*By Sall Tee Jay*
The SLPP is yet to learn from its past as it continues to make bad laws which invariably ends up being used against them. The era of the Albert Margai Premiership and the eventual victory of Siaka Stevens lends credence to this fact.
Sierra Leone as a nation has been governed by only two political parties since independence, the SLPP and the APC.
The SLPP, believed to be one of the oldest political parties in sub-Saharan Africa, is well known for making bad laws which had been used by the APC on numerous occasions against it.
History tells us that some of the draconian laws in our law books were initiated by the SLPP Government under Sir Albert Margai.
Sir Albert Margai was the 2nd Prime Minister of Sierra Leone, taking over from his elder brother, Sir Milton Margai. Under his watch and leadership, Sir Milton Margai ensured that there was fair play in state governance to the extent of creating the platform for others to thrive. He paved the way for West-North-South Eastern relationship to thrive by appointing people from the north and western areas to form part of his government.
His style of leadership, many believe, was rated as the best among all the leaders Sierra Leone has produced. Making bad laws became topical under the leadership of Sir Albert Margai.
History tells us that even the ONE PARTY STATE IDEOLOGY was an initiative of Sir Albert Margai. To buttress my argument, SLPP strongman, Solomon Ekuma Berewa, a lawyer by profession and also former Vice President of Sierra Leone, in his book titled: ‘A New Perspective on Governance, Leadership, Conflict and Nation Building in Sierra Leone’, narrated how some of the bad laws were passed by the SLPP led Government of Sir Albert Margai.
Berewa’s position was very clear in his book. He stated that the former PM’s ambition to hold on to power brought about the disintegration of the national cohesion created by his brother.
Albert Margai is said to have dismissed 4 prominent members in the government of Sir Milton Margai, which he inherited and replaced them with his own tribesmen, effectively sowing the seeds of the North-South divide. This system has been responsible for the present malaise in the country. The legal luminary maintained that had Margai continued in the footsteps of his brother, which was building national cohesion, the problems seen in the political divide would not have happened.
Berewa stated that Albert Margai was not keen on national cohesion, but rather to enhance his grip on power; ”He was not particularly keen to promote national cohesion, but only to enhance his grip on power”.
However it should be noted that the dismissal of these prominent members in the Milton Margai government by Albert Margai was his greatest blunder, which according to Berewa, haunted him and continues to haunt the party. These prominent people were; M.S.Mustapha, a Krio Aku, widely respected in the country and from where he hailed from (western area), Y.D.Sesay, a Temne-Loko descendant from Bombali and former Vice Principal of Bo School, Dr. John Karefa-Smart from Tonkolili and the only Kono member in the Milton Margai cabinet, S.L.Matturi.
“The dismissal of these men turned out to be a serious blunder on the part of Albert Margai. It haunted him throughout his premiership and the SLPP in GeneralIt had the potential of undermining the unity and cohesion of the nation the two elements which had been proved to be essential to the avoidance of ethnic rivalry and even hatred.”
It is therefore not surprising that the APC since the days of Siaka Stevens has overwhelming support in the Western Area, Northern Province and Kono.
This political divide has reared its head in the present SLPP administration. The sackings of prominent northerners, westerners and their replacement with mende officials is a repetition of the Albert Margai era, which is an act that has the potential of furthering the division in the nation rather than uniting it.
It was Albert Margai’s undoing, which culminated in the victory of Stevens and the continued affiliation of those regions to the APC.
Albert Margai, according to Berewa’s book, initiated the one party system of government, but was opposed stoutly and shelved it only to be used by Siaka Stevens later in his presidency.
What is being seen today between the north-south rivalry was created by Margai as Berewa puts it: “It was then not necessary to be clairvoyant to know that the humiliation of these prominent politicians would certainly have adversely affected the standing of the SLPP in the Northern region and in the Kono District and the unity and cohesion of the country, an essential ingredient in maintaining the peace and stability of the country.”
*The Times Newspaper*