The opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is represented in Parliament with 49 members headed by their leader, Hon Momoh Pujeh. His leadership during the first session in Parliament has come under criticism and there are even talks that some SLPP MPs are contemplating replacing him.
It seems too quick for some SLPP MPs to start talk of replacing Hon Pujeh as minority leader. He is a second time member of Parliament and before that he was cabinet minister for close to four years before he was accused of allegedly doing illegal diamond business.
Even though he is not the longest serving SLPP MP presently in Parliament as Hon Elizabeth Lavalie and Dr Brima Kamanda have served before him, he was elected to serve the SLPP as their leader. His service has not been satisfactory to some SLPP MPs and even some zealot supporters have described him as not working in their interest.
They have even accused him as a sell out and a trickster and thus want to replace him with Hon Dr Bernadette Lahai or Hon Dr Brima Kamanda.
It is not just replacing Hon Pujeh that they think will solve the problems of the SLPP and from what I have been observing in Parliament, some of these young and new SLPP MPs want somebody aggressive to represent them in Parliament.
However since they are either new or young in national politics, they should know that Parliament is not a theater for conflicts and they should see themselves as partners in development. At this moment, I believe the SLPP could not get a leader in Parliament that is always picking bones with either colleague MPs or becoming a thorn in the flesh of the speaker.
I am not in support of Hon Pujeh, but from my parliamentary reporting and observations my short honest analysis of some of the SLPP MPs who might possibly replace Hon Pujeh is this.
When Hon Pujeh was on the majority side, his contributions in Parliament were always intelligent. He was plain in his contributions and when it came to voting. He is from constituency 08 Kailahun District which is the largest in the country and he polled the largest votes in the country. His experience both as cabinet minister and that of a second term MP best serves him in that position.
Hon Elizabeth Alpha Lavalie is one of the few longest serving MPs since 1996. She was the first woman to have become deputy speaker in which capacity she acted as speaker on several occasions. Her contributions till now are nationalistic which has earned her great respect in Parliament. She now sees herself as a mother politician.
The other long term serving member is Hon Dr Brima Kamanda. He went to Parliament under the PDP but later cross carpeted to the SLPP. He is no doubt a fire brand and great debater in Parliament.
The MP whose name has been mentioned to possibly replace Hon Pujeh is Hon Dr Bernadette Lahai. She too is a second term MP and a great debater of course. She has risen as a thorn in the flesh of the APC MPs when it comes to debating. Some people have already said she has replaced the once vocal Hon Elizabeth Lavalie. Some say she is the best to represent the SLPP as leader but I will want to hold that suggestion and look at the possible consequences if she replaces Hon Pujeh.
No doubt, Dr Bernadette Lahai is a great debater but her interaction with other MPs mainly from the ruling party is nothing good to write home about. An incidence I will mention occurred once between her and Hon Victoria Saidu of the APC at committee room No1 when the ACC bill was discussed. They both almost insulted each other. Again her relationship with the speaker is not good. There was a point in time when the deputy speaker was acting and Hon Bernadette Lahai had moved her motion on the drug bill. But when she was responded to by the acting speaker, she was on her phone. That infuriated the acting speaker who even promised to report her to the speaker. The APC MPs were also furious at her .She is always at a glance from the majority party.
Dr Bernadette Lahai I will compare with the now Energy and Power Minister, Haja Afsatu Kabbah who was always at logger head with the now Ombudsman and then speaker Justice Edmund Cowan. She too was a fire brand but her relationship with the speaker was strange. That kind of moves will not make a good minority leader.
The other name also mentioned to replace Hon Pujeh is Dr Brima Kamanda. He entered parliament under the PDP and was the one that started the cross carpeting philosophy in Parliament to the majority party which was then the SLPP. Can there not be the likelihood for him to use that again to the APC using the PDP affection? Dr Kamanda is no doubt one of my best great debaters, highly intelligent on issues but can he match up with the kind of leadership some of the new comers are clamouring for?
And now to Hon Pujeh. He does not resemble a violent man and he is in good terms with the majority leader and not a thorn in the flesh of the speaker, neither is he seen by the majority as an upstart. He too is a great debater and his approach to issues is national. What the new comers are failing to understand is that being an opposition MP does not mean creating an upstart for Parliament. The smooth work of Parliament lies in the hands of the speaker and the majority heads. And if Hon Pujeh is simply seen performing his service and not creating unnecessary troubles for Parliament, why are there talks of replacing him?
Remember, when President Koroma was the minority leader of APC he was highly respected by the then speaker and even among the SLPP MPs. There was no need for him to be either radical or violent in debates to earn him that respect. He was meticulous in his approach, embracing and realistic. Whilst those like Hon S.B.B Dumbuya, Kemoh Sesay and Haja Afsatu Kabbah were more punchy, President Koroma will relax smiling at his managerial skills.
Let us assume Hon Pujeh is replaced, are there not going to be some possibilities of a divide or cross carpeting? He has the largest constituency and polled the largest votes in the country and he is from a territory badly needed by the APC mind you. His constituency I am told is loyal to him unlike other constituencies that are loyal to the palm tree. I do not want to believe he will leave the SLPP should he be replaced- he did not do that when he had that problem when he was a cabinet minister so he might not likely do that now.
The SLPP MPs who are thinking of removing Hon Pujeh should look back at their party’s recent history and should have it in mind that becoming an opposition MP is to highlight the ills of government not to tear government apart and should they do what they are talking about, it must be done in the interest not only of their party but the country.
By Ishmael Bayoh