Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Man is an Island: The Miscalculations of Sam Sumana

Elected Vice President
Sam Sumana
Chief Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana, the beleaguered Vice President of Sierra Leone, who has been unceremoniously disrobed of his party garments, stripped of his office by a President manifesting new tyrannical tentacles and whose replacement is one of the people he considered his close political allies, must be thinking to himself these days, "how the hell did I let this happen?"
Appointed Vice President
Victor Foh
After years of being estranged from the country's President Ernest Bai Koroma, things finally got to a climax in the past few days when he was issued marching orders by the ruling All Peoples Congress  (APC) party while he was trying to impress the whole world by putting himself under voluntary Ebola quarantine and acting the model of a very good citizen. As we previously reported, a member of his staff fell victim to the  dreaded Ebola virus. What better way than for the VP himself to prove that no one was above the law than voluntary quarantine?
Unfortunately for the VP, while he was busy showing what it meant to be a law abiding citizen, the law was being pulled from under his feet. Twenty one days of voluntary quarantine was more than enough time for President Koroma and his allies to finalize their grand plan for the Vice President. Sam Sumana would go into quarantine a Vice President and come out of quarantine 21 days later as a Private citizen, without an office, without a party and abandoned by fair-weather friends.
If President Koroma and his buddies have their way, Sam Sumana is just another JC (Jus Cam) who has been played. A man who is on the verge of losing everything and if he is not very careful, even his freedom. Now maybe people will start to understand why Monologue broadcaster David Tam Baryoh went to Pademba Road Prisons as a revolutionary and came out 11 days later as a reformed born again missionary.
President Koroma's Hatchet
Man Foday Yansaneh
Sam Sumana's adversaries within the ruling party have for years been looking for evry available opportunity to get rid of him without putting the country once more into turmoil. By putting himself under voluntary lock up for 21 days, unable to leave his residence, the leaders of his party, all handpicked by the country's President had the perfect opportunity to put the nail in the VPs political coffin. According to newly appointed ceremonial Vice President Victor Foh, a President is the boss and if he tells you to jump, you have only one question, "How High?"
So last week after much speculation on social media, President Ernest Bai Koroma's former political rivals now turned subservient errand men, Ibrahim B. Kargbo,  Party Secretary General Ambassador Foday Yansaneh and other cloak and dagger politicians expelled the Vice President from the ruling party on allegations so ridiculous that they almost sound untrue.
APC politicians probably had a lot of really good reasons they could have given for deciding that Sam Sumana was not one of them. That is if they had not wanted to be honest enough to tell him to his face that he did not have the geographical qualifications necessary to become an APC flagbearer. They could have referenced his complicity in the infamous Timbergate Scandal, or the scandal he had brought to the nation by allegedly defrauding multiple American businessmen who he had encouraged to go into diamond and timber businesses in the country when he was not yet a Vice President. They could have even convinced the people that he was acting against the national interest of the country, but they did not.

Remarkably, Vice President Sam Sumana was booted out of his own party on largely hearsay allegations that he was a Christian and had pretended to be a Muslim to get into office, that he had pretended to have a Masters degree when he didn't have one, that he was guilty of  fomenting violence in home district of Kono,  and that he had the intention of forming a new party. The violence charges are particularly  ridiculous, considering the fact that junior government ministers who have somehow managed to grow closer to the President, have for months now been engaged in a campaign of harassment and intimidation of individuals close to the Vice President, including the well publicized arrest of his near naked sister in their home district on directives given by Karamoh Kabbah a government minister. 
The ugly nature of Sierra Leone politics really showed iself in the past few weeks. Individuals like the President's former rival Solomon Berewa of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), President Koroma's personal political opposition stooge Mohamed Bangura of the UDM and even the man now appointed to replace Sam Sumana, Victor Foh, were sent as emissaries to the VP to convince him to resign. He reportedly told them he would, but then changed his mind. So the President was advised by his group of lawyers to use loopholes in the constitution to fire him. Sierra Leone has a brand of the type of lawyers who would discover Sharia Law in the center of the Holy Bible if only you pay them well enough.
Koroma Spiritual Strategist
Kabbs Kanu
Sam Sumana's current troubles lend credence to the enduring statement that, "no man is an Island." The VP has suddenly found himself under siege, abandoned by former friends. Save for a few brave voices within his APC party, the bulk of sympathy for the shoddy way he is being treated is coming from opposition politicians, Many of who simply do not want to see the country's constitution being so blatantly violated. One of Sam Sumana's most ardent defenders over the years, the Minister Plenipotentiary and publisher of the online new outlet Cocorioko the Reverend Leeroy Kabs Kanu, is now the lead Pharisee for his crucifixion. The loyalties of the Sierra Leone political class are as shifty as a candle in the wind, bowing in whichever direction the breeze is blowing.
As Vice President, Sam Sumana never really tried to endear himself to the people of Sierra Leone. Many were even surprised when the President decided to run again with him in 2012. His first problem was that he  never really tried to develop a political base outside his own APC party and could never get traction within the party. Unlike other politicians who try to reach outside their party base to build relationships, Sam Sumana was so fearful of being labeled an opposition sympathizer that he deliberately avoided personal relationships with opposition figures and independents in the country. So now he is like a man that everybody feels sorry for, but nobody really wants to fight for.
The Vice President Sam Sumana committed two strategic mistakes that most African politicians do not make. Firstly, he allowed a gulf to develop between himself and the President, allowing  ambitious junior political rivals to exploit this divide and sow seeds of discord between them. It is reported that the country's two leaders have not been on talking terms for a very long period. This was a real mistake. President Koroma rewards loyalty and is reportedly very suspicious of people who he doubts. The President also subscribes to a lot of gossip. The isolation of the President from the VP  allowed the VP's foes to poison the President's mind and help reduce VP's role to a largely ceremonial position,  as he was largely disregarded on most issues of national importance. This isolation also made the President to fill the party hierarchy with his loyalists, marginalizing people close to the VP. Today the VP has little standing in APC, even if he were to be somehow readmitted into party ranks.
The President's Chief Constitutional
Adviser Ibrahim B. Kargbo
The VP's second strategic mistake was the underestimation of the damage that junior politicians from his Kono district could do to his political fortunes. Three ministers from Kono who were not in any good relationship with the Vice President saw the rift between the President and the VP and decided that they would widen this rift and use it to cause his downfall. These Kono three, Karamoh Kabbah,  Diana Konomanyi and Balogun Koroma, apparently combined forces and ensured that they slowly chipped away at the VP's authority by helping fuel instability in Kono and disseminating negative propaganda against the man. It was a real battle between the VP and his three brethren for some considerable period and it seems as if for now the Kono three have won the current round.
Many Sierra Leoneans are asking for the VP to be reinstated. Truly, the only realistic chance the VP has is pressure from people who are fighting to defend the constitution, and these are largely civic organizations, opposition parties and other pressure groups. Sam Sumana has no chance in the Supreme Court, as President Koroma's politics of patronage has helped pave the way for many staunch loyalists to occupy prime positions in the judiciary. Lawyers meeting today Tuesday in Freetown to deliberate the constitutionality of the President's move were not even allowed to occupy the judicial building, but were impeded by both the top people in the judiciary and the police. Sam Sumana leaving his political fate in the hands of the Sierra Leone judiciary will be like leaving a young bull with lions for safekeeping. The Sierra Leone judiciary will always rule in favor of the President on this matter. For Parliament, don't even get me started. For now Vice President Sam Sumana is basically screwed. No man is an Island, even the powerful

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