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SLPP – Another Charles Margai in the Making?

SLPP – Another Charles Margai in the Making?

I’m not very good at recalling dates, but I think it was around September 2005 in what is now Makeni City. It was a gathering of delegates of the then ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) meeting to choose the party’s flag bearer for the 2007 Presidential election. Six aspirants had thrown their hats into the race – Soloman Berewa, Charles Margai, Julius Maada Bio, J.B. Dauda – the four actually had their tickets endorsed. The other two – John Leigh and Lansana Nyallay could not have their nominations through.

The outcome of that convention is now history, but the reverberations rocked the party to its very foundation, driving a sharp wedge right into the party’s heartland, leaving it literally bleeding profusely. No amount of antidote could save the party from crumbling. In short, the SLPP lost power amidst unresolved theories and controversies.

That loss the members attributed to the conduct of the party’s Electoral College that saw Solomon Berewa winning the flag bearership. One of the losing contestants, Charles Margai who had entered Makeni town on the eve of the convention in a rather dignified fashion, flanked on either side by self-styled presidential bodyguards, had cried foul, claiming the voting process presided over by former President Tejan Kabbah was never transparent. For him, Kabbah’s presence in the hall that day was too intimidating, hence costing him a lot of votes in favour of his rival, Soloman Berewa.

What followed was the formation of his Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). The result was a dramatic shift of loyalty from the old SLPP to new the PMDC. That shift played the trick. Charles Margai won the day. SLPP was kicked out, having been shown the Red Card through the ballot box.

That was September 2007. This is March 2011. Will history repeat itself?

This time it is not Charles Margai anymore but another legal luminary like Margai, Bu-Bukei Jabbie (in photo) who has thrown spanners in what was expected to be, as in the words of Sama Banya (Puawui), a tight but peaceful race.

This is happening at a critical moment in the life of the party which is gearing up to retake State House.

But Bu-Bukei Jabbie, himself an aspirant, has not let things go the SLPP way. Like Charles Margai he too has won the day! He had taken the SLPP to court over some constitutional matter which edges needed to be straightened first, according to him, before March 5, the date earlier set aside for the party’s national delegate conference in Freetown to choose the party’s presidential candidate for the 2012 elections.

That date is no more as the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Bu-Buakei Jabbie, the complainant in the matter. Apparently, party members are at a loss to see one of their kinds taking them to another round of constitutional headache just few days to March 5.

Is Jabbie a paid agent, some members have been tempted to wonder.

For Bu-Bukei Jabbie, whose Le 50 million is at stake, he is not and will never be a paid agent but merely asked the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone to restrain the party from holding its convention until certain aspects of its constitution have been interpreted, that is, matters relating to the current national and regional executives remaining in office while the delegate conference is taking place.

Jabbie said he was doing so to save his party from future court injunctions emanating from other rival political parties on the eve of general elections, which for him could be disastrous for the SLPP. Fine rationale, but does the SLPP see it that way?

Amidst the internal squabble is the fear that the dust raised by the learned doctor might impact on the outcome of the decision of future delegate conference. Given past experiences, what would stop some losing aspirants (probably other paid agents?) from behaving the way Jabbie has done – taking the party back to court over some electoral issues – for vote rigging, vote buying, or poor conduct of the election, etc?

Indeed, party stalwarts might have argued clearly that the issue of officials overstaying in office ahead of the convention has been thrashed out at two separate occasions with Bu-Bukei Jabbie being present but without him raising any objection. Fine!

But Bu-Bukei Jabbie has won the court case, so what’s the next step?

It is unlikely that any aggrieved candidate would move out and form or join another political party, as any defection or defections following this incident by a presidential aspirant might have a chilly effect on the party’s desperate bid for a second coming. Man by nature is unpredictable.

I’m just thinking aloud!

But like what the great Puawui said in one of his recent columns, the party is determined to “confound all our detractors and hold peaceful elections whenever that will be and come out more united and stronger than ever before…the SLPP has always withstood the storm and this time will not be different…”

Can we live by his words? Let’s wait and see.

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