After a long period of intraparty fracas ranging from constitutional stalemate to internal campaign violence which almost sent it membership into disarray, the Sierra Leonean main opposition, SLPP , has finally resolved to elect a flag-bearer ahead of the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections due by late next year. According to the party’s Secretary General, J. J. Saffa, all party delegates including diasporeans are due this weekend in the administrative capital, Freetown, to finally elect the man or woman that will not only face the challenge of defragmenting the party after a long period of fragmentation, but to also face the incumbent, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, at sharp 12, 2012.
Meanwhile, after several anonymous interviews with key party members ahead of the convention, Critique Echo was able to unearth the following:
|Julius Manda Bio
It’s an open secret all over the south and eastern parts of the country which is the party’s stronghold that the former military ruler, Rtd. Brig. Julius Manda Bio, who handed the country in the year 1996 to Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabba after the first democratic election in the country’s history, is far ahead of his colleagues. Out of 87 voters interviewed from 5 districts including Bo, Kailahun, Kenema, Bonth and Moyamba, 59 say Manda Bio is their favorite aspirant. From 13 diehard party supporters who identified themselves as legitimate delegates from various constituencies including Freetown Western Area, 8 made it crystal clear that they will vote for the former military ruler comes weekend.
|Dr. Kadie Sesay
Most delegates interviewed in the Freetown Western Area and few from the northern region described the former Development Minister, Dr. Kadie Sesay, as the most ideal candidate but however casted doubt in her ability to challenge the incumbent, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, referring to her female nature as sign of weakness. This clearly tells that the Western campaign against gender discrimination is not holding water in the Sierra Leonean society. No matter how educated, hardworking or experienced they might be, many Sierra Leonean voters still believe that women are only useful as secretaries, cooks and child-bearers.
Dr. Kadie Sesay is the former head of the English language department of the Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. She lectured in the college for twenty good years. She later headed the National Commission for Human Right and Democracy (NCDHR) for a period of six years. She is the first woman in the Sierra Leonean history to head a national commission. She was later invited by the erstwhile President Ahmed Tejan Kabba to serve as Minister of Development and Economic Planning, a position she successfully handled for a period of three years during one of the most crucial moments in the country’s history.
Regardless the above attractive curriculum vitae, Dr. Sesay’s womanhood is blockading her success to head the country’s main opposition.
It must be noted that none of the aspirants has an individually innovated policy in his/her manifesto since all of them are Sierra Leoneans vying to head the same political group. The only things some of them don’t share in common are their ethnic, regional and religious backgrounds.
Sadly enough, none of the party members faced in the east and southern regions including delegates could actually mention a single reason why Manda Bio and not Osman Boi Kamara for instance. This truly tells that the average Sierra Leonean voter still believes in tribal and regional segregation. They vote for individual identity and not for policy, which is absolutely hazardous for the country’s socio economic development.
Its undeniable truth that the former military ruler peacefully handed over power to a civilian administration after a huge pressure from the Western world, but there are candidates among the aspirants who had contributed to the developmental effort of the country more than he did.
We strongly believe that whosoever might emerge ring-bearer of the opposition flag will face a serious challenge in come 2012. The ruling APC has just developed in its first term; it will try to land before being tore into pieces. The ruling leadership might not leave any tree, stone or object unturned in order to make the landing possible.
Majority of the gullible voters still expect the economic miracle promised by President Koroma regardless the fact that a bag of rice is gradually becoming unaffordable, hence the ominous shadow of the party they voted out four years ago still exist in their minds. Those who broke away from PMDC and SLPP to join the ruling APC with the hope of gaining political greener pasture which is the major objective of political alienation still remain indecisive as to whether to reunify with their original camps or still await the compensation expected from the ruling party. They are also afraid of facing the challenge of reintegration and re-recognition among the colleagues they abandoned few years ago. To remain where they are and fight for a second term in anticipation of the long awaited compensation might be the best option.
Also, it’s a known fact that an African ruling party can hardly lose power after a first term. The electioneering exercise will be supervised by Dr. Christiana Thorpe, who the opposition is intermittently rejecting referring to her as the worse conductor ever in the country’s democratic history. Most importantly, the Western world which undermined the erstwhile SLPP administration is on the side of the ruling APC for reason quite obvious.
The above are some of the challenges Manda Bio might face during the poll. He is well placed to win the flag bearer contest but his chance to dethrone President Koroma is very little. Some analysts says he might majestically match into the presidential lodge with a landslide victory should he let go the current flag-bearer contest; a decision he will never dream of.
Potential impact of Manda Bio’s candidature
Bio became Chairman of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) and ruler of the republic after he successfully exiled the then Head of State Captain Valentine Strasser, in a bloodless palace coup in the year 1996. His candidature might not be genuinely welcomed by the western world since his participation in the country’s political game will serve as constant reminder of the past gloomy years. They also know that he has the potential to create an irreparable crack in the security forces, especially the national army, after several years of rebuilding efforts that cost them millions of dollars.
Bio’s candidature also has the potential to cause a post-convention intraparty dispute that might affect the party more than ever before. His campaign team is accused of violence and brutality against their opponents and had stepped upon too many toes prior to the convention. A post-convention resignations by party stalwarts like that of Charles Margai’s PMDC might not be overruled.
The appropriate running mate
Osman Boi Kamara: he is educated, rich and commands the support of many people in the Freetown Western Area, particularly the Fulla and Mandigo business community who are currently controlling the country’s economy.
Dr. Kadie Sesay has all the above qualities together. What makes her more suitable than Dr. Wurie and Mr. Kamara is her gender identity. Beside her attractive educational background and tremendous experience in public service, the Western world might receive her with joy as a potential Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Sierra Leone.
The greatest mistake the SLPP leadership might do comes weekend is to allow tribal and regional biasness to override national interest by underestimating Dr. Alpha T. Wurie, Osman Boi Kamara and Dr. Kadie Sesay.
Whatever the case might be, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, is going to identify his opponent after the weekend. Today is Thursday, next tomorrow is weekend, the clock is ticking.