By Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, Philadelphia
Just as I finished watching the Champions league soccer match where the once mighty Barcelona football club was deservedly beaten by French outfit, Paris- Saint Germain, a very close friend of mine, Musa Gombie Tonyiayia tapped my shoulder and hysterically informed me about the announcement of the Presidential and other elections slated for March 7 2018 in Sierra Leone. Did it come as a surprise or it was a gesture of love from the President to the people of Sierra Leone? If this is a Valentine gift for the country, it is common sense that the Sierra Leone People’s Party stands to gain the best of the gesture.
Few months ago, the opposition party of the SLPP was fractured, dismembered and in chaos. But today, the ghost of personalities like Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabba, Sir Milton Margai, Rev. Paul Dumbar will be smiling and say, thank God, our children are bringing their heads and minds together. From all indications, the mud- slinging, character assassination and name calling seems to have taken back stage, momentarily, until a Flag bearer is constitutionally elected. You may want to side with some theorists who believe that, for good to come, there must be hurdles in life. Now the rancor that gripped the SLPP seems to be fading away speedily and the panic button now tends to grip the ruling APC party.
With the announcement made by the President about the elections slated for next March 2018, are the people of Sierra Leone going to see transparent politics practiced by His Excellency? As clearly stated in both the National Constitution and National Elections Commission bye laws, are the so-called Ministers and presidential hopefuls in the APC resign their posts and ready to contest the presidential ticket of the APC? Of the parading hopefuls in the APC, it is only John Sisay who is not part of the cabinet that is excluded from the rule. Will NEC implement its own bye laws and disqualify candidates who may want to cling onto power until the last minute and vie for positions in the country? Oh yes, some opposition contestants from the SLPP were disqualified during the last elections as a result of failing to resign their posts before the elections. Will what is good for the goose be also good for the gander apply here?
This period will be extremely crucial to test the temerity of the President’s lasting legacy for the people of Sierra Leone. If the President’s Agenda For Prosperity is anything to go by, this is going to be the watershed for the development of the country’s democracy. The President should encourage all ministers in his cabinet to resign their posts, if they are interested in running for the highest seat in the land.
During the inaugural USA-Africa summit in 2014, former President Obama reiterated the needs in any country, not for strong men but rather strong institutions. The former president, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Fasso contested this saying as he wanted to cling onto power and suggested that, Africa does not need strong institutions but strong men. Ironically, he is reaping the former’s philosophy in neighboring Ivory Coast where he is residing in exile and waiting to know his fate in the court of law in his native country. Although there is desperate need for responsive leadership, Africa needs independent, formidable institutions. Without sound institutions, Sierra Leone will languish at the hands of self-imposed leaders with no respect for the rule of law or the people.
Will SLPP enjoy the Valentine Gift?
Whilst some hopefuls in the APC like the present Attorney General, Joseph F Kamara, former Information Minister, Alpha Khan, Mines Minister, Minkailu Mansaray, Vice President, Victor Foe, Ambassador to China, Alimamy P Koroma, to name but a few have demonstrated their ambition to vie for leadership of the party, will the law that allows Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and all those paid from the Consolidated Fund resign their posts a year from the date of the election be implemented against them? The poor people will wait and see.
This is where the Sierra Leone People’s Party stands to gain from this political bonanza. With the recent peace gesture in its embryonic stage gaining momentum, any leader presented by the SLPP will not be affected. Rather, the opposition will use their resources and strength to support a candidate that may be in a better position to campaign without fear of being accused of milking Leones from the Consolidated Fund before the elections.
As the President prepares to leave the presidency, this should be the last legacy he should give to the people of Sierra Leone by practicing clean, transparent and successful elections that would continue to boost the fragile democracy the country boasts of. Indeed 2018 will be a year of challenge.
Long Live Sierra Leone.
May God Bless us.