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PMDC at the crossroads (Part One)!

PMDC at the crossroads (Part One)!

The People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) headed by political novice, Mohamed Bangura, as chairman, is in a very serious leadership crisis. My fear is that it is a crisis that is almost certainly going to lead to the final demise of a party I once faithfully and selflessly served as chief propagandist.

As Editor-In-Chief of the Positive Change Newspaper, the defunct PMDC mouthpiece, I was charged with the responsibility of marketing the party and promoting the candidature of Charles Francis Margai in the keenly contested 2007 general elections. Despite the risks involved, I performed my task professionally and satisfactorily, for almost nothing by way of remuneration.

My decision to accept the responsibility of running the Positive Change Newspaper was based solely on the fact that I believed in the ideology of the PMDC at the time, and more so giving the fact that things were going extremely bad in governance under the then Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) regime.

With no confidence in the All People’s Congress (APC) giving its past unimpressive record, I firmly believed and continue to believe that Sierra Leone needs a third political force if only to be removed from the doldrums into which it remain plunged. It remains to be seen whether the new APC under the business-friendly President Ernest Koroma, has what it takes to redeem this poorly managed and backward country of ours.

Charles Francis Margai, being charismatic and fearless and most importantly being an orator and a lawyer with distinction, I thought was the only politician better placed to uproot this county from the doldrums. My assumption was wrong indeed.

I knew I had a critical role to play in the quest to redeem our country…which was why I offered to take up a task no other journalist of my calibre was ready to perform…even for a fortune.   

I received a lot of warnings and condemnation from colleagues and friends, and my parents were very concerned about my safety…considering the tense political atmosphere at the time and giving that the SLPP was prepared to do anything humanely or devilishly possible to retain power.

What however kept me focused was because I knew what I was doing. I knew I was performing a duty owed to my one and only country. Thanks to Honourable Dauda Tombo Bangura (DTB) for being my motivator. 

There was certainly no reason why the PMDC with its welcoming ‘positive change’ message and its charismatic leadership at the time wouldn’t have won the 2007 elections. All the party needed was to stay in the race for the second rounds. Be it with the SLPP or APC, the PMDC would have won easily. The party’s momentum was extraordinarily high…which was why it attracted significant sympathy both within and without.

But Margai turned out to be a big disappointment and a disgrace to himself, the party and the country as a whole. He proved to be ill-placed to assume the presidency of a country that has been, and continue to be deprived of effective leadership.

His first major blunder was the out-of-place selection of his running mate in the person of Dr. I.I. Tejan Jalloh (with all due respect), who later turned out to be a liability to the party and his chances of becoming president.

The selection of Dr. I.I. Tejan Jalloh, an unpopular figure in the ranks of the PMDC, was the key factor responsible for the drastic dwindling of the momentum of the party.

Another factor was Margai’s very uncouth attitude towards key party members, especially those who were the brains and financial backbones of the party. He made sure that he hurt every single one of them in his foolish determination to run the party as a one-man show.

He perceived himself as being president even before the elections, and was therefore conducting himself as if he were already at State House…doing things as he wished in outright ignorance of the fact that the road to victory was still a long way off.

Notwithstanding the fact that the party was in huge financial deficit due mainly to the withholding of much needed funds by staunch party loyalists who were ready to spend their last resources just to ensure that the PMDC wins, Margai himself presided over the misuse of the limited resources that flowed into the party’s accounts. Monies received from overseas and from other unclear sources either got into wrong hands or used for personal aggrandisement rather than for campaigning.

Womanizing also characterised the party’s campaign, with much of the funds meant for campaign purposes controlled by certain influential and pampered concubines. At one point a whole campaign rally was boycotted just because a certain concubine needed a fun time.

That showed how unserious the PMDC leadership was in the face of a very stiff competition with two major political giants i.e. the SLPP and APC.

It was unsurprising therefore that the party, much to the disappointment of many, did not make it to the second rounds. Though it performed remarkably well by clinching up to ten parliamentary seats and acted as the deciding force in the run-off between the SLPP and APC, it was the general expectation that the party would have had no reason losing the elections had the leadership style of Margai been result-oriented and progressive and had the limited resources the party attracted been used for the sole purpose of campaigning.

Margai, in his usual uncouth conduct towards good people around him, furthered his one-man-show policy when entrusted with the responsibility of making four ministerial and two deputy ministerial appointments along with some diplomatic and parastatal ones. The names he came up with feel short of the expectation of a chunk of party loyalists, most of whom lost confidence in the leadership and decided to call it quit. They were absolutely right.

A good lot of others who were concerned about the future of the party, stayed. They were clear though about the fact that for the party to survive there was need for a change of leadership. I sympathized with this set of loyalists because from my critical assessment of the situation, I was convinced, and remain convinced, that Charles Francis Margai has outlived his political usefulness.

In fact had Margai been morally inclined, he wouldn’t have stood for re-election at the party’s last delegates’ conference…knowing that his momentum has sporadically vanished and knowing also that age and the popularity of the current regime are keen factors blocking his way of ever becoming president of the Republic Sierra Leone. Thank God he lost…because he was going to be the worst president ever. A dictator per excellence and not a “benevolent dictator” as he was professing.

 Knowing that he had lost significant popularity within the party and faced with a tough challenger in the person of Honourable Dauda Tombo Bangura, Margai and his blind followers including Mohamed Bangura, Dr. Issa Fofanah, Bai Sama Sankoh, Dr. Denis Sandy, Tommy Kargbo to name but a few sycophants, masterminded the delegate’s conference to their favour.

It all started with an unpopular motion proposed by Mohamed Bangura that the leadership elections in the up coming conference should be shelved so that Francis Margai would remain the leader of the party until 2011.  A mini conference was called in Makeni for that purpose. The voting there was blatantly rigged and Mohamed Bangura’s motion was pronounced the winning motion, while the counter motion of Charles Margai calling for the elections to go on as planned, failed.

After the pronouncement of that so-call victory of Mohamed Bangura’s motion, people who don’t have any reason being in politics, called up Charles Francis Margai to congratulate him for being given the authority to lead the party until 2011. One of those people happens to be Steve Gaojia, who was then a leadership candidate for the PMDC.

The unpopular conference in Makeni, constituencies, districts and regional elections, were rigged to an extent that illegal voters mostly non party members, were seduced sometimes with money, to participate in the voting.

A good number of ballot boxes were displayed at locations unbeknowing to supporters of Honourable Dauda Tombo Bangura. Three stuffed ballot boxes were later intercepted by supporters opposed to the Margai camp and taken to the police station. Nothing came out of that. The petitions that came up as a result of the outright rigging of the constituencies, districts and regional elections were never heard, thereby heightening the level of disenchantment in the party, especially in the north where Honourable Dauda Tombo Bangura originates and the Western Area.

Besides that, the delegates’ list was hidden from Honourable Dauda Tombo Bangura and other opposing contenders for various executive positions, so as to deprive them from knowing who to campaign to. It was only as a result of heavy pressure that a partial list of delegates was produced…half way through the elections during the conference in Kenema.

Throughout the process, Margai and his cohorts displayed divisive tactics, not mindful of the harm such will have on the party. All they cared about was to win at all cost. In fact the slogan was “No Margai…No PMDC”. Attempts were even made to harm Honourable Dauda Tombo Bangura for daring to challenge the candidature of Margai.

Margai’s victory along with those of the likes of Mohamed Bangura was greeted with wild jubilation. I saw Dr. Soccoh Kabia and Dr. Denis Sandy, both being beneficiaries of Margai’s selfishness, dancing uncontrollably in outright celebration of a questionable and destructive victory. All these happened because of the premature withdrawal of the candidacy of Steve Gaojia.  Steve Gaojia who had earlier vowed not to withdraw from the race, made a surprising announcement during the scheduled voting day that he has withdrawn from the race. The people who meant well for the PMDC had Margai on the corner, but the withdrawal of Steve Gaojia brought Margai back to life to continue his dubious games. To me, that was the last hope of saving a party which many people worked so hard for, from the predicament it now faces.

Now though, it seems that celebration has turned into something else, with the catapulted and politically immature chairman, Mohamed Bangura, calling for his godfather, Charles Francis Margai, to step down…saying…”Mr. Leader, in concluding this letter, based on all of the above highlights, and your recent comments in the standing committee meetings- where you categorically stated that the PMDC seems to be incapable of managing itself financially, and must think of another option, and where you also responded to a question about your style of leadership, by mentioning that you will have a word for the party after your consultation with your family, and,  as you also mentioned in one of our meetings again that if it becomes difficult for one to cure a cancer from a part of the body, that part of the body must be cut off, I am of the opinion that you are certainly admitting your incapability to continue to be the leader of the PMDC. Mr. Leader, based on all of the facts mentioned above, and based on your current performance in the party, it is now clearly evident that you have lost the will power to continue to lead a promising party like the PMDC. In that regard, I am humbly suggesting that you consider the honourable option of stepping aside as leader of the PMDC, so that other members can step up to the plate”.

Look out for part two!

By Theophilus S. Gbenda, Freetown

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