No time in the history of Sierra Leone has there been so much hype for the presidential running-mate issue. The 2007 elections present different dynamics which have not been considered in the electioneering process of this country before.
Tension mounted intensely on Solomon Berewa, the flag bearer of the ruling Sierra Leone’s People Party, to choose a running mate.
Many theories by different shades of opinion were proffered as to who would be the best choice for a running mate, but almost all of them centered on the call for a northern candidate, and preferably Muslim.
Many names were suggested, Bobson Sesay the present Lands Minister, Alie Bangura the High Commissioner to Ghana, Kanja Sesay The NACSA boss and Momodu Koroma the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Others were calling for a female candidate for the position, and the Minister of Trade Dr Kadie Sesay emerged as a forerunner.
She was also a Muslim which would give a religious balance as Berewa is a Christian.
But Berewa continued stoically amidst all the juggling to delay the announcement until five days before the party went for nominations.
The Choice was Momodu Koroma, a Temne by tribe and a northerner, though people say he is more of a southerner because he was born and schooled in Bo, which is in the south.
The People’s Movement for Democratic Change became the first party to choose a running mate.
Charles Margai, the Presidential Candidate for that party, seeing the intricacies and hullabaloo of the running mate issue did not want such pressure for his party so he boasted that he would announce his second fiddle man 30 days after his party’s convention, which he did.
But he could not run away from the dynamics and the minutiae of the running mate issue when he announced Ibrahim Tejan Jalloh, who was booted out of his Ministerial position where he was serving in the SLPP party as the Minister of Health and Sanitation from 1998.
The party became shaky and there were threats of defections because some thought he was a poor choice.
Ibrahim Tejan Jalloh is a Fullah by tribe, a northerner and a Muslim: all the ingredients for the running mate broth and Charles Margai, a Christian, knew it.
He also knew that he wanted the support of the Fullahs, an emerging economic giant in the society and according to the recent census the third largest tribe now in Sierra Leone.
There has been bad publicity about Margai looking at Fullahs as foreigners and that he will stifle their economic growth, so making Tejan Jalloh his running mate vanquished the rumours.
The All Peoples Congress (APC) now had to choose their running mate and they were also faced with the same challenge, to choose a running mate that would be liked and give the party an edge.
They have the strongest hold in the north and arguably more supporters in the western area. They were faced with the different challenge of looking for support in the south, the north and the east of the country.
They still needed a Muslim candidate and the choice should have even satisfied the other running-mate contenders in the APC.
Parliamentarian Haja Afsatu Kabba, a female, was the most popular of candidates and it would have broken the status-quo, empowered a woman and possibly captured some of the female vote.
Her critics however say she has no constituency and could not totally carry the Western area where she is based. But the considerations by Ernest Margai were completely different because he finally chose Samuel Sam-Sumana, a Kono man who came from the southeastern part of the country. He is also a Muslim and Ernest Koroma said he is young and that the Kono choice was because Kono has been a deprived province for so long.
The National Democratic Alliance made women’s dream a reality which APC deprived them of, by choosing a woman for their running mate.
Magarette Baimba Sidikie, a daughter from a ruling house in Bo, from Kakua Chiefdom, a Mende by tribe and a Primary school teacher.
But the heat about the decisions made of the running mate issue has subsided with these small parties: Conventions People’s Party (CPP), United National People’s party (UNPP) and the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) who only presented their running mate on the day of their various nominations.
What has been the propelling factor or the ‘ratio-decidenda’ for their running mates, nobody knows.
What we know is that they went together, presidential candidate and running mate hand in hand celebrating after they had been confirmed by the National Electoral Commission to take part in the forthcoming elections.