The “No Vacancy” APC Mantra: a Recipe for Disaster?

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Farook A. K. Sesay, author

PRESIDENT YAHYA JAMMEH’s inglorious defeat in last week’s presidential elections in the Gambia is a manifestation of a new wave of people’s power and a hard knock lesson in over confidence and underestimating the general political will of the electorate! Beleaguered mama Sierra Leone’s governing party, the ALL PEOPLE’S CONGRESS party should be au fait with this nuanced narrative. The litmus test of a strong, transparent party machinery, that wants to shore up confidence and be fair to its supporters – and the nation at large – is to shed its image, real or imagined, of its legendary 99 patterns, and do the right thing: winning the electorate’s confidence and good will, by shedding its unflattering image! It bemoans me when detractors and limp losers purport that now is not the time for anyone with lofty aspirations to stand up and be noticed or counted as interested in the political holy grail that is guarded jealously at Marine House, Old Railway line, Brook fields! I am frustratingly surprised, too, to hear APC stalwarts espouse the shallow prejudicial narrative that: ’Individuals with a vaulting ambition should temper their drive with cautious ambition – because there is no vacancy for the presidency!’’ this admittedly limited and inevitably biased, skewed perspective on their part and to what constitutes ‘’no vacancy’’– leaves me with nothing but the irksome feeling that inevitable envy and grievous greed are what drive these sycophants to rant garrulously about APC presidential hopefuls to hold their horses because there is ‘no vacancy’!

People can bury their heads in the sand like an ostrich for as long as the devil may care – but the nation existentially knows that the clock is ticking. And very fast, too! Unless we, as a party, are complacent and have an invisible and invincible card up our political sleeves for 2018 (which is just round the bend) – we should be cognizant of the fact that the next general elections are not solely and comfortably going to sit on the laurels of the two terms of President Ernest Bai Koroma! Like we did in 2012. Like a dad, who has to bequeath the heirloom to the most worthy child – not by favouritism, bias and sentiment – but by watching his children compete fairly and squarely with equitable leverage before he decides conscionably who meritoriously deserves the heirloom! So it should be with APC presidential hopefuls. Every mortal has a shelf date with his mortality and divinity. So is it too, in politics. Our leader, President E.B.Koroma, unfortunately, has to go at some points, since he has honourably and nobly acknowledged the democratic ideals of our constitution and is graciously adhering to them!

The world at large – and the electorate, needs to know, assess and access the next legitimate president of Sierra Leone. That can only happen if ample air time and showcasing of presidential candidates are unreservedly sourced out and resorted to. Six months at least, before the next (APC) convention, are just adequate as a test run to make an assessment of would-be-aspirants. James Hadley Chase’s ‘Gold fish has no hiding place’ catch-phrase, would be aptly at play here. There would be any surprises to be sprung on us the potential voters. In a world where  there are primaries, wanna-be nominees exposing themselves like gladiators in a coliseum, this could bring out the best or worst in these presidential hopefuls. We would notice their pigeon-clay feet, the chinks in their armours, their invincibility, and their prowess. And their humanity. Or to be demons or angels when gloriously crowned in 2018! Many would be called – or come forward on their own accord. But only one will stand tall, proud and victorious, like an Olympian god ready to do battle with the dark forces on other side. The beauty and existentially intrinsic value of such an exercise could not be over emphasised. Obliquely, the electorate could have participated in a mock dress rehearsal. (APC) presidential hopefuls strutting their stuff now before the best is being hoisted with the enviable party ticket, is a precursor to the presidential race in 2018. Only the strongest and fittest will survive the onslaught. With predictable outcome.

 But when vuvuzelas from a dubious quarter are braying ‘’no vacancy’’ – it raises many an eyebrow.  This slogan impresses equivocally the notion that the presidential seat cannot be vacant; will not be vacant for a long time coming, or the party leadership is at variance with slating a date for choosing a successor! Such a mix-bag of sentiments is fraught with insecurities and disarray within the house. Responsible and transparently strong housekeeping is what the electorate is looking forward to. And they rightly deserve that democratic honour and spectre! When the electorate is sandbagged with an (APC) presidential candidate who takes the wind out of their lungs – the party too will have its wind taken out of its sail in 2018. Why? How?  People will feel let down. Short-changed even!  Condescendingly taken for granted. APC sympathisers, supporters and voters will feel cheated and hoodwinked. And will feel aggrieved that they did not have a chance or say in choosing the next leader and chairman – but had a candidate dropped on their lap without their oblique consent. And blessing. Delegates at the (APC) convention will vote in a due process, we know. But the gazillion dollar question that will float and hung thick in the air is: will there be due diligence and fair play? Will the nation see the outcome as mere window dressing and a coronation actualised by the shenanigans of a click and cohorts? Will the law of unintended consequences then rear its angry head in February 2018 at the voting or polling centres?

People can be fooled some of the time, but not all the time! The only constant is change. Our (APC) party got away with poor choices of lower tier candidates in 2007 and 2012. Do we honestly think we can be third time lucky? With another poor choice (presidential candidate) this time at the helm?  Inarguably, everything gravitated towards the choice of EBK in 2007 and 2012 as leader and chairman, and thus, logically as APC presidential nominee. Poor choices of councillors and parliamentarians did not deter the sweeping tides of EBK koromania to vanquish anything in its wake. Voters complained post- election victory, but they counted faithfully on their leader/chairman and president to put things right.  2018 will be precarious and dicey, looming with uncertainties that not even the wisest political scribes within the APC apparatus can predict with waterproof certainty. EBK was the talisman of optimism and a new dawn. He ushered in new beginnings on his watch at the gates! Can the new man/woman repeat his/her predecessor’s feat to win the hearts and minds of the broader electorate? Will the APC have a hat-trick with the new choice of presidential leader? These ponderous musings are hard to predict without tongue -in-check. What lies beneath and beyond are questions worth pondering over. And confronting. Now! Shakespeare said: ‘’security gives way to conspiracy.’’ In today’s lingo, it can be roughly explained as: over confidence is a weakness that can be exploited. The (APC) has never been so polarised even if its stalwarts and faithful are gainsaying this truism. It is festering, simmering, percolating with restive dissent and discontent – no matter what the grandees and its well oiled propaganda machinery would let the world believe!

Jeremy Corbyn weathered his storm and succeeded in chasing away the political demons with a resounding victory and the bourgeoning of labour supporters recruiting and registrations. He might not win the general elections, but at least he can sleep at night knowing he was not forced on his party supporters! Can our (APC) party do the same with its chosen leader? Can the chosen (APC) leader feel the same? I want more time. A third term. A hat-trick! But, alas, that can genuinely metamorphose if our voters are given a front seat at the theatre of fair play and transparency! But only after they have had their fifteen minutes of being noticed and in the loop! And only when they have baited the bear, poked and prodded presidential hopefuls with intent to lead the glorious (APC) party, and have the satisfaction of seemingly being consulted in open court.  Politics is a contact sport. When people in the participatory process feel wanted, recognised, respected; embraced; their will being paramount; only then will they eventually vindicate and – validate – their leader at the polling stations!

So, my incontrovertible logic will be: elect a credible leader, who is emblematic of hope, conventional continuity, tempered with fresh notions; that can accelerate transformation, value, growth and security. Excitingly, the next chapter in the narrative is ready to be written; and this will give leeway and leverage for the (APC presidential) winner to be decided how quickly he or she can move from what he or she is now – to what he or she needs to become. Hence  the ‘’NO VACANCY’’ mantra bandied around by misguided touts  – no matter how well intentioned, belongs to the trash bin if true, collaborative spin is needed to empower people and break through cracked ceilings to push the party forward.  Tomorrow belongs to the fast.  So fast forwarding the climate for APC presidential nominee hopefuls is congenially cogent. For tomorrow is the new today! It will be an insult to the legacy of president EBK as APC party leader and chairman if those that matter – the party conclave – lets down its guard and hang out its shingle on the porch, saying: ‘’NO VACANCY!’’

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Critique Echo Newspaper is a major source of news and objective analyses about governance, democracy and human-right. Edited and published in Kenema city, eastern Sierra Leone, the outlet is generally referred to as a level plying ground for the youths, women and children.

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