home and courtship; and while corruption and bad trade agreements cause apprehension and liquidation of foreign businesses, Sierra Leone continues to explore rewards of good business as in the thirty-eight billion Leones community development fund paid by Marampa Mines Limited and over twenty billion Leones community development fund paid by Leone Rock Metal Group. Sierra Leone remains a serious nation where political accountability is at the heart of its political administration, where alliance building and inclusive governance confer on her respectability among its peers, and where political trust and credibility have transformed her as a destination for foreign direct investment.
It is therefore no political blunder to call home Yumkella and the NGC, to open doors to All Peoples Congress (APC) and extend a hand to Victor Foe, Alpha Khan, and others; and to tap on the back of Coalition for Change (C4C), Emerson Lamina, and others. This leaves no one behind. This builds the country’s democracy. It is in fact part of the exhibition of political maturity to build alliances and create a coalition of progressives principled upon the desire to foster an inclusive society that transcends ethnic and regional divide; and united upon a common vision for building a society where education is accessed everywhere, where referral hospitals are located everywhere, where electricity is distributed everywhere, where water is supplied everywhere, where justice is served everywhere, and where good roads are enjoyed everywhere and by all. The challenge in this endeavour is in the management of the human desire and ego. They are intrinsic! But Yumkella is confident thus: “the progressive alliance means that we have decided to put aside our personal egos and political differences and agree to work together to build a better country.” Well, we take that for granted! And we are not to expect perfection, even when Andrew Keili notes that the marriage is built in heaven. It should be noted that its content will be implemented on earth. By politicians! But, the Minister of Information and Communications guarantees the President, guarantees the Paopa system in administration, and believes in the alliance. For Mohamed Rahman Swaray, it is President Bio who is at the cusp of stewardship. ‘It is President Bio’! ‘It is President Bio’! Subject understood.
The President believes in team work; he wants more ideas; he wants more political relations and collaborations; and he wants more development for Sierra Leone. He believes joining forces with those in the North will serve the people there, those in the East will as well serve the people of Kono, and those in the South and West will serve residents there. In dissolving the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone President Bio had this to say: “let us continue to work together, in the spirit of unity and cooperation, to build a future characterised by progress, justice, and prosperity for all.”
However, part of the vision of the alliance, I assume, is to enter into a dalliance. It is a marriage where the two become one. And that one is the SLPP. President Bio has opened doors of the family to his brothers. He envisions a day, tomorrow, where the two parties shall fuse into one. He said: “Feel free to come back home. They often say home is where the heart is.” An alliance in dalliance!
As I close, I am reminded about a certain fear haunting some SLPPs, holding the view that the NGCs will come and snatch away their jobs. Fear not your brethren but thyself. Fear yourself for non-performance, and fear yourself for excessive pride and incurable arrogance and selfishness in the workplace. The jobs are going nowhere. They will just be circulated around the very SLPP comprising the progressives. That’s all!