Last month, it was IJ Kabbah who was in the news for all the wrong reasons: she endorsed Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara of the APC, but this month, it was SLPP flagbearer aspirant, Kandeh Yumkella’s elder brother, Ambassador Foday Yumkella who made headline news when he endorsed his younger brother’s rival, Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio for President.
In both cases, they had gone to socialize, but quickly turned the event into a political platform. In IJ’s case, she had gone to enjoy herself at JFK’s party, but before we knew it, she took the stage to publicly endorse JFK to be the next President of Sierra Leone. Like IJ, Foday had gone to Bio’s house to join other well-wishers who had gathered to celebrate Bio’s 53rd birthday. When he was given the mic, he did the I.J thing: he –probably to Bio’s pleasant surprise –endorsed him (Maada Bio) for the SLPP flagbearership.
When IJ came under fire for rooting for JFK, she quickly claimed that her decision was based on their long term friendship which, according to her, dates as far back as their college days-as if that matters at all or we care.
How I wished that IJ’s late husband, former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah were alive today, to give her some pep talk about party loyalty; to share some of his own personal experiences with that blood and politics don’t mix; so too is friendship and politics. You stay where you are-no crisscrossing. This is because, we saw what loyalty meant when President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma ran against President Tejan Kabbah for President in 2002 when late Aiah Abu Koroma refused to back his son-in-law, Ernest Koroma who is married to his biological daughter, Sia Nyama Koroma (the current First Lady).
Agreed, Late Abu Koroma’s backing may not have changed President Koroma’s electoral fortunes, because Kabbah was the clear favorite, but it would have meant the whole world to Ernest Koroma, given he was his father-in-law. Because Pa Koroma refused to endorse his son-in-law teeth were gnashing, tongues lashing, and President Koroma raging at the old man, but he (Pa Koroma) stood his ground and campaigned vigorously for President Kabbah’s re-election.
I can bring you several instances where you can see that blood (or friendship) and politics don’t mix. Take Alpha Timbo who is aspiring to become President of Sierra Leone for example. His brother, late Ambassador SirayTimbo, who served as Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to United Arab Emirates up to the time of his death, did not come out to publicly support his younger brother, Alpha Timbo for President and, so too, is the sister, Rasie Timbo who currently serves as State Chief of Protocol to President Koroma. She has not openly supported her brother (Alpha Timbo) but life goes on. The same could be said about Dr. Abass Bundu who is a key member in Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio’s kitchen Cabinet. He has not come out to declare his support for his cousin, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu who is nursing a Presidential ambition too. In fact, the Bundu brothers are, in a manner of speaking, ‘sworn political enemies’. The wife of APC’s Edward Turay is the SLPP’s Dr. Prince Harding’s blood sister; however, we have not seen these two men mix their politics with their family affairs. They kept them separate.
Outside of Sierra Leone, Far Right Leader, Marine Le Pen expelled her dad, Jean Marie Le Pen who founded and led the National Front for decades to pave the way for her to run for President in France. Her dad never supported her Presidential bid and even suggested that her daughter is unfit to become President of France, adding that his granddaughter, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen would make a better President.
In the recent US elections, President Barak Obama’s brother, Malik Obama came out in support of Donald Trump for President. I can go on.
So, if you asked me for my candid opinion, IJ Kabbah’s endorsement of JFK is no big deal; so too is Julius Maada Bio’s endorsement by Foday Yumkellah because Foday is just one man and his vote. That endorsement is not going to change Bio’s calculus in the SLPP, in Kambia, in the North, and in the country as a whole.
Granted, the endorsement would embarrass Kandeh Yumkella, but it would not dent nor dampen his Presidential ambition. Foday Yumkella made his pick for President, the media got their story and Kandeh Yumkella brushed it off as a sign of maturity of our democracy–end of story.
Inside the SLPP, the biggest elephant in the room is not IJ’s endorsement of JFK or Foday Yumkella’s endorsement of Bio; the disputed election in 39 constituencies is. It is the reason the party is unable to hold a convention to choose a Presidential candidate, it is the reason the party may not pick a presidential candidate in time for the 2018 elections, and it is the reason the party may not be able to unite behind a single candidate when they eventually pick their Presidential candidate.
Why so many behind-the-scenes meetings and no peace in the party, constantly amazes supporters and the public at large. From all indications, the party is nowhere near to finding an amicable political settlement to their internal dispute. True. When it comes to a political settlement, the SLPP is not there yet. Both parties to the dispute are reluctant to take the moral high ground to bring this conflict to a close through dialogue and concession. Instead, they are all praying for time, playing it safe and relying on the courts to do the job for them: clean their political mess. This is because, the leaders of both camps are too afraid to face their political demons–these are the henchmen in both camps who have staked their whole political future and job prospects on their choice of flag-bearer; therefore, no amount of pressure or persuasion would make them settle for anything less: their choice of flag-bearer. This is the reason why behind-the-scenes-talks aimed at reaching a compromise has stalled, why the Alie Kabba-led peace process failed, and why all hopes are now pinned on the Appeal Court.
Let us face it. We have to be fair to these Justices. This is one job they would hate to do, because the courts hate to be dragged into political party squabbles and petty disputes that can be easily resolved internally if all parties are sincere. The Judges knew that whatever their verdict, they would not escape blame: they could be accused of bias or their verdict stained as politically motivated.
If only the leaders in the party are thinking like their Chairman, Chief Somano Kapen, they would quickly find a political solution to their problem. They have to do this fast before the courts make a complete mess of the little chance they still have to settle their dispute, hold a successful convention, and choose a candidate that will be acceptable to all.
The courts have given them enough time to clean their act: reach a compromise. The sooner, the better! Otherwise, we will not be talking about Foday Yumkella’s endorsement of Bio and the failure on Kandeh Yumkella’s part to unite his family behind his (Kandeh’s) candidacy; rather, we shall all be talking about the SLPP leadership and their collective inability and failure to resolve their own self-inflicted internal dispute. That is going to be the news.