You have a lot of reading to do on politics – especially political strategy and fund-raising – if you have not read from Joe Garecht the Philadelphia-based entrepreneur and big thinker. And in Sierra Leone where the culture of reading is in a state of coma, I bet there are very few people running or intending to run for public office this year who have read any book or periodical recently about anything at all. Never mind about politics.
In one of his recent articles titled “How To Keep Your Political Campaign Organised”, Garecht writes “Planning is the first and foremost tactic…Without proper planning, your campaign is just a ‘guess’, and your success is only luck. Every aspect of your campaign should be planned before it is implemented, from strategy to fund-raising to grass-roots and press relations”. If at all they plan, Sierra Leonean politicians only do so on how to intimidate, tell lies, wreak havoc on their opponents or trade ethnic and regional politics and hate. Nothing based on issues and honesty survives here.
Come to think of it, no-one needs planning at this time more than the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party if they should stand any chance of denying the All People’s Congress party from retaining State House and their majority seats in the House especially so because their finances are in dire straits. Hear Garecht again: “Running a campaign is similar to running a business – in order to succeed, you have to know where you are going and how you want to get there. During the heat of the election, you will be too busy to map out strategy and tactics – instead, you will rely on the plan you created to determine the next course of action. Of course, because campaigns are always changing, your plan is a fluid document. It will, however, provide a great foundation for all of your efforts”.
Another aspect of planning that takes place here is political horse-trading. Quite a common feature. But it is not based on the narrowing of differences over a particular issue between two political parties or individuals. Rather what pulls the horse here in Sierra Leone are largely the weight of the purse, ethnicity and downright hate for some by some. When the northern-based PDP Sorbeh leader Thaimu Bangura threw his weight behind the south-east-based SLPP and its candidate Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1996 in the run-off it was against northern-based UNPP and its Dr John Karefa-Smart. Then Bangura said it was to ease the tribal tension in the country which is only prevalent when it is time for politics. In exchange he was given some ministerial position including Finance to Mr Bangura himself. Even a child born in that year knew he was not qualified to be finance minister. In a clear show of brinkmanship, however, he was sacked shortly afterwards, like some of his other ministers.
The reason given by Bangura was pretty much the same reason the southern-based Charles Margai gave ten years later when he chose to support the APC in the run-off against another south-eastern candidate Solomon Berewa and his SLPP. Again all he wanted was to prove the same point as Thaimu and also get some cabinet positions for his party even if he did not personally accept one himself. The truth is either man was interested in the loot that politics brings forth in this country as much as the hate rival politicians from the same region have for each other – if I cannot have it none from my region should. Thaimu hated Dr Karefa-Smart largely simply because they were both from the north. The same reason underlying Margai’s disdain for Berewa. I get the position or none of us does.
As is typical with Sierra Leonean politicians who have any thing differentiating them, their concern is political power and the thieving that accompanies it here. When the SLPP were in power, it was commonplace to see APC politicians crossing the carpet. This is what is now hunting the SLPP. There is so much haemorrhaging of members and supporters from the party to the governing APC that it is tough to see how to stop the bleeding with a party that is still fighting each other. And they include senior party officials such as former presidential aspirants and executive position holders. Agreed it all borders on the outcome of the primaries and sour grapes. But the SLPP, not least the camp of their flag-bearer Julius Maada Bio, are hardly making any efforts to prepare their best laid plans. Internal bickering seems to be on the increase. Their presidential candidate Bio seems unperturbed by it all even when he should be most concerned and working out ways of stemming the tide. There seems to be a lot of window-dressing in the relationship between him and the party’s national chairman.
The contest in 2007/8 to lead the Democratic Party to the US presidential contest was far more bitter and acrimonious between Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama than it was among the SLPP aspirants last year. Harsh words to describe each other were commonplace between the two US politicians. Such was the intensity that the eventual Republican candidate John McCain and his campaign team did not have to think too much to come up with messages for their campaign ads to question Obama’s ability and experience, or the lack thereof, to rule the country. All they needed do was to use clips of campaign ads and pressers by Mrs Clinton to campaign against Obama when he eventually got the ticket. That notwithstanding, the two camps had the ability and courage to meet shortly after the contest to iron out their difference even if in exchange for some positions in government.
In the SLPP the Elders have all become a part of the problem. The younger generation are as vitriolic against those in their party that did not support Bio during the primaries, as they are against their opponents in the real contest. Again while Hillary who came a close second to Obama was going round with him, Usu Boie is no way near Bio. If anything he is with his party’s opponent. Sadly, for SLPP, no serious efforts seem to be being made to heal the rift. And the longer this takes to do the slimmer Bio’s chances of winning in November.
Bio and his SLPP seem to be being ruffled by the negative press against them. One thing he must learn from President Ernest Bai Koroma is his ability to feel hurt inside over an adverse publication – and he is very light skin I can assure you – and smile to the journalist who wrote that. Bio simply disappears and shows discomfiture at such.
Welcome to the Salone press, Mr Bio. I thought your sojourn in the US had taught you a thing or two about dealing with such. Where are the press conferences? Single interviews, yes, but a press conference more so. May be the party is raucous. Yet it is a party which says it plans to field in candidates for all seats for parliament, councils, municipalities and state house. And they do not seem ruffled by the fact that Koinadugu is slipping through their fingers if not already. The APC are very assertive in the district which, clearly, is one of those whose popular votes will count considerably in determining who wins the November election. Just a peep, may be I could not see too well through the hole.