The second half of 2014 was to have been the time when real politicking would have kicked off ahead of local council elections in 2016 and presidential and legislative elections to hold not before December 2017 or later than February of 2018.
But that was to be overtaken by the Ebola outbreak which in itself could determine which way the next elections go. The current leaders led by their leader could be judged by their show of genius in dealing with the disease or their complete lack of depth and understanding in doing so.
While there is what I consider a repressive attempt in the ruling All People’s Congress party to smother political expression of intent by anyone wishing to succeed the current leadership of the party, the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party is enmeshed between mediocrity and a complete lack of a sense of purpose.
In this catch 22 situation you begin to wonder which way for a people petrified by a killer disease which could become endemic, impoverished by corruption and bad financial policies, and blinded by long years of a collapsed educational system which left many of them unbaked or half-baked. Hence, they lack the health, stamina and education to hold their political leaders to account.
The Ebola outbreak has stood in the way of many things but has also laid bare and shone the flashlight on the stark reality in the health sector on many other things. We had a dysfunctional health care delivery system despite the quarrel with and mud slung at the UN World Health Organisation when it sometime this year announced Sierra Leone as one of if not THE worst country in the world in certain health indicators namely maternal and newborn health.
In the recent past, if someone hypothesised about the eclectic state of our health system and the appalling conditions under which our doctors and nurses worked, they would be hounded. Today a child born before 25 May 2014 knows where the truth lies.
Despite the Ebola scourge in the country, or may be because of it, politics is bound to take centre stage in the New Year. The disease will ebb – probably disappear – in the first quarter of the year – but there will be no guarantee it will not re-emerge. As at now, politicians are a bit unsure as to what to do to position themselves in the landscape. If you cosy up to the government you will get the stick from those who feel they have failed. If you keep criticising them for what some say are their failed leadership in prosecuting Ebola, you will be accused of being insensitive and playing politics with a disease that knows no bounds and is brutal. Another catch 22 situation!
Hoping Ebola goes away by March, politics will take centre stage again. The APC and the SLPP – our country’s two traditional political forces – will be readying themselves for the polls – first the local council ones a year later.
Ebola may have killed the “Afta U Na U” campaign – perhaps nonsense – which seemed to be defining politics ahead of 2017 but the incumbent will try to do all he can to determine his party’s choice of its next leader. At least he has the influence up to now. But any attempt to want to push it too far could lead to an implosion in the party.
At the last party’s national delegates’ conference he warned all intending to succeed him to back off and allow for time to mature so he could lead the country. But he is not a man who would tell his party’s members that his priority is to lead the country. Not many people are Ahmad Tejan Kabbah who told party top bras at their then Rawdon Street office that his allegiance lay with Sierra Leone and not SLPP. How courageous!
As 2015 progresses, the mines minister, Minkailu Mansaray will either come out very obviously to want to succeed his boss or will bury his thought of wanting to do so. I can’t get my head round any such ambition by the deputy leader of the APC. Simply unbelievable not least because of his evasive character, not so successful record at the labour ministry, or even the failed projects at the mines ministry under him – seemingly compromised mining contracts to companies that are failing or have failed.
But Sierra Leone politics is not always about track record. The fact that Minkail won to become the party’s deputy leader emphasises how influential he is and how much confidence he enjoys from his boss. That will get stronger and more evident or crumble like flakes in a new year.
Alimamy Petito Koroma may have fallen out with his boss in a spectacular way but he seems to still nurse the ambition which many thought was the true reason behind his sacking as works minister on grounds of alleged incompetence by his boss. The truth is that further nurturing that ambition in view of what we all now know, will be like treating patients in an Ebola without gloves.
John Sisay, the mining magnate has expressed his intent to run for president. He is not a candidate I consider to be a heavyweight not do I shrug off his chances. At a time when another Bush and another Clinton want to become the next president in the world’s leading democracy he perhaps has a ready-made answer to those who will question his intention because he is of the president’s blood relation. His political leadership acumen remains to be proven. So does his defence of the accusation that he is elitist.
Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana almost definitely wants to succeed his boss. Who apart from Dick Cheney and Joe Biden wouldn’t want to! But the vice president has many odds stacked against him. He has a lot of allegations of impropriety to shed off – rightly or wrongly they are out there for him to respond to. Equally serious, if not more so, is the fact that relations between him and his boss are estranged to say the least.
But three assets Sam-Sumana has are thus: I have not seen an APC politician who has as many supporters in the opposition SLPP as he does. If he were a republican politician in the United States he would pass as a Reagan Democrat. But I suspect his favours in the ranks of the opposition have more to do with their dislike for President Koroma than anything of substance.
His other asset is his home district of Kono which is a swing district. Until he became VP, I would defeat him in any election in Kono – not to talk of Diana Konomanyi who weathered very virulent storms for the sake of the APC when they were in the opposition. I still remember very vividly his challenging and defiant voice on Radio UNAMSIL before and after the polls of 2002. But since he became VP, many Konos think that’s the closest to the presidency hence he must ascend to it. Again Kono is a swing district.
All of that said, I would not be surprised if the current leaders of the APC decide at some point in 2015 that they should go look for someone from the UN system – and there are few of their known members working for the world body. But the advantage of that may just be the undoing thereof. And here is why:
Ask many members of the opposition SLPP party and they will be quick to tell you that the best man to beat the APC at the next polls is Kandeh Yumkella. But that may just be his undoing which is why the APC should stick with non-UN diplomats to lead them to the polls. I will tell you how in the New Year.
By Umaru Fofana
(C) Politico 18/12/14