By Foday Sulimani
The summary expulsion of Sierra Leone’s VP from the APC party is a watershed moment that requires Sierra Leoneans to pause and challenge themselves with tough questions. Such introspection is necessitated by the persistent flaunting of rules by the leadership and the disdain they show for due process. Incredibly, in the midst of the Ebola crisis which the government is badly mismanaging, all the current leadership continues to demonstrate is imbibed corruption and an ardent desire to manipulate the political future of the country. The recent actions of the President and his APC cronies do not only portray real lack of respect for the second highest office of the land, but their twisted logic and strategy trivializes the value of the lives of Sierra Leoneans and show that their priorities are misguided. What seems most important to them, at this critical juncture, is not curtailing the Ebola crisis but deploying a cynical strategy for the upcoming elections. Ignoring these concerns would further typify the complacency of well-meaning Sierra Leoneans and continue to give free-pass to potential despots.
Full disclosure: I’m not a member of the APC or SLPP party and neither do I support or despise Vice President Sam Sumana. However, I despise tribalism. I believe it should have no place in politics. It has been proven time and again that those who employ the “tribal strategy” are limited in scope and miss out on the diverse human capital of their communities. On the flip side, I believe in competition of ideas for social good, I value due respect for political processes, and agree that ever so often, “there comes a time” when citizens must confront the disdain of their leadership for acceptable political processes. Citizens must constantly nudge themselves towards ensuring that their nations stay on or return to the right track. This is one such moment.
Sierra Leone’s past portrays a general citizenry that has been complacent, understandably cynical about the political processes. We have allowed politicians to tap into our deepest fears rather than our collective good; resulting in the deplorable conditions the country continues to witness. If we should start reversing this trend, well-meaning Sierra Leoneans – regardless of party affiliations – should challenge actions by our leadership that set precedence for bad behavior. The summary expulsion of the sitting VP from his party and the flimsy reasons offered for such a major action is one such bad behavior that should be challenged. We should be galvanized towards a conversation that ensures that our Constitution is not manipulated again to satisfy potential despots; a conversation that welcomes competition of ideas for a better Sierra Leone.
It is obvious that the expulsion of VP Sam Sumana from the APC party is a strategy by some of the APC party stalwarts to manipulate who represents them in forthcoming elections. Sadly, the President has entertained and pushed the idea for a third term and we know Vice President Sam Sumana doesn’t fit in that agenda. But even if President Koroma refuses to accept that he is nodding/winking for a third term, what is an equally disturbing undertone is that he is bent on ensuring the “APC Flag Bearer” comes from the North – the tribal dynamics right? To actualize either of these scenarios the President has decided to make the VP his “scapegoat” and has rolled out – over time – series of actions that have eroded the dignity and role of the Vice President’s Office. And this should concern Sierra Leoneans.
Vice President Sam Sumana is no angel – some support, while others despise his style of leadership. But what is disturbing is that the President has marginalized and reduced to ridicule the country’s second highest office for his personal gains. There’s indication that at some point the political marriage between the President and Vice President soured. Rumors started flying and the President started taking actions to portray his VP in a very bad light. Some rumors went as far as claiming that the Vice President wouldn’t have been on the Party’s ticket for the last two elections if not for his financial resources and/or the need for the Kono vote. Personally, these rumors are not issues for complaint because parties and politicians should have the capacity to think strategically and draw on the available resources at their disposal to have a winning chance. For whatever reason, President Koroma and Vice President Sam Sumana needed each other to be successful at the last two consecutive elections – kudos to them. However, in the process of their fallout, the President is taking actions that undermine stability and insult the country’s integrity – that’s what’s critical and at stake for the country.
The President and his cronies have just successfully bungled the manner and the reasons given to the public for the expulsion of the VP from the APC party. It is unsettling that the APC leadership once again show disrespect for due process. Maybe the President, who orchestrated these series of events, is still thinking in backward era terms when African leaders assumed that the trusts bestowed on them by their citizens are licenses to treat their countries as their personal belongings. So as their twisted logic goes they can just portray the VP as a liar (character) and “trouble maker” (management) who is destroying their party’s unblemished image and that should be acceptable to the public. So let’s reflect on this approach.
For the President, he just successfully portrayed himself as a heartless individual (character) who will stop at no lengths to accomplish whatever he believes. For him to chair a decision to expel his second in command at a time when that individual is in a critical situation, like VP Sam Sumana, is callous. Equally disturbing are the bogus reasons (management) put forth by the APC Executive as grounds for their decision to get rid of the VP. Does the APC Executive really believe that Sierra Leoneans are so dumb to accept their talking points? Where is the due process? When has the VP been publicly queried and challenged to address the issues they raise? Who represented the VP when NAC met and came up with their decision? Was the VP given the opportunity to defend himself? Or did their strategy assume that even if they make up silly stuff as infractions by the VP, Sierra Leoneans would be bound to accept their twisted views? The VP lied about having a degree, the VP is a closet Christian, the VP is responsible for riotous conduct; the VP is clandestinely setting up a party!! Are these really your reasons for expelling him from the party at a time when his family is in grave danger? Even if the VP is not in grave danger, did the President and his cronies just realize the above infractions? Who chaired the President’s vetting process? Why were these allegations not brought to the surface for the last seven or more years? Where in our Constitution is the provision that an office holder is not allowed to worship any amount of Gods he/she decides to? If the APC Executive want to portray the VP as a “liar and trouble maker” let them find better reasons and not continue to insult the intelligence of Sierra Leoneans.
Additionally, what capacity does the current APC leadership have to question the integrity of other politicians? Is it not a similar brand of APC’s leadership that made acceptable the degrading, corrupt mentality of “who-sai den tie cow nah dae ee dae/for eat?” Are their evolving actions not similar to those of other APC leaders that institutionalized a one party state? Actions which ultimately triggered a civil war, military coup, and lawlessness? Is it not this APC leadership that is bungling the much needed response to the present Ebola crisis with billions of Leones still unaccounted for? At a time when the leadership in neighboring Liberia and Guinea are using available resources to expeditiously wipe out Ebola in their communities, Sierra Leone’s President and his government are misusing billions of Leones resulting in thousands of orphaned children and containment of the disease is still in ebbs and flows. Instead of focusing on this urgent matter, the President is busy trying to score political points.
So one question Sierra Leoneans should be asking themselves is whether we are going to sit by again and allow another politician to make us believe that they are indispensable or that it is acceptable for them to continue to show utter disdain for rules and regulations?
Sierra Leoneans should make their voices heard on this matter and say a RESOUNDING NO to the President’s underlying desire for a third term. We cannot stop the APC party from self-destruction, if that’s the path they have chosen, but we have a choice of not allowing them to force us along their silly ride. Instead, Sierra Leoneans at this moment must hold the President and his government accountable and start unpacking the various scenarios/strategies that are unfolding for Sierra Leone’s upcoming elections. As events unfold, we’re seeing that some contenders are still bent on playing the miserable tribal card, others are sensibly gearing towards grassroots politics, while yet others are going to push their international experience. Sierra Leone should welcome and embrace this confrontation of ideas and strategies – it shows we have a lot of untapped potential that deserve a chance at moving the country in a positive direction. We must not miss out on educating ourselves and supporting those ideas and practices that are sustainable; ideas that work for the collective good and lay strong foundations for generations to come. What we must be wary of are backward thinking, 20th Century ideas and strategies that created despots. We owe this obligation to unborn generations.