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APC/PMDC – Parley Time Needed Urgently

APC/PMDC – Parley Time Needed Urgently

During the period of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections of 2007, I was working with Search For Common Ground/Talking Drum Studio on Bathurst Street in Freetown; it was at struggling to develop the Independent Radio Network (IRN). This network of over two dozen community radio stations was pivotal in monitoring the conduct of the 2007 elections, and it often would release provisional results of elections all over the country long before they would be certified by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

Umaru Fofanah, the BBC stringer who is also President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ), and one Hassan Arouni, a Sierra Leonean-born producer/presenter of BBC African programmes in London, were very enthusiastic and supportive of the concept of IRN.  They were, I believe, doing investigative journalism on the exciting news during the run-off that the PMDC would be forming an alliance with the APC – against the then governing SLPP.

We contacted some of the key leaders of the PMDC, including the PMDC’s then Secretary General; and especially one Sidique Janneh, who was vehemently opposed to the idea of forming an alliance with the APC.  From my own analysis at the time, this man had preferred going SLPP. But Charles Margai had his reasons at the time, whether personal or not.

And I also remember the jubilant mood of APC supporters and officials at the time when they came to learn of the decision of Charles Margai to align his PMDC with the APC. Several key PMDC partisans were so incensed, that they denounced Charles Margai as a traitor, and left the PMDC.  The decision of Charles Margai was chillingly epochal.

As two of the oldest political parties formed almost fifty years ago, and the two parties that have governed Sierra Leone for four of the past five decades, the APC and SLPP have always been arch-rivals. In all free and fair elections over the past decades, the SLPP would almost always get  100% solid support in the South-East and the APC would get almost 100% votes in the North.  The partisans of both parties have always been fanatics.  One would be considered ‘crazy’ in the South East to talk seriously of supporting any political party other than the SLPP.  So, what Charles Margai did in 2007 to convince his South East brothers and sisters to support the APC AGAINST THE SLPP was unprecedented.  Take Bonthe District, for example.  The APC got only 2,000 votes there during the first round of the presidential elections.  During the second round, the APC got 20,000 votes.  If anybody had predicted such an electoral result in Bonthe for the APC, that person would have been taken straight to psychiatrist Dr. Nahim to be locked up in the Kissy Mental Home.  It was Charles Margai that made what seemed impossible to be possible politically. .

With the apparent face-off between Charles Margai and some leading ministers in the APC government renting the airwaves and emblazoning the local newspapers, I am certain the cool and calculated President Koroma would steer the middle road.  I have always said that President Korma, prior to him, ascending the Presidency and even when he became President, has always been an astute person. He has always shown to be a smart leader; just think of how he survived all the political turmoils, especially from within his own APC (several court actions against him), almost a few months to the time he was elected President.  Look at how the President has handled his then ‘enemies’ from the rank and file of the APC – treating them like Jesus Christ said ‘enemies’ should be treated. Loving them with cabinet positions; and senior positions in government. .

Again irrespective of how one may want to look at it, IB Kargbo is a fine spin doctor. He can easily convince people to accept government policies, he knows how to capture the citizenry, and he is a fine politician and one of the best if not the best information Minister we have got as of date. But he has his minuses, just as every human being. Granted! But also, Charles Margai is as important in Sierra Leone’s political landscape as is Umaru Fofanah in SLAJ.  These two men must not be dagger’s drawn at each other.  This is not in the interest of the APC.

But one common reality is that even though Ernest Koroma was loved by the people and that even though Sierra Leoneans wanted a change in 2007, the PMDC factor was crucial to the APC victory. No need overstating the point that many people who were sympathizers of the PMDC went back to their traditional SLPP when Margai decided to go red, but still, Margai took a large following with him to the APC.

However, there has been a redefining moment, in terms of the once good relationship between the two dear political friends-APC/PMDC. The war of words between Charles Margai and Kothor IB Kargbo should not been seen as the best of moments for now. I hope somebody is reading me well and thoroughly.  I kindly would suggest, people get back to the drawing board for the political survival of both parties come 2012 and even thereafter. I worked with For di People for few years. I and another colleague at the time, Alpha Kamara now with Premier News, had gone to interview J.J. Saffa of the SLPP when Margai was threatening to form his party. The SLPP, through Siaffa, dismiss the threat of Charles Margai with a contemptuous wave.  Alas, it was not Margai who proved out to be a ‘pikin’ but all the old men in the SLPP who have proven they were the ‘pikin’.

Also, granted that the political alliance should have been nurtured for the good of both parties, it is also good, that in future, differences be handled in an acceptable way. I would advice, that the media should not always be used as a forum to settle political difference for the media will always look out for an opportunity to get ‘exclusive’ stories. The political debacle between the PMDC and APC reached its current velocity as a result of politicians going to the media. It was John Street, who, in a work titled, Mass Media, Politics and Democracy (2001), stated that “the media has power; they determine the fate of politicians and political causes, they influence governments and their electorates…”  If you also read the Ritchard Tamba M’Bayo’s Press and Politics in Africa, you will come to appreciate the crucial role that the media in Africa, especially in Sierra Leone, played to shape the views of politics and people.

It was Eugene Patterson, as cited by Alex S. Jones in his work, Losing the News, who in 1978, during a speech to the nation’s newspaper Editors that said one of the modern development in the media’s role in our democracy was “the transformation from an obedient press to an adversarial press…”  The media can be aggressive; and the media can, as we say in Krio, ‘set fire’.  Politicians should act carefully and not allow the media to plant unnecessary discord between them.

But there is another side to the debate; the allegations levied by Mr Margai against the APC were and they still remain to be serious, especially as they deal with corruption, among others. One thing is clear, until the recent happens between the two; I have always seen the PMDC as part of the current government. And so for an insider (in this case the PMDC) to say what it said spoke volumes.  It would have been better if Margai had said something like: ‘President Koroma himself has cried out against corruption in his APC government; and I think he has taken some action against corrupt ministers; but, still much remains to be done in this serious area; and the PMDC is determined to work with the president to wipe out corruption from our country completely..’ What about that, Ngor Margai?

Determining an APC 2012 victory without the PMDC should be viewed from different viewpoints. But I hold the view that efforts should be embarked upon to see how things should continue to hold so that that cordial relationship that once existed between Margai and the APC continues. President Koroma, I know you personally and I know you will surely solve this issue. These are trying times, of course.  But again, forget not, IB Kargbo is doing just his work-that of defending the image of his party and government. Happy weekend, as I rush to Makeni on family matters.

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  • Knowing, the marraige between APC & PMDC is sinking. The momentum and enthusiasm have long gone while the betrayal speaks volumes.Interestingly, everything about the present APC lead Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma is the best ever in the history of Sierra Leone. The current episode between Margai & Spokesman IB Kargbo should not be taken lightly or the Sun may fade away sadly come 2012.
    Oh! By the way, check your satistical data; only about 65% of Southeasterners voted for SLPP in 2007 as compared to 89% Northwesterners for APC within the same period.
    Till I return from my visit to friends and family members in Kailahun.. more to come later!!!

    8th October 2010

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