|Chief Somano Kapen|
Yesterday Chief Somano Kapen astounded political pundits by his decisive victory in the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) chairmanship elections, a victory that instantly elevates him to the position of chairman and political leader of the oldest indigenous party in the diamond rich West African country of fewer than 6 million people.
Ironically, winning the chairmanship elections is the easy part, as the chairman inherits a party beset with internal divisions and strife and held hostage to parochial political interests that have become so solidified in the internal workings of the party that it would be a miracle for him to get the majority of party members to put the interest of the party ahead of everything else once again.
|I. J. Kabbah Withdrew|
In summary, Chief Somano Kapen may be in celebratory mood right now, but he has his work cut out for him.
The first assignment the chief has to effectively undertake is to convince the party's various factions that he will not use his position to further the interest of any particular faction, but would rather work assiduously to provide a level playing field for all
In the lead up to the election for chairman, many people were afraid that if the chief were elected he will be beholden to the interest of ex-party flagbearer Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. The onus is now on the chief to prove those skeptics wrong and demonstrate to them that his concern would be for the interest of all party members who may have presidential ambitions in the future.
|President and Mrs. Kabbah|
One serious mistake that came out of the convention was the decision to have the election for the chairman of the party first, before the lower level positions in the party hierarchy, in direct contravention of the logic of saving the best for last. I have been part of many organizational elections and it is always prudent to have the most important election last or have them all together. The decision to have the election for party chairman preceeding the other positions meant that upon announcement of the chairmanship results, many party members who would have played crucial roles in the executive withdrew their candidacies, probably on the assumption that with such a lopsided victory they did not stand a chance if they had been opposed to the chief in the first place. This is an ominous sign that is usually the signal for cross party defections, a popular characteristic of the political landscape in Sierra Leone.
|Julius Maada Bio|
In our country disgruntled politicians who see their aspirations frustrated are quick to change party allegiances, regardless of the number of years of work they have put in the party. Sierra Leone is full of politicians like Tom Nyuma, Ambassador Saccoh, Usu Boie Kamara, John Leigh, Lansana Nyallay, JB. Dauda, and many others whose political allegiances are strictly dictated by self interest. Chief Kapen should move very swiftly to dam the floodgate of defections that usually follows SLPP elections and keep people like ambassador Allie Bangura firmly within the party fold, otherwise the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party is always just too willing to dangle the appointment carrot, which for ambitious politicians is always difficult to resist.
Another major task in the party will be a proactive attempt to tackle the growing hooliganism within the party. SLPP that was once described as a party of peace has had that reputation sullied in recent days by the uncouth behavior of rowdy youths who are rumored to be mostly supporters of Julius Bio, though he has been at pains to portray himself as a man who values peace and has distanced himself from the rowdy behavior of some of these mobs who have made it a habit of attacking other people in their own party whose actions they view as being antithetical to their own political interests. The new chairman has to adopt an attitude of zero tolerance to hooliganism, which attracts unnecessary intervention from the police who are not currently good friends of the party.
Chairman Kapen also has to streamline the various interest groups and caucuses that are sprouting on a daily basis within the party and channel the energy of these groups towards the interest of the party. SLPP members in the diaspora also need to brought on board to not only help finance party activities, but to help in various ways to plaster the cracks that have proliferated in the party, as long as they too do not become part of the problem.
On a penultimate note, Chief Kapen has to ensure that past party leaders like Ahmed Kabba, Solomon Berewa, John Benjamin and others are given the respect they deserve, even if they had not thrown their weight behind the chief's quest for the top party job. There should also be a serious attempt at starting to pay party leaders for the jobs they do. It was a surprise to me when I learnt that many executive positions within the party were on a volunteer basis. Politics is tough business involving time away from family and intimidation from adversaries, SLPP has to find a way to compensate these people who sacrifice their time and energy for the party.
Finally and most importantly, Chief Somano has to work on a strategic plan to increase the attraction of the party in the North and West of the country. In the past election, too much money and time was wasted campaigning in party strongholds. A strategic and public relations plan has to be developed for the North and Western Area, as APC is very formidable in these heavily populated areas. The perception of SLPP as a "Mende Man" has been solidified and made part of Sierra Leone folklore and having a northern chairman is not enough, much effort has to be made to give the party a broad appeal. The rampant corruption that is now part of APC order of business should help to make this fight easy, as hunger does not engage in tribal discrimination.
|I J's Sister Victim of Hooliganism|
As Chief Somano Kapen gets ready to lead SLPP, should not in anyway think that this is going to be a walk in the park. He should be able to predict and tackle the uncertainties, volatilities, ambiguities, complexities and opportunities that will be part of the future of politics in Sierra Leone. He should also keep eyes on the electoral commission like a laser beam, as APC has, never known that there can be fairness in politics, as amply demonstrated by the fact that most APC conventions are mere political charades.