By Kemo Cham
The governing All People’s Congress (APC) party of Sierra Leone has sacked its leader in parliament in a move attributed to his presidential ambition.
After three years in post, the House Majority Leader, Ibrahim Bundu, MP, was replaced on Wednesday by his deputy, Leonard Fofanah, sources in parliament said.
Bundu confirmed his dismissal to Politico saying that it was on the orders of the Chairman and Leader of the APC, President Ernest Bai Koroma. He said the party had cited conflict of interest as reason for the decision.
The now former House Leader is one of over a dozen people interested in contesting for the presidency in next year’s election under the APC’s ticket. Last month he was relieved of his position as the party’s district chairman in Port Loko once it became apparent that he was gunning to become the party’s standard-bearer.
Many, especially in the main opposition SLPP party, are asking why, when they instructed that their House Minority Leader, Dr Bernadette Lahai be replaced for not seeking their party’s interest, the House Speaker wouldn’t let it happen.
Bundu’s dismissal comes after the just concluded APC Youth League conference in Port Loko where President Koroma warned of “consequences” for party members who violated its rules and regulations.
“Flag-bearer aspirants who fail to control their supporters and in the event send any signals of disquiet in the party will have to face the consequences,” a press statement by the State House Communication Unit quoted him as saying at the conference last week.
The APC, in power since 2007, is faced with a serious challenge from an opposition rumoured to be contemplating a coalition. Koroma is barred from contesting beyond his second five-year term.
A major threat of intraparty squabble amidst outpouring of presidential aspirants appears to worry the party. Over 20 people are reported to have openly expressed interest ahead of the general elections slated for 7 March, 2018.
The tough talking President Koroma said at the Port Loko conference that victory was certain for the APC but boasted that the elections would be more about him as a “battle tested” president than whoever the candidate was. He also said that when the time was right the party would identify his successor candidate, adding that whoever refused to abide by the party’s rule was free to form his own party.
Some commentators say Koroma is merely struggling to remain relevant politically as he nears the end of his term. He is believed to be seeking to retain the party's influential chairmanship which the Youth League unanimous endorsed him for, according to the State House release.
The APC Youth Wing has proven to be the most effective tool used by Koroma to assert his authority as he struggles to defy the phenomenon of lame duck presidency.
The body is controlled by youths loyal to him, notably its chairman, Bai Mamoud Bangura, the youngest member of his cabinet.
They have rallied behind him, condemning anyone who appears to challenge his authority.
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