Kamarainba punctures APC in Bombali
The Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission (NEC) on Saturday, 12th December, 2015 conducted the Parliamentary Bye-Election in Constituency 030 in the Bombali District, Northern Region.
Since democratic elections started in the country in March 1996, Bombali District had been the strongest hold of the governing All People’s Congress (APC) even when they were in the opposition between 1996 and midway into 2007. Even when the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) was in governance, they never defeated the APC in any election conducted in the Bombali District, including the 2004 Local Government elections, when the SLPP won all the Local Councils in Port Loko, Kambia, Tonkolili and Koinadugu Districts, whilst the APC maintained their firm grip on Bombali District by winning both the District Council and City Council elections.
Besides, Bombali is the home district of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and whether by coincidence or by design, many of his Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Chief Executive Officers also hail from the same district. From this district also came the late former President Joseph Saidu Momoh and I was told that even the late erstwhile President Siaka Probyn Stevens had his origin in the Bombali District despite he was born in the southern district of Moyamba. One would therefore conclude comfortably that the district is an electoral bed of roses for the ruling APC as constituents of the district are somehow crazily loyal to their party for better or for worse.
Notwithstanding the primordial loyalty of Bombali District to the APC, provisional results of the just-concluded parliamentary bye-election in Constituency 030 has confirmed the statement of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma following his re-election in November 2012 that they could lose some friends and relatives as a result of some of the decisions he would be taking during his second term of office. Indeed, the fact remains that the provisional results of the parliamentary bye-election at the weekend didn’t reflect the popularity of the ruling party in their own strongest hold in the Northern Region.
According to the provisional results, the former Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, who also served as Senior Adviser to the President until he contested the parliamentary bye-election, polled 5, 764 votes, whilst the Leader and Chairman of Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, scored 3, 924 votes respectively though he lost the election. Though the APC candidate won the parliamentary bye-election, yet the results are a clear signal to the APC that they should not be complacent with the assumed overwhelming votes they often command in the Bombali District given the appalling socio-economic situation that is negatively impacting on Sierra Leoneans especially when it has been exacerbated by the devastating effects of the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on our national economy. For example, thousands of residents of Bombali District who were gainfully employed by the defunct African Minerals Limited (AML) and London Mining Company (LMC) are no longer living dignified lives since they were laid off as a result of the deadly outbreak. They have joined the batch of disgruntled unemployed youths that have no connections or any hopes of getting employment anywhere soon. Such class of aggrieved people has the potential to poison the minds of the electorate against the governing party for the unprecedented suffering they and their dependants are experiencing.
The unbelievable result which the Chairman and Leader of the ADP, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray got in the parliamentary bye-election, especially a political party that has existed for barely five months, clearly indicates that the popularity of the ruling APC in their own backyard has started shrinking though they won by the skin of their teeth. The ruling party had all the resources, power and time for the election campaign whilst the ADP and SLPP candidates were just on the opposite side. Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, we understand, had very little time for campaign and was even reportedly threatened by some traditional rulers that described him as a stranger in Constituency 030. Even so, he took the APC by great surprise when he polled close to 4000 votes after campaigning for the only week that was declared by NEC as campaign week, while the APC was everywhere campaigning with eye-watering resources.
The voter apathy in the just-concluded parliamentary bye-election is another pointer to the growing unpopularity of the governing APC in their strongest hold. According to report, Constituency 030 has a voter population of about 21, 000 with 40 polling stations in 26 locations respectively, but less than half of the voters voted in the bye-election. This indicates that many Bombali residents are just sick and tired of the status quo within the APC which they protested in the parliamentary bye-election. Their protest votes are no doubt a great shock to the party and serious embarrassment to the President and other senior stalwarts that hail from Bombali District.
Though Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo won the Parliamentary bye-election in Constituency 030, the number of protest votes which the ruling party lost to Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray’s ADP comes as a big blow to a political party whose members and supporters are very confident of governing the country for the next fifty years. The election results are a great motivation that could inspire Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray to give the APC a good run for their money in the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections because I suspect that most disgruntled Northerners would prefer to pitch tents with the ADP instead of the SLPP that is clamouring for a Presidential candidate from the South-East.
By and large, the just concluded bye-election is a wake-up call for the governing APC to clean their stable ahead of the 2018 polls or risk losing more friends and relatives in their strongest holds and this could be electorally embarrassing and disastrous for the party. That is why I believe the APC hierarchy should not romance over the victory of Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo but do some thorough soul-searching about what went wrong when they got so embarrassed in their own backyard. Something is fundamentally wrong that led to the less impressive votes Hon. IB Kargbo polled in the bye-election.
For the APC to avoid such embarrassing results in future elections, the party hierarchy should set up a peace committee to investigate the disgruntlement of many voters in Constituency 030 to know their grievances against the party. This is no time for freedom or time for complacency; it is about time the APC started working towards addressing the ever growing abject penury among majority of Sierra Leoneans if they want to continue being in governance beyond 2018.
By Ensa Gondor Konneh
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