September 28, 2022

Uneasy calm started in the ruling SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) in 2012 when President Julius Maada Bio appeared on the stage as the party’s  flag-bearer. The political conflicts continued on to 2018 with President Bio at the helm. Former aspirants and important party officials wanted to see President Julius Maada Bio as an ex-officio member of the SLPP.

As an ex-officio member, President Bio would not take active part in party affairs. The aspirants had a common position, and spoke with one voice on preventing President Bio to run for a second time. An entrenched clause in the old SLPP Constitution supported the aspirants’ position. The clause says any flag-bearer who contests once loses becomes ex-officio.

It was under that clause that late Vice President, Solomon Ekuma Berewa became officio. President Bio was in no mood to go after he had spent many years eyeing the presidency. But, the law supersedes everything meaning legal directives must be obeyed.

Apart from the preponderance of the law, the party’s powerful forces were coming after him. President Bio was still hopeful, but his hopes evaporated after the political parties regulator,  PPRC, (Political Parties Registration Commission ) came out with a statement that the continuation of President Bio as SLPP flag-bearer after the 2012 elections was an imposition on the party. The commission further maintained that the imposition was the cause of all conflicts in the SLPP.

The commission recommended that the then flag-bearer must relinquish his responsibilities for peace to reign.  President Bio, at that time,  had no alternative but to seek solace and refuge in the hands of former President Ernest Bai Koroma.

President Koroma came to the rescue of the former SLPP flag-bearer by giving him some important state functions.

In most of his important missions, former President Koroma would allow President Bio to accompany him. In the Ebola days (2014-2016), former President Koroma created a platform for the then Flag-bearer,  to play his part.

It was a complete show of tolerance and magnanimity on the part of former President Koroma. The intimate relationship between the former and current Presidents at that time caused alarm in the then ruling APC (All People’s Congress) and SLPP camps. SLPP accused President Bio of a sell-out of SLPP ideology to the APC and vice-versa.

The support former President Koroma offered to President Bio frightened SLPP stalwarts.

President Bio, without any doubt, became a force to reckon with in the party. Despite the allegations, the friendly relationship continued between the two statesmen. Former President Koroma was carried away by the serenity, calmness and innocence of President Bio.

It was suspected that President Bio might have pledged loyalty to preserve the former President’s legacies, and to strengthen national cohesion. In most of his interviews he granted to international media particularly BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), the promise of consolidating national cohesion featured prominently.

President Bio assured Sierra Leoneans of treating the tribes with equal pride. Former President Koroma, a civilian Head of State was unwary and clueless about President Bio’s military politics at that time.

In the last days of the APC, former President Koroma started to collapse the APC pillars to pave the way for a smooth transition. One of such actions, was the arbitrary sacking of former Vice President, Chief Sam Sumana.

It was quite clear that had Chief Sam remained in the APC, a smooth transition of power from President Koroma to President Bio would have been extremely difficult. Since the stage was already set, President Bio emerged victorious in the 2018 elections. Former President Koroma who had been at the helm retired to his trench.

The baton of leadership had been handed over to President Bio. The former President watched President Bio from a distance how PAOPA leadership would look like. The adage which says if you want to know a man’s real character, give him power is very much relevant here.

Although the former President was in his trench in Makeni, he felt the heat of the Bio leadership. In the day President Bio was announced President, Sierra Leone was ushered into an all-out thuggery and incivility hardly seen anywhere in the world.

A group of vagabonds and self-styled vigilantes were let loose on the streets of Freetown by PAOPA government o chase former government officials. The objective was to recover government property especially vehicles.

Overnight, former President and his ministers were branded as thieves whose state loot wrecked the economy. President Koroma’s daughter and his son-in-law, Ibrahim Mansaray were not spared in the chase for vehicles. The couple’s residence was raided and ransacked by armed men who attempted to cart Mansaray’s vehicle away.

The half-baked and vigilantes thought that the vehicle was government property. The vigilantees, in most quaters, were seen as vicious and ruthless ready to unleash mayhem reminiscent of the Kamajor era. The former President was taken aback when he was ordered by President Bio to pay back money he owed the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB).

President Koroma’s bank accounts were also blocked. A hurriedly set up team of SLPP hardliners known as Governance Transition Team (GTT) led by former Chief Minister, Professor  David Francis accused former APC Government of leading  a ‘criminal racketeering enterprise.’

GTT further alleged that the loot and reckless spending of the former government led to a near economic and state collapse. The economic malaise, they went on, was evidenced by the astronomical debts Sierra Leone incurred in the APC days.

They maintained that the debts were the highest in post independent Sierra Leone. In what appeared an attempt to recover allegedly stolen money, a kangaroo-styled Commissions of Inquiry (COI) was set up with former President Koroma  as the key target. The aim was to shut down APC had former President Koroma ensnared.

In the COI’s hearings, former President Koroma’s name appeared in a list of over 50 debtors of SLCB. President Koroma was constantly subjected to raids by the country’s anti-graft agency, the Anti-Corruption Commission for made-up corruption allegations, but no iota of evidence was found against him. To date, the PAOPA Government sets eyes on the assets of the former President to get them freezed.

President Bio’s raid has convinced many Sierra Leoneans that former President Koroma would have been behind bars if the people of Sierra Leone would have forsaken him. The light of day would have been sealed off from the former President until such a time President Bio thought it convenient to restore his freedom.

Despite the raids, the former President remains a global icon flying high the flag of Sierra Leone in other countries. Former President Koroma is head of elections in the AU and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). Bio’s military politics has failed to get hold of the former President who, no doubt, will oversee the 2023 elections.