Nobody should make a fool of him or herself by stating that the SLPP is at this material moment a very peaceful party. Majority of Sierra Leoneans are really au fait with the undisputable fact that the party has been bedeviled by intrigues, factions and sheer political violence purported to have been coming from one angle; supporters of the Maada Bio camp. The intra-party rivalries and infighting have robbed the party of the clout to be a formidable opposition in the waiting to succinctly pinpoint the blunders of the ruling APC Government with regards good governance and at the same time proffer workable recommendations as to how the country should forge ahead development-wise.
Among the factors that are creating disquiet within the party could most likely be the show of interest by so many top guns to clinch the flagbearer position in order to contest in the slated 2018 Presidential election. Naturally such a fragmentation will definitely lead to divisions with each of the contenders having their own group of supporters who do owe allegiance to them and therefore will go to extreme lengths to manifest loyalty to their so-called political god-fathers.
Accepted that the SLPP Constitution do make provision for members to vie for the flagbearer position, however, political expediency will however dictate that it would have been prudent for a kind of in-house arrangement to take place for the lot to fall on one man whom all the others should rally behind and garner mammoth support for in order to be more formidable contender vis-à-vis the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
Unfortunately, what has transpired is the intransigence of one of the contestants, Julius Maada Bio, who has taken it upon himself that he is the only one fit or God sent to become the next SLPP President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. He has succeeded in brain washing most of the SLPP supporters that he has been ordained to lead and therefore any other contender that stands in his way must be crushed. Bio may tell the whole world that he has admonished his supporters to be violent free and calm but inversely his very rhetorical utterances and actions are most times blown out of contexts by irate supporters who have occasionally ran amok and berserk creating tensions through threats and outright perpetuation of violence. The recent cold blooded murder of one Mohamed Karimu, a supporter of John Benjamin (JOB) in Kenema allegedly by Mohamed Fonnie alias Abacha, a diehard supporter of Maada Bio, has once more lend credence to violence being the hallmark of Bio’s camp or supporters.
Without mincing the facts, Bio could be having a large support base within the SLPP, some whose bona fide membership of the party is questionable and have been associated to past nefarious deeds, most branded as ex-combatants or thugs. The 2012 SLPP Presidential contender has too many alleged skeletons in his cupboard which had been used against him in political propaganda smearing. Those that spring to mind are staging a palace coup against his boss, Valentine Strasser, his involvement in extra-judicial killings when he was a member of the National Provisional Ruling Council junta, pilfering of State funds through award of contracts to his brother Steve Bio and others, reluctance to give up power as Head of State until was forced to do so after the Bintumani 1& 2 conferences, alleged wife battering, dumping his legally wedded wife for another woman among many others.
Whatever, one can say, illiteracy among the Sierra Leonean populace has turned many to be very gullible and those alleged flaws or pitfalls of Bio had been amplified by the APC to shy away potential electorates from the SLPP as they are apprehensive that Sierra Leone under the Presidential leadership of Bio could head for disaster more than what the situation is today. Definitely, what we will expect is for the electorates to find someone whom they can trust will deliver on his promise since most are now tired of unfulfilled promises and sugar-coated vibes.
What is crystal clear today is that our economy is in a very bad shape. Prices of essential commodities keep skyrocketing, the exchange rate to the dollar keeps going up, unemployment is widespread, the fight against corruption is selective, accessing safe drinking water in many places is a nightmare, and getting qualitative education is beyond the reach of many. The point at issue is that most Sierra Leoneans are living below the poverty line! The majority is mooting it in public transports some resigning their fates to destiny looking up to God for redemption from the yoke of extreme suffering. There is too much violence in the air and the bulk of the youth have gone berserk!
Those who have easy access to the nation’s kitty are busy planting mansions, buying shares, expensive vehicles etc. They are considered to be “serious and correct” were as those without opportunities are discriminated against the former pretending that they are not frying us with our own oil. Every day the gap between the haves and have-nots keep widening and those rights based organizations who should be championing the cause of the masses are only vociferously critical when they want to gain attention and financial massaging.
Indeed, had it not been for the internecine infighting within the opposition SLPP this would have been the most appropriate time to constantly expose these issues to the wider populace and by extension make the party more endearing. Lamentably, more time is spent on peace brokering with little attention given to deliberation on national issues that border on improved standards of living for the vast majority. The SLPP are least forgetting that time is of the essence as 2018 is not too far away.
They need to go to the drawing board and do a thorough clinical surgery to remove those things that keep dividing them, come out strong and give Mama Salone the political climate it deserves to see true democracy, accountability and transparency prevail. Internal bickering will never solve the problem as it had been predicted that a house that stands against itself will definitely crumble.
If the party should make a real breakthrough, it is high time that Bio should climb down his high horse, put aside ego, face the true realities on the ground, cease to hide behind the smokescreen that the majority of SLPP supporters consider him as the one to take the SLPP to State House (the people’s mandate) and make way for another more qualified contender with national and international clout, good initiatives, sincerity, patriotism and the exuberance to take Sierra Leone to a higher level. That move should not be considered as a sell out or betrayal as it will serve the best interest of the SLPP to be One Party, One Country. The party must be bigger than self.
May common sense prevail!
By: Brima Sannoh
The Times SL Newspaper