By Sorie Fofana.
After the SLPP lost the general elections of 2007, the Party’s Presidential candidate, Solomon Berewa announced that he was no longer going to vie for elective office again. In 2009, in Kenema, Berewa announced that his failing health and old age had made him to retire from active party politics.
Since 2009, Berewa has remained quiet. He has avoided making political statements. He sees himself as a retired statesman.
After serving as President for two consecutive terms, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP retired from active party politics in 2007 and refused to make any political statement. He died seven years after he left office in 2007.
President Kabbah remained in the SLPP and hardly took part in party activities. Behind the scenes, he played a major role to keep the party together.
He came out of retirement in 2012 and campaigned in his home district of Kambia for the SLPP Presidential candidate, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio. When a serious leadership tussle in the party broke out after Maada Bio lost the 2012 elections, President Kabbah was very active in keeping the warring factions within the party quiet. He did that with constructive spirit.
I recall a scathing piece the Global Times published against the party’s charismatic Chairman/Leader, John Benjamin, accusing him of undermining the party’s 2012 Presidential candidate, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio.
Mr. Benjamin felt maligned by the newspaper and reported the matter to the IMC (Independent Media Commission). We made two appearances before the IMC. President Kabbah, in his wisdom, invited us (John Benjamin, Julius Maada Bio, Dr. John Karimu and Yours Truly) to his private residence at Juba in order to resolve the matter amicably. President Kabbah asked Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio to show great political leadership by bringing everyone in the party together.
To cut a long story short, President Kabbah asked me to apologize to Mr. Benjamin, which I did. The matter was resolved and Mr. Benjamin withdrew his complaint from the IMC. That was a goodwill gesture from Mr. Benjamin.
Even though his wife (I.J. Kabbah) was the National Women’s Leader of the SLPP, President Kabbah stayed out of the political limelight. He supported I.J. Kabbah but refused to openly associate himself with the Party. He always reminded us that, as a retired statesman, he would not get involved in party politics again. And he kept to that promise until his demise in March 2014.
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma served as Head of State of Sierra Leone between 2007 and 2018. He has held the position of Chairman/Leader of the APC Party for almost fifteen consecutive years. His attempt to retain the position of Chairman/Leader for life is being resisted by some radicals within the party.
After serving for ten consecutive years as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Chairman/Leader of the APC party for almost fifteen years, what else does President Koroma really want? Common sense dictates that he should retire peacefully from active party politics and maintain the status of a retired President/Statesman.
President Koroma should reflect on the respect and recognition that President Kabbah enjoyed in the world after he retired as President and withdrew from party politics. President Koroma should adopt a similar approach and retire in dignity.
The former President should not create the impression that he does not recognize the authority of the elected President of the country, by virtue of what his party says and does. As a former head of state, President Koroma should endeavour to respect the Rule of Law and carry himself with dignity. His actions should not be interpreted to mean that he does not respect the Rule of Law. That will not be good for his status as a retired President.
President Koroma’s best bet is to retire from active party politics and stop making political statements. That way, the state will be forced to accord him the status befitting a retired President.
There is a popular Madingo saying which goes like this, “There can never be two Paramount Chiefs in one Chiefdom… One has to give way to the other”. For now, President Julius Maada Bio is the elected President of Sierra Leone. He must be accorded the freedom he needs to govern the country. Nobody, no matter their status in society should attempt to subvert the authority of the state through incitement, violence and lawlessness.
In the name of God, I am begging President Koroma to peacefully retire from party politics and enjoy a well-earned retirement as a respected statesman.
May common sense prevail!