Dr.Yumkella, on the other hand, has been out of the country for years, has not been an officially registered member of the party and has not done much for the party in terms of service and financial contributions. In fact many grassroots members of the party (the majority, found mostly in the rural areas and among the urban poor)) do not know him or had never heard of him until recently.
The political gurus or veteran political engineers in the party who already have their own candidate or candidates (political support in Sierra Leone and other developing countries has serious financial undertones) were at one time in panic mode when Yumkella (whose supporters are mostly educated professionals and students in the diaspora and within the country) announced his intentions to lead the party by resigning from UNIDO where he was the director and returning home in a huge storm of publicity.
To counter the new threat the veterans patiently and gradually cajoled Yumkella into registering into the party (Yumkella had initially put up a fight claiming he had registered years ago, but that has been proved untrue). He finally registered on Thursday January 7th thus falling into the trap that was prepared for him. The old political warriors in the party knew that once he registered he no longer qualifies to lead the party; he will no longer be a threat. He is now a new and harmless member, what they call a newbie in the West. He is now just like any new SLPP member who came in from the street to register at the party office in Freetown a few weeks ago.
The Yumkella registration is also good news for Julius Maada Bio,leader of the Pa O Pa (By all means necessary) faction in the SLPP which consists mostly of not very scrupulous younger grassroots members (unemployed, unskilled and uneducated youths and ex-combatants) with a reputation for violence and a generally compulsive and unpredictable behaviour. Bio’s power lies in the support of these grassroots members who are the majority in the party. He speaks their language and understands them because he was at one time one of them before he left the army and went to the US for further studies.
Bio was so afraid of Yumkella, party insiders say, that he decided to go the UK to study for a PhD just to be able to compete with the former UN man. Now that fear has dissipated since Yumkella will no longer lead the party in 2018.
People say Yumkella is too politically naive, but to be fair to him, there was really nothing he could do to avoid the trajectory outlined for him within the party. He does not have any documentary proof that he has been a member of the SLPP for decades as some of his supporters claim.
His father, a former Paramount Chief in Kambia district in the north of the country, was one of the founders of the SLPP. That’s not the evidence we want, the party leaders told him. We want to see documentary proof that you are a registered member of our party. Yumkella could not beat that, hence the Thursday capitulation.