From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone: SLPP Faces Political Wipe-Out

12 November 2012 at 19:58 | 1060 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The momentum of the All People s Congress (APC) Party’s campaign is breaking down barriers and opening up vistas for the forthcoming elections.

For the first time in Sierra Leone, a political phenomenon is emerging that is questioning long held traditions that had hitherto held communities to ransom, overturning taboos on political alliances and changing the way regions perceive their own developmental aspirations.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is now widely accepted for the various achievements of his Government over the past five years, the positive outcomes of his vision and for the promises that he has kept. He is seen as a generally honest man, a President who holds the future of this country in his heart and a man who respects the traditions, cultures and way of life of every man and woman as they go about their daily lives within their communities. His is a popularity that now transcends the party apparatus and structure. In fact, he now singularly carries the entire party structure on his shoulder.

His charisma is eclectic, and this is clearly seen in the way that he has used a simple term as a political slogan and a winning cliché. He has been able to stretch the sporting imagery of being a World’s best in his field of political leadership to the point where he is now easily linked to excellence, achievement and good sportsmanship. That is the measure of the man and in essence, that is the very reason why he strikes fear into the hearts and minds of the opposition parties but more especially the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). They had banked on a campaign strategy to malign the person of the President and on that they failed miserably. That failure is not unconnected to the fact that they themselves made the singular mistake of choosing a flag bearer who has no moral standing to face up to President Bai Koroma.

Julius Maada Bio is a man tainted with corruption of the highest order with his involvement in the illegal sale of Sierra Leonean passports and the signing off of a blanket power of attorney to a close family member tasking him to negotiate and enter into financial obligations in the name of the Government of Sierra Leone, an ex-soldier who seized power by stabbing a very good and loyal friend on his back, a man who rose to political prominence by back room deals and an appeal to a tribal sentiment that outrages a good section of his own party.

The age of the SLPP flagbearer was touted to be a major platform for his Presidential campaign but this strategy was badly dented when President Ernest Bai Koroma announced that it was the young people of this country who identified him in soccer terms as World’s Best in leadership in recognition of the sterling leadership and vision that has transformed this country in such a short time frame. The term quickly raised the political tempo to another level as the imagery was stretched even further to soccer. The President’s campaign unfolded with him interposed as a successful and accomplished sports achiever and goal-scorer. President Koroma did cut a fine picture with a football in his hand, sending it out to waving and admiring crowds as they accentuate the interplay between his sportsman skills and abilities with that of Lionel Messi of Barcelona Football Club, the World’s best football player.

President Koroma immediately captured the imagination of young people and this catapulted him into a leader who has demonstrated that he is in consonance with their aspirations including sharing in their love for football. Ernest is now seen as a man closer to young people than Julius Maada Bio. On the other hand, the opposition was not assisted by the age difference between their flag bearer and his running mate. They cut a figure of an older woman and a toy boy, a mismatch in both the geo-political and social sense. She being seen as a stern schoolteacher wheeled in to tame an errant youth. The SLPP campaign to align with the youths as a strategic focus group hit hard water the minute the opposition flag bearer took a ball out on his campaign trail together with a pair of golden boots.

The exuberance of youth is always a good thing until it blinds the vision and extols qualities that could be easily described as belligerent, pugnacious or otherwise haughty. The rise to prominence as Head of State by Julius Maada Bio was not based on the democratic processes of the ballot box, the mandate of the people or otherwise on a hereditary sovereignty. In the event, Julius Maada Bio shows scant regard for authority, is likely to disobey orders and other guidelines as to his conduct and comportment. He exhibits the arrogance of a usurper and has demonstrated that by his haughtiness in allowing his supporters to block a Presidential convoy even though he was forewarned that the roads had to be cleared and traffic diverted. This show of arrogance is symptomatic with impetuousness and an over extended belief in one’s importance. In all of these, Julius Maada Bio exhibits crassness and foreboding desperation in the face of imminent defeat.

The strategies that the SLPP banked on to convince the electorate failed at the dealing of their first hand. They supported a loser as flag bearer and to this day, that decision haunts the party hierarchy. It is rumoured that John Benjamin, the SLPP Chairman has always been unhappy with Bio because according to sources, John Benjamin who funded the coup that brought Bio to power was angry at the way Valentine Strasser was overthrown by Bio. John Benjamin is reputed to have castigated Bio to the effect that his money was not to have been used to get him to power in such a manner and till this day, there is no love lost between the two. In this environment, the SLPP shows clearly that it is a party in desperation and would use any means necessary to gain power. Their only setback is in the growing popularity of President Bai Koroma, his relentless zeal in prosecuting the election campaign and his resilience in demonstrating that he is capable of doing more for Sierra Leoneans. It is significant that the people believe him, hence the further desperation of the opposition. The challenge now is for the APC to continue working towards peaceful, free and fair elections and for the belligerent SLPP to stay their hand and abstain from taking this country any further down the road to civil strife and implosion.

The clarion call therefore is for a landslide at the first ballot with no run-off for the Presidency and empathic wins in parliamentary and local Council elections across the country. There is a very good chance of a country-wide rout and the SLPP faces a wipe-out in the forthcoming polls as long as it remains a regional party stitched together by affinity to tribal origins and not to a broad based appeal founded on sound principles of fairness and equity.