As I write this piece from inside the Makeni Town Hall, venue of the All People’s Congress national delegates’ conference, the 3-day event of pomp and pageantry and fun and frolic is drawing to a close. But not yet! The most contentious area, electing the party’s next leadership that will take it to the presidential and legislative elections in 2012, is underway. And because time is of the essence, you will not read an analysis of all the new or maybe old kids on the block.
The town hall is full to the brim. Delegates, observers and others are patiently and cheerfully in attendance and in hurry to hurry things up. The meeting is currently discussing whether the party should hold its convention as stated by the party’s constitution in 2012 or whether it should be deferred. The latter recommendation has been made by the party secretary-general Victor Bockarie Foh in what looks like a well choreographed orchestra. The motion is supported in a way I have hardly seen any point of agreement at this convention. And there have been quite a few points of disagreement here especially between the so-called reformists and the hardliners with the front runners on either side hardly seen proposing a toast in this convention that has seen drinks sold out like no other time in the history of Makeni I am told.
And the reasons for supporting the recommendation to defer the next convention are quite interesting and should be making the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party probably regretting their decision to have decided to hold their leadership contest in 2011 as agreed at their last delegates’ conference last month.
The APC members are being very strategic. Such is the calibrated approach to the recommendation that when Sanie Sesay, a senior official of the party, attempted to suggest that a mini convention be held before the 2012 elections, we were not allowed to know what the reason for his thinking for it was. He was booed at almost throughout the time he stood up for.
Contrarily but for similar reason, a lady who suggested that the issue of a running mate be put to rest shortly was scorned with the most deafening silence at this very rapturously noisy gathering.
Just after Sanie Sesay is booed at, I can see Eddie Turay, the party’s flag bearer in 1996 and the current majority leader in parliament, shaking his head and supporting his chin in his palm. Oh!!! he has just smiled seemingly wryly depicting his level of discomfort. And hold on a minute, things are happening here very fast. The Minister of Justice, Serry Kamal is also looking uncomfortable. In case you are wondering these are two of the men behind the law suit that challenged Ernest Bai Koroma’s eligibility or not to lead the party in the run-up to the 2007 elections until peace was brokered between the two factions.
Every single cent and second is direly needed ahead of the 2012 elections. Having another convention scarcely before those elections will take too much time and too much resource away from the main elections. The synergy and funds needed to organise a convention are such that they had better be saved for campaigning for national elections in stead of depleting them in the same year in which national elections are expected. It is the conventional reason may be.
Additionally, in a country characterised by politicians who stand for nothing other than their insatiable quest to capture political power at any cost, a divide is very easy to engender when intra party contests are held very close to elections. The recent one for positions for leadership of the opposition SLPP has shown that very clearly. And you need look no further beyond Dr Sheku Saccoh’s decision to defect to the APC for reasons that do not exist as he could not give a single one during his public declaration at the opening of the current convention. He wanted to lead the SLPP, he failed and he railed off it. That said, some grievances are not healed even with the passing of time. Charles Margai left the SLPP party following the 2005 party convention even though the elections were in far away 2007.
It is also worth noting that when constitutions are written, they should avoid odd years for the national elections are held after every five years. Therefore, in stead of convenience sought year-in year-out, the constitutions of parties should bear in mind all such. It is as if postponing our national elections in 2007 because August and September were rainy. The APC should review its constitution and make it convenience-seeking proof.
Talking about putting the next convention off to 2013…if that had not been done, there could have been a problem with president Koroma’s leadership of the party at the next polls. The party’s constitution allows for three years as leader which, having been endorsed today would have meant he would cease to be so before the 2012 elections and would have needed another convention to clear that up. And anything could happen.
Hold it…. and the women have just burst out into singing. The song is “Fire fire fire fire fire dae kam… I wan to see my loving boy. Loving boy I love so well. Fire fire fire baby oh fire dae kam”. It follows the ringing endorsement of president Koroma as the party’s flag bearer. Interesting scenes and with some long faces too.
While I am amazed by that an even more intriguing episode is unfolding. The swing electoral district of Kono has just been endorsed as the next venue of the APC convention which has been billed for 2013. This is interesting. The current vice president, Samuel Sam Sumana is a native of Kono. Last night there were backroom dealings and apparent political horse-trading to resolve the issue of who should be the deputy leader of the party. The vice president who was in contention eventually backed down. It was a tough decision. But he does not have to be the party’s deputy leader to be chosen as a running mate anyway. But Kono being the host of the next delegates’ conference is quite an interesting development especially so because it will come after the next elections in 2012 for which the issue of president Koroma’s running mate will be contentious. Will he or will he not choose his current vice president is the question on every one’s speculative lips.
Oh there he goes! Eddie Turay, the majority leader in parliament and speculated as the man who was coming to contest against president Koroma for leadership at this convention has just stood and is climbing down the podium steps. He takes the microphone and oh there he goes to end the speculation of his ambition as he announces: “All speculation don don. Eddie so, Eddie so, e do so. We endorse.” Loosely translated it means all the speculation is now over. I said so or said that is all over and we endorse Ernest Koroma’s leadership of the party”. That is all. That obviously leaves more speculation than it blows away. He climbs up the steps again and ensconces himself in his seat. And another surprise …
Abdul Serry Kamal, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who looked so unsettled a few moments ago, has just taken to the podium and says “Why won’t we give leadership to a performer. Why not support him. It is my duty to support your wish and second the motion.” He also endorses the endorsement of President Koroma as the APC party’s flag bearer for the next elections. And the president smiles broadly, so much so I can count all his teeth. The hall erupts and the high table gets legs and stands up. Its occupants are dancing as vice president Samuel Sam Sumana and Information Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo hold the president’s hands up high shaking to every rhythm the musical set and the ecstatic delegates here can put out.
You can see relief on the president’s face and he smiles again and again. His body language says it all. As they sit back his vice president brings out his hankie and wipes his sweaty face. His ambition to become the deputy leader of the party died with the night last night. His intent to challenge Chukuma Johnson was rethought. All, it has been said here again and again, in the interest of party unity.
Yes now the election machinery has set off. Cornelius Deveaux has put up a stunning and sterling performance against Minister of Mineral Resources Alpha Kanu as they both want to become the publicity secretary for the party. Cornelius until this morning had stepped down to settle for the assistant slot. He said he changed his mind because he felt a minister will not have the time to serve the party as much as a non-minister will. And there is anxiety as the votes are being counted.
A bombshell has just been dropped. Mohamed Lankulay Bangura, the plaintiff in that court case against Ernest Bai Koroma a few years ago, has just announced he is withdrawing from the race to become National Organising Secretary a position he has been acting in for year. It speaks volumes about the power play at play that I will endeavour to explain in subsequent articles. But he blames someone he says gave him power and is now undermining him something he further blames on his court case against the now-president Koroma. Intriguing stuff, intriguing convention. So many talking points. See you soon. Bye from the Makeni Town Hall for now. Sorry I have to dispatch this before the editor gets to some nervy moments back in Freetown.
By Umaru Fofana