By Sorie Fofana………..
The battle for the SLPP leadership crown has started in earnest. The party’s leadership contest is likely expected to be a two-horse race between former Military Head of State and the party’s 2012 Presidential candidate, Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio and the former Director General of UNIDO, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella.
Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio is a political colossus. He was an influential member of the NPRC military junta of Capt. Valentine Strasser between 1992 to 1996. In January 1996, Brig. Bio toppled the junta leader, Capt. Strasser and presided over the peaceful return of the country to civilian rule. He is often referred to as The Father of Modern Democracy in Sierra Leone.
After leaving State House in the same year, the young Army Brigadier traveled to the United States of America and successfully pursued two University degrees. Brig. Bio returned to the country in 2005 and officially joined the SLPP. That same year, he contested for the leadership of the party but lost to the Vice President, Solomon Berewa. He remained in the party and campained openly for Berewa in the 2007 Presidential elections. Berewa lost to the current Head of State, Ernest Bai Koroma.
As fate would have it, Brig. Bio succeeded Berewa as party flag bearer in 2011. Although he lost the 2012 Presidential elections to incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma, Brig. Bio captured lost ground in the party’s South/Eastern stronghold. The major threat to the party’s supremacy in the South/Eastern region, the PMDC was eliminated and its iconic leader, Charles Margai has all but disappeared from the political scene.
The SLPP 2012 Presidential candidate still enjoys a groundswell of support in the party’s South/Eastern stronghold. He enjoys a pop star status around the country. He is well-known in every nook and cranny of Sierra Leone. He enjoys popular support among party members across the country. His name is a household name in Sierra Leone. Brig. Bio is running again for the leadership of the party. Goodluck to him.
Dr. Kandeh Yumkella
Dr. Kandeh Yumkella has been dragged into the race for the leadership of the party. He served as Secretary of State, Trade and Industry in the military junta of Capt. Valentine Strasser for just one year before he left to take up a job with the United Nations.
Dr. Yumkella is well known internationally. He served as Director General of UNIDO for two consecutive terms. He is currently coordinating the UN climate change agenda. He reports directly to the UN Secretary General. He does not, in his current capacity, directly addresses the UN General Assembly.
Not much is known about Dr. Yumkella outside United Nations circles. He has come to be associated with international diplomacy. He is a very charismatic man.
Dr. Yumkella has started making himself known locally in Sierra Leone, by granting local radio interviews and talking directly to journalists who hail from his native Kambia district. He has formed a fan group, the KKY Movement to promote his political ambition. His bid for the flag bearership of the SLPP should be taken very seriously. He is a very serious candidate. He has recruited a lot of young South/Eastern elites to back his leadership bid. He will, however, find it very difficult to defeat the charismatic and well known Brig. Bio for the leadership of the party. Goodluck to him. The race is too close to call.
John Benjamin, Alpha Timbo and Andrew Keili have so far publicly declared interest in the post of flag bearer of the SLPP. Andrew and Alpha contested for the same position in 2011 but lost to Brig. Bio. It is not yet known for how long they will continue to stay in the race. They are both highly respected in the party.
John Benjamin is still in the process of consultation. It is not yet clear whether or not he will continue to pursue his life-long ambition of running the country. He is still influential in the party. He served as National Chairman/Leader of the party for two consecutive terms. As party Chairman, Mr. Benjamin was a fierce critic of the Koroma administration. He is a fearless and outspoken Politician in Sierra Leone.
Is it possible for Bio and Yumkella to work together in the interest of the party, after the flagbearer election? If these two charismatic gentlemen agree to work together in the interest of the SLPP, the APC should be kissing goodbye to State House. There is no way the APC can defeat a united SLPP.
President Koroma has no succession plan. He is determined to succeed himself in 2018. The APC Party is determined to resist Koroma’s attempt to change the national constitution to enable him run for a third term Presidency.
Unfortunately, for Koroma, he does not have a formidable political team. Almost all his trusted allies in the APC have deserted him. He now relies on a few, very few supporters like Musa Tarawally and Mohamed Bangura of UDM to support him for a third consecutive term in office.. His Cabinet is full of over ambitious people who are determined to oppose his intention to stay in power after 2018. Some of them have even started to campaign openly for the post of flag bearer.
Koroma should reshuffle his Cabinet and bring in people who can serve the interest of the country and not their selfish interests.
2016 is expected to be a very busy year in the political calendar of Sierra Leone. The two major parties are expected to elect, select or coronate their Presidential candidates.
Goodluck to all those running for the highest office in our country.