The race for the flagbearership of the main Sierra Leonean opposition, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), is gradually becoming fearsome. While some aspirants are described by columnists as academic giants, others are named decorated soldiers. According to a recent media report, a total of 23 candidates including men and women with diverse ethnic, regional and religious backgrounds have deposited a non-refundable sum of Le 230,000,000 as part payment of declaration fees with the sole aim of becoming the party’s flagbearer hence opponents of President Earnest Bai Koroma in next presidential and parliamentary elections in the year 2012. The official amount requested by the party’s electoral committee is Le 50,000,000 per candidate. Campaign trail is said to have been officially declared open. While some aspirants decorate websites in order to convince the diaspora based delegates, others are touring the countryside to persuade the home based delegates. Party confidants say more candidates are still considering joining the race. What a honeymoon for an African opposition party! This development is currently adding many green digits to the party’s bank account which is seen as a positive signal to many shortsighted party loyalists. Surely it isn’t. Such development should remind every objective analyst about the proverbial apple of discord which was thrown into a wedding occasion by the Greek godess Erisa. Erisa is said to have avenged her anger at not being invited to a wedding, by throwing among the guest a golden apple on which was written “for the most beautiful one”. The scrum for the title (most beautiful one) eventually led to the Trojan War that lasted for years.
Likewise the SLPP, every admirer should have a reason to be worried about the current situation. It must be noted that the party is today languishing in opposition as a result of personality conflicts that accrued among the party hierarchy during and after successive flagbearership conventions. The declaration fees requested, though criticized by many dignitaries including Honorable Robin Fallay of the Kailahun district referring to it as unrealistic, might not be the main cause of concern since all the aspirants listed so far are seemed financially capable. What might be the major cause of concern, however, is the selfish attitude of the average Sierra Leonean politician towards political power and the nation in general. While the losers don’t accept defeat, the victors demonstrate their mightiness by openly stepping upon the toes of their opponents thereby subjecting them to public intimidation and molestation. This makes it difficult if not impossible for two opponents with similar academic and financial backgrounds to work as a team after elections. It doesn’t matter whether they belong to the same political camp, region or ethic group. The truth is that they lack genuine intentions for the nation they vie to rule.
An example of a genuine intentioned politician is Hillary Clinton of the United States who quickly deactivated her campaign website after she lost the race and now working tirelessly with her opponent Barack Obama hence both are fighting the same course. Unlike the selfish and chameleon-like politicians in Sierra Leonean, they only give full support to the group they belong to when they are allowed to lead it. Those who launch campaign websites prior to elections, either betray their supporters by surrendering the content of the websites to the victorious candidates in exchange of money and position, or transform it into a propaganda outlet that would undermine the leadership of the victor at the detriment of the nation. The above are some of the dangers SLPP should be worried about.
If the then opposition Democrats of a prosperous nation like the United States of America can present only Obama and Clinton to challenge the then ruling Republicans, why the main opposition of a very poor country like Sierra Leone should produce dozens of aspirants for a single position? Many patriotic citizens view the leadership of a post war community like Sierra Leone as the hardest task to assume on earth. The aspirant list ranges from lawyers, academic doctors, financial giants, decorated soldiers to diehard party loyalists. If they are really intended to rescue that poverty flagging community from protracted economic and social deprivations, now is the time to downsize themselves and allow only few attractive gentlemen and women to contest for the flagbearership. The current SLPP leadership will also agree with me that the main sentence every aspirant is expected to mention in his/her manifesto is “Uprooting President Koroma and his APC from state house” in come 2012. This sentence, I believe, is mentioned by Dr. Alpha Wurie as well as Dr. Kadie Sesay and others. So why don’t they come together and create a formidable team against the target which is President Koroma and his APC? Certainly, this is the best but hardest to be done, since most of them view political power as their only chance to hit on get-rich-quick schemes of breath-taking simplicity at the expense of the poor voters.
Though the average Sierra Leonean voters are naturally gullible at polling time since they only vote for symbols, names and tribes, but recent developments in information technology which is aiding the urban dwellers – particularly the youths to gain awareness about the country’s political games, is going to make it tough if not impossible for every party to fool the voters in the year 2012. This simply means that the success of SLPP as an opposition force depends on the candidate they are going to present against President Koroma, and concrete unity among themselves. The candidate should be able to overshadow President Koroma in all forms and shapes including leadership charisma, individual track-record, presentability and persuasiveness. Most importantly, the candidate should be able to reunite the party after long period of fragmentation.
If the SLPP’s “sharp 12, 2012” slogan is not an ordinary tail-shaking of a dying mouse, now is the time to demonstrate unity by downsizing the number of flagbearership aspirants thereby preventing the golden apple of discord from falling into their camp. When cooking for a lion you shouldn’t worry about the quantity or quality of the food; what you should be more worried about is the feeding method because the lion is a carnivorous animal that might prefer human flesh to a cooked sauce. The highly schooled SLPP executive including JOB, Puawui, JJ Saffa etc. might dismiss this piece as nonsensical since I don’t have a PhD title. But what I would let them realize is that: even a broken clock can show the right time twice a day.