One side eschewed violence and in defence of the values of the party’s founding fathers vision of one country , inclusiveness , constitutionality and the rule of law. This side is the Alliance. It comprised of intending flag bearer aspirants who are concerned about the violence, lawlessness and dysfunctionality of the party.
The Alliance had Identified serious issues that stand in the way of unity, peace and recognised the need for all those standing for leadership to sit down and resolve some of the problems to move the party forward and lead to free and healthy flag bearer campaign in order to avert a repeat of the fall out from the 2011 flag bearer election in which the party suffered a haemorrhage of some of its senior members including former flag bearer contestants who either resigned from the party or defected to the APC.
The other side has demonstrated their callous disregards for decency, constitutionality and the rule of law. This group is led by a former coupist who styled himself as retired brigadier Julius Maada Bio. His faction are known as the paopas, meaning they will pursue and achieve their objective, which is to have their leader Bio elected again by all means possible including violence and other unorthodox means.
True to their name, this group has stated they would totally reject anyone else leading the party other than their leader. This is a dire choice that the SLPP are now faced with, to succumb to the paopa menace and ways of politicking with election defeat or resist them with every resources at the Alliance command in order to restore the party’s good image with greater chance of wining the public trust.
I see neither a need for compromise or any perceived compromise, in itself , will give succour to the paopas because they are not going to accept a proposal which could be seen by them to neutralise their calibrated plan to see Bio re-elected.
The biggest mistake made by those who contested the 2011 flag bearer election was when they agreed to a gagging order in the conduct of flag bearer election campaign by the then national secretary general J J Saffa,( a leading paopa operative) that flag bearer candidate should only talk about themselves and not about the other contestant or criticise them.
The reason given was for party unity. But where in the world has competing candidates for political office told not to talk about other candidates. One cannot convince people about how good you are if you don’t point out the flaws in your opponent case or how you think they are not up to your standard.
The gagging was designed to protect the weakest of the candidate with he most baggage and questionable background like Julius Bio. This allowed him to mount a campaign of deception, misinformation and outright lies to the delegates, which was underline by tribal appeal targeted mainly at the south-east.
I had a first hand experience of how the paopas had brainwashed our people in the south east about the military prowess of Julius Bio. The past APC administration were notorious for exporting violence and thuggery in the south east during elections. Some of us witnessed this as student in BO during the 70s.
You talk to the supposedly educated paopa, the issues of Bio as a military man who overthrew the APC made them floured Bio against any other candidate from the south-east. Issues of character , rounded accomplishment, national electability, competence, credibility and other national electoral calculus were meaningless to a typical paopa supporter. Because it was drummed in to them that the incumbent APC would use violence in the 2012 election . The only man to fight them fire for fire was Julius Bio, according to this constituent.
Old firewood was the catch phrase used to introduced Bio on his campaign trail. It connote two meanings, first Bio has been president before, second he had overthrown APC before so he is very experienced according to them.
To show how some people were transfixed with militancy in the paopa’s campaign, I approached a group of young men at Capitol in Kenema. I understand that they had been told stories about Bio being the only south easterner who can fight the APC as he did as NPRC coupist which ousted the APC from power. This is a big campaign material for the paopas.
I gave the youths my own opinion when they made certain claims but they said to me that no one has told them what I said to them. “ Pa den nor tell we that,” one said. I saw surprises in their eyes as if I was an alien.
What I gathered from this encounter was that the paopa propaganda machinery work like bees in drumming militancy in the people of south-east. According to them 2012 election was all about violence and thuggery and Bio with his military background was better placed to lead them.
I have to admit that there was nothing one can do to change the minds of people who hold this view. I can only hope that they may have realised that Bio misled them and that some of our greatest warriors from Bai Bureh, Nyangua, the legend Nelson Mandela who led South African to freedom from apartheid and Gandhi of India who took on the British colonialist and Marin Luther King who changed the course of American history were not military men.
Indeed just last week Bio put on a dummy military shirt, he probably bought from his slum market in south London, whiles he handed out gifts to school children in Freetown. It was an odd sight of display to see an SLPP flag bearer aspirant dressed in dummy military shirt. He was sending out message of militarism as he believes this was an issues that attracted south-east delegates to vote for him, and this could still be a factor although I had pointed out that incumbent no longer need to use naked violence to win or rig an election .
Basically, Bio fed the people with lies and false representation of himself and his ability to win a national election. The expected violence and thuggery really did not happen in the 2012 general election. Instead, the APC campaign machinery outsmarted Bio in every department during the campaign and reduced him to an observer status to win by a landslide, bowling him out in a straight set. He is still telling the same fib to his paopa followers at the party HQ when he assured them, like he did in 2012, that he cannot afford to fail them.
I hear people talking about peace against the backdrop of five years of paopa aggression. escalating violence, intimidation, lawlessness and the complete disregards for the rule of law and constitutionality. It is a mistake to believe that Bio is interested in peace and even futile to engage him along that line.
Just few days ago, after his paopa members in the NEC finalised and executed his plan to coronate him as the flag bearer again by suspending the party leader and chairman Chief Kapen, in what people described as a palace coup, Bio shamelessly reaffirmed his full commitment to his paopa supporters at the party HQ and approved what is widely regarded as illegal suspension of the chairman and leader of the SLPP by his crocodile paopa supporters who are themselves disbanded by a properly convened quorate NEC resolution held on 4th December. Bio’s blatant disregards for constitutionality has angered even some people like Musa Fawudu who had come to his defence when I write against him. In a statement yesterday, on Facebook, Musa Fawudu said Bio’s approval of the illegal suspension of Chief Kapen was the last straw for him and he added that he would not vote for Bio.
The question now is what will it take to get Bio and his paopas to understand that Sierra Leone’s electorate would not elect him as president even if he was elected 10 times and for him to acknowledge this fact, to change his way and join his fellow contestants in the Alliance, where the country expect a credible alternative could emerge to give SLPP a chance to win the 2018 election.
Change and common sense are not virtues for Bio and his paopas. Fanaticism is like an intoxication that has sent the paopas in to hysterical cult and deprived hardcore members of this cult from thinking beyond their leader Julius Bio and to accept that the SLPP national election interest is supreme to Bio’s flag bearer interest. Indeed it was Albert Ernsten who said “ Intelligence is measure by ones ability to change”
I call on soft paopas to abandon Julius Bio like his former national campaign manager Tucker and many others have done.
The only way forward for the SLPP is to reject division, conflict, violence, lawlessness and failure, which Julius Bio represents.
We own this to the next generation of SLPP.
Permission for wild publication anywhere on this planet has been granted by me.