Never in the history of Sierra Leone’s political dispensation has the issue of the choice of the presidential running mate become so topical, volatile and worrisome as it is with the SLPP in the forth coming elections. Any of the other parties can choose whoever they want as running mate… it’s not an issue for public debate, infact who cares? But the choice Solomon Berewa should make regarding his most-able and reliable lieutenant is one for which I do not envy him.
Several different theories, assumptions, conditions, suggestions and qualifications have been put forth with regards the SLPP’s flag bearers’ choice of his running mate. There is the talk of Momodu Koroma who most people believe is the anointed choice of outgoing president Kabbah. There is Kanja Sesay who has been not only very close to Solo B but who also had been moving the SLPP sensitization tours to areas originally thought of as non-SLPP friendly areas. Of course Bobson Sesay is mobilizing his Tonkolili brothers and sisters and courting other northerners to join the SLPP fold. And my dear Rotifunk sister, Kadi Sesay is dealing the sexist/feminist card. She hopes to be the next Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Africa. "Bonn" Wurie, Alpha Wurie, Abass Bundu and Alpha Timbo, all hope to whip up their fullah connections to add to their temneness in order to qualify under the northerner banner. Some even are ready to cross the boundary to Western Area to claim the ticket for running mate through their Krio ancestry. Unfortunately though, their counterparts who have strong tie further south (Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba, etc) are suspect Temnes should they attempt it.
This leads to the question, which I believe will fuel the next great debate, "Who is a Northerner?" I ask this because, this northern question, as far as the SLPP presidential running mate issue is concerned, has been attracting a lot of different interpretations, disqualifications, additions and omissions, to the point that it is not quite clear who qualifies as one.
For example, my name is Ibrahim Mustapha Fofana. At face value most Sierra Leoneans would categorize me as a Northerner. Of course, I am. I have some northern ancestry but really, my late father was born and settled in the South - Rotifunk to be exact. So he is a Southern and so am I. To make my identity even more complex, I was born in Foulah Tong in Freetown by a lady who is both a Christian and Marabou (Muslim) Krio. So, I am equally a Krio-"Freetown boy", a northerner and a southerner. If I were one of the candidates for the running mate of the SLPP Flag bearer, would I qualify as a Northerner? If yes, why? If not, why not? Or would I be one of those Charlie Hughes refer to as people "with dubious northern credentials"? I am sure our Constitution is mute on such an issue but I think, to use Charlie J. Hughes’ expression, "conventional wisdom," can proffer suggestions as to who or what I am or who or what I am not. However, can "conventional wisdom" be challenged or questioned or even ignored in such a matter? Regardless of the answer (s) to the question, the "northern" running mate looms over the SLPP flag bearer.
But who started fuelling the flame of a joint south-north presidential candidature? Was it some northern major stakeholders, the party’s hierarchy, the party’s flag bearer or political expediency? Now that it appears that "the running mate issue, to the largest extent is still discussed within the "Northern" parameters" can I ask if it was hind sight, wishful thinking or political arm twisting or some other unknown factor or consideration that gave birth to that notion? Loyalty is indeed a paramount consideration in the choice of Solo B’s running mate but I am not sure it constitutes the only qualification criterion. Should the SLPP flag bearer chooses a non-northerner, it may not be because their loyalty is doubtful but maybe because some other vital consideration eliminated them.
The above not withstanding, other political pundits may want to ask why limit the issue of the running mate of the SLPP flag bearer to a "Northerner"? Some of my brothers from the East, notably Kailahun are now arguing that they had never been given a shot at the leadership. They no longer want to be linked erroneously to the "conventional wisdom" of a South-Eastern alliance which they never are quite a part of.
My Western Area Krio "fambul dem" too, with the exception of the results of coups, have never been part of the presidency. So where do all these assertions lead us? The Western Area Agenda, the Eastern Non-Alliance and the Northern Question are all considerations for Solomon Berewa, but which way he will choose should be his decision alone in consultation with the party’s NEC.
The press has put forward a national balance theory, that is, if the President is from the South and a Christian, it will be good if his vice is from a cardinally opposite position, that is, from the North and a Muslim. The women have also proposed that since they constitute more than half the country’s population, one of their kinds should be considered for the hot seat. The youths have pointed out that if Berewa should be the next President, he needs a fairly younger running mate who understands their concerns, especially given their over sixty percent stake in the country’s population. If Solomon Berewa has to consider all of these serious points and suggestions regarding his choice of running mate, one would come to understand why it is taking him so long a time in naming his running mate. What all of these concerns show is that Sierra Leoneans have grasped the real meaning of partisan politics - it’s all about interests. Whose interest will be in sync with Solo B’s and the SLPP 2007 Elections Platform will surely win the day. Good Luck Solo B! Best Wishes Sierra Leone.