“SLPP’s violence, intimidation and blocking of our voters took us by surprise and caused our defeat” : APC Elections Coordinator Balogun Koroma

The National Coordinator of the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) 2012 Elections Campaign, Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma , has blamed  the stunning defeat suffered by the party during today’s local Council Bye-Elections in Freetown on what he described as “The shocking violence and intimation of voters carried out by thugs of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP )” .

BALOGUN KOROMA :  “TODAY’S EVENTS ARE A WAKE-UP CALL TO THE APC”

To the disbelief of APC supporters who consider the Western Area as their stronghold, the opposition SLPP  won today’s bye-elections at Constituency 104, ward 369 , Fourah Bay in Freetown . According to the provisional results , the SLPP polled 423 votes , followed by the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) with 407 votes . The United Democratic Movement ( UDM ) garnered 27 votes and the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA ) 14 votes.

APC MAN IBRAHIM LEWALLY BLEEDING PROFUSELY AT THE HOSPITAL AFTER THE STABBING INCIDENT:PICTURE CREDIT–MOMOJA LAPPIA OF THE SIERRA EXPRESS

The question on every lip tonight is how the All People’s Congress ( APC ) –The political party in power and “enjoying all the powers of incumbency” -could have lost such a very crucial election in their own stronghold in the Capital to the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) , especially at a time when the party had the momentum with key supporters of the SLPP , including famous grassroots campaigner , Lansana Fadika , and about 127 others who just this week deserted the SLPP and joined the APC.

With this question in mind, Cocorioko , a paper that has  decided not to provide any opinion on today’s events to avoid detractors, who are angry with us for exposing their party’s violent dispensation, blaming the newspaper as one of the catalysts of chaos should the situation in Freetown escalated , decided to sample the views of Sierra Leoneans across the broad spectrum of  the citizenry instead.

LANSANA FADIKA SCREAMS AS HIS STAB WOUND IS TREATED : PICTURE CREDIT-SYLVIA BLYDEN

While many Sierra Leoneans roundly condemned the violence unleashed at APC supporters, they blamed the Freetown City Council for the defeat , accusing the APC-controlled  Council that it had suddenly become complacent with important council matters in the capital. They spoke about the mounds of garbage that they said have suddenly surfaced in a city that President Ernest Koroma’s government had won praise for cleaning up and keeping spic ans span since the APC Government came to power in 2007 , the bounced checks issued to workers of the Council, the allegations of corruption within the Council and the corruption charges brought against the Mayor , Mr. Herbert Williams , on the eve of elections. They said that while Freetown still remains an APC stronghold, some of these problems can affect voting patterns.

Even some APC supporters condemned some of their FCC councillors for becoming lackadaisical and for losing their focus after a great start. It is obvious that many  functionaries have stopped having a shared vision with President Ernest Koroma, they complained.

LANSANA FADIKA WITH HIS BLOODY UNDERPANTS  : PICTURE CREDIT – MOMOJA LAPPIA

Other Sierra Leoneans attributed the defeat of the APC in Constituency 104 to overconfidence by the party. They said that much grassroots campaigning was not done for the Constituency 104 elections because the party was too confident of winning . They charged the APC that unless it awoke from its overconfidence and got back to what it once excelled at–Strong, efficient campaigns at grassroots level–they will face many more surprises at other constituencies during the forthcoming National Elections. “Anybody who loves our party will be very frank with it at this time .This is no time to deceive the party that all is very well, given the way some of our own people are acting . Much more needs to be done to  cleanse the party of deadwoods  and corrupt elements and  get it  back on the winning trail”, said a party official who asked not to be named.

But by far the BEST  reason given today by respondents to our question about why the APC lost in their stronghold was the violence displayed by the thugs who carried out the stabbings . Most Sierra Leoneans felt that the result was determined by the violence expatiated. The margin of 16 votes was too small for the APC  not to have covered it  in its own stronghold.The SLPP, they complained stabbed Fadika because if he had continued campaigning there was no way that the APC would not have covered the 16 votes.  In fact, in many independent online forums Sierra Leoneans strongly condemned the violence from a non-partisan perspective. They expressed grave concern that such a brutal violence took  place right in the capital under the noses of the government, the City Council and the Security Forces and they called on President Koroma that it was time to take the bull by the horns and nip this encroaching violence in the bud. They warned that it was a foretaste of things to come with the country holding Presidential,  Legislative and local council elections in November this year. “If they have the guts to do it in Freetown, imagine what will happen in the provinces this November”, some people opined.   One SLPP supporter who justified the violence was suspended for 30 days from one of the forums by the administrators.

The National Co-ordinator of the APC 2012 elections Campaign, Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma, told COCORIOKO that the APC lost in their stronghold because of the violence and intimidation and lamented that the APC  underestimated the SLPP’s propensity for violence.  He attributed the result to the brutality unleashed by the SLPP at APC voters and supporters, which prevented many APC supporters from voting .

His voice sounding very devastated and disappointed , Mr. Koroma said he and other APC officials woke up this morning looking forward to a decent, free and fair election but what they saw stunned and took them by surprise. “It looked like the SLPP came with a well-orchestrated plan to frustrate and intimidate voters with a show of brutality and thuggery , the likes of which we have not seen for long “, he told COCORIOKO . He said that supporters of the stunned APC were unexpectedly pegged down by thugs who intimidated and threatened them with sticks , knives and  matchets. “6 of our supporters were stabbed , not 2 as reported by the press. Many other supporters fled for their lives and did not come back to vote.This was why we lost the elections “. He gave 4 names of the victims–Lansana Fadika, Ibrahim Lewally, Mariatu Suma and Abdul Lamin –and promised to give us the other two names tomorrow.

Asked to explain how the violent thugs would have been allowed to get their way in the capital to the extent that they prevailed , Mr. Koroma said one of the greatest issues facing by this government as the regime in power is the need to exercise restraint and not blow problems out of proportion . He stated that the government was treading softly because it did not want to  offend its developoment and donor partners and human rights activists and organizations who see all these things being perpetuated by the SLPP  but are quick to blame the government if it responds  with force.

Mr. Koroma said that the SLPP took advantage of this  fact that in the event of a total breakdown of law and order it is the ruling government that could have been  chastised by the international community, donor partners and human rights organizations.

Asked if the APC would file a petition against the result, given the violence he is alleging that the SLPP unleashed which intimidated the party’s supporters from voting, Mr. Koroma said it is possible but the final decision is with the party executive .

However, one statement that Mr. Koroma and many supporters of the APC made was that today’s event was a wake-up call for  the APC. “We are  not happy about what happened but all the same we are glad that it happened so that we now know where we stand. And it happened early so that we have enough time to rectify whatever must have gone wrong and to readjust our campaign strategies. It is also good that the government now knows the violence that the opposition is capable of perpetuating and it now has enough time to devise security strategies to avoid the opposition derailing democracy in November . Nothing happens for nothing. Today’s event happened so that we can learn from it and take the appropriate remedies. ”

MEANWHILE, President Ernest Koroma visited the victims of the stabbing today at the hospital. Speaking to reporters at the hospital, the President said that those who perpetuated today’s violence would face the full force of the law. President Koroma condemned the violence and assured the nation that the events would be fully investigated and anybody found culpable would be arrested and charged.

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