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NEWS : Politics  

In Sierra Leone, APC Shakes Up SLPP in Pujehun
By Sylvia O. Blyden
Jan 7, 2009, 17:32
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Late breaking information reaching Awareness Times from Pujehun indicates that the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) Party has rattled the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) in the otherwise SLPP Stronghold of Pujehun Constituency 87 to the extent that the SLPP big Vons are leaving no stone unturned to maintain the Constituency as their undisputed stronghold in the Parliamentary Bye Elections slated for this Saturday January 10th 2009.

APC big Vons, loaded with cash, Government vehicles and lofty promises of development and jobs for the residents of Pujehun have stormed every nook and cranny of the Constituency in a bid to take over the Parliamentary seat left vacant after a successful court petition of the 2007 elections held there. The APCs Secretary General, Victor Bockarie Foh, accompanied by dozens of APC top-guns including the Southern Province Regional Minister Musa Tarawalie, the NaCSA Deputy Commissioner Charles Rogers and Moijue Kaikai of the SLPP-PMDC-APC fame have been giving the SLPP a run for their money.

However, the SLPP, in a show of cohesive solidarity have trooped into the Constituency from all over Sierra Leone. SLPP Secretary General J.J. Saffa (aka JJ Blood), Womens Leader Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Chairmanship aspirants John Oponjo Benjamin and M.A. Sandy, SLPPs former running-mate Momodu Koroma, Sitting Parliamentarians like Elizabeth Lavalie and Emmanuel Tommy and other Pujehun strongmen like former Bank Governor J.D. Rogers and former Deputy Finance Minister Joe Kallon have shown physical solidarity with the SLPP Candidate, Ansu Kaikai.

Although all indications are that the SLPP Candidate, Ansu Kaikai will win the seat, a series of shocking defections from the SLPP to the APC have left some SLPP activists worried over the fate of the party in that constituency and by extension in the District. The most prominent to defect in a district-wide radio Broadcast on Monday this week was the former parliamentarian, Salifu Conteh who lost the coveted seat in the petition that led to his 2007 victory being over-turned.

Speaking to Awareness Times in an exclusive telephone chat last night, Salifu Conteh, who had been with the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) under whose ticket he won the seat in 2007, explained that he abandoned the PMDC and went back to his SLPP roots after he lost the petition to the SLPP candidate. However, he continued that the SLPP refused to consider giving him the symbol to contest for the elections again and even after he had gone ahead to concede the symbol to his opponent, Ansu Kaikai, the pact that was agreed upon between him and the SLPP all came to nought as the SLPP did not keep to their own side of the pact.

"They promised me that if I gave up my request to be the SLPP flagbearer, I would be the SLPP District Chairman. They also promised me that after Ansu Kaikai ended his term in 2012, the SLPP symbol for the seat would automatically be given to me but they have reneged on those promises but most of all the reason why I have decided to throw my full weight behind the APC is because of the way J.J. Blood has treated me. He has treated me with contempt as if I do not matter in Pujehun," Salifu Conteh lengthily explained adding that with his defection, his followers will troop behind him to vote for the APC and thus the APC Candidate, Samuel Kaikai will win the seat.

For his part, J.J. Saffa in an exclusive telephone discussion from Pujehun last night, dismissed the defection of Salifu Conteh as not being of much significance to their chances of clinching the seat for Ansu Kaikai.

"Salifu Conteh has no business blaming me for his defection to the APC. The mans behaviour is unacceptable. He is an unstable and unreliable character who should not be trusted. How does he expect us from the Party Headquarters to just come and impose him as District Chairman? Does he not realise that it is the people in the District who will choose and elect their Chairman? How can we promise him what will happen in 2012 when no-one has even seen 2010 yet? He assumes that he is a king in Pujehun who will turn this place over to the APC but we are on the ground and the APC will see no success here," Saffa boasted as he heartily recounted amidst chuckles that just yesterday evening whilst himself and John Benjamin were holding a rally at a village known as Gibina, Salifu Conteh passed by in an APC vehicle and when he saw the palm fronds the crowd of villagers were holding, Conteh bent down his head in shame and hid in his vehicle.

According to Saffa, the APC was planning to introduce hugger into the elections with the importation of "thugs" from Makeni and Bo but he promised "fierce resistance" if they try it. "I advise that they stay off that action they are plotting" he stated.

He also accused the APC of forcibly putting their posters on SLPP supporters houses but he said the people of Pujehun were restraining themselves as a civilised people and no one was removing the posters. The SLPP Scribe also made a serious allegation that NaCSAs Charles Rogers was using Government vehicles to campaign in direct contravention of the policy of the President who had ostensibly sacked Kanja Sesay of NaCSA for politicising his office for the SLPP. Attempts to reach Charles Rogers last night for his comments proved fruitless.

However, Salifu Conteh insists that all what J.J. Saffa was saying were excuses and the reality was that the APC was poised to sweep the elections this Saturday.

J.J. Saffa, in reaction, snorts and retorts that as far as Pujehun was concerned, the APC Candidate Samuel Kaikai was a "homeless man" who did not even have a home in the District but was campaigning from the guesthouse of the Community Center which he said the APC had "commandeered from the people". He asked, "Can a homeless man win elections in a place he does not even have a relative to lodge him?"

From the look of things, there is definitely a lot of excitement in Pujehun right now with the APC giving the SLPP a run for their money and the SLPP being determined to showcase their prowess in Pujehun this Saturday.

Awareness Times is closely monitoring the situation in Pujehuns Constituency 87.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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