October 2, 2022

By Mohamed Juma Jalloh

District Coordinator of the main opposition, All People’s Congress (APC) in the North-East Headquarters of Makeni, Alpha Bangura says his district will forever remain APC.

Makeni City is geo-politically strategic in the Northern part of Sierra Leone. It is an ever-growing city that takes pride in sound medical and educational facilities as well as recreational and social facilities making it the envy of Sierra Leone.

People from different parts of the country visit the city most frequently to get a share of the comfort and luxuries it can offer to any visitor.

However, Makeni city, from time immemorial is the traditional stronghold of the main opposition, APC although the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is struggling to gain a foothold there.

In the 2018 elections, APC’s arch-rivals, SLPP party managed to harvest 14,774 presidential votes in the APC dominated city.

By polling almost 15,000 votes in Makeni City is a warning signal to the APC that President`s Bio`s popularity should not be underestimated albeit claim of opposition stronghold.

The SLPP votes in Makeni City is a confidence building one in a region where SLPP was expected to poll only a few hundred votes in the 2018 elections.

As the party in governance, the SLPP can build on this success by bringing more development to Makeni in diverse ways.

Resumption of large-scale mining, construction of township roads and job opportunities among others for a teeming youth population are development projects Makeni residents would not let go.

To the APC campaign strategist in Bombali, the surge of SLPP votes in Makeni warrants thorough internal party restructuring.

Most Sierra Leoneans suggest that APC initiatives would positively impact the lives of breakaway voters and hopes of would bringing them back to the party remain high.

Many have warned that APC complacency should be completely ruled out in Makeni’s political situation.

The argument goes: in a political contest, nothing should be taken for granted. Even rumours must be acted upon until proven otherwise, talk less of certified published NEC results.

A report launched by the National Reformation Movement, an APC splinter group, widely viewed as a post-election autopsy for the 2018 elections cited complacency as one of the main factors that led to the defeat of the APC.

In a first past the post system of voting, every vote is indispensable to political candidates as they capitalise on them to secure victory.

It is incontrovertibly factual that the APC dominates all layers of local governance in Bombali including the mayor, chairman and councillors.

For this reason, some party stalwarts say, the APC may easily relegate to complacency by paying less attention to consolidate recent gains.

SLPP, almost invariably, is equally susceptible to the complacency syndrome in its perceived strongholds.

A sound analogy could be drawn between the Southern regional headquarter of Bo and the North-eastern headquarters of Makeni.

Bo city is dominated by SLPP members, supporters and sympathisers.

The mistaken conception that SLPP would get all the votes and win all the seats may divert the party’s attention in the allocation of resources to a city that has lagged behind for years in terms of development.

Any such thought borne by the SLPP is damaging in view of the fast growth of Bo city from a mere provincial headquarters to a complete cosmopolitan way of life.

It is vital for resources and attention to be directed to winning the minds of voters in the heartland of political rivals.

However, paying less attention to a community considered as a stronghold is synonymous with opening the floodgate for infiltration by opposing political forces.

It is prudent to bring to mind the aftermath of the 2018 elections in this piece.

In spite of APC’s lion share in the parliamentary seats in the 2018 elections, the party lost the presidential votes to the SLPP.

At the parliamentary front, it was clear that APC was aided by the gerrymandering process that saw the emergence of more constituencies in the party’s northern stronghold.

The APC secured the highest number of seats in a 132-member configurated legislature, but SLPP votes significantly improved in the North of the country.

In spite of losing the presidential elections, APC was of firm conviction of controlling the law making arm of government.

APC Secretary General, Ambassador Foday Osman Yanssaneh was in a content mood when NEC announced the 2018 elections results.

By way of calming nerves of APC supporters, the APC scribe went paradoxical.

“Even though we lost the presidential elections, we have won the elections because the APC has won 69 seats in parliament,” the APC Scribe consoled supporters.

Little did the APC know that the ruling SLPP had devised a trick to secure a parliamentary majority, a novel, brutal move that saw many parliamentarians hospitalised.

The security operatives were at the disposal of the Clerk of Parliament, Paran Tarawallie to achieve the objective. The tactical move paved the way for the SLPP to impose a Speaker of Parliament on APC and other opposition parties.

Petition of ten APC members of parliament by SLPP runners-up in the 2018 elections was the precursor to the eventual brutality that erupted in the well of parliament.    As a result of the petitions, nine APC members of parliament lost their seats in what the party referred to as sham hearings.

The verdict did not go down well with the APC whose contention hinged on naked violations of fundamental provisions of the Public Elections Act of 2012 by the judiciary.

The seats of the erstwhile parliamentarians were immediately occupied by SLPP candidates who trailed second in the previous elections.

At present, the minority is now the majority, the ominous move has allowed the ruling SLPP to command requisite support to pass government bills into laws.

A re-run was ordered in constituency 110 at Goderich in the outskirts of Freetown which remains vacant to date.

Voting in Sierra Leone is largely dictated by ethno-regional sentiments.

The other opposition parties in parliament, Coalition for Change and the National Grand Coalition largely received ethno-regional votes to secure 13 seats in parliament.

In view of the circumstances that prevailed before the 2023 elections, there exists the possibility of either party making inroads in to each other`s stronghold.

In Makeni, except that the SLPP has to step up the implementation of development programmes in the city and its adjacent environment before 2023, the APC has better campaign capital in Makeni than the SLPP as the APC can boast of constructing everything in Makeni. It ranges from the construction of township roads within the city, the provision of uninterrupted electricity to the establishment of a university are all glaring testaments of achievements for the APC in Makeni.

To APC supporters, every portion of human development in Makeni was implemented by the APC party.

Residents in Makeni, Young, middle-aged and the aged are certain that every aspect of development in Makeni was initiated by the three former APC presidents: Siaka Stevens, Joseph Momoh and Earnest Bai Koroma.

Although the two parties compete for supremacy in Makeni city, the fatal brutality inflicted on the people there is still fresh in their minds.

The brutality is compelling authorities in different circles to act by condemning and calling for investigations.

A caucus of Bombali parliamentarians headed by Hon. Mahmoud Kalokoh has moved a motion in parliament that was supported by some SLPP parliamentarians for the investigation of the incident.

The move is geared towards the establishment of an independent and impartial committee to look into the circumstances that led to the deaths of about a dozen Sierra Leoneans in the hands of security forces.

The parliamentarians abhor the use of excessive and disproportionate force by security forces on defenseless civilians in the process of transferring a thermal plant from Makeni to the Lungi international Airport.

The moves of parliamentarians indicate that they are determined to bring suspected perpetrators of Makeni killings to justice.

One of deceased, Augustine Kamara was shot on the throat when he was in search of his wife who had gone to the market when the conflict erupted.

Alusine Sesay, a SSS-3 pupil of the Benevolent Secondary school in Makeni city who was preparing to take this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination was fatally shot at.

These sombre experiences have the potential to dent the image of the ruling government and attract sympathy for the main opposition in Makeni City.

Considering the number of fatalities and injuries, there is hardly a Makeni resident that is not affected by the tragedy.

It is rather unfortunate that the people`s lives would be used as a political campaign tool in the near future.

Considering that SLPP has committed political suicide in Makeni city, the APC can institute its 99 tactics to build political gains out of the incidents to gain sympathy.

The unpleasant occurrence would be touted by the APC during the elections campaign for 2023 to gain national sympathy and score political points.

The APC District Coordinator in Bombali district sums it up:

“Every development in Bombali was implemented by the APC so the SLPP can never get headway in the District.”