Recipe on how to Lose Election in Sierra Leone
By Christian F. Sesay Jr.
I always respect SLPP diehards who publicly admit that their party had managed to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” in the 2007 election. But what I find absurd is that just when conventional wisdom predicts that the party of Sir Milton Margai would have learned its lesson by now, the party continues to dangle in the politics of tribal hegemony and bullet ridden with internal strife – a conduct that is responsible for the same self-inflicted insanity as in 2007. What the nomination of Maada Bio as the standard bearer of the party attested to the world is that history teaches nothing – thus, making it a perfect recipe for losing election in Sierra Leone.
Political pundits and pollsters will readily tell you that elections are often lost rather than won, particularly when it is close as was the case in 2007. In the 2012 election, the forecasts are favorable for Ernest Koroma, with voters and opposition supporters seeming to shift in large chunks toward the APC. If you want to lose an election, here is a well-proven and tested formula for losing as has been recommended by the Sierra Leone People’s Party — one that we seem to be following at the moment:
1. Nominate someone who can’t win because of excess baggage.
2. Inject the politics of tribalism and regionalism.
3. Ignore the wishes of party supporters.
4. Allow your opponent to set the agenda.
First, nominate someone who can’t win. Most people assume political parties are rational and always select a strong ticket. This is not always true, of course. Think of the SLPP’s selection of Solomon Berewa in 2007 and of course yours truly, Maada Bio this time. They fell into a trap again by nominating a standard-bearer who owing to his serious character flaws as the Godfather of violence, murder accomplice and treasury looter is in the process of demonstrating that he is not a serious person and has done nothing recently to enhance his credibility. Now, close your eyes and listen to him. His plans and utterances sound exactly like the same old politician who will promise heaven and earth only to offer the worse side of hell on pay day. The country is in no mood to elect another deceitful president anytime soon.
Of all the parties in Sierra Leone, now and in the past, the SLPP is the only party that had suffered unremitting accusations of playing the politics of tribalism and regionalism. Over the years, the party has had to constantly counter negative taglines such as the “MENDE MAN” party “GOH HEGEMONY” and yet, it seems like nothing was and is being done, to allay the fears of the non-Mende speaking communities. National elections can’t be won with just a victory in the south. Many independent minded Sierra Leoneans especially in Freetown and other non-Mende and Temne territories, are akin to vote red rather than green because of that perception. It might be true or false, but until something tangible is done in addressing that concern, the SLPP will continue to sit on the sideline for many years to come. This past nomination convention was a missed opportunity to showcase the party as a party for all in Sierra Leone. Hmmm! I know someone is thinking now…..but what about Tejan Kabba? Well, truth be told, Tejan Kabbah was the only saving grace capable of winning election for SLPP at that time. Period! The party had no dependable choice. They had to swallow the bitter pill that would bring them to prominence once again.
SLPP will also lose the election because they failed to keep to their promise of “One People, one Country”. They outrightly and painfully ignored the wishes of their supporters. What happened to the likeable Osman Boie Kamara, professorial Kadi Sesay, Obai Kabia, Alpha Timbo and others? The wishes of the SLPP supporters were yet again heavily crushed because the party dispensed a heavy dose of flaccidity with a sane mixture of spitefulness to its own people. During the nomination campaigns, I had the opportunity to meet, interview and cover stories for some of the finest SLPP front runners then in Texas, I must admit. I thought I owe it to my country to present these people in their true lights, whether APC or SLPP. On my way home driving on most of those nights, I had strong feelings gushing out of me that the election will be too close to call if the SLPP put aside tribal and regional sentiments and listen to the voices of its people. The gross negligence by the SLPP — even in the long term — would continue to lead to massive boycotts and deeper internal strife as we are beginning to witness. The party will pay a heavy price for the disrespectful treatment meted out to its own people.
Finally, allow the opposition to set the agenda. In accordance with Caesar’s dictum about regulating the high ground, it is expedient that Ernest Koroma continue to seize the initiative in setting the agenda for the nation. In contrast to the SLPP internal squabbling, the APC under Ernest Koroma is enforcing unity effortlessly. It becomes all too easy, when everyone is on the same page in the party. Ernest Koroma has persistently emphasized his primary issues and resists attempts of the SLPP and other detractors to divert debate to their pet issues other than development! Development and development!
With the above recipe, the election of 2012 is a done deal. In the longer term, Sierra Leone will continue its trail blazing entry into progress under the current president. A choice between one party that persists in throwing away its advantages and demeaning its own people and another that persists in embracing the needs of the country first is an easy choice to make.