2007 Elections: The Challenges for the Opposition.

5 November 2006 at 23:53 | 752 views

"The All Peoples Congress (APC) is by the look of things the leading opposition party to the SLPP. For some reasons some people are entertaining the views that the All People Congress Party is going to present a formidable opposition to the ruling SLPP come July 2007 elections.While we cannot dismiss the opinion held by those people that All Peoples Congress will give the SLPP a run for its money in 2007, the persistence of the intra and inter-party squabbles that have dogged the party over the years is certainly worrisome."

By Claude Cooper

As the preparation for the 2007 elections gains momentum, it is
becoming clearer by the day that the opposition is still plagued and fraught with internal problems and organizing themselves effectively to pose a serious threat to vice president Berewa has become a stout challenge. Since much have been said already in several of our local tabloids about the cracks and crevices within the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party, we will only mention it here in passing. The focus of this piece is therefore those parties that are regarded the opposition.

Koroma...whats going on?

Although many political parties mushroom during periods of electioneering in Sierra Leone, history as shown that there are only two dominant parties in the country - namely the SLPP and the APC.However, a third party currently sits in parliament - fugitive Johnny Paul Koroma’s Peoples Liberation Party (PLP). But given its leaderlessness, it is of little significance especially as it has only two representatives in the more than a hundred-member parliament.The situation has nonetheless radically changed with the emergence of what could well be described as a third-force i.e. the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).
New force

Since its inception the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change has been associated with vibrant lawyer Charles Francis Margai. Though there are talks about holding convention in November this year, it is doubtful to materialize, with the persistence of rumours of the bankruptcy of the party’s leadership. If these rumours are true and the situation does not improve before next year, it would seriously hamper the PMDC’s chances of winning.This is definitely a challenge the party would have to face squarely and surmount or else its swollen membership would disappear over night when the plight becomes apparent.

This being the case, one is made to wonder how this Peoples Movement for Democratic Change can serve as an effective opposition to the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party, which has both the state and its resources at its disposal.
PMDC diehards are however not daunted and are optimistic to generate what ever funds are required to see them through the elections and beyond. There is quiet confidence in the membership especially as quite some inroad has been made in the area of membership registration which has provided the movement with seed money. Although it is hinted that over a quarter of a million people have registered the movement is still not content and has intensified the selling of its membership cards and encouraging its rank and file to pay their party monthly dues regularly and on time.

Thus there is no truth in rumour that the PMDC is experiencing mass desertion among its top echelon membership as the party’s highest decision-making body, the Planning Committee was still very intact in their last Wednesday’s weekly meeting at Hannah-Benka Coker Street.

Old rivals

The All Peoples Congress (APC) is by the look of things the leading opposition party to the SLPP. For some reasons some people are entertaining the views that the All People Congress Party is going to present a formidable opposition to the ruling SLPP come July 2007 elections.While we cannot dismiss the opinion held by those people that All Peoples Congress will give the SLPP a run for its money in 2007, the persistence of the intra and inter-party squabbles that have dogged the party over the years is certainly worrisome.

These squabbles which are quite venomous from members of the family have proved internecine and could well derail the party’s efforts if not settled and settled soon.

The very leadership of the All People Congress party is in deep waters even when it is less than a year to the elections. The leadership of Hon Ernest Bai Koroma is in serious crisis as those that are supposed to be his own brothers are determined to throw him out. For all intents and purposes this is not an issue that should be downplayed since the matter was taken to the Supreme Court where an interpretation was seemingly made against the Ernest Bai Koroma faction.

It is important to state here that what the Supreme Court did about the APC crisis was to make an interpretation of the law. In that matter it was interpreted that the party’s 1985 constitution had been tampered with. This should automatically have disqualified the leadership of Ernest Bai Koroma(photo) and his executive.Again, it is important to state that having made the constitutional interpretation, it was left with the aggrieved or the party to take up the issue at the magistrate court level seeking an injunction to force Koroma and his kabudu out. That remains to be seen while there is talk of efforts by Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to help in resolving the conflict.

For those that are down playing this matter they need to understand that this matter moved from intra party dispute to the level of the Supreme Court. At least after these, one would have expected that this matter would have laid to rest. But no. the matter was taken again to the magistrate where Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma and associates are charged with an offenceThe danger about this whole court issue is that the matter is being dragged with the illusion that some of the people involved in the court case would eventually give up the matter. However knowing human nature for what it is, what if the aggrieved parties decide to fight this matter to its logical end?This whole episode is weakening the party and dampening its chances of making a strong showing.

Having followed this court case, it is becoming crystal clear that Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma and co are determined to hold on their leadership position regardless of any situation. The members of the aggrieved party on the other hand are determined to throw out Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma, even if that would mean totally dismantling the All Peoples Congress. They would very much prefer this rather than see an outsider (Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma), a partial-blooded Temne, lead party. To this group of people they would prefer the All People Congress not participating in the coming elections than to have Ernest Bai Koroma representing them as their leader and presidential flag bearer.

Outsiders are watching this APC politics with deep concern and interest.This incident really reminds me about the sermon an Imam preach in a mosque at Gaza Palestine before the outbreak of this madness of Israel, whilst I was a guest during one Friday payers. The Imam said any time you a rope tied around the rock one Muslim, if one follows that rope to where it is beginning or ending you will find the brother of the very man around whose knock the vicious rope is tied.

In essence, the Imam informed his congregation that at the tail end of that rope, you find another Muslim telling people to draw the rope because that of his Muslim brother is difficult. It is in this light that I often and generally perceived the tires and --- that Hon Ernest Bai Koroma is going through.For this entire problem, the crime of Ernest Bai Koroma has been nothing other than his being seen a late comer into the APC. He is considered a half-blooded Temne because his father was a Limba. Yet these petty considerations warrant the question: are all these enough reasons to throw out a man whose good can by far outweigh his perceived short comings?

Certainly this is just one issue which ought to caution the high optimists about any headway they think APC will make in 2007 elections.Interestingly, it is an internal problem although some entertain the views that the external environment has being having its own influence.Apart from this, this leadership crisis has the potential of drastically reducing any meaningful performance as APC the party is also plagued with myriad problems.

From whatever way one might look at the crisis which sometime ago erupted in Makeni involving the Makeni Town Council Chairman also has its own negative impact on the APC. For all intents and purposes that situation was never handled with the degree of political maturity it deserved.Bai Koroma is yet to learn the rudiments of politics. The manner in which things are handled are to some extent manifesting that his thinking scope has not expanded beyond what he used to be whilst he was thee Executive Director of an insurance company.His situation is further acerbated by the nature of people Ernest Bai Koroma is surrounded with.

Cookie crumbles

What can for goodness sake people like Victor Bockarie Foh tell this nation about corruption? Who can he persuade that he is not corrupt? What impact can people like William Smith, the Hindolo Tyre and other spent forces close to their tethers end.The crisis that involved Musa Mansaray in Makeni was also handled with political immaturity. Imagine what happened. The then chairman was accused by his own party (APC) of having indulged in corruption. Ridiculously, when a combined team from the decentralization and local government department went to investigate the Makeni Town Council crisis, they came to the conclusion that for the Ministry of Finance representative at the council to serve as the accountant was in breach of procedure.

Interestingly, while Musa Mansaray was castigated by his own party members who are now posing to be clean and in tolerant of corruption he was exonerated from an unexpected quarter. This mistake certainly exposed Ernest Bai Koroma political naivety and immaturity, while his followers are yet to learn that politics is about numbers and that from whatever angle one might look at it, Musa Mansaray has his own following which Ernest Koroma and Co. must have alienated. Would Mansaray’s own followers continue to support Ernest Koroma’s APC after his uncalled for humiliation? That is how the cookie crumbles. But this is not all the miscalculations the All Peoples Congress has made.

Although one might be tempted to see the stray Ali Badara Mansaray of Waterloo District Council as dishonest and a traitor, most people however believe that the whole fiasco would have been avoided if it were handled with caution and maturity.
It beats the imagination that an APC local council chairman should now be publicly claiming he is SLPP and telling people that he has now realized that vice president Solomon Berewa is a better candidate to Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC.
Here again, one would be made to ask as to when exactly did Ali Badara Mansaray woke up to the reality of Solomon Berewa being a better presidential material to that of Ernest Bai Koroma.

But again, Ali Badara Mansaray is now saying that he used the fools to row his boat across the river. The fools are nobody else but those APC stalwarts who supported him to achieve his goal of becoming a councilor in the first place.Coming to it again, one might be tempted to share in the misgivings of Ali Badara Mansaray. After all he has seen that with the battle lines drawn between the APC’s heavy weights, there is little chance that they can make any headway in the coming (2007) elections.

Since Ali Badara Mansaray is a political animal who wants to ensure that he stays with the winning team that will guarantee his protection, he is convinced that a party at war with itself can certainly not guarantee this.Although one might aptly interpret the action of moving over to support the SLPP of vice President Berewa as blatantly treachery and immoral politically, one would not have expected the APC to resort to fighting so as to evict Ali Badara Mansaray as the chairman of that council. The reason being if Ali Badara Mansaray has given his total support to the ruling government, it will be very difficult to fight him.

Additionally, the APC would have reasoned whether there is any constitutional provision to justify asking Ali Badara Mansaray to resign as the chairman of that council because he denounced the APC and is now a front liner for Vice President Berewa.We are all aware of the substantial gains of the All People Congress during the local council elections in 2004. The fact that people in western area, particularly Freetown voted overwhelmingly for the APC in that local elections was manifestation of the fact that they had lost confidence in the SLPP government to bring any improvement in their lives. The victory was caused by the rebellion of those SLPP supporters who registered but refused to vote.

Power struggle

This being the case one would have expected that the APC, having taken control of the Freetown municipality would have worked hard to effect some positive changes and consolidate their gains.One does not need to over emphasize that the power struggle that has been prevailing between the APC leadership and the above mentioned local council chairmen leaves no room for thinking about any development. Certainly, people can agree with us that Freetown is now worst than it ever was. So the question is what are the mayor and the rest of the councilors doing? Our understanding is that in the assessment of cities by World Bank, Freetown City woefully failed in all the aspects the city was assessed for.Although the mayor has often given the flimsy excuse that this government has been denying the council the needed funding, the established fact of the mater is that APC has not had its house in order for far too long now and they should be thinking of putting their act together.