By Ben Karbaguae
The main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party was founded in 1962 by the late President Siaka Probyn Stevens as its leader based on the ideologies of African nationalism, democratic socialism with a position of centre-left to left wing, well-known for its policy of constructive nationalism.
The APC party has subsequently served as one of the two major political parties in Sierra Leone since its formation by its founding fathers. And as a party of all workers, the APC worked tirelessly towards national development ranging from infrastructural development, education, health, energy, the consolidation of foreign relations and international cooperation globally, whilst strongly consolidating national unity by way of bringing all shades of the country under one umbrella. That was why Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone drawn from north, east, west and south benefited from the APC party government’s programmes and activities throughout the reign of the late President Stevens, even though he ended handing over power to his right hand man, a weak military officer, Joseph Saidu Momoh.
In recent years, as a party of all walks of life, the APC went through modern democratic reforms and transformations, prepared a roadmap for return to multi-party constitutional democracy which was abruptly interrupted by military rule.
So President Momoh however couldn’t make much progress in office. In fact, things went sour under his leadership not until when he was overthrown in a coup d’état staged by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) on Wednesday 29th April, 1992.
But the NPRC military rule was also unable to provide the leadership Sierra Leone needed to pursue the conflict to its logical conclusion due to internal power struggle amongst the rank and file of the elite forces.
However, after their four years of military rule from April 1992 to March 1996, the APC party re-emerged under the astute leadership of Hon. Edward Mohamed Turay and won five parliamentary seats in proportional representation elections conducted in 1996 clearly implied that the military barrels didn’t kill the APC at all.
In 2002, the main opposition under the Chairman and leadership of Ernest Bai Koroma was able to add to the number of seats that were representing the party in parliament though lost to late President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP. But in 200, Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma won in a presidential runoff and the party had majority in the House of Parliament.
Since then we have come to known the APC party as one with a strong leadership in the person of former President Koroma, who has been always entrusted with everything the party can boast of, having done national politics at home and in the Diaspora. He came in with controversies surrounded with allegations of constitutional fraud that positioned him in the post he currently holds in the APC party, embattled by his very Bombali brothers – Serry Kamal, Edward Turay and others. But he survived the political tsunami and emerged as National Leader and Chairman in the 2005 national delegates’ conference held in Port Loko.
Erstwhile President Koroma’s term came to an end in 2018 and he declared his resignation from the leadership position of the party even before presidential run-off election results were announced, but he’s somehow slowing down to step aside and allow another person to take the leadership mantle of the APC party.
The party’s constitution was reviewed in that respect with hopes of expunging selection clause from the party’s 1995 Constitution, only to notice at the nullified Port Loko conference that proper review of the APC constitution didn’t take place at all. That was why the National Reform Movement (NRM) group filed an injunction and stopped the entire process. But Koroma the most powerful figure stepped in again and ordered that since the reviewed constitution was never endorsed, they were going to use the old 1995 constitution with all forms of undemocratic cultures.
Yet Koroma continues to cling on the APC party leadership as a protective canopy for him, his family and property leaving his supporters and members suffering behind bars as if the party has no leader; a situation President Julius Maada Bio and his ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) now take huge advantage of, owing to the fact that they didn’t urge the APC to brew internal conflict.
So far, this has been the prevalent trouble faced by the APC party since 4th April, 2018, when the then main opposition SLPP took over governance in Sierra Leone to date.
There has been neither breathing space nor a bit of respite for APC members and supporters that are left with no alternative but questioning the exact whereabouts of their party leadership amid intimidation and harassments by ruling party members, supporters and the government as a whole.
Gauging views on current political trends in Sierra Leone, at the APC national secretariat on Railway Line in Freetown, Alfred Sorie Dumbuya said: “We are baffled about the manner in which party matters are being handled of late after the 2018 national elections.” Is it that our National Chairman and Leader, former President Koroma now afraid of confronting President Bio on issues affecting APC members and supporters? Or has he forgotten that no matter the political temperature, somebody must take leadership responsibility in the party now to save the coming generations of the APC.
Mabinty Turay, who sells fruits, said: “Our people are always maltreated by the police sent here by the SLPP government but nobody talks on our behalf as if we no longer have a leader. It is sad that we don’t know what is going on. APC elders must demonstrate strong leadership now to redeem us from political intimidation.”
On his twitter page, the APC party leader and chairman, former President Koroma on Tuesday 5th May, 2020 twitted: “Our interconnectedness as one world requires us to pull together in harmony and in peace. We owe it to ourselves and to our future generations to work together in making our world a better place for everyone.”
APC party members are being confronted with troubles after another from the ruling SLPP ranging from corruption allegations, commissions of inquiry, petition cases against Members of Parliament that led to the withdrawals of nine of their seats from them to the ruling party MPs, amongst others.
Things went out of hands with all odds coming against the entire membership and supporters of the APC, as most of them are being constantly hunted by ruling SLPP members and followers in the name of ‘it is our time to revenge against APC members and their supporters.’
These coupled with arrests and detentions of APC members and supporters under the eyes of the APC chairman and leader is not going down well with a good number of them.
Koroma is now the exact opposite of what he used to be prior and during his presidency. He now hardly speaks on critical matters affecting the smooth running and operations of the APC party despite he had once vowed to re-elect the party to power in 2023 before he could take his final exit from mainstream partisan politics. Yet much firmer actions were and are still expected from him, particularly on the storming of the Well of Parliament by Sierra Leone Police (SLP) Operational Support Division (OSD) that dragged APC MPs out of the Well; the usurpation of the position of Speaker of the House; and the state sponsored petitions against nine APC MPs that lost their seats to unelected ruling SLPP MPs. All of those issues deserve the attention of the APC leadership in both Parliament and at party secretariat levels with strong actions.
Besides, Chairman and Leader of the APC has never said a word regarding the frequent police shootings at APC party headquarters that caused the wounding of dozens of party members and supporters with property damaged worth millions of Leones, nor on the arbitrary arrests and detentions of Abu Bakarr Daramy, former Mayor of Freetown, Herbert George Williams, Sergeant Amadu Koita and Rtd. Major Alfred Palo Conteh, the man who led the 2007 presidential campaign trail and brought victory to Railway Line. They all expect somebody to take a leadership position for and on their behalf to advocate for speedy trials and subsequent releases from unlawful detentions.
Recent among them is the arrest and detention of a very proactive and vocal Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden to all of which no word is being heard from the APC leadership for reasons the party’s supporters hardly know.
According to a senior member of the APC party: “For God’s sake chairman and leader Koroma, your comrades voted you because they believed and trusted your leadership, but now you hardly talk for and on their behalf, while the minority leadership in Parliament in the persons of Hon. Chrenor Ramadan Maju Bah and his Deputy, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo also couldn’t talk for APC people not even their expelled colleague APC MPs, which brings to mind the question of the exact whereabouts of APC lost leaders.”