Guest Writer: Dr Abu Bakarr Fofanah
This piece is in response to two recent articles. One is titled ‘The APC Convention: A Political Façade, if not a Joke’ authored by one Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and carried in page 8 of the Independent Observer Newspaper edition of Friday 20th October 2017. The other piece of writing titled ‘President’s iron-fist methods raise fears for future of democracy in Sierra Leone’ is written by one Cooper Inveen, but with most of the information apparently being provided by one Mr Andrew Lavali, identified in the said article as the Executive Director of the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR). The article itself is carried in the Friday 20th October 2017 online edition of the Guardian newspaper.
Both articles criticised the Chairman and Leader of the All People’s Congress Party (APC), who doubles as the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC party for applying the ‘Selection’ method, to choose party officials, including the Flagbearer for the March 7th, 2018 elections. The Cooper Inveen/Andrew Lavali article even heaped up praises upon the SLPP for using the so-called ‘election’ method.
No doubt as the March 2017 election comes closer, we should expect more and more of such articles in both the foreign and local press, most of them coming against the background of arm-chair journalism, and an abiding allegiance to the other side of the political divide thus completely clouding lateral and professional thinking. It is for this reason that I decided to take the time out of my busy International duty to throw some light on the issues of ‘election’ and ‘selection’ as practised by the SLPP and APC respectively for everyone to appreciate the democratic pedicel that the APC has actually catapulted itself, through its ingenuity thus putting the party at the cutting edge of Sierra Leone Politics
I would like to delve into the crux of the matter with simple definition of the words ‘Election’ and ‘Selection’. Election can be defined as the selection of a person or persons for office by vote. Selection on the other hand can be defined as the action of carefully choosing someone as being the best or most suitable for a position/office. Whether an institution chose to appoint someone to a position through ‘election’ or ‘selection’, the bottom line is about reaching at a consensus among the eligible members of the institution to make the decision, the delegates in this case.
Moreover, whereas in the case of electing someone to office, voting seem to be the operative word, in the case of selecting a person to a position, voting though could be used, is not necessarily the only available tool. There are other selections tools like setting interview panels, debating in front of a panel of judges, consultations amongst eligible stakeholders to make the choice, etc.
In other words, a process of reaching at a consensus/election can be either by direct voting; ELECTION BY VOTING OR by selection after an agreed selection tool e.g. interview, debate, consultation. This is ELECTION by SELECTION, through the agreed tool which is CONSULTATION. This is exactly what the APC through political pragmatism, ingenuity, and astuteness has done. What we have in the APC is ELECTION by SELECTION through CONSULTATIONS. Of course while it does not take the mind of an Albert Einstein to unravel the above political philosophy, it clearly takes more than an ordinary mind to do so. The election by selection through consultation process circumvents the two major limitations of the election by voting process, which are cost and confrontation amongst opponents. This is why even when we had over twenty aspirants inside the convention hall, the process was orderly with no confrontations either among the aspirants themselves or their supports as against what we saw in the SLPP
The fact that one does not see people queuing to cast votes for a candidate of their choice (as in the APC convention) does not make a process undemocratic as the writers of the above articles want country and the world to believe. Similarly just because you saw people queuing to cast so called votes does not mean the process is necessarily democratic. The vote casting that Dr Seaga Shaw claimed to witness at the SLPP convention is the end result of a number of activities that put together constitutes the complete democratic process. It does not take an accomplished journalist or a political scientist to assimilate this fact.
The SLPP adopted the election by voting method when they were coupling together their lower level executives; constituency, district, and regional executives. They employed the same method in electing their national executives. All these executives at all the levels above became the delegates at the National Delegates Conference where their standard Flagbearer was chosen by another so-called election by voting process. But have my learned colleagues stopped for a minute to analyse the outcome of those endless so called elections that they are trumpeting as democratic just because they saw people queuing to cast votes? The end result of those elections are executives/ delegates at various levels that are heavily tilted to favour one candidate over the others. Hence the reason why aspirants like Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella and Mr Andrew Keili suspended their bids for the SLPP Flagbearer positions and the Dr later quit the party altogether as they do not want to be part of what they referred to as a coronation exercise which the SLPP convention ended up becoming. But for my learned friends there is nothing wrong with such a day light mockery of democracy by the SLPP electioneering process as long as they see people queue and vote, FULL STOP. Didn’t people queue to vote in the two rounds of elections in Kenya? Are the legitimacy of both processes not being challenged?
The APC conducts its elections through a selection process that is informed by deep and extensive consultations culminating in a much broader consensus and greater cohesiveness of the party. These are desirable virtues of any democratic process that could not be easily achieved by any simple voting. The ELECTION by SELECTION through CONSULTATION method is widely accepted by the rank and file of the party. Hence neither ordinary party faithfuls nor delegates no aspirants for any position have ever complained. There had been neither defections nor court cases because we adopt an ELECTION by SELECTION process. This is because everyone felt he/she has at least been listened to through prior deep and extensive consultations and have not been cheated or robbed of victory. Not even the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) the statutory body that is there to regulate the conduct of political parties have queried the ELECTION by SELECTION method of the APC. This is because the method is not in contravention of neither our national constitution nor any other subordinate law of the land.
No election by voting process by any political party can ever be more democratic than the APC’s ELECTION by SELECTION through CONSULTATION mechanism. LONTA