President Koroma’s Possible Runningmate Choice
The November 17th election is drawing closer and things are hitting up from all fronts for President Ernest Bai Koroma. However, the most important and immediate decision he has to make in the next couple of weeks is that of choosing his running-mate. No matter what people may say, the president is not in any controversial position at the moment. The only thing observers can do at this moment in time is to share their opinions on the President’s running-mate choice and hope that their opinions will count in the best interest of Sierra Leone. (Photo: HE President Ernest Bai Koroma)
There are many names making news for possible running-mate option for President Koroma. It is a fact that all these names coming up for the number two position are all qualified to occupy the office of Vice President. But, the truth is not all of them are capable of adding value to the President‘s ticket for re-election which is the most important thing at this stage. So, let’s look at the names on the lips of members of the public and see if any of them can add any significant value to President Ernest Bai Koroma in his re-election bid?
Charles Margai: There is no denying the fact that Lawyer Charles Margai is a household name in the politics of Sierra Leone. Charles Margai’s popularity grew when he decided to abandon his birth party – the SLPP and formed the PMDC. Apparently, the formation of the PMDC was very instrumental in seeing the APC and President Koroma win the 2007 election. However, the relationship between Charles Margai and President Koroma has deteriorated over the years to the extent that they have lost trust in each other. And, we all know the difficulty in patching or maintaining a relationship where trust is non-existent; more so in such an instance in which political relationship involves providing leadership to a country. In addition, even Charles Margai’s popularity is now questionable. His party members have abandoned him to either join the APC or return to the SLPP or pitch tents with other parties. Therefore, if this man is not able to maintain his own membership, how possible will it be for him to attract new votes to help President Koroma win again? So, for this reason and the lack of trust between the President and Charles Margai, it becomes difficult to make a case for Charles Margai as a possible running-mate choice to President Koroma.
Joe Amara Bangali Jnr. He is an unknown figure in the politics of Sierra Leone except if he decides to ride on the popularity of his father, – Joe Amara Bangali Sr. But even his father lost that popularity after he joined the notorious AFRC in 1997 that was responsible for the massacre of so many Sierra Leoneans including the August 18th massacre of student protesters. I am not very sure that Joe Amara Bangali himself is that popular to even win a parliamentary seat in his home town. Therefore, he might be considered rich and as a gentleman but that is not enough to create a positive impact on the Ernest Koroma’s ticket. Although, some people may want to argue that VP Sam Suman was an unknown figure in 2007, but those putting up such argument have to remember that at that time, Sierra Leoneans were desperate for change and wanted to see the SLPP “ pack and go.” So in essence, the focus was not on who the running-mate to President Koroma was, rather, on the alternative the APC had to offer at that time.
J B Dauda: is one of the oldest political figures in Sierra Leone politics. He has a wealth of political experience and commands a lot of respect amongst the people of Kenema which happens to be a major stronghold of the SLPP. He is the present Minister of Foreign Affairs and amongst the fifth most senior ministers in President Ernest Bai Koroma’s administration. However, Jam Bodi for Development (JBD) as he is fondly known in his political base in Kenema is now a very old man even fit to be the President’s Father. Therefore, age is not on his side and not sure whether he has the energy anymore to challenge the young and vibrant SLPP politicians in Kenema – his political base. Despite his popularity in Kenema, it is very unlikely that he will be able to influence any substantial vote for the APC in this traditional SLPP stronghold and whatever the APC does, there is a very slim possibility they will ever win outright in Kenema. The million dollar question now remains, is President Koroma willing to take a gamble on JB Dauda for just some minimal vote gains in the Kenema district? I am sure readers will agree that it will be a huge risk to take such a gamble.
Usman Boie Kamara: Usu Boie or UBK as he is fondly called is one of Sierra Leone’s most popular politicians today. Like President Koroma, he is a new man in the block but possesses a wealth of experience through his 37 years as a civil servant. The civil servant turned politician recently endorsed President Koroma for a second term and during his declaration ceremony in June, he publicly promised that his endorsement will contribute to the President’s landslide victory in the upcoming election.
The Western Area which is one of the country’s election battle grounds is regarded as UBK’s strongest political base. In the upcoming election, whichever party is able to deliver the Western Area as well as maintain their political strongholds will win the November 17th election. Therefore, UBK’s popularity in the Western Area has a strategic standing for President Koroma and the APC. In addition, UBK is believed to be an all-rounder.
He has a huge following and well respected in the Eastern Province particularly, in the Kono and Kenema districts. So, if we are to believe the rumours making the rounds, it looks immanent that President Koroma might drop VP Sam Sumana as his possible running-mate choice this time. If this becomes the case, President Koroma needs someone like Usu Boie to help him consolidate the Kono and Kenema votes as well.
The respect which Usu Boie commands amongst most of the Kono Paramount Chiefs who had known him during his ten years as the General Manager at NDMC will make it easier for them to back him as the possible replacement for VP Sam Sumana. Also, in Kenema, he is also very popular and has one of Kenema’s political heavyweights M. A. Sandi as one of his key political advisers. Usu Boie and M.A. Sandi are therefore able to convince even more voters for President Koroma in the SLPP backyard than even the veteran politician, JB Dauda.
Another strategic advantage for choosing UBK is that, he still has a substantial amount of secret supporters within the SLPP who are not sure of a Madda Bio presidency. Therefore, they will rather stay on the fence because they are not sure whether publicly endorsing President Koroma at this stage will see their interest protected. Whatever one may say, in politics everyone tries to promote or protect his/her permanent interest first. In this regard, those undecided voters will see UBK as their source of protection if they are to endorse President Koroma for a second term.
Sources, from close quarters within the SLPP confirmed that, if Usu Boie is named as President Koroma’s choice for a running-mate, these undercover UBK supporters within the SLPP are on standby to ensure they mobilise their supporters throughout the county in favour of President Koroma.
Usu Boie can also be very influential amongst grassroots supporters throughout Sierra Leone. This is because of his philanthropic work and support for community development, youth and women empowerment projects over the years. Looking at all the prospective candidates above, it is certain that UBK will garner more votes for Prezo Koroma and the APC than any one else.
In summary, amongst all the names above, Usu Boie stands a better chance of helping Prezo Koroma deliver the Western Area and part of the Eastern Province (Kono and Kenema) and will at the same time, solidify his support base in the Northern Province particularly, in Koinadugu and Kambia. In addition, UBK is a very popular and likable character among grassroots supporters of the APC. Therefore, blending within the rank and file of APC members becomes easier for him. It is also worth noting that, UBK is a well respected figure within the Muslim community which accounts for about 70 % of the country’s population. Thus, making him the most fitted to attract those Muslim voters in favour of President Koroma.
So, as a gentle advice to President Ernest Bai Koroma, he should not just choose a running mate just for the sake of it. Because, this decision is very crucial and it will either make or break him and party. Therefore, his choice for running-mate has to be strategic and he should select someone who can add value to his ticket which will in turn increase his chances of winning the November 17th election with a landslide.
Mr. President, the ball is in your court.
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