Between God, Sam Sumana and Koroma’s choice of running mate
The first time I ever heard the name Samuel Sam Sumana was a few hours after he was selected by the then All Peoples Congress (APC) opposition leader, Hon Ernest Bai Koroma as running mate. Their first outing together was at a gathering organized by the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone. (Photo: Osman Benk Sankoh, author)
Koroma brought with him a young man from Kono. He was not a politician but a businessman. Koroma introduced him as his running mate and as politicians always do, he followed his boss shaking the hands of whoever came across.
I was out of the country. I got the first text. I ignored it. A second came in, and a third and fourth in quick succession, I became curious to know what was going on. The breaking news: “Ernest Koroma selects Sam Sumana as running mate.”
Koroma’s choice prompted me to write an article titled: “Sam Sumana who?” Well, that was four years ago. Sam Sumana is now the Vice President and a household name in the country. Over the years he has assisted Koroma in steering the ship of state. But as their term of office comes to an end, the President has to decide whether he wants to continue with Sumana in his second term bid.
Speculations have gone overdrive; the rumour mill is busy; newspaper reports and columnists are wading in – in the wake of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) presidential aspirant, Julius Maada Bio’s announcement of Dr. Kadi Sesay, a one time university professor and former Minister, as his running mate.
And as if the harbingers of this rumor know what tickles the President, they have gone to the extent of naming Sam Sumana, JB Dauda, Diana Konomanyi and Musa Tarawallie as among a short-list Koroma has his mind on.
While the President continues to keep sealed lips, what beats my imagination is the thought that whoever he eventually chooses will be a bombshell. Why a bombshell, I cannot say, but I don’t see how Hiroshima will happen if Koroma sticks with Sam Sumana, who it may seem, has all this while been a worthy and loyal number two.
I may not be a specialist on the various parties’ constitutions, but even Abacha Street traders know that when Koroma in 2007 decided to make then little known Sam Sumana his running mate, he didn’t need to call for some village Headmen or ‘court barray’ to help him make up his mind. The same could also be said of then Vice President, Solomon Ekuma Berewa who chose one time Foreign Affairs Minister, Momodu Koroma to ride with him on the same ticket. Obviously, some consultations may have been made by these leaders. They may have asked questions and answers may have been provided. However, if interested persons had lobbied and even distributed brown envelops to some Council of Elders, then it could best have been described as an action in futility.
In 2002, when Former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was about to offload his Vice, Dr Albert Joe Demby, names like Solomon Berewa who was then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Professor Septimus Kai-Kai, once Presidential spokesman and John Ernest Leigh, among others, were peddled. In fact, John Leign even hosted a press conference at the British Council to tell the entire world why he should be positioned a heartbeat to the presidency.
For Demby, t-shirts did the talking for him and at an event in Bo; his Jerihun kinsmen were out in their numbers with t-shirts bearing: “together in war, together in peace.” Meantime, Kabbah kept his cool. Berewa followed suit and in an exclusive interview Concord Times then had with him, his response to, “is it true that HE is highly considering you for the number two position,” was, “I am ready and willing to serve the President in any position once it is within the law.”
Well, while John Ernest Leigh was literally taken off a flight from Lungi to appear on the SLBS (now SLBC) TV to clarify a statement in his ill-fated campaign that might have embarrassed the then President, Kabbah waited until a Friday, after the Jumat prayers in Port Loko, to unveil Berewa as his running mate. Interestingly, it happened the same day Concord Times published a screamer which turned out to be exactly the opposite, “Septimus Kaikai gives Solo B sleepless night.” Of course, there were a few surprises but it was entirely Kabbah’s decision.
I may not be privy to the President’s inner circle but I don’t see any reason why he should be wasting his precious sleep on whom he eventually chooses as his running mate. Apart from the Internal Affairs Minister, who it was alleged, went to Kono to be introduced as a contender for the second highest office in the land, others like JBD, Chukuma Johnson and Daina Konomanyi may not brazenly come out to say they are interested in Sam Sumana’s post. For Tarawalie, at least he is on record to have openly expressed his disquiet for the sitting Vice President to the extent of emphasizing that he has respect for the VP office.
Sumana has kept his cool, invoking divine intervention to either keep him or out of office. In God, he has entrusted his hope even as he wonders whether Koroma will extend his contract or throw him under the bus just as Kabbah did to Demby. Those that have followed his stewardship though say Sam Sumana has been a loyal lieutenant who has not expressed any vaulting ambition even though he was unable to win his parliamentary seat in Kono in 2007.
It is important that as 2012 draws to a close, the APC tries to cement its grip on Kono where often than not, the people tend to vote in block. That the opposition has a southerner as its Presidential aspirant makes it all the more ludicrous for the APC to imagine that southerners in 2012 are going to vote Koroma even if he constructs diamond paved roads in Bo and other southern-eastern towns. In the same vein, it will only be a dream if SLPP think that getting Dr Kadi Sesay, a northerner from Port Loko but born and bred in Rotifunk in the South will give them a landslide in the North.
Maybe it is true, maybe it is not but what value does JB Dauda, the man who is only Foreign Minister in name, bring to a Koroma ticket? Why in fact, he is foreign minister I would not know. JBD has passed his prime – he has lost his political mojo. He has been APC, SLPP and APC again. People who have principles stick to them and live out the principle of: “principles are indivisible; they are either wholly kept or wholly sacrificed.” JBD’s principle is AGIP, an acronym for Any Government in Power. Hopefully, Koroma is not even contemplating JBD as Vice President.
Diana Konomanyi, I have not met. Yes, somebody may argue that because the SLPP has a woman running mate, the APC should also have theirs. Nonsense! Is she really interested in being running mate? Is this not another joke? Do you even imagine she could face Dr. Kadi Sesay in any vice presidential debate? What is her area of specialization? Does she have the clout to address both national and emerging international issues? How can she keep Kono intact for the APC if Koroma decides to send Sam Sumana to the dressing room?
Next is Chukuma Johnson. He has been with the President in and outside the Law Court Building. Of course, he has the Western area as his own constituency. If there are indeed Independents in our present day politics, he may possibly be the man to sway them to voting APC. However, that he is from the Western area, a zone considered to be firmly under the grips of the APC makes it more compelling for him not to be considered for Sumana’s post. Like JBD, he has also passed his prime.
Like JBD, the current Internal Affairs Minister, Musa Tarawallie has tasted both sides of the watermelon. He was SLPP and later APC. Unlike his predecessor, Ambassador Dauda Tarawallie as Internal Minister uses heavy police escort and convoy whenever he drives around, much to the dismay of tax payers. It appears his name invokes violence. He has himself not helped matters by his abrasive actions and reckless utterances. That he went on Radio to clearly show what I consider to be gross disdain for the authority of the Vice President, no matter what differences exist between the two, is not a good sign of leadership.
Interestingly, all these names continue to (well at least) win the confidence of the President. His party recently elected Chukuma Johnson as Deputy Speaker of Parliament. Sam Sumana continues to step in the stead of the President whenever he travels out of the country and so far, he has not yet complained of gross insubordination. Despite all the allegations of violence, Musa Tarawallie continues to swing past other vehicles in his convoy and Diana Konomanyi continues to be number one citizen in Kono.
Yet Koroma’s graveyard silence is getting too loud for comfort. Certainly for Sam Sumana. Is he giving hope to Musa Tarawallie? Is Diana Konomanyi now secretly rehearsing how to be VP? Is Chukuma secretly beaming in smiles thinking that Sam Sumana’s days are numbered?
Questions! Questions! Questions!
By Osman Benk Sankoh
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