By Sorie Fofana……………………..
President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s ingenuity in handling his political critics/opponents was splendid. He always insisted that, timing matters in politics.
In the run-up to the 2002 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the late Hon. S.B. Marah was Regional Chairman, North of the SLPP.
By virtue of that position in the Party, he was in charged of submitting the final list of Parliamentary candidates for the various constituencies in the Northern Province. The electoral system for Parliamentary elections was at that time Proportional Representation or PR System.
The list was prepared and presented to the National Secretariat of the Party for onward transmission to NEC (National Electoral Commission).
Kabbah and Marah had a bitter confrontation after the latter refused to include the name of a candidate favored by the former, on the final Parliamentary list for the Northern Province.
As expected, Kabbah threatened that, if his candidate’s name was not included on the final list, he would order the then National Secretary General, Dr. Prince Harding to remove Marah’s name from the final list submitted for the Northern Region.
Sensing a humiliating reaction from Kabbah, Marah conceded and allowed Kabbah’s candidate to be submitted as the third on the Koinadugu district Parliamentary list. Marah had insisted that, Kabbah’s candidate did not hail from Koinadugu district.
Kabbah’s man became a Member of Parliament but left the SLPP to join the APC when the party lost power in 2007.
Where Does The Buck Stop?
Kabbah was really determined to stamp his authority on the Party. His open show of support for Solomon Berewa’s candidature to succeed him as Leader of the SLPP, did not go down well with so many top party officials, including Hon. S.B. Marah.
Marah had insisted that, if Kabbah went ahead with “forcing” Berewa on the Party, he would run against him (Berewa) for the post of Party Leader/Flag bearer in the pending Delegates’ Conference scheduled for 2005.
Kabbah got angry with Marah for attempting to undermine his efforts in anointing Berewa to succeed him.
On a visit to London in 2003, Marah was not allowed to use the VIP Lounge at Gatwick Airport. Kabbah had secretly sent a message across to London that, Marah was not entitled to the use of that facility. Marah felt completely humiliated.
On his return to Freetown, he confronted Kabbah and told him that, as Majority Leader of the House, he was entitled to use the VIP Lounge at any airport in the world.
Kabbah reminded Marah that, the post of Majority Leader was (is) not provided for in the 1991 Constitution. He threatened to scrap that post if Marah continued to oppose his chosen successor.
It was in the middle of this quiet civil war in the SLPP that Marah fell ill and died in 2003.
He was not alive when Berewa was overwhelmingly elected as Party Leader and Flag bearer in 2005 in Makeni.
Majority Leader vs Deputy Speaker
Since 1996, there has always been the argument that, the Majority Leader of the House is senior to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
When this argument first arose in 1996, as Editor of the “New Vision” newspaper then, I argued that, the post of Deputy Speaker is an established position in the 1991 Constitution. There is no reference in the 1991 Constitution to Majority Leader.
The Speaker of Parliament regulates the activities of Parliamentarians. Whenever the Speaker is away, the Deputy Speaker acts in his place. At no time have we had the Majority Leader of the House acting as Speaker of Parliament. This is virtually impossible.
Recently, some of President Koroma’s nominees faced serious difficulty in having their nominations approved by the Committee on Appointments and the Public Services. It almost became an embarrassment for the President. As expected, the President quickly intervened and the matter was amicably resolved.
In 1999, Kabbah’s hands were tied behind his back. He faced serious opposition from within his own party-the SLPP.
In an imminent Cabinet reshuffle that year, some of the Party’s grandees forced Kabbah to nominate someone from Kailahun district to serve as a member of his Cabinet. Kabbah grudgingly agreed.
Later that day, Kabbah failed to persuade S.B. Marah to ensure that his own nominee was not approved by the Committee on Appointments and the Public Service.
The nominee was approved by the Appointments Committee headed by him (Marah). Few months later, that Minister was sacked by Kabbah.
Koroma Not Sure
There is every indication that President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma will not be running for public office again. Afterall, the 1991 Constitution does not allow him to run for a third consecutive term as President of Sierra Leone.
Sometime this week, the “New Citizen” newspaper (closed to the ruling party) published the names of potential APC flag bearer candidates. These names are no longer strange to some of us. They had been known to the general public long before then.
The questions now are: How many of them really have the grassroots connection that President Koroma has? How many of them really have the national appeal that Koroma enjoys? How many of them can actually maintain the APC strongholds of the North and Western Area? Above all, how many of them have the untainted image to fly the APC flag?
President Koroma’s dilemma is: Who does he trust to protect his legacy? That is the million- dollar question on the lips of many Sierra Leoneans.
A week is a long time in politics, some senior Politicians normally say.