Today’s bye-election in the Lugbu Chiefdom, Bo District, Southern Sierra Leone, has been widely described as "judgment day" over the numerous speculations that the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party has captured the southern stronghold of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).
The defection from the SLPP to the APC of the late Councilor J. Stevens of the Lugbu Chiefdom resulted in the assumption that the APC has assumed control of the south since the neighboring Bagbo Chiefdom is owned by the APC.
Meanwhile, the three main political parties in the country have all expressed confidence of victory in today’s bye-election to replace the late Councilor J. Stevens, who died in a gruesome motorbike accident.
SLPP’s National Chairman and Southern District Young Generation Leader, John Oponjo Benjamin and Ahmed Ken Kamara respectively assured the Awareness Times Newspaper that the Ward in question is a "SLPP Ward". They based their argument on the grounds that the SLPP won the 2008 Local Council Election in the said Ward, and confidently pointed out that the SLPP will ensure a similar victory with the female candidate the party is presenting this time round.
The SLPP big guns expressed concerns over the Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP) that has been invoked by President Koroma. "The APC might want to use the MACP as an opportunity to intimate the SLPP supporters since the soldiers are answerable to the government of the day" Ahmed K. Kamara expressed, adding that gun totting soldiers parading the ward will infuse panic on peaceful residents.
According to Mr. Benjamin, the SLPP hierarchy has adequately communicated with it supporters in the Ward about the MACP, and emphasized that the SLPP has put modalities in place to ensure that its members are not intimidated.
Mr. Benjamin said the implementation of the MACP in a single Ward in the country is a "disgrace" to the Sierra Leone Police, whilst adding that the police have proved incapable of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens.
National Chairman of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), Mohamed Bangura, last night told the Awareness Times on the telephone line from Bo that he was in the company of three senior members of the party, who were heading to the Lugbu Ward, to provide leadership role in the whole process. He assured that the PMDC will conduct itself within the ambit of the law in the entire process, whilst expressing that the PMDC is sure to win the seat.
The MACP, according to him, will not constitute any threat to the PMDC supporters if the soldiers are stationed as a standby force for any eventuality rather than parading the Ward with guns.
APC’s Deputy Secretary General, Frank Kargbo said the APC had long since "owned" the said ward as evident in the defection of the late Councilor Stevens from the SLPP to the APC. "There is absolutely no doubt that we will win tomorrow’s bye-election" Mr. Kargbo told the UN Radio yesterday.
He assured that the military will not allow itself to be used by any political party to intimidate opposition supporters on grounds that the military force has proved itself to be a discipline and reliable one, whilst pointing out that the President’s step to invoke MACP was one in the right direction.
It could be recalled that the 2008 Local Council Election in the Ward under review was won by the SLPP. The elected SLPP Councilor for the said Ward ended up defecting to the APC. His defection sparked several concerns and allegations. Several SLPP big guns accused the defected Councilor of accepting monetary and motorbike inducement from the APC. It has even been speculated that the late Councilor died onboard the motorbike that was given to him by the APC.
Whatever the case, today's bye-election in the South will reveal just how much the APC has eaten into the stronghold of the SLPP.