The issue of succession has always been problematic, cumbersome and contentious because it goes directly to the management of political authority and power. The All Peoples Congress Party is moving slowly and cautiously towards a managed situation to avoid the mistakes of the past or to avoid making any new mistakes this time around.
However, it is difficult to see how there can be a flawless system or process when such delicate matters of succession has to be contemplated. Firstly, what happens to the substantive holder while his position if under target. It is like a man being asked to engage in the preparations for his own funeral. In the case of the succession to lead the APC into the next election, there has to be a serious call for consideration for the emotions that Chairman and Leader, President Ernest Bai Koroma is going through at the moment.
Not that he may not have an inkling as to who would be his most likely successor by now but for the fact that he would have to go through such vexatious emotions as having to keep his thinking private and not to let go any indication of the person to whom he would have to hand over the baton. As the English would be apt to put it but with a stretch of the imagery, you cannot make an omelette without breaking some eggs but to make scrambled eggs, the pan has to be on even fire throughout. President Koroma will be feeling the heat and it will be continuous until the day that he announces the choice in Makeni.
The announcement of a set of criteria for NEC members for the APC Party in itself spoke volumes for the indicative criteria for its flag bearer. The National Secretary General has been at pains to explain that the set of criteria announced on Friday 2nd June 2017 were NOT the set of criteria that apply to the flag bearer. However, it is hardly likely that the criteria for flag bearer would be lower or more toned down than those for NEC . That being the case, it may be strategic to assess the criteria for NEC and to see whether that secures a pass or a bye for the flag bearer position in the Party.
From a casual examination of the criteria for NEC positions, there is clear indications that those set of criteria speak to that of a flag bearer or otherwise speak for the ears of intending flag bearers for them to undertake introspection on their avowed aspirations. Some observers have contended that there is only a slight possibility that the criteria for flag bearer would be lower than these as published for a NEC official. In that case, the first condition of being active and paid up member for the past seven to ten years is problematic for some.
Notwithstanding the fact that that condition is generally thought of as being fair, and the pronouncements from the Party top guns have always tended to support the argument of longevity in the Party as a necessary condition, it however makes it difficult for the younger firebrands who came to the Party after President Ernest Bai Koroma brought them in or came to the Party after his charismatic leadership convinced them that the APC is the place to be. This criteria is therefore problematic for the so called Koromaists and Koroma babes who will be constrained from attaining the pre-eminence they crave at this point in time. Someone mentioned in passing the other day that it would be suicide to allow an unpractised child to take over the steering wheel on a motorway.
The criteria of institutional knowledge and the requirement to demonstrate this will be another difficult one to meet by those who are young in years as Party members. Institutional knowledge comes from association and involvement in the practical aspects of an Institution’s operations and the making of its history. Again, this will be a cumbersome criteria if applied to flag bearers. How many will relate stories of close association with the current APC let alone retell about the fight to bring the APC back to power after its days of political oblivion. There are doyens of the APC from whose experience some must sit and learn from.
Those who would tell of boat crossings to reach far flung villages in the South East where there is almost a certainty that such journeys were fruitless endeavours but for the sake of political expediency, they had to be taken. While others will tell of days of such hardships that petrol had to be rationed as they wait for the next flow of funds into Party coffers, even though that wait was indeterminable. Taken together, Institutional knowledge and length of years with the Party as active and paid up members cannot be farfetched for suitable criteria for the flag bearer position. That being the case, some flag bearers will have to assess themselves against the current thinking of the NAC and then advise themselves of the best way to progress their current aspirations.
Some have argued that the decision of the NAC to announce the criteria for NEC and not specifically indicate those for the flag bearer is an attempt to hood wink the general populace or otherwise withhold the technical aspects of selecting / electing a successor to President Ernest Bai Koroma. Those who take this position allude to a plan to keep the interest of all and sundry for the flag bearer position intact until the very last minute.
While there may be some reasoning to the withholding of the flag bearer criteria, it is clear that the need to keep the Party together while a negotiated settlement based on internal discussions as to a short list becomes more achievable would be a more plausible explanation. The APC is a very attractive political party at the moment and the eventual flag bearer stands a very good chance to inherit a functioning and well maintained political office.
The criteria to comply with the pertinent laws and edicts clears the air for procrastinating candidates to elective offices in the APC. Overall, it is to be considered that the assumption of such high office in the Party must be in consonance with the legal requirements obtaining and for such persons to meet the prescriptions in the Party’s constitution. The critical component with regard to the 1991 Constitution has been tested in a court of law but not exhaustively. It is likely that an errant opposition may take the same or similar route to test any candidate who is deemed not to comply accordingly. In the event, a flag bearer who is found to be in such a situation would cause considerable embarrassment to the Party because it may be the case that such a person may be disqualified at a point when the Party may not be able to substitute another candidate.
These prescriptions have been nothing but instructive, providing the sort of guidance that should entreat those who intend to go forward as flag bearers to concentrate on their campaign strategies. For now, the focus is on the NEC officers and their sponsors to determine their eligibility and readiness to embark on assuming such lofty positions in the APC Party.
In general, it is the words of our Chairman and Leader that should provide some pointers for the potential flag bearers. It would also serve as a starting point for some flag bearers to engage on consolidation around a clearly fitted candidate to ensure that Party unity is not compromised for personal adventure. Those who have risen to the point of contemplating leadership of this Party should not relent at this juncture because they have not been earmarked for selection / election. Instead, this is the time for all such persons to be introspective with respect to the need to see the APC returned to power in 2018. When we talk about institutional knowledge, the warning should go out that the APC had passed this way before but some would argue that the Party took a wrong turning.
President Momoh turned out to be a very weak President and it was that acceptance of his own fault that caused the implosion of the Party as past members of his Government went out to form their own political groupings before the coup. His mistakes were numerous and of those, the bad judgements that he made were unbefitting of an officer and a gentleman. These are difficult times for President Koroma because, as Chairman and Leader of the APC, he has a duty to maintain an unsullied legacy and for him to guide aright the fortunes of this great party. The very last thing that he would want is for a disregard of the mistakes of the past, specifically those to do with succession not to come to haunt him or despoil his legacy.