By Ahmed Lamin Sesay
The Sierra Leone People’s Party is the Grand Old Party (GOP) formed on April 27, 1951. One of its main flaws was the fact that apart from enlisting a few “big men” in each locality as its representatives, the SLPP embarked on little political activity in the protectorate. It made little effort to enlist a mass membership (like the opposition APC), or to stir up popular participation by rallies or other activities. “In Freetown, it was slightly more active, holding regular public meetings in the last half of 1951 but even there it made no real effort to develop a body of committed supporters,” maintained J.R. Cartwright in his book – Politics in Sierra Leone; p.56.
From the foregoing, it’s quite clear that after 65 years, the SLPP is still grappling with the grassroots phenomenon which continues to elude its leadership.
The party’s Eastern Regional Chairman Hon. Philip Tetema Tondoneh confessed on 98.1 last week that they have been lagging behind the ruling APC in enlisting and winning the hearts and minds of grassroots supporters all across the country. He however noted that the SLPP has put mechanisms in place to address the issue.
“During the period immediately prior to and soon after independence, the SLPP was more of a “patron” party rather than a “mass party”, Professor Deveneaux affirmed in Power Politics in Sierra Leone; p.32. If until now Hon. Tondoneh and his SLPP caboodle are still crying over spilt milk, then it’s their problem because they should have known by now that that’s their fate. That’s what they represent- the aristocracy; the educated elite, paramount chiefs and native authorities. It’s the same story even today in June, 2016. In 2018, the APC will repeat the 2012 victory powered by overwhelming grassroots support. “De book man den nar TOPUP,” a trader at Abacha Street bluffed.
Interestingly, the GOP’s support base of educated people, chiefs and native authorities have dwindled considerably over the years. The APC now has its equal share of “bookmen” and “bookwomen” as well as chiefs because of its tangible developmental initiatives. Also, whether you’re a professor or petty trader, you all have ONE vote.