By KABS KANU :
The clearest signs that the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) is not yet ready to lead and rule Sierra Leone have been graphically demonstrated during the past years when the party has remained embroiled in internal conflict and in-fighting among its main actors that have reduced the oldest party in Sierra Leone to nothing more than an Old wild West cowboy conclave of feuding , ungovernable cowboys , trigger-happy gunslingers, rustlers , the depraved , and cattle thieves , supervised by sheriffs whose voices are not heard amid the din of lawlessness, chaos, ambushes and gun fights.
The SLPP ceased to be a political party years ago.
SLPP CHAIRMAN CHIEF SUMANO KAPEN
Even die-hard fanatics of the party who took oaths in the poro and bondo bush to support the party at all costs even if a dog was given the symbol are now re-examining their faith in this strife-torn party that has delivered nothing but one internal conflict after the other .
And yesterday’s National Executive Council ( NEC ) Emergency meeting which witnessed counter-suspensions and expulsions of top brass of the party clearly drew the battle lines for a turf war that will certainly plunge the party into complete anarchy, with only one year left for scheduled 2018 Presidential, Legislative and Council elections.
At the moment, the SLPP has a checquered past but the party definitely lacks a future under which circumstances it is inconceivable that the party would stage a genuine, credible and acceptable delegates conference that will provide a strong presidential candidate to challenge and beat the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) in the 2018 elections. Given peace and unity within itself and a good, organized electioneering campaign, the APC has been given the opportunity to fly high on the wings of the socio-political and economic developments of President Ernest Bai Koroma , despite the economic challenges in the country, and win the next elections.
SLPP supporters are deluding themselves in the social media that because of the economic austerity declared by the government in Sierra Leone, their party could win the 2018 elections by capitalizing on it . They fail to realize that , going by President Koroma’s promises for an economic recovery and his commitment to leave a better Sierra Leone, there could still be a turnaround before the elections in 2018 . The Government is studiously working on the economic situations that occasioned the austerity. It has fulfilled the IMF and World Bank benchmarks and things could change before 2018.
But even if there is no economic turn around, Sierra Leoneans have a lot to thank the APC for and would afford to trust the APC again , given its record of delivering national development projects, than entrust themselves in the hands of a non-performing and quarrelsome party full of internal squabbles that have knocked the party to the ground . Sierra Leoneans could prefer the APC over an SLPP laden with infighting , disunity and lawlessness . By 2018, there could be so much chaos in the SLPP that it is possible that it could have also split into many divisive factions, each taking votes from the other. The Charles Margai and PMDC imbroglio of 2007 stands as a ready marker . Unlike the APC , which has the whole North and then the Western Area , the SLPP has a narrow field of operation–The South/East, most of which they do not even control. The region alone cannot guarantee them victory , how much more if it becomes divided and carved out into different fiefdoms of combatants.
Another delusion being shared in SLPP circles is , given the victories of the opposition parties in Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia, a new wave of democracy has been set adrift that will grace the shores of Sierra Leone. Not so fast. The opposition parties that won in Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia were united to a common cause , to such an extent that they overcame all odds to win. The SLPP cannot compare itself to any of them in any way.
In Nigeria, there was the Muhammed Buhari effect. He had ruled Nigeria before and on a balance of scale, Nigeria perceived him to have a done a great job with his fight against corruption and he delivered some well-appreciated development projects. His All Progressives Congress ( APC ) had not broken apart like the SLPP. Rather, it was well organized and firing on all cylinders in all the regions.
In Ghana, Nana Akuffo Ado was a highly respected and trusted opposition leader who led a party that was also not only solidly organized and working in unison with its members all over the country but did all the necessary groundwork for victory to the point that the Regional Campaign Coordinator of the then governing NDC ( National Democratic Congress ) , Sylvester Mensah, confessed to the GHANA STAR newspaper that the secret of the NPP ( New Patriotic Party ) victory was that it was well organized.
In the Gambia, first of all, Gambians had a loathed dictator they were fed up with and wanted to get rid of, at all costs ( Which is not the case in Sierra Leone where President Koroma remains popular and could have won a third term , if the constitutional two-term limit has not come into play ). Adama Barrow also led a party called the UDP ( United Democratic Party ) that was also well organized and was in fact a strong coalition of seven other parties. That was why it successfully defeated a sitting President. The SLPP can never muster such a coalition.
These political parties were ready to lead and rule their countries. They set up structures in place to ensure victory. The SLPP are too busy fighting among themselves to set up winnable structures . Already, the SLPP are handicapped by the fact that they have not been able to make any inroads into the traditional APC strongholds of the North and the Western Area, while , on the contrary, the APC has made impressive headways into the SLPP’s South/ Eastern stronghold. It would take a tricky , massive and well-orchestrated campaign by the SLPP to reverse the trend , but IRONICALLY, that is what the SLPP have always lacked and have rather shown a reliance on trolling their opponents for their mistakes , tribalism, providing fake news, lies and vicious propaganda.
With the present state of affairs, it will take a miracle of epic proportions for a clueless and divided party like the SLPP to beat the APC in the 2018 elections, unless of course the APC too gets overtaken by chaos over the choice of flag bearer and become fragmented like the SLPP , or an unloved , untrustworthy and unpopular presidential candidate is presented by the APC.
It is reasonable to say that victory is not cut-and-dried for the APC itself , given the many people aspiring for the flag bearership, which contest could end in rancor and engender the same strife and split bedeviling the SLPP. But one thing that is certain is that if the APC outdoor a candidate with national appeal , remain united and campaign in the robust and effective manner they have always done, they will beat the disjointed , troubled and chaotic SLPP.
The SLPP are not ready yet to win any elections and rule Sierra Leone . They are too divided. A house divided among itself cannot stand, let alone win the confidence and votes of a country . If the SLPP cannot rule its own house, it is absolutely impossible for them to successfully rule a difficult country like Sierra Leone and that could be the line of thought of the generality of Sierra Leoneans.
Sierra Leoneans know that their country has too many problems and only a serious and united government can solve many of these problems . They are not stupid. The politics of the social media and online forums is different from the politics on the ground. Politics is in Sierra Leone, not on Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter or foolish forums and listserves that the men and the women on the ground do not even have time or opportunity to read.