Titus Boye-Thompson, Communications Consultant
The English have a word for it. It is known as ignominy. It is the demonstration of silly behaviour when a very serious situation is being taken as mockery and held to reckless abandon. The senselessness of such a situation renders the very practical application of seriousness or gravity of it to become light hearted and humorous. This is what is shamefully happening to the process of selecting / election of the flag bearer of the All People Congress Party has come down to. The number of intended aspirants has raised eyebrows in many quarters to the extent that some people are now being regarded as searching for fools’ gold in the mad rush to be relevant in the coming dispensation.
A keen observer of Sierra Leonean politics remarked that with all these people coming out to announce their intention for the position of flag bearer, it is indicative of the existence of internal squabbles and a lack of cohesion within the party ranks but that this has nonetheless been constrained by the firm grip that the Chairman and Leader of the Party has established. It is also considered to be a symptom of the insecurities that some may have in relation to their continued relevance in the political landscape after President Ernest Koroma may have left the seat of government.
The APC National Secretary General had made strenuous efforts to outline the Party discipline and procedures at such times. The National Advisory Council (NAC), has also been strictly adhering to the dictates of the law and been effective in keeping the Chairman’s decisions and deliberations thus far in a manner as to be expected of such an august body. The problem therefore is not one that comes from the Party hierarchy but one that lies at the heart of personal aggrandizement by those who should know better. There is nothing the Party could do about these people but sit back and watch as there ridiculous escapades unfold. There are those who can clearly be seen to have a bone to pick with the Party while others are claiming a false entitlement to the flag even when it is clear that their current circumstances legally and in some cases physically precludes them from entering the race.
On the other hand, as the time for a decision draws near, the structures of the Party are inevitably under pressure. There is claimed to be a process of internal discourse to attempt to bring some sanity in the current flood of flag bearer aspirants and to instil some order in the proceedings. There must come a time when the Chairman and Leader must call some of these pretenders and say to them, eyeball to eyeball that this race must be held with serious and grave considerations and for this reason, some of you must withdraw and allow the Party to do its work of getting the right person =who will not only succeed at the polls but will also unite the party and strengthen its ranks as we push ahead to expand on the President’s firm foundations that he has laid down.
In some ways, party discipline has been maintained to some extent because the issue of disagreements have not been played out in the full glare of daylight or belted out in the open. Most candidates have heeded the Chairman’s warning that to engage in any manner disrespectful of others or to allow supporters to battle each other openly would fall back on the candidate as someone who cannot control their charges and hence unfit for higher responsibilities. In that regard, the very open split that has now been carved out in the opposition SLPP is not in play here. However, the challenge has always been in keeping a focus on the work that needs to be done to overcome the negative insinuations that a heightened opposition a=will come with when the time for real politicking shall come.
The understanding shown by some aspirants to work for an eventual APC victory means that it would be damaging for any to start belligerent action against someone who he may have to support when the Party may have made its mind up on the issue. It is also agreed that the likely winner would have to be a compromise candidate who is known and accepted by all to be in a position to unite the party and secure the vested interests of everyone. This candidate would have the capacity to also scatter the opposition by taking the battle for supremacy to their own backyard. The APC machinery is undoubtedly a very formidable force to reckon with. The communications and messaging that will improve the chances of the Party must be underpinned by the aspirations for national unity and the prospect of a favourable economic climate in the immediate future. The success of the current APC government must be showcased to the highest degree with subliminal messaging on progress, development and security becoming the buzz words for political campaigning. The ability to reach and empathize with the grassroots will be a major factor in the choice of a flag bearer because the APC Party knows nothing better than the actual demographic that are instrumental in winning elections.
It is clear that the Constitutional requirements for the position of flag bearer must be a critical factor in the determination of a successor. There are those who are going around with the impression that such considerations can be easily waived on their behalf. This is not true and any attempt to put forward a person who is constitutionally unfit would be a complete disaster. For this reason, the Party hierarchy must immediately caution those who have by now failed to meet the constitutional requirements to fall back and refocus their energies on the process of choosing a successor. This can easily be done if the Party were to outline the said constitutional provisions that apply in this case and also to publish a general criteria and guideline for the issues that will present themselves for closer scrutiny in the process of selection/election of a flag bearer. Prior to such a decision or publication of these guidelines, the Party may prescribe that those who wish to be seriously considered must make an official advance to the Party, stating their intentions and registering their candidature with a set fee of around Le100,000,000.00. This amount will be taken into consideration when the candidate fees for flag bearers are decided and deducted accordingly from those who wish to proceed. In this way, those who now use the radio to announce their intentions could easily have to back up their rhetoric with a show of funds.
The launching of election campaigns are not light events nor are they events to which you can allow someone other than the direct beneficiary to invest the significant proportion of the funds required. In most Western countries, campaign funding are capped to a particular ratio and most of Party funding have restraints on how they are sourced. Full disclosure mandates that campaign funding is free from singular influence wherein one person can contribute such an amount that his influence over the winning candidate becomes a leveraged conditionality upon that person. For this reason, a very immediate test of candidates’ preparedness must be considered. The voting public expects political parties to provide apparel in their colours and also provide them with other campaign materials such as picture posters, caps etc. The APC had demonstrated how effective such items can be in an electioneering period hence the ability to turn the town red is a defining factor of effective campaigning strategies. The Party must enquire from aspirants as to how prepared they are to produce and provide these materials. They should show evidence of such preparedness and to all extent possible, indicate their delivery schedules and arrangements of the flag should be awarded to them in a short space of time prior to the dates for public campaigns and rallies. For the most serious of contenders, these are some of the things that would mark them out from the rest because by now, they would have made the necessary arrangements while waiting for the eventual decision in their favour. As a parting thought, nobody ever said that elections are cheap or that the Presidency is for sale but still, let them show us the money”