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Will the APC survive the coming SLPP onslaught?

03,Jun 2016
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The recent intensity of internal SLPP politics since consensus was reached for lower tier party elections and that has left one person already murdered on Friday, suggests a fait accompli thinking among party members that whoever becomes the presidential candidate, he is assured of winning the presidency for the party. This optimism is primarily hinged on the weakened economy umpired by the APC and sanctioned by higher than expected inflation with widening unemployment among the youths and growing public disquiet about the level of impunity amidst countless allegations of corruption that irks the ordinary man in the street, desperate to salvage a day’s living.

 

In a random poll conducted by Popular Polls of 485 people who identified themselves as recent graduates from four tertiary institutions in the country with degrees and diplomas, only 13% said they have got formal employment in the last 12 months. 72% said they considered themselves as still on the “job lookout list”. Meaning they were still actively engaged in searching for work. What was shocking was that we found 18% of respondents “giving up” on the job search. That they have lost hope because they couldn’t find a job. The major defects of this survey are that it was confined only to Freetown and could only achieve 55% ability to track only last year’s graduates, as the subject of study. Margin of error is +/-5%.

But even with these deficiencies, there is clearly a disproportionate number of graduates who are still looking for a job and who almost certainly would be struggling to fend for themselves. Broaden that into siblings who expect much from them then there are tens of thousands of affected households on the brink. There is quite an alarming minority who are already frustrated about the system to absorb them as the survey shows. This poll was carried out between 3rd and 5th May 2016.

It is this sense of economic hopelessness confronting the people that is seemingly the singular assuring factor informing the SLPP that, if only the party could rally behind a single candidate, victory 2018 was assured. But this optimism is the problem. And the drawback is, internal party politics is playing out into fatalistic optimism that is consuming their own as the party moves into crunch time politics – electing the presidential flagbearer. The repercussions could be deadly.

The party leadership could not agree on anything since they lost the 2012 elections to the APC chiefly because of rampant arrogance within the SLPP – there are several centers of power and each doing well to stall party progress on its own merits. Since 2012 SLPP has become the first party to have lodged the most law suits in intra-party disputes ever in the political history of Sierra Leone. There have been court cases, one after the other, year after year over almost everything. They were in court to decide on who was the minority leader in Parliament, a situation that continues to see Hon Bernadette Lahai as the pretender to the office, courtesy of court interventions and injunctions; Alie Bangura could not accept defeat by rival Somanoh Kapen for chairmanship of the party. He went to court with the party reduced to factions between the two. Bangura lost the case. The SLPP party offices was used to being barricaded time and time again by one faction of the party, hence declaring others persona non grata and leaving the party’s administration dysfunctional. There has been a Secretary-General who would not accept orders from the Chairman so that they were issuing counter press statements about the one and only SLPP. There is the ongoing split among candidates and party supporters on who should be the party’s nominee for president.

But for the credit one can give to the Political Parties Registration Commission and its chairman, Justice Tolla Thompson, the SLPP would not be considering lower tier elections by now. It is for these impending elections that we have confirmed reports of murder since the party’s new found unity was forged by the PPRC. It is expected that by June a date would be set by the party’s hierarchy for nomination and election of their presidential candidate.

Through the PPRC the party was able to set up a Peace Committee that is also said to be doing well to forge unity ahead of the crunch 2018 elections. It is its recommendation for lower party level elections to take place on a date to be decided that has seen all of the intending party flagbearers go into active campaign mood across the country, seeking recognition and courting affiliation.

They were all in Kenema recently to agree on a few modalities for party elections. By the weekend, KKY was in Kabala; Alie Kabba was in Bo and Kenema; Maada Bio was in Kenema but ended up in Kambia. Alpha Timbo has done justice to Makeni and other parts of the north, where he recently declared his candidacy for the job. John Benjamin was in Bo and Kenema. This movement overdrive is quickly exposing the festering wound in SLPP internal politics.

And to punctuate that fact, last Friday evening one Mohamed Fonnie was alleged to have stabbed one Daddy George, both active SLPP youths, in Kenema, leaving George dead on arrival at hospital. He was knifed at the side with trails of his gut flowing out. It could have been a case of murder with no other undertones. But it looks more than that and with internal SLPP political undertones. Fonnie is said to be a diehard supporter of Maada Bio and George is the opposite; he rooted for John Benjamin. Both candidates were swift to dissociate themselves and their campaign ideology from the incident, with John Benjamin going around the Kenema township appealing for calm. Maada Bio issued a press release strongly condemning the murder and offering his condolences to family of Daddy George.

Police have arrested Fonnie at the Bandajuma checkpoint, terminating his on flight mood. But Fonnie denied to police he stabbed George, claiming one Abdul Gudus Koroma was in fact their man. According to Acting Inspector-General of Police Alfred Karrow-Kamara, they are pursuing this lead as well and Gudus is another suspect they would want to investigate. Gudus is said to have gone into hiding and is not suspected to be in Kenema, perhaps headed further east of the country.

Last week, the SLPP leaders met and, for the first time, unanimously agreed that the December 2015 census provisional results were flawed. That was a rare show of one voice. Whether that or whether after the SLPP party convention to elect their presidential candidate there would prevail the needed party unity to confront the APC is entirely another matter.

 

Commented one political analyst who declined to be named: “SLPP deserves to win 2018; unfortunately they would be confronting a formidable APC structure that will mix propaganda and some great and prime time project achievements… to dilate public anger against them. The SLPP will only survive this if they’re united. Unfortunately again, this is not guaranteed”.

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