Sierra Leone: Private Life Vs Public Life and the 2017/18 Elections

Published on 23rd February 2015

So far it has been so personal that there seems to be no place for public life in the political life of Sierra Leoneans. Practically, political life is more or less a public life just as much as private life is largely a personal life. Whereas in a private life the individual decides spheres of affairs, the people decide the spheres of affairs in a public life. In successful public organizations, the subjects learn to respect and abide by the popular decisions of the people; irrespective of whether such decisions are fair or otherwise. Although such decisions are hardly fair in political life, the subjects nevertheless must always exercise control over personal feelings in the larger interest of the political body. Clearly, private life seems to have been mixed with public life in the political life of the SLPP Party and is devastatingly ripping the party apart since the new founding of Sierra Leone following the NPRC takeover.

While the decisions of the individual prevail over those of the people in private affairs, the reverse always holds true in public affairs. This implies that those in public life should not see the decisions of the people as contravening their personal principles, irrespective of the moral, socio-cultural or economic basis of such principles. In political public life, fair or even unfair decisions reached by cross-sections of responsible bodies are viewed as democratic and should be respected by all members of the party.

Time and again, however, personal life weighs in more than public life in the political life of the SLPP Party. The growing rise of individuals who feel far bigger than the SLPP Party is hurting the party. The custom of carrying personal principles into the conduct of the political affairs of the SLPP Party is not helping the situation in any way.

Personal conduct of some high-profile figures

The SLPP Party, founded in 1951, is the alma matter party of all political parties in Sierra Leone. It was over a protracted controversy of “election before independence and vice versa” that a vibrant but personally motivated group broke away to form the APC Party in 1960. This was where all the endless cracks in the party today started and the SLPP Party would govern only until 1967 before it was reduced into opposition role by its breakaway APC Party. Since then, APC has ruled pretty much of our post-independence period. While the Stevens’ APC regime was extremely brutal, it is pretty much true that the conduct of personal life in the political life of the SLPP Party stifled any comeback of the party until 1996 following the NPRC junta intervention 1992. The Sir Albert Margai and John Karefa-Smart controversies (laden with personal rather party principles) could have prevented any comeback of the SLPP Party during that spell. Karefa-Smart eventually ended up pulling out and never again went back to the SLPP Party.

The other instances where the conduct of personal life in political life widened the endless cracks in the SLPP Party were during the post-NPRC period that saw the Kabbah-Margai controversy, the Margai-Berewa controversy, the Bio-Boi controversy and on and on. It is clear that the Electoral College of the SLPP Party is out of date, and the party internal elections are no longer free and fair. Charles Margai, the strongest steward of the SLPP Party throughout the trying days of the pre-NPRC APC rule, knew of the shortcomings of the Electoral College, but decided to keep it in place in the hope that it would work in his favor. Dramatically but not unexpectedly, Kabbah turned the tides on Margai by exploiting the lapses in the Electoral College to win the 1996 Flagbearership over Margai. Stunned, Margai reacted on personal principles instead of keeping a cool head, accepting the outcome and working to fix the lapses in the Electoral College. The meddling of Margai’s personal life into his political life eventually led to his breakaway, setting up his own brand new political party and eventually partnering with the APC Party. Horrible to say the least!

The same lapses in the Electoral College created the rift between Bio and Boi, eventually leading to Boi’s exit from SLPP and his absorption into APC. John Benjamin, another strong SLPP Party figure, inherited the fraudulent Electoral College as Chairman of the party but deliberately refused to fix it on the same illusion that it will someday play in his favor. Now most recently, Bio capped it all by exploiting the lapses to install a pro-APC figure (Kapen) into the seat of Chairman of the SLPP Party. Or may it rather be said that the ruling APC Party exploited the lapses in SLPP Electoral College to implant mole into the seat of Chairman of the SLPP Party? Whichever is the case, SLPP today solidly plays into the hands of APC and APC is making the best use of that.

Where there is absolutely no yardstick for measuring the competency of people running for public offices, personal agendas mar the election process and such agendas can be very economic in a largely illiterate and impoverished nation like Sierra Leone. This is exactly what the ruling APC Party exploits in the fraudulent SLPP Electoral College today, making impossible any regrouping efforts by the so-called opposition SLPP Party to win national elections.

These lapses in the basic setup of the SLPP Party have heated substantial bad blood among prominent SLPP Party members, be it in the current Bio, Boi, Benjamin, etc., etc. usurp, the  more recent past Kabbah, Margai, etc., etc. usurp or the distant past Margai, Karefa-Smart, etc., etc. usurp. All of these sagas which have marred and still continue to mar the viability of the SLPP Party are the telltales of extraordinary circumstances where the principles of private life prevail over the principles of public life.

By definition, a political party is always a public entity. Unlike all other public entities, a political is, in principle and practice, always opened to all, irrespective of past records. This makes a political party a very unique public entity, where there is no basis to project the principles of private life into the principles of public life. More too often have high-profile SLPP figures quit the party on the basis of personal principles, without any consideration of the impacts of such actions on their own public life. It all likely that Charles Margai is in the footsteps of John Karefa-Smart and mare could follow suit of the principle of our private lives are not separated from the principles of our public life in the political life of the SLPP Party.

So before all is lost, we urge all key stakeholders of the SLPP Party to drop these personal egos and ambitions and come together for the common good of the SLPP Party in particular and for Sierra Leone at large. This principle of “me or nobody else” is hurting the party and costing the country an untold suffering, and nobody stands to benefit from it but the leftwing parties. For far too long have we been disloyal to our alma mater SLPP Party.

By Sulay B. Conteh

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