Is SLPP not a family?
Supporters of the two main factions in the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) have taken to tearing themselves apart in the social media following the official registration of one of the flag-bearer aspirants, Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, as member of the party last Thursday at the party secretariat in Freetown.
While the Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio’s faction has in a press release welcomed the two-time Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) into the SLPP family, the latter’s movement has retorted that the welcoming of the flag-bearer aspirant into the SLPP family is a provocative narrative that speaks of his ‘un-bonafide membership of the SLPP’ and an attempt to eliminate him from the flag-bearership.
The Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella Movement (KKYM) believes that their flag-bearer aspirant has been a registered SLPP member since 2013 and that his recent registration was requested by the SLPP Chairman of Kambia, his home district.
Supporters of the Bio faction have been posting their views in the social media about the recent registration of Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella as party member, accusing him of lying about his membership of the party, while the KKYM supporters have also accused the Bio faction of provoking situation to eliminate their man from the flag-bearer contest because of his political ambition to lead the SLPP to the next presidential poll.
While supporters of the two main factions in the SLPP were at each other’s jugular, another flag-bearer aspirant, Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin, was in his maternal home Segbwema in Kailahun District at the week end to officially declare his intention to lead the party to State House in 2018. He was quoted as saying that after his official declaration, he would embark on a nationwide tour to make his intention known. The former SLPP Chairman and Leader was also quoted as saying that he is the fittest man for that coveted position and that his decision to lead the party to State House in 2018 was reached after he had consulted with members and supporters of the party.
Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin is the second SLPP flag-bearer aspirant to have officially declared his intention to lead the party to State House after Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, who has already toured many parts of the country officially declaring his intention for the coveted position, including his home district in December last year. Other aspirants are also expected to officially declare their intentions to lead the SLPP like the two have done. But the most disheartening issue is the lack of peace and unity that is leading to the protracted confrontations among supporters of different flag-bearer aspirants.
I believe that any responsible political party that is prepared for state governance should not be dwelling on registration issue for someone that would add more values to the party. Though other SLPP flag-bearer aspirants may have registered as party members long before Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella did, his registration should not be provoked because at the end of the day, the Sierra Leonean electorate would be looking at candidates’ credibility and achievements at both national and international levels and not their donkey’s years of services in their respective political parties. For instance, the likes of the late Reverend Paul Dumber, Mannah Kpaka, Maigore Kallon and Charles Francis Margai were all faithful servants of the SLPP when a retired UN official, the late Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, just came from the blues and successfully led the party to State House in 1996. Had the SLPP made length of service in the party as a criterion for flag-bearership, most Sierra Leoneans would not have known the late former President. So why the recent registration of Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella as party member should become an issue if SLPP really cares about added value to attract more votes in future elections?
I believe it is about time SLPP stopped their intra-party squabbles and comport themselves in a manner that would convince the electorate that, indeed, they are a better alternative to the APC rule. Bit no right-thinking Sierra Leonean would ever choose to vote for a political party whose members and supporters are always drawing daggers at each other over trivialities.
The chances of the grand old party winning the next presidential election in Sierra Leone will depend largely on the willingness of all flag-bearer aspirants to embrace themselves as one family and be ready to support whoever eventually becomes the presidential candidate of the party. Peace and unity in the SLPP is key to unlocking their electoral jinx because the lack of those fundamental elements in the party cost them the 2007 presidential election, when Charles Francis Margai who lost the flag-bearer election to Solomon Ekuma Berewa in 2005 and his supporters left the party and formed the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) that partnered with the then opposition All People’s Congress (APC) Party to defeat the SLPP presidential candidate in the 2007 run-off election. The same scenario replicated itself in 2011, when Osman Boie Kamara who came second in the flag-bearer election defected to the ruling APC together with thousands of his supporters. Consequently, Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio who was the SLPP presidential candidate lost to the incumbent President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. But it seems that the SLPP has never learned from the consequences of going into national elections as a divided house.
Untilmembers and supporters of the SLPP see themselves as a united family irrespective of ethnic, regional or religious beliefs, it will be much easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for them to win any national elections in Sierra Leone.
By Thomas Vandi Gbow
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