SLPP leadership battle and State House in 2012

27 March 2010 at 23:06 | 1870 views

By Sarjoh Aziz Kamara, U.K

In a year’s time the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) will be holding its last convention before the much anticipated 2012 elections. The 2011 convention is crucial because it will determine the flag bearer for the party. This coveted position is sought after by so many people but the process that produces the eventual flag bearer is very important. It is very disturbing to note that at very early days the possible contenders seem to be set against each other; although this is not evident directly but opinions expressed in various media can confirm that supporters of the contenders for the high office are already beginning to create acrimony amongst the prospective flag bearers. Such a situation will easily create discord that will hinder victory for the party come 2012.

The entire membership of the SLPP ought to be aware of the fact that it is one party and the concept of winning an election is not necessarily an individual enterprise but a collective one. Therefore, castigating each other to discredit their leadership credential in an effort to present their candidate in a positive light will not help the party’s endeavours to achieve its desired goal of winning the 2012 elections. Further, it would be erroneous for the party to imagine that it can dispense of the Tejan Kabbah or Berewa legacy and win the 2012 elections easily. Their achievements are the most recent that Sierra Leoneans can remember. In other countries, for example the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown has purposefully called on his predecessor; Tony Blair to aid his campaign for the Labour party to be re-elected at the May 2010 polls. Similarly, the SLPP can call on Tejan Kabbah and Berewa to join their bid to regain state house in 2012, but castigating them and asking them to back off will only undermine the chances of winning the forthcoming elections. Suffice it to say that, the incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC is registering significant gains by continuing the projects that SLPP began and the only competent people to challenge the APC and sell the SLPP with credibility and integrity would be members of the previous regime. Like it or not, their opinion will count both in developing the party’s programme for victory and in guiding the choice for leadership, after all they are members of the party like anyone else. For argument’s sake, if Berewa was ambitious, would anyone deprive him from bidding for leadership once again? The answer is No, because it is his legitimate and democratic right as a member of the SLPP. Take it or leave it, that’s the value of democracy.

What may happen to SLPP is that its chances to win the 2012 Presidential and parliamentary election may be eroded even before the 2012 race commences. The party has got so many competent people that can challenge the APC’s Ernest Bai Koroma and such people should be encouraged to come forward. It is the responsibility of the party’s leadership to create a level playing field for all contenders and to discourage the politics of enmity and hate. The party is too quick to forget the reasons for its last defeat; it just didn’t put its acts right in 2007 and was incapable of putting together a good strategy to win the elections due to disaffections within the rank and file of the party and the controversial manner in which the National Electoral Commission conducted the 2007 Elections. It is needless to mention the defections that took place – the PMDC factor of course, the passiveness of key members and betrayals.

There are no qualms with all the names that have come forward to take the party to election in 2012. None the less, the party should be concerned about treating each candidate on their merits and for the prospective candidates must exercise restraints together with their supporters so as not to cause disunity within the party. Most importantly, prospective flag bearers should be judged on certain key criteria to make them elect-able both at party level and at the national polls eventually. It is a positive step that the party agreed at its last convention to stipulate criteria for all candidates and it will be a good idea to consider certain core leadership qualities. Thus, the party must seek to have a presidential candidate that has; a Vision for Sierra Leone that is better than the current government, high level of integrity that Sierra Leoneans can recognise and acknowledge, dedication to the nation. Also, humility and magnanimity should be a hallmark of good leadership. Further, complementing the qualities mentioned will be having someone that has a proven track record and unblemished credibility that takes in to consideration their contributions to development at local, national and international level. Above all, such a leader should rise above pettiness and become a unifier both within the party and nationwide. Additionally, Commitment and Dedication to the party, in terms of fund raising, boosting party image are key factors to consider- members of the party; be it ordinary, Patron, or flag- bearer, old or young must become ambassadors of the party at all times. Finally, all those seeking the high office should be seen to be working together rather than against each other. It would help the flag bearers to build their flag-bearer campaign on policy basis rather than sentiments or scare mongering of defection- there should be an end to ‘either me or nothing’ politics in the SLPP; rather the focus should be on working to build a leadership team.

The recent election successes achieved by the party in the Local bye-elections held in the South East is a positive sign that with further efforts, party unity, and effective management of the election for flag bearer the ‘SLPP’ has a good chance at the 2012 polls. However, much as the party seems strong in the South- East, it should make significant in-roads in to North- West for an assured victory in 2012. It is imperative that the SLPP support its National Executive Committee (NEC) under the Leadership of John Benjamin. Undoubtedly the entire team seem to be doing a wonderful job in keeping the party afloat which has boosted the confidence of the party and I suppose Sierra Leoneans too. There is still more to be done for the SLPP to be fully prepared to govern in 2012.