The APC Might Settle For A ‘Compromised’ Flagbearer
By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
Winston Ojukutu-Macauley, the Managing Editor of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC)’s mouthpiece the We Yone newspaper, once confessed to me that President Ernest Bai Koroma on one occasion told him that I am one of the few people who seem to have the ability of reading his mind correctly on some issues. And the current Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Alhaji Kemoh Sesay while he was Presidential Adviser, also once told me that if I were a government Minister my colleague ministers would constantly be accusing me of wizardry because I had the ability of reading the President’s mind correctly on certain issues.
Well, as an unrepentant Koromaist, talking to the President on a personal level two traits continually show up that always give an indication, or indications, of the President’s trend of thought on certain issues. Whenever there is seemingly a crisis or crises and the President is confronted personally and he calmly shrugs off the issue or issues as something that is or are solvable without any sweat; I always know that he has already done the political calculations and has settled on a solution on that issue or issues while the entire citizenry would be engrossed in speculations or guesswork. And the second trait is that he always talks in a circumstantial manner whenever he is asked to privately give his opinion on an issue which is of great national concern.
So, if you are good at surface-scratching then you will be home and dry in partially reading President Koroma’s mind. But experience with him will always give one a head-start. I will give you two examples. A month to the General Elections of 2012, I and a journalist colleague were with him late one night at his Hill Station Lodge office when I informed him that some members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) were ready to make the country ungovernable if he were to win the Presidential Elections. The President calmly took his mug from the saucer, sipped his white coffee, put it down again and told me that he would win the elections after which no finger would be raised in protest or even a banger fired in objection to his would-be victory! And it came to pass.
Another example was the Sam Sumana saga. This time it was a Sunday afternoon at his private office at his Goderich bungalow. Again it was I, that same journalist colleague and Winston Ojukutu-Macauley who were with him when I tried to engage him on supposedly ramifications of the ejection of Mr Sumana as Vice President. Again, he calmly laid down his pen and notebook on his desk and coolly said: “Mohamed One Drop, that matter will be settled after which everybody will go about their businesses peacefully”. And again, it came to pass!
From those two instances, highlighted above, I have come to realise that every time Sierra Leoneans, generally, think that an issue has entangled President Koroma and in the midst of it he seems unperturbed, then it means he has already arrived at a solution and he is only bidding the right time to present his solution(s). For the President; timeliness is everything in politics.
And another trait of President Koroma, which most of those who are now aspiring to mascot the APC in next year’s polls have not been paying attention to, is his refusal to discourage people from pursuing their ambitions. Each time someone meets him and tells him that he/she is interested in drum-majoring the APC in the 2018 Presidential Elections; he would only say in Krio: “Well, go try yu luck!” And this “well go try yu luck” phrase is what many of the intending APC flagbearers have misinterpreted as getting the President’s blessing for their presidential ambitions. In my One Dropian interpretation, “well go try yu luck” is both a non-committal and non-denial retort. Because when a President gives his blessings to someone to succeed him; he does not do so in camera but on camera!
So, I was not surprised at his answer when I asked President Koroma about the succession issue one evening at his State House office (again with that same journalist colleague of mine), long before I started working at State House as Senior Research Associate; he calmly said: “Sankoh One Drop, when the time comes, the APC will choose its flagbearer and we will all go to the elections with one voice.” Not satisfied, I pressed him to narrow down the selection to three people. As always he was circumspect and cryptic. He only talked about the unusual attractiveness and good quality of each and every one of those who had already shown interest in succeeding him as leader of the APC and President of Sierra Leone.
Still not satisfied, three weeks ago I again ambushed him with the succession issue at his Room 395 Suite at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This time, the President read my mind and he attacked before I could lay my own ambush: “Mohamed One Drop, how is the political atmosphere in the APC?” I was caught off-guard, so I only stuttered with some analyses of happenings in the SLPP; of Dr Kandeh Yumkella’s suspension of his SLPP flagbearership ambition; of Charles Margai and his mickey mouse-ish would-be coalition of frustrated politicians, and I dismissed Mohamed Kamarainba as a fog that would soon evaporate. And I ended up on the APC succession issue, giving my biased opinion on who I thought was capable of leading the APC in next year’s polls. But as usual President Koroma was circumspect and cryptic on the issue.
But even in his circumspection and enigmatic political whirling, I was able to speculate on something. That President Koroma is mindful that he has to tread the delicate labyrinth between the old guards and the new kids on the block. That if he gives the leadership to any of the new kids on the block, it will anger and alienate the Old-Schoolers. And if he gives it to any of the Old-Schoolers, the younger generation within the APC might feel betrayed.
So, in order to find a sort of middle-of-the road solution to the APC flagbearer imbroglio, a compromised candidate might be settled for (this is still my speculation). But even if a compromised candidate is agreed upon, another problem might rear its head again. That is: who that compromised candidate should be paired with. Should s/he be paired with an Old-Schooler or a New-kidder? Or paired with another compromised running-mater?
The bottom line of it all is that President Koroma should choose someone who he believes he made what that person is today not someone who believes that he was one of those who made President Koroma what he is today. And when the President chooses, he should have in mind that the late President Fredrick Chuluba of Zambia was hunted down by members of his own party after he handed over power. The reason was that Mr Chuluba made some miscalculations during the processes of choosing his successor.
And in the coming weeks, President Koroma should always have in mind the Shakespearean quote: “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in thy face”. Joseph Saidu Momoh was a gentleman in whom Siaka Stevens had absolute trust in when he handpicked him as his successor!