Is SLPP a party of the South& East?August 10, 2011
By Philip Neville
The Sierra Leone’s Peoples Party came into existence some decades ago with a define position, among which was to cushion the socio-economic and political problems of the people and the country as a whole. Its formation was to further improving the lives of the ordinary men and women of society and to get them appreciate Sierra Leone as their country of birth. The party is one of the oldest political parties on the landscape of the West Coast of Africa, and should be a mentor to other political parties not only in this country but countries also in the sub-region. The founder members of this oldest party laid the foundation for others to learn how to manage and run a political party. It was seen as the party of the natives and started as a Movement, with Bai Faramah Tass (PC) of the Kambia District to be the Head of the Movement when he turned it down in place of Sir Milton Margai, the First Protectorate Medical Doctor.
The Movement was later transformed into a political party and addressed itself among other things with the opposition of the colony whose political party was the United Peoples Party (UPP). The UPP was regarded as a party of the elites and intellectuals with strong membership from the Krios and among them were C.B.Rogers-Wright alias Shependa, Mr. Blyden from the Western Area, Dixon Thomas from the Mountain District who was former Minister of Housing and Country Planning, John Nelson Williams, a one-time Minister of Information and Broadcasting, R.G.O.King from Waterloo, former Minister of Finance, Gershon Collier who briefly served as Chief Justice of Sierra Leone and more. These individuals and those who went for the attainment of independence at Lancaster House in the United Kingdom later joined the SLPP.
But it would surprise readers to know that the late Siaka Stevens was also a member of the SLPP, but called it quit together with Sir Albert Margai who later after the death of Sir Milton Margai, his elder brother was appointed Prime Minister of Sierra Leone. This led to the resignation of Dr. John Karefa Smart who was the then Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Sir Milton Margai,s Cabinet.
The appointment also led to the frustration of Sanusi Mustapha, Minister of Finance who had on many occasions acted as Prime Minister during the absence of Sir Milton Margai. Both Karefa Smart and Sanusi Mustapha were pictured to be the successor to Sir Milton Margai, but the emergence of Sir Albert Margai as Prime Minister in 1964, who had previously betrayed the party, followed by Siaka Stevens to establish the Peoples National Party,(PNP) created shocks and surprises among the electorate in the country. This was perhaps one of many reasons why more people defected to the newly formed APC, as it was perceived that the SLPP was now a monarchy or hereditary. The APC took advantage of the prevailing situation and quickly galvanized support from the Western Area and the Northern Province from young intellectuals and professionals like Dr. Mohammed Fornah, the Taqis, Sherif Esmon, T.S.Johnson, Davidson Luke, Berthson Wilson, just to name a few.
The founder members of the SLPP continued to maintain their loyalty and dedication to the party to the extent that they prevented the newly formed APC from conducting political campaigns in their respective areas during the 1967 elections, and Paramount Chiefs who compromised their offices were subsequently deposed by the Dove Edwin Commission, which was set up by the First Military Government headed by Juxon Smith. Some of them are PC,s Bai Koblo Pat-Bana(Lunsar) Yumkella(Kambia) Adekailie Modu(Port Loko) Komkanda of Lungi and a few others. Other members like I.B.Taylor-Kamara, Kandeh Bureh, Alhaji Sheik Gibril Sesay, Constance Cummings John, Kai Dumbuya, Zainab Kamara, Julius Cole, Sonny Browne-Marke, Fatta Rahman, Lamina Sankoh, Alhaji Tejan Jalloh, Multi Kamara, Barba Sillah and others served the party with enthusiasm until most or all of them departed for the underworld.
This brief political history of the SLPP is a clear indication that it was not a party of the South and East, but a broad based political entity whose ambition was to be a melting pot. Unfortunately, what was perceived to be a political melting pot to serve the people of Sierra Leone, not only was it hijacked but has showcased itself as a party meant only for the South and East as evident by its leaders and heads whose place of birth is either from the South or East and is now described as a party for the Southeasterners or Mendes.
It goes further to qualify this assumption that every child born in a Mende House is automatically a member of the SLPP, but not every child born in a Temne House is APC. This argument is buttressed by the fact that the First Prime Minister of Sierra Leone Dr. Sir Milton Margai is a mende and his brother who succeeded him, Sir Albert Margai is also a mende, both from the Moyamba District.
Ex-President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah,s mother is a mende by tribe and grew up in the Kailahun. His father, a Koranic Scholar was a Mandingo Petty Trader from the Kambia District. Interestingly, Julius Maada Bio, the former NPRC two, junta leader who handed over political power to ex-president Kabbah is a mende by tribe from Bonthe. Mr. Bio the newly elected flag bearer of the party is from the South. It is now apparent from historical evidence presented in this piece that the SLPP is not in favour of either a Northerner or Westerner to lead the party. Reasons for this political discrimination are not known, but sadly this is the party that is paying lip service to democracy when all its leaders are either from the South or East.
The recently concluded party convention left some members of the public with no surprise as the outcome of the convention was known prior to the release of the results. To most of them, it was a forgone conclusion that Julius Maada Bio was going to be elected Leader and Presidential Candidate of the party. But what left others in a state of perplexed and disillusionment is how John Oponjo Benjamin, former Leader of the National Unity Party (NUP) could use his business acumen to persuade Aspirants to part away with Fifty Million Leones each (Le 50 Million) on the pretext of raising funds for the party that was in a state of bankruptcy. The total amount milked from these Candidates could as well help John Oponjo Benjamin to boost his AITH outfit that is groping in financial darkness in Liberia and also in Sierra Leone as business in Banjul is not as rosy as one could imagine and contracts from the state of Sierra Leone are no more forthcoming as it used to be when he was the Minister of Finance in the SLPP Government and Chief Secretary of State NPRC One.
The 19 Candidates are intellectuals and professionals in different fields. Some are professional lecturers that are still needed at the University of Sierra Leone, while others are Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers and Businessmen and Women but they were suffering from myopia at the time they allowed John Oponjo Benjamin to cleverly extort money from them for position they know and he knows they were not going to clinch at the end.
Under this column in yesterday’s publication, the results (though not in full) as they were announced at the Convention Centre were published for the critical minds to see and analyzed. It would appear that the intellectuals and professionals who ignorantly parted away with Fifty Million Leones, non-refundable fee that could have been used to take care of their domestic obligations and other pressing needs are blind and will continue to be blind to the political realities that obtained in the John Oponjo Benjamin’s Cabinet.
One would commend him for using tact, skills and business idea to get the Aspirants to contribute financially to the kitty of the party. Ordinarily they would not have done so, but John Benjamin has made what was impossible–possible