Date: Mon Aug 01 2005 – 13:16:23 EDT
WHY ADJUST TO A SNAP NOTICE?
The announced aspirants of the SLPP nomination were recently caught
flat-footed when the Party announced on a snap notice that it will host its
nominating convention two years before the elections are scheduled. Their reaction
was to run helter skelter without challenging the incoherent rationale given
them for such a hurried convention. In the custom of garden variety
politicians, they instead adjusted to the notice and are preparing not to impress the
nation with their goals for human development, but how they may better each
other to stand in the nominating convention. This adjustment to the snap notice
gives credence to the old saw that politicians make their decisions by the
direction of the wind. There are compelling reasons for the aspirants to
challenge the whimsical application of party rules.
THE PARTY IN GROWING PAINS
The first of these reasons is the SLPP’s duty to frame its vision. The
Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), the grandfather of the political parties, has
been regarded in recent years as the institution to take the country into the
next century she recovers from a decade-long war whose consequences still
loom large. In this regard, we expect the SLPP to offer the nation a vision and
a leader from its next convention the people would behold for modernization
of post-flag independence problems of land tenure, citizenship, corruption,
economic development among so many of the fallen sectors desiring a root and
branch reform for human development.
The rush to Makeni with slogans instead of a clearly defined political
ideology in the prelude to the 2007 elections is a bad sign of the times. In the
1996 general elections it was the tall, recondite, and singsong slogan, “The
only way out, the only way forward, the only way through, and power to the
people,” In the 2002 general elections, it was Wu teh teh. This manner of
sloganeering is typical of a political party without a vision, groping in
darkness for a handle to lead the nation. The newfangled, baroque slogans
undermine the historic, One Country, One People. A party ?? the SLPP, 54 years old,
indulging in schoolboy gleeful sloganeering, instead of discerning a clear
political philosophy, must have growing pains.
In attaining such national goals, a political party would be quite poised to
frame a national manifesto and select a candidate with the best experience
to govern. No political party can reach such goals by rushing to a delegates’
convention when some Sierra Leoneans are still thinking about entering the
process. By calling a snap convention, the political process is frustrated
with the motives of the ruling class to stay in power using Machiavellian
DEMOCRACY REQUIRES FREE & FAIR ELECTIONS
The next reason for delaying the convention is to secure the franchise of
free and fair elections. The principal reasons for rescheduling the convention
is to ensure the delegates have the best opportunity to choose a nominee who
would serve the best interests of the nation. The people of Sierra Leone do
not yet quite know what these aspirants would do besides the empty
declarations they have made. Should we now hear the details of what these aspirants
would do or should we wait until they are selected? The Party is putting the
cart before the horse?
The next reason for opening the process is to ensure that the aspirants
debate the issues facing the people of Sierra Leone. Why should we merely accept
the delegates’ endorsement of an aspirants when we have not heard them frame
the issues in front of the nation? It is too soon in August to expect the
aspirants to look at every sector with a discernible eye.
More than this, the snap convention does not give adequate opportunity for
the aspirants to canvass the issues in all the 14 Electoral Block Districts.
A convention two years before the elections denies the people of Sierra Leone
the chance to see and hear the aspirants discussing the issues.
The European Union and other donor institutions which have paid for the
1996, 2002 general elections and the 2004 Local Government elections would
equally would be interested in seeing that the democratic process is free and fair.
The free and fair franchise requires that conventions not be tailored to
merely suit the ruling class. A convention should accommodate all aspirants in
an equitable fashion which gives meaning to the democratic process that
candidates or nominees have free and fair opportune to discuss their agenda to
persuade the electorate of the vital issuing facing the nation. The present
call for the August convention is tilted more towards the interests of the
ruling class than the aspirations of electing a good leader.
MOTIVES FOR THE SNAP CONVENTION?
Besides these reasons, the underlying motive to hold a convention two years
before the general elections ought to be dashed. If the motives of the ruling
class are fed with the Makeni convention, President Kabbah will cease to be
the standard bearer of the Party and becomes a lame duck national leader.
The new bellwether would garner the attention of the Party and the nation. As
a lame duck bellwether President Kabbah would become irrelevant to even donor
and multilateral organizations in terms of relying on his leadership. He
would cease to command the attention of the nation still unstable in the
apprehension now looming that UNAMSIL will finally vacate in December 2005.
Investors will suffer the disquiet and stay away. These and other instabilities
will attend to a lame duck who designs a snap convention to ensure his personal
choice succeeds in a manipulated convention.
A leader such as President Kabbah should be consolidating solutions for the
postwar Sierra Leone instead of spreading disquiet with a new standard bearer
two years before he leaves office. He should be ensuring his political
legacy is a stable SLPP within the notions of democracy and pluralism. If he is
seen behaving like Siaka Stevens, by choosing his successor instead of
letting the democratic process do it, the Makeni nominee would be regarded as
hand-picked. It now appears his support of this snap convention is akin to Siaka
Stevens 1985 extraordinary APC Delegates Convention where General Joseph
Momoh was picked by the delegates to succeed him before he resigned the
Presidency. The rules were manipulated in Parliament and he succeeded in achieving
the index of his intentions. While it is not Parliament deciding this
particular rules manipulation, it gives that sort of appearance that incumbents are
rushing to the Makeni convention to ensure that they all stay in office as the
If the Makeni Convention remains as scheduled with nary a serious protest
from the aspirants or with no representations from intellectuals and others
suited as surrogates of our democracy, the classical wisdom of the Poet and
Philosopher George Santayana would have claimed our ignorance of the history of
the whims of Machiavellian politicians and their designs on power. As
Santayana has said,?gProgress, far from consisting in change, depends on
retentiveness. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.?h
The thing to really keep in mind is Professor Michael Winston’s admonition
akin to Santayana’s. Winston, once Director of the Moorland-Spingarn research
library at Howard University, writing in the University?fs journal, New
Directions, urged knowledge of history in the manner we have discussed above of
Sierra Leonean power politics. There he said, ?gA people without a remembered
heritage, bereft of any sense of the past, cannot achieve a sound
understanding of the present. Collective forgetfulness mocks the human urge to achieve
permanence and stability in a world of inexorable change.?h
John Lansana Musa
Received on Mon Aug 1 13:16:51 2005