By M Tayyib-Bah.
A few weeks ago, President Ernest Koroma cautioned especially female supporters who express their allegiance for their flag-bearer aspirants by cooking large meals capable of feeding hundreds to be wary about the way they display their largesse.
“What if your candidate doesn’t become flag bearer how would you cook for the winning flag-bearer?” he asked amidst cheers and laughter. In other words, how would you switch allegiance if your candidate loses?
This message of President Koroma’s shows his funny side yes, but it also sends a message to all and sundry that the battle for who will succeed him carry the APC leadership mantle is not one that anybody can call.
Perhaps not even President Koroma himself, unless perhaps he’s already been divinely inspired to nominate the potential flag-bearer to the National Advisory Council who will eventually endorse our own Goodluck Jonathan.
President Koroma is also shrewd politician who keeps his cards very closely to his chest.He doesn’t talk much; making him somehow enigmatic. He is good looking but not a beautiful snake; he smiles very charming smiles which unnerve his enemies and, together with his kind heartedness,even endeared him to the electorate to vote him back to power in 2012.
But good looks, charming smiles and largesse aren’t going to bring the APC back to power in 2018 because President Koroma isn’t going to be in the race.So, who, if the APC must live up to its“Rule forever” motto and win the 2018 general elections, is President Koroma going to choose to step into his shoes as standard bearer to keep the APC in power in 2018? Were EBK to make this choice in 2012, he would have done so on a whim. Then it was the party that mattered, not the individual. Then you would know which party a person voted for by just asking their tribe. Like the Mende guy who, when asked which party he voted for answered, “Me na Mende”. Meaning he voted for the SLPP.
That is what we used to call Fixity in Fourah Bay College students politics in the 1970s and with which President Koroma, Fourabite of that era, is very much au fait. He knows Fixity is dying and voters will in 2018 be won over by considerations like infrastructural development, health, education etc. The same reasons why the APC managed to infiltrate SLPP diehard strongholds like Kailahun and can today be confident of no less than a 25% support; a development that no one would have imagined a decade ago.
So as President Koroma, just a few months to the 2018 elections, finds himself in the middle of these emerging political trends and developments the likes of which had never been seen or experienced in Sierra Leone, how is ‘World Best’ going to react to these new challenges? Who is he going to choose for standard bearer of the APC?
Giving the devil his due, every patriotic Sierra Leonean would agree, were President Koroma himself the devil, that the infrastructural transformations which the country witnessed and continue to witness under his leadership are second to none in post-independence Sierra Leone.
Because we lack the culture of maintenance, every infrastructure which the British left us were left to decay: roads, bridges, buildings, water supply infrastructures, electricity, telecommunications etc. The rebel war only added insult to injury.
Under President Koroma’s APC, every district headquarter town can now, like the good old colonial days, boast of properly paved roads, pipe-borne water and if not domestic electricity, at least solar street lights.
Even the international community whose funds continue sustain Sierra Leone’s economy through the World Bank, the IMF, DfiD, ADB etc all agree that President Koroma can channel their funds where his mouth is,ie Infrastructural Development, hence they continue to bankroll him even as the general elections draw nearer.
So, who amongst those who have ‘shaken tail’ for the APC ensign to March 2018 elections would I place my bet on as also being President Koroma’s favourite?
Venture a little with me then, dear reader, into the analytical mind of President Ernest Bai Koroma:
1. Alpha Sadiq Kanu aka Alpha Khan and The Apprentice.
Brilliant, eloquent, go-getter, good-looking, likeable, charismatic, educated, knowledgeable and a Temne/Northerner, Alpha Karis also very loyal to his boss President Koroma. Or is he? And his being a Temne is very crucial, especially in the election. The Temne are the largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone and although their attachment to the APC is primordial and deep rooted, the political developments in the horizon can shake this ‘fixity’ unless President Koroma, himself not a Temne, handles his Apprentice, emerging as the Temne’s leader, with tact. Which is what I believe he will do by extending his Apprentice’s apprenticeship maybe for another couple of years.
2. John Bornor Sisay
London-educated, brilliant and astute business executive and President Koroma’s first cousin.I don’t see EBK being swayed by blood ties when it comes to sustaining his legacies and Agenda for Prosperity.
3 Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray
Deputy leader and second to President in the APC hierarchy. I don’t see him contending to be flagbearer since he didn’t resign his position as Minister.
4 Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara aka Josie Kamara
Current Attorney-General and Minister of Justice cut a niche for himself as incorruptible when he headed the Anti-Corruption Commission. No sooner was he appointed in his present position than rumour started making the rounds that he was President Koroma’s “Chosen One”. And credence was lent to that rumour when Josie was seen criss-crossing the country and even venturing abroad addressing matters of non-legal nature!!
He is (or is he) emerging Teeth that made life unbearable for Mr Tongue in the latter’s kingdom, Mouth. Josie is relatively new in the Party and is seen by the old guard as a threat who wouldn’t be sympathetic to their interests. But over and above those fears and suspicions by the APC old guard, can he build on what President Koroma will bequeath to him?
Will he hold the APC party together and keep it focused on President Koroma’s Agenda for Prosperity? Well, the bang with which JFK came on the scene is losing steam as far as I can see. Does it mean EBK has pulled the plug of support on JFK?
5 Victor Bockarie Foh
Victor is the present Vice President whose rise to that position, after the controversial removal of Sam Sumana, was divinely inspired, according to President Koroma himself. But that doesn’t mean Mr Foh wasn’t qualified for the position of VP. He was, for one, a Mende and a Southerner and a ‘natural’ complement to President Koroma, a northerner.
But we are now talking about the flag bearer and potential President of Sierra Leone and successor to the Father of Agenda for Prosperity. What factors will play for and against Victor Foh’s choice as EBK’s successor?
VP Foh is a Mende/Southerner who cannot be seen or even imagined by many traditionalists as heading the APC, a Northern Party. The trend or tradition had always been a northern Presidential candidate with a Southern/eastern Running mate. But the 2018 elections are going to be radically different. Traditionally, the Northern Province and Western Area ‘belonged’ to the APC, whilst the Southern and Eastern Provinces ‘belonged’ to the SLPP; and the Presidency was won by the candidate who snatched considerable votes from the stronghold of his rival. So, President Koroma for example, won the 2012 Presidential elections in the first round because he snatched a lot more votes in the SLPP South and East than Maada Bio did in the APC North and Western Area.
But the 2018 elections are going to change all of that, not least because of the emergence of several political movements and the turmoil in the SLPP and its fallout including speculations about the creation of a coalition to be headed, as is rumoured, by no less a figure than Dr Kandeh Yumkellah who recently suspended his bid for the SLPP flagbearership. If this happens, Sierra Leone’s political apple cart will be very seriously upset. It will send a serious shiver through the country’s two main parties, the SLPP and APC.
But President Koroma is smart, very smart. He wouldn’t want to take chances, to be taken unawares.
In that regard, I can see him destroying Fixity. I can see him transforming the APC into a Sierra Leone, rather than a Northern, party.
His goal is to retain the APC in power and keep his Agenda for Prosperity going! These two ends must therefore justify EBK’s every means!
So, what is World Best’s game-plan?
The plan would be to take the Presidential fight to SLPP territory, using their own sword, ethnicity/tribe.
How? Make Victor Foh, a Mende and Southerner, the APC standard bearer to bring the large following he, by his ethnicity, commands in the SLPP South/East, over to the APC. His popularity in Mendeland emerged when President Koroma named him Vice President. There was a lot of jubilation!
Of course I can, in the emerging scenario, see VP Foh as both the poison and the antidote in the APC party. His southern ethnicity is the poison many in the APC wouldn’t countenance; yet the old guard of the Party would prefer him to the more youthful newer members in whom they would see little or no empathy or comradeship.So for them Victor is convertible currency and President Koroma can rely on them to endorse his choice without much opposition.
But Victor Foh is also the antidote whose appointment as flag bearer I believe President Koroma must also be thinking will transform the APC party into a truly national currency and win them the Presidency and continuity of the Agenda for Prosperity.
VP Foh is one personality who many Sierra Leoneans would love to hate; yet when President Koroma chose him as his Vice a few years ago, the appointment was hailed by all and sundry as a brilliant move; the whole nation was united in describing the President’s appointment a reward for LOYALTY.
And Victor is Loyalty embodied. Unflinching loyalty to APC the northern party and abundant, unstinting loyalty without doubt to President Koroma who, it has been decided, will remain as Party Chairman after he retires as President.
So who, if not VP Victor Foh, could President Ernest B Koroma, in the present line-up, entrust with the baton of flagbearership as he retreats into ’active’ retirement?
Disclaimer: President Koroma is, I stated at the beginning of this piece, a very shrewd politician who keeps his cards to his chest. So my so called journey into his mind mustn’t be taken literally!!