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What happens in Makeni … stays in Makeni.

What happens in Makeni … stays in Makeni.

The dust seems to have settled, or it is settling after an orgy of political goombay dance. The recently concluded APC convention would be remembered for many things and for many years to come. The pre-election gathering of the APC Party was unprecedented by all accounts. Since the election date was pronounced, the political atmosphere that ensued was one that was mired, savoured, marinated and shrouded in gossip, anxiety and tension. The outcome of the convention, which climaxed into the election, selection or nomination of the APC flag bearer, was a fitting end to this mother of all drama. If the convention in Makeni was going to be remembered for anything, it was the unconventional nature of the convention, which generations will live to remember. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)

Unlike any other convention in the history of the APC, the party had over 20 politically constipated aspirants; all vying to sign the tenancy agreement at State House, come 2018. At face value, allowing such a large number of aspirants for such an important position may pass for democracy at work. Many saw it as the party’s way of giving a free hand to everyone; to exercise their democratic rights. The aspirants were all given a free rein to campaign to their hearts pleasure. There were some, who were so drunk on the audacity of hope, that they even resigned their posts, to contest for the position of flag bearer. This was all good, in the spirit of democracy.

And so it came to the crunch time; when the position was reportedly down to one man, and one man only, to shape the destiny of the APC Party. While the aspirants were turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcons couldn’t hear the falconer. It seemed that things fell apart, because the centre could not hold. Mere anarchy was loosed upon the world, and the blood dimmed tide was loosed everywhere; as the ceremony of innocence was drowned. While the best lacked all conviction, the worst were filled with passionate intensity. That was the atmosphere that swept across the political landscape of Makeni, when Dr. Samura Kamara was declared as the APC presidential flag bearer on that fateful day.

To say that the selection of Dr. Samura left a bitter taste in the mouths of many APC supporters would be an understatement. Many people have questioned the political gymnastics that saw Dr. Samura win the coveted prize. The process has been widely condemned as downright undemocratic. Reports have it that after a lot of political horse trading, it came down to the whim of one man; Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to have the final word. The fact that such a decision was left to one man has been seen by many as undemocratic. But before we run to such conclusions, should we be asking whether the APC Party has such a provision; for the president to take such a decision in the absence of a consensus? Many would like to believe that for Ernest to take such a bold step or decision, the APC party constitution must have such a provision; where such a seeming deadlock is evident. If that is the case, so where did the president go wrong? The expectation is that, such a unilateral decision may have been provided for in the APC constitution.

The decision for Ernest to appoint, select or nominate the flag bearer, as detestable as it was to the party disciples, says more about the aspirants than the president. For starters, there is a seeming indication that all those who aspired to lead the party lacked leadership acumen. Where such an unprecedented number of aspirants contested the flag bearer position, any such aspirant worth his/her salt would have been expected to have canvassed others to throw their hats of support in their ring. Any good leader would have been able to persuade a few to support him/her in a quasi-coalition. The fact that none of the aspirants was able to coarse, persuade or convince any other aspirant to form a camp under one of them, could be suggestive of their lack of acumen to negotiate or persuade as leaders. Such an inability does not augur well for leadership qualities. How come that no one could form a group under one aspirant beggars belief.

With such a high number of aspirants all vying for the same position, many would have expected as least, one of the main aspirants to form a group within that collection. At least, one of them should have been able to garner some form of support among the others. The fact that this did not happen says a lot about them as a group and as individuals. Some will say that it showed a hound of power hungry politicians who were more interested in their personal aggrandisement than political expediency. It showed a stark sense of disunity among the lot. Even the much vaunted favourites for the position could not come up with any form of coalition.

Notwithstanding the fact that the duty of choosing the flag bearer was left in the hands of one man, the coronation was reminiscent of the papal election in the Vatican. By all standards, the selection of Dr. Samura Kamara came as a bolt from the blues. It was shocking and unexpected. Dr. Samura was relatively an unknown quantity. His name was only mentioned in Chinese whispers.  There were other names that were considered sure balls for the position. So when he was declared the chosen one, the reaction of the party faithful was not surprising.

But what do we learn from the debacle of this presidential selection?. Some people will say that having such a large number of aspirants was indicative of their patriotic duty. Equally, it is worth remembering that “patriotism is not obedience to the government. Patriotism is obedience to the principles for which government is supposed to stand”. Does the selection of Dr. Samura mean that Ernest did not have any confidence to bestow his legacy to any of the other aspirants; especially those that had already been anointed by the media? Does it mean that Ernest did not trust them? In executing their duties as members of the government, had they performed or not performed enough to gain his trust? There is no doubt that during his tenure of office, Ernest has had his fair share of flattery from these aspirants. But as we all know, “between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt. Flattery can be a form of hatred, whereby you tell the other person precisely what he thinks about himself. It is a friendship in show, but not in fruit. What this teaches us is that, you cannot offer a compliment and ask a favour at the same time; because a compliment that is charged for is not valuable.

If the appointment of Dr. Samura is anything to go by, many would be inclined to conclude that most of these aspirants succeeded in professing their loyalty to Ernest, rather than the country. So when it came to deciding on whom to trust with the interest of the country, Ernest opted for someone he thought would have the interest of the country at heart. While some of these guys may have succeeded in endearing themselves to Ernest, had they unconsciously shown him that they stood for nothing, and would fall for anything? Was their lack of principles the missing piece in the jigsaw? Or was Ernest going for a safe pair of hands? There are some who believe that the president opted for someone he believes would protect his interest even after leaving office. Some will beg to differ. Irrespective of your view, selecting Dr. Samura, a relatively unknown is a statement of intent by Ernest koroma and the APC.

Many will see his selection as bitter pill to swallow. But the APC is good at biting its tongue. With the SLPP having anointed its flag bearer Maada Bio, and with Yumkela hoping to throw the cat among the pigeons, next year’s election promises to be a very interesting one. Unlike other elections, the unpredictability factor will rank high among political pundits this time. One thing is for sure though; the coalition is bound to haemorrhage a lot of disgruntled supporters from both sides of the aisle. Whether this would be enough to make inroads to generate a run off is anybody’s guess. The hope is that, the election would be peaceful.

So as we gear up for the next election, it will be worth remembering that leadership is not about the next election, but about the next generation. Voting is about how to be citizens and the importance of our voice. Strengthening our country is more important than losing or winning an election. The political process of our country does not end on Election Day. Our election should not be treated as an advance auction sale of stolen goods, but as process by which we continue to pay attention to the conversation and hold our leaders to account for their actions. Regardless of who wins, our election should be seen as a time for optimism and fresh approaches. This election presents us with a stark choice; do we settle for the old, tried and tested, or do we go for uncharted territories? As we go to the polls in March, let us remember that the purpose of an election is to hear the will of the people, not to fabricate votes.

Vote wisely. It takes one day to vote, but it takes 5 years to correct an unwise decision.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).

Abdulai Mansaray

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