By Sorie Fofana…………………………………..
In his final Independence Day Message, His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma left no one in doubt that he would no longer be at State House, this time, next year. This is what he had to say, “Fellow citizens, this is my tenth and final Independence Address as President of this great nation…In just a little over a year, my tenure will come to an end and I will graciously hand over power to my successor in a democratic transition. Yes, I will be leaving office, but also a legacy of transformation and of peace and of unity which we must all be committed to protect and build upon. We do not have another Sierra Leone and ours is a small country because we are a family of Damiahs, Berankehs, Komenehs, of Ngohs, Kothors and Hemohs”.
The President’s Independence Day Message was a scorecard of his Presidency. He spoke about the need for national unity, collective determination and the need to see ourselves as one big family with diverse views about politics and religion.
No matter what anybody says, in the area of road infrastructure, electricity supply and the provision of pipe borne water, President Koroma has made a commendable stride.
But, the President has so far failed to address the bread and butter issues that really matter to the poor masses in the rural communities.
Cost of living has soared, corruption continues to germinate like seeds, poor health care facilities in the rural hospitals are all issues that remain unresolved by the Koroma administration.
When he was sworn in as President in 2007, President Koroma promised to transform the country and make it a middle income economy. Nine years down the road, more and more families continue to wallow in abject poverty. Some family heads cannot even afford a single meal a day for their dependants. This is the dark side of the Koroma legacy!
Joblessness amongst the youth continues to blight the President’s legacy. Thousands and thousands of youth, who graduate from tertiary institutions and universities remain unemployed. And, sadly, there is no prospect for them to be employed in the near future. Foreign direct investments are few and far between.
It was the late President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah who once said that, a man cannot do anything above his best. President Koroma has done his best in implementing his transformation agenda in the area of road infrastructure, electricity supply, pipe borne water supply and maintaining peace and stability in the country.
Some people would miss him for all the good reasons- a hands-on leader, a leader with a big heart and a man who is very difficult to predict.
Who Will Succeed President Koroma?
The two main political parties (the APC and the SLPP) are yet to elect/select their standard bearers.
Many people have frowned at the APC, for still toying with the idea of selecting their flagbearer for crucial Presidential and Parliamentary elections on 7th March, 2018.
A senior member of the party’s NAC (National Administrative Committee) told this writer on Saturday that, the party might resort to selecting their flagbearer on the basis of a wider consultation within the party. Such selection might leave the party split right in the middle.
The SLPP, on the hand, continues to grapple with one legal setback after the other. The party has failed to unite behind a single Presidential candidate that will take them to elections in March 2018.
Based on leaks from top APC NAC members, the race for the party’s prized position seems to be narrowing between two leading contenders – Joseph F. Kamara and Ambassador Alimamy P. Koroma.
Joseph Kamara is, undoubtedly, receiving the backing of President Koroma. He seems to be the candidate favored by the President.
Ambassador Alimamy P. Koroma appears to be the party’s favored candidate.
Both candidates belong to the largest tribe in the country (the Temnes) which forms 35% of the country’s total population.
Joseph Kamara hails from Bombali district whilst Ambassador Alimamy Koroma hails from Kambia district. Both Northern districts support the party solidly.
Ambassador Alimamy Koroma has been in party politics much longer than Joseph Kamara. He has served as Cabinet Minister, Ambassador to China and Kambia District Chairman of the APC.
Joseph Kamara, on the other hand, enjoys widespread international acceptability. He served as head of the ACC (Anti Corruption Commission) after the uncompromising head of that commission; Abdul Tejan-Cole was hounded out of office by the APC, under whose tenure he was recruited for the job.
It is difficult to predict who, between the two of them will carry the APC crown. The APC party will be selecting their flagbearer by the tail end of this month in Makeni, according to senior party officials.
The AAA (All Aspirants’ Alliance) in the SLPP believes that, no matter the outcome of the Appeals Court ruling, “litigation will most likely continue because of other perceived irregularities related to elections leading to the delegates’ conference, possibly continuing to the end of the year and losing SLPP valuable time to prepare well for elections”.
Out of a total of ten, five members have already defected from the Alliance, to pursue their individual Presidential ambitions. The two key figures left in the Alliance are Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella and Ing. Andrew Katta Keili.
Last week, Mr. Keili told this writer that, he was prepared to put aside his personal ambition for the good of the party. “I don’t want to be part of the problem in the party…I want to be part of the solution”, he said. This, in my candid view, is a goodwill gesture coming from a blue-blooded senior and committed SLPP member.
Many people in the SLPP believe that, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is not prepared to settle down for anything less than the party’s flagbearer position.
The Paopa camp enjoys a groundswell of support in the party. Their candidate, Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio is a master tactician and an indefatigable campaigner.
He understands the party’s dynamics very well. And he seems to be riding high in every opinion poll conducted for the flagbearership of the SLPP.
Alie Kabba and John Benjamin seem to be the most outspoken and fearless flagbearer candidates in the SLPP. And their campaign messages continue to resonate well in the country. All said and done, Brig. Julius Maada Bio is the man to beat in the flagbearer election.
In an interview with this writer last Friday, Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio admitted that the party’s greatest challenge is, trying to bring everybody together. “I have said repeatedly that, all of us vying for the post of flagbearer in the party have an important role to play in making sure that, we come together and remove the APC party from power through the ballot box…This election is for us to lose…I wish to renew my appeal to everyone in the race to become SLPP party flagbearer, to genuinely commit ourselves to ensuring that, the will of the delegates prevails over our individual differences”, said Brig. Julius Maada Bio.
The Appeals Court is expected to reconvene tomorrow to hear the synopsis of the arguments presented by counsels for the Plaintiffs/Applicants and the Defendants.
No one knows how long it will take for the SLPP to realize that, intra political party disputes are better settled outside of the courtroom.
The battle for State House, is gaining unstoppable momentum, in both the ruling APC and the main opposition SLPP.
May the best candidate win!