BY J. ALUSINE KAMARA
As I watched the farcical charade of an election at the just-concluded S.L.P.P. Delegates Conference in Makeni, I could not help but discern Machiavellian machinations nakedly employed by erstwhile antagonists of the S.L.P.P.-who were once embedded in the defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), manoeuvre into commanding positions. The desperate and disparate usurpers myopically believed their coup automatically guarantees them majority support in the established S.L.P.P strongholds in the East and South of the country, so, any and every diabolical means, they must have reasoned, should be used to reach their objectives. And, did they employ “many means?”
Direct vote-rigging was calculatingly discountenanced. In its place, stories abound about delegates being literally kidnapped, shiftily driven to Magburaka and Lunsar where they were cajoled into taking bribes. After unsuspectingly accepting these bribes they were then led into a room where cultish oaths were ?forced’ upon them. Knowing the status of those who had dragged them into this, delegates thus may have feared losing their lives if they refused to go through. (Evil men resort to evil means to achieve evil objectives!)
On the opening day of the Convention, Prince Harding, the then Secretary-General, made pronouncements that need to be examined and commented upon. Derisively claiming that the APC was in Port Loko for a Coronation ceremony, he failed to ?remove the speck in his eyes ? to see that the SLPP was about to embark on an ?anointment’! And, I must quickly add, not with the ?Holy Spirit’ either!
Noteworthily also, he implored the assembled delegates to think about ?marketability’ in their choice for leadership. Noting that some might have accepted bribes – which might have been sealed with demonic oath-taking – he implored them to “chap u chap, en vote u conscience!” This was easier said than done due to consciences having been ghoulish-compromised.
Here was a Political Party Convention so insidiously-crafted, it had as its Electoral Commissioner the Ombudsman, who is statutorily supposed to be non-partisan. With the President and Vice President-who was also a candidate sitting on each side of him, (were they part of the electoral team?) it was little wonder he sounded like “His Master’s Voice. (Older folks do remember the old gramaphone player with the dog sitting behind the megaphone, don’t we?)
When a justifiable objection was raised about the eligibility of the Vice President to vote since he was not an elected delegate, the Ombudsman laconically replied “Noted”. Victor Sheriff was to observe that the arbitrary increase in number of delegates assigned to “support movement for Kabbah” (sumokabs) and other groups were not approved by the committee mandated by law to do so, of which he was a member! This too was ignored. Then there were delegates’ lists that had been changed, and so on!
Why, one may be constrained to ask, were these desperadoes at wit’s end to manipulate the outcome of this Conference? Who in his God-fearing senses would want ?continuity’ of a debased status quo? Why were people who, when forming the NDP had been so averse to what the SLPP represented now so hell-bent on sailing on its ticket? Who would look at a Charles Margai, an epitome of unimitable character, patriotic and God-fearing, and employ despicable means to stop him? Why do they need to “throw the baby with the bath-water”!
Before attempting to answer the questions, I shall take this opportunity to persuade away the latent fears visiting the minds of some anti- Charles campaigners.
In response to an observation I made in his office, Charles had said , inter alia, “I do not know why K…. seems to be afraid of me. If our prayers are answered, the moment I am sworn in, a line will be drawn separating the ?past’ from the ?present’ and the ?future’. The ?future’ catches up with you without you realising the ?present’ if you were obsessed with the ?past’! My aim is to build on what I meet to make a prosperous Sierra Leone”! (In other words, bygones will be bygones!) And he said it with a sincere freshness hard to doubt.
Let me categorically assert – as if it was not obvious by now – that I support Charles Margai. But as I clearcutly said to him when I first met him, it is not him as a person that I support, but his principles, vision and patriotism. I told him the moment he deviates from these ideals, I would be the first to challenge him. I have never backed people and institutions per se, but what principles they subscribe to. I am by nature contemptuous of sycophancy!
That said, let me now chronicle reasons I believe erstwhile NDP operators are, vulture-like, ready to swoop down and disembowel the traditional SLPP and have it cloned in the NDP guise. I will further hold that patriotic idealism never brightened the dark crevices of their hearts and that crass and insatiable lust for power and ill-gotten wealth, to the detriment of the populace, are their overriding considerations. No more, no less!
Between 1991-1992, Charles Margai approached, and solicited Solomon Berewa’s involvement in the rejuvenation of the then moribund SLPP. Solo-B reminded him in blunt terms that, “not all Mende-men are SLPP”! Of course, this is true. But when judged against the backdrop of what his thinking could have been as he was a core member of the N.D.P. which was angling to eclipse and replace what they considered a discredited S.L.P.P. then, it takes a different dimension. To theorists in the N.D.P., the S.L.P.P. was to be “given a clean pair of heels”!
However, right now a cursory glance and roll call of prominent functionaries of the S.L.P.P. hierarchy show a disproportionate number of impostors/infiltrators infesting the party they used to love to hate. People like John Karimu, Joe Blell, John Benjamin, Victor Reider, Allie Bangura, Alusine Fofana, Frank Kposowah, et al, now romance the Party to the exclusion of sincere traditionalists. “The N.D.P. wolf is now in S.L.P.P. sheep skin!” Metamorphosis is complete: Or, so they think!
At the time these architects of doom were tolling the death knell of the S.L.P.P. Charles Margai and a handful of S.L.P.P adherents, were busy criss-crossing the country canvassing, mobilizing and concretizing once dormant grassroot support. As one of the key financiers and moral muscle of the Party, Charles determinedly and dexterously rekindled faith of the faithfuls, loyalty of the loyalists and survival instincts of the survivors of the APC misrule. Hands were also extended to drifters whom exigencies of the time had constrained to “set dem yaiye, en cham fat-fut.!”
A more profound articulation of the N.D.P’s consummate apathy for the S.L.P.P. could not be better exemplified than with their preferred choices for leadership of the Party, in the persons of Dr John Karefa-Smart, and Brig. Juxton-Smith (rtd). Because of the N.D.P.’s morbid aversion for the S.L.P.P. they found the people who had axes to grind with the S.L.P.P. very ideal. The NDP wanted people who considered the SLPP an anathema, and these gentlemen fitted the mould.
The key to the NDP success, they must have reasoned, laid in distancing themselves as far away from the SLPP as possible. It was an overriding obsession.
The NDP was faced with a dilemna though. For, even as both gentlemen were willing to come on board, the question of who the leader would be bedevilled them. Dr. Karefa Smart contended his age and status conferred on him the right, while Juxton Smith averred that having once been a Head of State – though unelected – positioned him for the role. This protracted stalemate faced the NDP when I walked into Joe Blell’s office at the Sparta Building, Wilberforce Street.
As Joe narrated their predicament to me, I asked which of the two men was expendable. I was told Juxton-Smith was, as Dr. Karefa Smart had a natural and formidable followership. To their stunned disbelief I volunteered to facilitate Dr. Smart’s acquiescence.
When Joe mentioned he was set to visit Canada the next week, I promised to write a letter that he would mail to Dr. Karefa Smart. This was ultimately done and presented to them for their perusal, vetting and comments. It was agreed that the letter was compelling enough to convince Dr. Smart. Joe left, mailed the letter from Amsterdam, and eventually got the desired response.
Dr. Karefa Smart arrived in Sierra Leone sometime in April 1992. We were scheduled to team up at the Bathurst Street Headquarters of the NDP, at 11:00am on Tuesday April 29 1992. But this was not to be as the khaki – boys struck. The rest is history.
Once the NDP bubble burst with the coming of the NPRC, and the APC fragmented, the SLPP soon became very attractive to the schemers of the NDP who started to strategize as to how to justify their new -found love affair. The SLPP all of a sudden metamorphosed from being an untouchable pariah, to the best thing that ever happened this side of Heaven! Fuelling their desire to suck the Party and nation dry was the belief that with control of the Party they had once derided, bamboozling a gullible electorate would be easy.
Going down history lane we arrive at these facts:
President Kabbah and VP Berewa, whilst serving as senior advisers in the Advisory Council of the erstwhile National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) strongly advocated for the proscription of both the SLPP and the All Peoples’ Congress APC as political entities. Pretentiously shading what I believe was the ulterior motive to especially supplant the SLPP with the NDP, they were to calculatingly depict both Parties as harbingers of disunity and polarization of the country. This allusion, which many believe smacked of chicanery, was void of altruism and doubtlessly contentious. It was a failed attempt as their scheming was exposed.
The theorists then determined that to gain the control they so devilishly-sought, there were traditional Party loyalist that had to be neutralized. Chief amongst them stood Charles Francis Margai, whose name and pedigree were almost synonymous with the Party. They believed this fact would be in his undoing. So the catch-phrase became, “He thinks the SLPP is a Margai property”! This was easy to sell to a non-discerning electorate when Charles was elbowed out.
Somehow theorizing that – to quote Oswald Hanciles – “The SLPP is a religion to every Mende-man”, their shortsightedness will become their undoing. Because, what they and Oswald failed to realise is that converting from one religion to another is nowadays a common occurrence.
Those in the SLPP hierarchy now, save for a decent man like the present Chairman Alhaji UNS Jah, are in my view, coupists and opportunists.
I have singled out Alhaji UNS Jah because I know he flaunts a flawless character – the same which cannot be said of most others. I can attest to his impeccable traits of probity, sincerity, dedication, and God-fearingness. As strong-willed and determined as I know him to be, the odds may be stacked against him. But the Alhaji Jah I know as a big brother, friend and mentor will know what to do, how to do, and when to do what, without compromising his ideals. “Maik God cobbar am for wi “!
There is no doubt that the bold-faced cloning of the SLPP into a caricature of the NDP has been successfully orchestrated to the disaffection of traditional Party loyalists, thus forcing those of us who pride our pedigreed links to make distinguished but painful exits. History will judge all.