By Sorie Fofana. .
President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s first term in office (1996 to 2002) was beset by series of setbacks. Barely nine months in office, Kabbah’s administration was overthrown in a bloodless coup d’etat by the AFRC (Armed Forces Revolutionary Council) headed Maj. Johnny Paul Koroma.
After almost nine months in exile in Guinea, Conakry Kabbah made a triumphant return to the country in March 1998, with the backing of the Nigerian-led ECOWAS forces (ECOMOG).
In January 1999, AFRC/RUF rebels almost overran the capital city of Freetown. In a bid to beat the rebels back from the capital city, lots of destructions did take place. Several innocent lives were lost!
2002 To 2007
In his last five years in office, Kabbah enjoyed relative stability. Throughout his Presidency, Kabbah’s greatest dream was to maintain peace, unity and stability in the country. And, to a very large extent, he succeeded in doing that.
After his clear victory in the 2002 elections (73% of total votes counted), Kabbah wasted no time in trying to groom a successor.
By appointing Solomon Berewa as his running mate in 2002, it became very clear to everyone that, Kabbah had ordained his successor.
By 2004, Kabbah had started relinquishing control of the country. He gave a freehand to Berewa, to govern the country. He was merely providing a supervisory role. Berewa became the Co-President of Sierra Leone.
On many occasions, Berewa presided over Cabinet meetings even though Kabbah was in the country. From that point, it became very clear to everyone, including the international community that, Berewa was the man to deal with.
Kabbah spent most of his final years in office, on overseas trips. On one occasion, he was traveling to London and had to receive the new British High Commissioner’s Letter of Credence at the VIP Lounge at Lungi International Airport. He noted that, some state responsibilities cannot be delegated.
On 4th September, 2005 the SLPP elected Solomon Berewa as their flag bearer in Makeni. He defeated veteran Politicians like Charles Francis Margai, Joseph B. Dauda and a former Military head of state, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio.
Berewa remained as SLPP flag bearer and Leader until he was shockingly defeated in the Presidential run-off elections in September 2007 by the APC Presidential candidate, Ernest Bai Koroma.
Berewa announced his retirement from active politics in Kenema in 2009. He attributed his retirement from frontline politics to his failing health and his advanced age. “I will no longer run for public office again”, he famously said in Kenema.
Berewa launched an unprecedented tirade against his political mentor and Godfather, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in Kenema, much to the irritation of staunch supporters of his former boss.
After Kabbah passed away in March 2014, Berewa paid glowing tributes to his former boss, describing him as a true democrat who remained neutral until the final run-off election results in 2007 were announced by the NEC Chairperson, Christian Thorpe.
Ernest Bai Koroma
In the 2007 run-off elections, Ernest Bai Koroma scored 56% of the total votes counted. Between 2007 and 2012, President Koroma presided over a stable and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The economic boom saw a lot of road infrastructure development across the country. It was on the back of such economic boom that, Koroma conceived the idea of constructing a new Airport at Mammamah.
At the height of his popularity and the economic boom coupled with the incumbency advantage, Koroma barely managed to defeat his main challenger, Julius Maada Bio in 2012. Koroma got only 58% of the total votes counted.
His campaign was boosted by the presence of Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo. He publicly endorsed Koroma’s candidature by joining him on a campaign trail in Kabala. There is no doubt that, Obasanjo has commercial interests in Sierra Leone.
2012 To Date
President Koroma is marking his final months in office. He is expected to leave office in March next year.
His APC Party is in a serious crisis over succession. President Koroma has been blamed for creating the succession crisis in the APC Party. He has failed to roll out his succession plan even six months to crucial elections in Sierra Leone.
President Koroma had the opportunity to choose a successor after he sacked his Vice President, Chief Sam Sumana. But he failed to capture the moment!
Koroma’s Greatest Dilemma
With barely six months to elections, the ruling party has still not agreed on a date to conduct their flag bearer election/selection. The delegates’ conference has been suspended indefinitely after two postponements.
The President’s greatest dilemma is: who in the APC can easily defeat the main opposition candidate, Julius Maada Bio in the March 7, 2018 Presidential elections?
The party has an array of capable persons to succeed President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. People like Dr. Samura Kamara, Ambassador Alimamy P. Koroma, VP Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh, Joseph F. Kamara, John B. Sisay, Dr. Kaifala Marah, Ambassador Alpha Kanu and Dr. Sam Sesay are all capable to govern the country, based on their experiences in governance and administration.
With no Ernest Bai Korma in the race in March 2018, would the APC defeat the SLPP? With Julius Maada Bio set to becoming the SLPP flag bearer, would he deliver the much anticipated victory for the SLPP in March 2018?
One thing is certain: the road to State House in March 2018 remains long and rugged! And President Koroma’s greatest dilemma remains, who to succeed him!
May the best candidate win!