In detailing coincidences informing objective conclusions, the article earlier mentioned was meant to be a wake-up call and prepare stakeholders for threats of potent pitfalls ahead, not to mock it. Because history shows the ominous 7th¬†year came about because leaders allowed personal interests and egos to override party good. This started in 1957 and continued in 1967. The Stevens-led APC fiasco disgracing ethics of democracy in 1977 was precipitated by the Sir Albert-led SLPPís miscalculation when they refused to award party symbols to Luseni A.M. Brewah and Kutubu I. Kai-Samba, to contest the 1967 General elections. Had these events not occurred, the SLPP would never have known the political hiccups since then, and now being experienced.
Political distortions the 1987 elections ingrained following Stevens-led APC imposition of a one-party status in Sierra Leone are traceable to the narrow view demonstrated during elections of 1967, even if one admits the APC leadership harboured loatheness for constitutional norms. The 1996 Presidential and Parliamentary elections saw the ďdie castĒ at the Bintumani Conference Center in Aberdeen where choice of a Presidential candidate at the SLPP Convention took place. When during the first polling exercise for headship of the ticket, Charles Francis, a scion of the Margai family was ahead of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in early voting and the lights in the hall suddenly went out as nefarious hands pulled the levers, one thing was obvious. The proclivity of leaders in the SLPP to cheat was not a one-off affair! This was evident when about an hour later the lights were eventually turned on and to the surprise of the few who were ďwet behind the earsĒ, Kabbah suddenly leapfrogged over Charles in the vote-count. That notwithstanding, votes tallied showed Kabbah still fell short of the mandatory 55% ballot needed to claim victory at the first ballot, Charles Ė as his father had done before to step down for his older brother Ė was¬† persuaded to concede though a second round of voting was a prerequisite of the SLPP constitution, (In a subsequent article to be captioned ďCHARLES MARGAI AND THE SLPP FACTORĒ, I shall prove that despite human quirks, Charles Margai stands very much wronged by SLPP malpractices!)
J. Alusine Kamara
One would have thought the spectre of the ďSLPP AND OMINOUS 7TH year of every decadeĒ would end when the 1996 Presidential elections surreptitiously imposed President Kabbah on the people. With 5-year electoral terms, people believed future elections would never reach the ominous 7th¬†year! This wishful thinking was waste-binned when during a first tenure the country was coerced into ďcompensatingĒ Kabbah with a 1 year extension to his term of office after he resurfaced in 1998 from his sojourn in Guinea. Thus elections scheduled for 2001 were postponed to 2002, making ensuing elections after each second 5 year term promote the 7th year principle in every decade. Please indulge this quote from the Pied Piper of Hamelin. ďAnd here begins my ditty!Ē
First test case came during the 2006 SLPP Convention in Makeni which saw the imposition Ė once again Ė of a Presidential candidate considered ďdead on arrivalĒ by astute political commentators. Prior to the Makeni Convention, Charles embarked on a consultative tour of the South and East provincial strongholds of the SLPP. The call rang loud, clear and unambiguous, ďNo Charles Margai, no SLPP!Ē After the Makeni convention, Charles went on a subsequent consultative tour during which his upset and teeming supporters charged him to break away and form a new party. The advice was adhered to as the Peopleís Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) was born.
Since events historically documented will show what transpired before, during and after the 2007 elections one needs not recount that in the ensuing Presidential run-off elections, the third-placed PMDC party hierarchy then mandated its leader, Charles Margai, to throw its campaign resources behind the opposition APC.¬†
Solomon Berewa, the anointed SLPP Presidential candidate therefore lost. But, were lessons ever learnt by those at the helm of affairs in the party? I daresay No! Because, all one needs now is to backtrack to the more recent but best-forgotten fatalistic 2012 choice of the partyís Presidential candidate.
Results of the 2012 elections portend worrying signs for the ensuing 2017 elections, not the least because it foreshadows spectre of the 7th¬†year in a decade.
With rancorous in-fighting and jockeying for power now rocking the SLPP, only divine intervention would see it through as a political entity. Internecine posturing by those hell-bent on furtively marginalizing or discouraging ones with party pedigree bodes nothing but foreboding of doom. One glaring dynamic distinguishing the APC from SLPP is that the APC ďnever forgets Ďtheirí own!Ē Contrast that with the SLPP which considers it anathema to identify with past leaders and contributors. Making this observation is not couched in expectation of compensation, but in a desire to inspire and entrench a sense of belonging by some. The ďno names, no pedigree impostorsĒ running the party affairs feel unjustifiably threatened. There lies the core difference between the two parties, and not the ďNorth/South divide!
For the 2017 elections to find the SLPP faring well or not rests crucially on choice of its Presidential candidate. One needs not be a fortune-teller to predict that if acrimony raging through the party is not smothered or at least does not subside, the elections in 2017 will not only be disastrous for the Presidential ticket but consequently trigger a domino-effect that would negatively affect other office seekers across the political spectrum. More will be written about this later, but for now let me return to the core subject of this commentary.
The James Jonah-chaired Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC) in my view is the sinner incarnate of the 2 culprits I adjudge guilty as charged for the mishap set to continue ad infinitum with the SLPP. Especially when some patriots believe he discounted norms of ethics expected of a former top official in the United Nations. James Jonah stands guilty in my estimation of violating the Constitution and electoral laws of Sierra Leone. He thus by extension cheated the country of a forthright and renowned leadership we genuinely craved for and rightly deserved in 1996.
Although it could be regarded as hypothetical, there is no doubt that had Dr John Karefa-Smart who won the Presidential run-off election that was ďgiftedĒ to Kabbah been in control of the countryís affairs, he would not have deserted us. The need to extend the electoral date by a year from 2001 to 2002 to compensate Kabbah would have therefore been non-existent.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.