What next for the All People’s Congress Party (APC)?
This article is by no means a solution to the catalogue of APC mistakes during the campaigning for the presidential, parliamentary and councillors’ elections, which has cost the party the presidency.
However, credit first to the party for having the majority in parliament and the high number of councillors. I will not labour myself in this article about the series of mistakes I saw during the campaign as I intend to state and discuss that in a book I am in the process of writing about sharing political experiences as a first time aspirant for the APC symbol.
Instead, this article is about joining with others to express frustrations for failing to win the presidency and suggest ways of how the party can become a formidable opposition in parliament. I once heard former President Koroma say that a political party that cannot win an election is not a political party. I think, he meant the presidency. So is the APC not a political party, or who are we and what next?
As a member of the party, I felt the pain of not winning the executive power. All party members, sympathisers, and supporters are frustrated. Myself, I was an aspirant for the party symbol for constituency 045 in Koinadugu, but due to the dual citizenship Act enshrined in the 1991 constitution (sim2 as it became known), I and other colleagues in the same situation were considered as risks. The fear was that should we win our respective seats, the opposition would petition the result in court by citing the 2006 Citizenship Amendment Act which did not amend section 76 subsection 1 (a) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. Section 75 is tied to Section 76 of the Sierra Leone 1991 Constitution, which clearly set out the requirement of people that should enter Parliament and their disqualifications. Section 75 states that for one to be a Member of Parliament this person must be a Sierra Leonean other than by naturalization. To be precise, Section 76(1) states that:
“No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament — if he is a naturalised citizen of Sierra Leone or is a citizen of a country other than Sierra Leone having become such a citizen voluntarily or is under a declaration of allegiance to such a country.”
Although rumours had been going round about this, it was not official. Before I travelled to Sierra Leone, I looked at the Sierra Leone 1991 constitution and it is clearly stated. However, since the passing of the 1991 Constitution, no government has upheld or enforced this legal requirement. The outgoing government under President Koroma had several ministers, deputy ministers and MPs, who should, in this case, never have been eligible for such posts. Therefore, in the spirit of good faith, I decided to continue my bid for the symbol. I command strong support in my constituency. At the Presidential Lodge where we were all summoned to assemble by the President and Chairman of the party, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice addressed us and clearly stated that article 76 subsections (1) would be enforced. Soon after that, I sensed across all the Diasporas falling motivation and a wanting to leave the place. It was like a soldier in the battlefield who is no longer motivated to fight the enemy. We were in sizeable groups of about 15s and 20s and amongst these I found myself; I stood up and stated that if this is the case then it is no longer of any worth for us to belong to the party. I went on to ask a few of the party elite as to why the Party had encouraged us to apply for the symbol knowing full well that we were not qualified and the money deposited was not refundable. No answer. I murmured to myself that I would no longer take any part in party fund raising activities in London. Whilst the non-sim2 applicants were going home happy, the Diasporas were disappointed and heads were down. Personally, I summed up courage as I received countless phones calls and text messages from supporters, donors and family members. I got calls from as far as Australia, England, Germany and texts from America.
After the disappointment concerning the party Symbol, I decided to focus on the direction of the party and strategies for winning the election. With days, I became familiar with the slogans 4for4, and Tolongbo meaning we will win all four elections – councillors, Chieftaincy, MPs, presidential and direct win no run-off respectively.
Whilst I agreed with some of the social media postings, pointing fingers and blaming some key members of the Party, I would like to focus on where and how we should go forward from here? Personally, accepting the result and congratulating the winner no matter how the election was won is all part of democracy. We saw that in America with Mrs Clinton vs Trump. So this is not new in democracy. Myself I am not a fan of president elect Maada Bio, but I have no issue with the SLPP party itself apart from the fact that as opposition I see the party and treat the members differently to my own party. I have heard a lot about Bio as a person that worries me. He will be governing Sierra Leone as a civilian and not as a military man, which begs the question about his democratic credentials.
Here are some points that I suggest the party focus on while in opposition for the next five years:
- Since we command a majority in parliament, we must form a strong team involving experience MPs, legal minded MPs, and those that want to see the party back in power. They should be able to scrutinise every step of President Bio government that does not conform to the country’s constitution. APC has 68 seats in parliament as compare to 63 seats for the ruling government and other parties combined. This means APC as main opposition will elect the speaker of parliament and the Majority Leader in the House of Parliament. The Majority Leader is the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on appointments and head of government business. This means all appointments by President Bio would be scrutinised by the Majority Leader. For these roles, we need a charismatic and level-headed MP to take on these tasks.
- The party needs reform. We need to look at the way it functions as a political party and the dissemination of information to party members. We must now learn never again to concentrate power in the hands of one man. Throughout the campaigning, I noticed that it was more about one man’s legacy and not so much about party core values. The APC head office and all the regional offices need to provide better services to members. When I walked into the head office, I saw chaos and beggars and when you enquired about anything, no one tells you the correct answer. No notice board to update members with information. I have not seen a research room with books and computers. The building looks fantastic from outside but inside is disorganisation. I wish I had the task to put things in order.
- Whilst I agree that the law is the law and must be adhered to, article 76 subsection 1 (a) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone must be amended within two months into the new parliament. This is not an entrenched law so it can be amended. In my view, this will encourage all Diasporas to re-engage into active party politics abroad and contribute significantly. In 2007, it is clearly evident that the APC won the election with the help of Diasporas’ funding and strategic consultations.
- We the opposition must make sure Bio’s government respects the rule of law. No decree, no obey and complain later as it is in the military.
- Any change to development plans that had been agreed by intergovernmental organisations, developers and signed by the previous government must be scrutinised thoroughly. Remember in politics the work of the opposition in parliament is not only to oppose, but to propose realistic projects.
- Back to grassroots politics and reconnecting with the people. No elitism. Although it may be argued that President elect Bio won the election through the back door and not by popular vote, we as a party must reflect on not only the party popularity, but also whether voters like us and trust our leadership. How important are the pointers – roads, health care, electricity and improved salaries and conditions of work.
- During the campaigning, I witnessed APC rallies in Freetown, Kabala, Fadugu and Makeni. The crowds I saw convinced me that the election was won, but with the outcome the SLPP became the winner, this has taught me a lesson about politics. Whilst the crowds give politicians confidence and motivations, they still need to be conscious of their opponents’ tactics. In my analysis, APC focused too much on the crowds parading up and down the high streets of Freetown, Makeni, Fadugu, Kenema, and Kabala and not on how to combat the opponent’s tactics. APC failed to realise that elections can be won in different ways as long as it is within the rules. It was nice to see a peaceful movement of people, but this was not enough to win the seat of the president. The campaign was focus more on 4for4 meaning we want all. I think that is where Dr Samura lost. He was not publicised enough to voters.
- Sierra Leoneans love former President Koroma and I agreed with Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden that he is one of the greatest leaders we have enjoyed to live under. Machiavelli, a controversial political philosopher once advised politicians “it is better to be feared than to be loved – only if you cannot have both. The Italian Renaissance author and public official further warned that if a ruler chooses fear it is best not to be extreme, probably because unnecessary cruelty will never win life-long loyalty. In the case, former President Koroma he chooses to be loved which surely will earn him life-long loyalty amongst Sierra Leoneans, but not amongst APC party members as many felt betrayed by him. As Chairman of the party, he overruled key decisions made by the National Advisory Committee (NAC). He oversaw the process of allocating symbols to the flagbearer and to the MPs without full knowledge of whom the voters wanted. Therefore, my suggestion is in order for the party to progress further and be considered as capable of winning the executive power in the next election and ready to govern NAC must have their role respected.
Good-bye former President Koroma and God bless Sierra Leone, the party, friends and us all.
Author: Momodu Mansaray, London, UK
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