The former UNIDO Boss, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkela officially pronounced his resignation from the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) to join the Grand Coalition Movement on Tuesday 5th September at Sierra Light House Hotel in Freetown. Dr. Yumkela had previously vied as front runner for the opposition SLPP party. The political gymnastics that followed his expression of interest has been too well documented to require further mention. In his resignation speech, Dr. Yumkela summed his reason for quitting the SLPP that “today is a caricature of the SLPP of our founding Fathers Suffering as it is currently under a mis-leadership that continues to thrive on violence, lack of respect for elders, falsehood, betrayal, violation of rules, manipulation of people with messages of division, dark schemes and designs, lack of focus and loss of credibility”. Yumkela took us on a historical odyssey to extol the virtues of the founding fathers of the SLPP, including Sir Milton Margai, Bai Farama Tass,Bai Shebora Yumkela, Ella Koblo Gulama,Bai Koblo pathbana,S.B.Mara,Sir Albert Margai,Salia Jusu-Sheriff,Teacher Lagao,Lamina Sankoh,R.G.O.King,John Nelson Williams, Gideon Thomas, Honourable Mana kpaka,John Akar,Honoria Bailor Caulker, Pa Sansui Mustapha. If what Dr. Yumkela is describing about the SLPP is true, these founding fathers would be feeling dizzy from turning so many times in their graves today.
Dr. Yumkela stated that among others, his aims to lead our country include “improving governance, reducing mass poverty, curbing corruption, fostering national cohesion, providing hope and opportunities for them to translate their needs and aspirations into reality and using our abundant natural resources for sustainable development”. Above all, he reminded everybody and anybody who cared to listen that “a political party is a vehicle for contesting elections and attaining power, but loyalty to party must never take precedence over loyalty to country. Our country must always come first and no interest should supersede national and public interests. To say that his declaration has caused some political ripples on the political front may be seen by many as an understatement.
But what are the implications of Dr. Yumkela’s defection for the SLPP, the APC, and the Coalition? Many will see his defection as a party splitting manoeuvre. It is no wonder some SLPP stalwarts are spitting feathers. Irrespective of whether he was ever popular with the SLPP grassroots or not, the fact of the matter is that he will surely take some supporters from the SLPP with him. These will include those who feel marginalised by or disillusioned with the party. Even in the SLPP party, there will be others who would want to try someone new. The political permutations will be endless. But does his defection say more than we know, or more than meets the eye. Many have accused him of selfishness. Others may think that he has thrown the baby out of the pram because he couldn’t get his way. Some have accused him of being powered drunk. If social media is anything to go by, there is an increasing number of people who are beginning to see him as a breath of fresh air. What does his deflection say about the SLPP as a political party?
But again, Yumkela may be looking at the seemingly new trend of politics growing across the continent. We saw a coalition of parties unseated Yahya Jammeh in The Gambia; a man who boasted that he will rule for a billion years if that is what Allah ordained. With the SLPP and APC fully entrenched in their respective political backyards, does Yumkela believe that it will require a coalition to shift them from power? No matter which political lens one uses to analyse the situation, his recent declaration is bound to raise some eye brows in some quarters. In his resignation speech, he raised questions about what many people may have been whispering about the SLPP; that there are people who put the party and their personal interest above the country. Those that are disillusioned by the in fighting that has become prevalent in the SLPP might find solace in his diagnosis of the party. If there is any undeniable accusation that has been the Achilles heel of the party, there can be none so than the seeming disunity that has crippled the party over the years.
There are many who feel that as a result of the infighting and petty politics, the SLPP has become a boys club, and as such not been able to provide a functional opposition to the APC. Because the SLPP is using its valuable time and resources on infighting, many may feel that this has given the APC carte blanche to behave with absolute impunity. There are people who may be disgruntled with the APC, but equally see the ineptitude of the SLPP as contributory. The question that may be on many people’s mind is how many will be ready to take a leap of faith with Dr. Yumkela and his coalition? Will The Gambian experience serve as an eye opener enough for some to jump ship? Does his defection say more about the SLPP than meets the eye? Is the SLPP an intolerant party? Is it really a “Paopa” party? Is the SLPP a society for self-preservation? Does it have room for new entrants or new ideas? Are new bloods welcome? Or is it a party of either our way or no way? These could be some of the questions and impressions his defection might be generating in the minds of many people. Gerald Demby, a stalwart of the SLPP has recently resigned. How many more in the pipeline, you wonder.
Interestingly, it will be misleading to conclude that the inclusion of Yumkela into the political vortex will be a headache ONLY to the SLPP. Spare a thought for the APC Party, where the selection or election of their flag bearer is sure to leave a sour taste in the mouths of many; irrespective of who gets the nod. There have been a lot of expressions of interests from the APC. Some of us have seen some systematic culling taking place, even before the starter gun has started. It sounds like the APC party is engaged in the elimination series or knock -out stage of the Champions League at the moment. Many have fallen by the wayside by default and some by internal regulation. It is not for us to say. However, we need to acknowledge that in spite of the numerous accusations against the APC, there are some visible differences and developments this government has made in the country. The sad and painful truth is that, it is mired in accusations of corruption, which many will find difficult to dislodge at present. They will need to come up with someone with an unblemished record to shake off such accusations. Will they have that individual? I have some ideas who that individual would be. Thankfully, I don’t do politics.
If social media is a yard stick to measure the level of disgruntlement against the APC, it feels like there is a lot of that to go round. One thing is sure though, there will be a lot of internal wrangling, plenty of horse trading and carpet crossing in the days leading to the election. There will be a lot of damage and fall outs caused to both parties. It will be a question of which party is more adept at damage limitation. And that is where I believe the APC will come into its own. Unlike the SLPP, the APC is good at managing its affairs in house, while the SLPP is happy to wash its dirty linen in the full glare of the public.
There are some people who would want to dismiss Dr. Yumkela as a flash in a pan. Some would see him as a disgruntled man who is trying to force his way into the status quo. But judging by the political shifts that have taken place in regions far and near recently, it will be folly to make such a mistake and write him off. Dr. Yumkela described his political crusade as a “MOVEMENT”. We all know what happens in such situations; just ask Yahyah Jammeh and Hilary Clinton. Those who may want to dismiss Dr. Yumkela as a political inconvenience should remember that “elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody”.
If there is a groundswell of disgruntlement in the country, is there a possibility that people may flock to an alternative party? Will a third force become a reservoir for those fleeing their usual nests, and will they do so out of frustration? Dr. Yumkela seems to say all the right things at the moment. He may be short on deeds but he seems to be very good with diagnosing the ills of our society. Coming across as someone who is putting the country above the interest of a particular political party is sure to not only criticize the SLPP, but may sound like music to many people’s ears. There’s enormous progressive activism in the world today and more often than not, success at the grassroots level – everything from unemployment, reducing mass poverty, providing hope, opportunities and good governance campaigns to aspirations and a progressive trajectory are having terrific success. He may not look like having the kind of political clout to unseat these giants of our political landscape; but like all political movements, they tend to take a life of their own as time passes.
Dr. Yumkela may want to come across as a champion of a social movement. The great thing about social movements is everybody gets to be a part of them, because they are seen as symptoms and instruments of progress. History teaches us that many people, especially the millennials can be favourable to activism and social movements and hostile to graft and corruption. Will this new kid on the block have enough staying power to shift the political debate? Will this be the alternative 3rd party that has been muted in some quarters? If you think that the SLPP have a problem, spare a thought for the APC. A recent audio doing the rounds has had Alpha Khan, The Apprentice apparently rattled. It appears that from the audio that the vice president Victor Foh has declared his intention to throw his hat in the ring, and Alpha is already accusing of going back on his word. Hold on to your tin hats. There is going to be blood on the carpet.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).