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Will the Same River Disrobe Us Again

  • Written by  Kelfala M. Kallon
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New People Disclaimer: The article below is the personal opinion of Dr. Kelfala Kallon and not the New People Online Inc. The New People Online does not endorse any particular flag bearer in the SLPP leadership race. We support all the flag bearers and will continue to provide a platform for them and their supporters to share their ideas and views with people. Once a flag bearer is elected, we will work with him or her to ensure victory in 2012.

Imagine going to bed and dreaming about Angel Gabriel (or Malika Gibril, for us muslims) giving you the five winning numbers for a hundred-million-dollar lottery that will be played the next day. The ticket costs a dollar but you, your relatives, and friends can only come up with 99 cents. Then out of nowhere comes a total stranger who offers you the penny you need on the condition that she gets 50 percent of the prize. If you are rational, you would conclude that if you reject the stranger’s offer, you would win nothing. However, if you accept her offer, even though it might be considered unfair by everybody who provided 99 cents, your net gain would be fifty-million dollars—after the stranger gets her share. You may even give your friends and family members 25 million dollars and keep the 25 million for yourself. In the end, everyone will be better off than they were prior to your deal with the stranger. Thus, rationality and self-interest would cause you to accept the stranger’s offer.

Our base in the Southeast is analogous to those who provided the 99 cents toward the purchase of the lottery; they provide most of our votes in every election. However, as the lottery example demonstrated, a rational individual would gladly give 50 percent of prize to the stranger who provided only 1 percent of the cost of the lottery if (s)he believed that (s)he would lose everything without the stranger’s penny.

Even if every voter in our base voted for us, the SLPP would need 22 percent more votes in order to win the presidential election on the first ballot. Should the election go into a run-off, we would need 17-percent-plus one additional votes to win.  But because the APC will do everything to get some votes in our base (such as the rumored plan for President Koroma to ditch Vice President Sumana in favor of a Mende running mate), I have estimated that, to be victorious, we need 35 and 50 percent, respectively, of the votes in the Northern Province and the Western Area. Therefore, because we cannot win without the votes of the Northwest, they represent the most important voting bloc in our winning strategy.

Don’t get me wrong! I am not suggesting that our base is not important to our strategy. Neither am I suggesting that we should take them for granted. All I am saying is that the base will get nothing if we lose, regardless of who we nominate. The first law of politics is to gain power. Only then would one have the resources to take care of the base. This is known in American politics as “bringing home the bacon” to one’s constituents, which is not possible without power. Therefore, while seeking power, rational politicians and political parties must appease the median voter—the stranger whose penny they need to buy the lottery ticket. And for the SLPP, the median voters who must be appeased are in the Northwest.

We must not forget that the SLPP was the dominant political party in the country until when the party allowed Sir Albert Margai to succeed his brother as Prime Minister in 1964. Because Sir Milton had always appointed either M.S. Mustapha or Dr. John Karefa-Smart (and never Sir Albert) as deputy premier, Northerners rightly concluded that Karefa-Smart should have succeeded Sir Milton. In other words, they believed that the party’s leadership should rotate between the Northwest and the Southeast.  Thus, they concluded that Karefa-Smart was passed over simply because of our aversion to Northern (specifically Temne) leadership of the SLPP. This led to the unfortunate branding of the SLPP as a Mendeman’s Party, which destroyed the winning coalition that Sir Milton had carefully crafted among the various ethnic groups—a strategy, I am told, that included Sir Milton convincing Siaka Stevens to proclaim his Limba ethnicity in order to bring the Limbas under the shade of the Palm Tree. Since that 1964 fiasco, the SLPP’s appeal in the North nosedived—even though Sir Albert appointed Kandeh Bureh (a Temne) as deputy premier and Solomon Berewa appointed Momodu Koroma (a Temne-Mende) as his running mate in the 2007 elections. The only logical conclusion we can make from this is that for us to regain our dominance in the North, we have to convince our Northern compatriots that ours is indeed an inclusive national party. Hence, by nominating Dr. Kadi Sesay for the presidency, we would signal to our Northern compatriots that, unlike the APC which claims itself to be a Temne party but has never (and will never) nominate a Temne to lead them, we are indeed wedded to our One Country, One People philosophy. More importantly, by depriving the APC of their Mendeman party Northern strategy, a Kadi Sesay candidacy will make bread-and-butter issues, on which the APC are very vulnerable, the most important campaign issue.

Some might ask: Why Dr. Kadi Sesay when she is not the only Northerner in the race? The answer lies in her gender. As we learned from the Liberian contest, an accomplished female presidential candidate like Dr. Kadi Sesay will make the party appealing to women voters—who, by the way, outnumber men. Secondly, next to Krio women, Temne women are the second most non-traditional women in the country. Therefore, they are most likely to reject any male influence against voting for an accomplished woman candidate (especially one that is their daughter, mother, sister, and auntie) just because of her gender. Thus, the confluence of ethnic and gender solidarity will make a Kadi Sesay candidacy resonate with women voters all over the country, but especially in the Northwest.

The Liberian experience also informs us that accomplished female candidates in African elections have the capacity to generate significant goodwill within the international community toward their parties. This then translates into campaign contributions and political support. Moreover, as we learned in 2007 and from the contest between Ouattara and Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire, whether Christiana Thorpe may be allowed to toss out votes in 2012 will depend on which way the wind may be blowing in Western capitals at the time of the elections. With women in key positions in Western governments and international institutions, I believe that an accomplished woman candidate like Dr. Kadi Sesay will inoculate us against another bout of Christiana Thorpe’s yuki-yuki.

I must note that my argument for nominating Dr. Kadi Sesay should not be misconstrued as a suggestion that Southeasterners should never become president. As Nigeria’s ruling PDP have done, we can preserve regional equity in the party by allowing the presidency to rotate between the Northwest and the Southeast after every two terms. And because Northerners feel aggrieved by the 1964 fiasco, the presidency should go to them first. Knowing that hell will freeze before the APC allows their Temne coalition members to lead them, we can be doubly sure that they are not likely to enter into their own rotational arrangement with the Southeast. Therefore, if we agree to a presidential rotation between the regions, we would forever consign our APC friends to permanent opposition—because the average Sierra Leonean knows that, when we abstract from ethnicity, the SLPP’s intellectual resources and fidelity to a culture of fair-play and the rule of law makes us better custodians of the people’s business than the APC.

I will close with the Mende proverb that sensible people do not allow the same river to disrobe them each time they cross it. They may be excused the first time they cross the river for getting their pants wet and having to disrobe in order to get them dry before continuing their journey because they may not know its depth. However, if a person insists on crossing the same river in the same manner each time and ends up revealing her/his nakedness each time, then (s)he is not only a fool, but a stupid fool.

We have revealed our nakedness in national elections since 1967 each time we have fielded a non-Northern candidate as our leader. And when we did otherwise in 1996 and 2002, we won two elections. Thus, we can avoid being disrobed by the same river this time around by crossing in Dr. Kadi Sesay’s boat. Doing otherwise will reveal to the world that we are indeed stupid fools.

Long Live the SLPP and the Republic in whose service our true calling lies!


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