By Andrew Keili
Fierce was the wild billow
Dark was the night
Oars laboured heavily
Foam glimmered white
Trembled the mariners
Peril was nigh
Then said the God of God
“Peace! It is I.”
This is the tale of two captains. One who threw his sailors overboard for the sharks to devour and the other who after realising his mistake of ditching them threw them life rafts.
It was a lesson in contrasts to listen to Radio Democracy yesterday. Honourable Ibrahim Bundu of the APC, ex Majority Leader of the House was a guest together with Dr. Prince Harding, Deputy Chairman of the SLPP. Hon. Bundu told listeners about his new appointment as ACP President and Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA). He appeared only too happy to do this as this signified the high regard in which he was still held. Having been cast aside by his party as Majority Leader and regarded by many as having reached the end of the road with a faltering presidential ambition, he was now grateful for this appointment which had received the sanction of the state-endorsed by his Excellency himself-thank God for small mercies!
Dr. Prince Harding was featured after the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the recent SLPP case in the Appeals court, Alhaji Kamara mentioned that they had gone back to court to seek an injunction to the lower level elections to be carried out, which contrary to the court ruling were slated to be carried out by the National Executive by redoing initial elections which “were not affected by the court ruling”. According to him this was being done to give an advantage to “the other side”. The court’s attention was also called to officials of the party who he said had flouted the court’s orders and the recommendation made to the court to incarcerate them. Dr. Prince Harding aka “Bullet” was livid. He fires some bullets at his “detractors”. He stressed the elections will go on as planned and they were fed up with the progress of the party being stalled by some “unprogressive elements”. In very strong language he was insistent those who had been expelled from the party will stay expelled.
The contrast between the two gentlemen could not have been starker. APC, as a party has shown over the years that it could throw its members overboard and send life rafts for them. The cases in 2010 of ex Ministers Haja Hafsatu Kabbah and Sheku Tejan Koroma aptly illustrate this. Sheku Tejan Koroma, former Minister of Health and Sanitation was convicted in 2010 by the High Court presided over by Justice Mary Sey of offences related to abuse of office, and willfully failing to comply with laws and procedures and guidelines relating to procurement, tendering of contracts and management of funds. It is rumoured that his fine of Le50,000,000 for each of the three counts was paid by an “unknown benefactor”. Former Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, Haja Hafsatu Kabbah, having been found guilty on five counts of misappropriation of public funds by Justice Ademusu was ordered by the court to pay back the sum of 300 million Leones which she withdrew “illegally from the fisheries account”.
Sheku Tejan Sesay has been playing a yeoman’s role in the resurgence of the APC in the Kissy area of the Kailahun District. The affable Haja Hafsatu Kabba whose conviction was later overturned became High Commissioner in Nigeria. Both are respected in the party and the APC rescued them after being thrown overboard by the state.
When the APC itself throws you overboard in anger however, it is difficult even for a dredge to dig you up! They cast you in concrete and throw you into the deepest part of the sea. This happened to ex Vice President Sam Sumana. They would also ensure that they keep even errant dissenting members in line. Dr Jengo Stevens who was Sam Sumana’s initial advocate is now Assistant to the Vice President and the Vice President Victor Foh himself, who it is rumoured was initially on Sumana’s side is now- well Vice President!
The SLPP Captains are not that magnanimous. Both Chief Karpen, the Chairman and Sulaiman Banja Tejansie, the Secretary General were suspended from the party and though Chief Karpen’s was later rescinded, he remains a lame duck Chairman. Dr Prince Harding affirmed the expulsion of the plaintiffs who recently took the party to court and won their appeal. There is talk of throwing more “sailors” overboard. It is no secret that hardliners on one side want detractors to be expunged for good. Those hardliners vehemently opposed to the National Executive do not mind if the party spends an eternity in court as long as “justice” prevails. Meanwhile there is no arbiter.
In contrast, asked about his apparent demotion Hon. Ibrahim Bundu sounded so understanding. “This was a political decision and I respect it” he said. “Our party preaches harmony and we believe the party is greater than all of us”, he continued. He was of course effusive in his praise of the President who had instigated his ouster and grateful to him for sanctioning his new appointment. Dr Prince Harding on the other hand called for more discipline in his party, justifying his support for one flagbearer within his party.
Such is the contrast between the captains in both the SLPP and APC ships. But why the difference in the attitude of both parties? It is said the ideology of a party is the belief system and consists of a relatively coherent or consistent set of ideas, attitudes, or values about government and politics. The question then is what is the ideology of our main political parties, SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) and APC (All Peoples’ Congress)? In terms of character, the SLPP has sometimes been viewed, quite unfairly, some say as an elitist party that appeals more to the “bookman”. The accusation is that these “bookmen” spend an inordinately long time defending their rights.
The APC book Rising sun says “most of the main parties since the fifties originated in schisms from the SLPP and though the APC was built on quite different foundations, it included flakes and chips fallen from the mouldering edifice of the SLPP. In as much as the APC grew up among those whom the SLPP had excluded from a voice in the government, and was at its inception an anti-SLPP force, it is important to know what it was reacting against.”
Flakes and chips? Mr. A. B. S. Bangura, nephew of Alhaji Gibril Sesay one of the founding fathers of APC says the initials APC evoked the name of a popular proprietary brand of aspirin, APC………………..the implication was that the Party would act as a medicine to ‘cure’ the national ‘headache’ of the S.L.P.P.”
Interesting to see how the APC has always viewed the SLPP-an elitist party which needed to be cured with APC medicine! SLPP needs to dispel this myth. In fact before the convention in 2005 (post 1996) which resulted in the defection of Charles Margai, SLPP was relatively “together” and everyone knows APC was turn asunder up to some six months before the 2007 elections.
Whilst the bickering continues within the SLPP, spare a thought for the interpreters of court rulings related to SLPP cases (including fiercely partisan supporters of the internal political divide). Court orders never seem to be clear and often result is setting one group against another-which makes me wonder whether lawyers should not allow Engineers to write such rulings!-or is it delberate?
In the Ali Bangura case in the Supreme Court which took two years to resolve the orders were to run party elections with the party supervised by the party’s NEC who should set up an independent electoral committee. There was no clarity as to whether the NEC should still comprise National Executive Members whose term had expired (they have now run for four years instead of two) or some other group should fill the vacuum left by them. One group has argued there should be no vacuum and the other group that they should step down after the expiration of their term of office.
In the most recent Appeal court ruling the re-run of the lower level elections was to be done under rules and regulations which were already in dispute and had created so much rancour. One group has interpreted the orders to mean the lower level elections should go back to the initial elections in the now infamous 39 constituencies and the other group to mean only the elections at the constituency levels which were the subject of the disputes should be rerun. King Solomon the wise would have marvelled at the ingenuity of the courts to give orders that mean different things to different people. Meanwhile the fight continues as the internal mediation mechanisms within the party have fallen apart.
In the present circumstances SLPP has no alternative but to unite. Without this, any “victory” by a faction will be a pyrrhic victory with the winning faction being cannon fodder for APC. Peace overtures should be undertaken and we cannot constantly keep throwing our sailors overboard. We still have spare life rafts to send out to them.
It is too embarrassing for me to say we should learn from the APC and I won’t say that, since they have many tricks we would not like to emulate, but in this instance of party unity perhaps we can learn a thing or two from them.
The political storm is heavy and the question for the SLPP may well be:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?
I hope with unity we can say:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the love of our party.
Ponder my thoughts.