. Alhaji Momodu Koroma, Distinguished Grand Chief Patron
Nine chances out of ten, the PR system will be our system for this election. The party therefore needs to start, as early as possible, putting modalities in place that will clearly outline criteria for the nomination of candidates (Parliamentary and Local) for the elections. The PR system puts a lot of responsibility on the party for carrying out the electioneering process. All the ECSL cares for is a clean list of candidates for the election, which will also serve for all other subsequent bye-elections. The party is going to be faced with a five year assignment and it therefore needs to get it right, right from the start. It is an awesome responsibility which needs to be treated seriously.
It therefore behooves the Party to develop a robust and transparent framework that satisfies our constitution but gives ownership of the selection of candidates to the various grassroots organs at constituency and ward levels.
The party constitution is very clear on how candidates should be chosen for the award of symbols at those levels, under the first past the post system. The party does not have explicit provisions in the case of a PR process. In such a case the party leadership must ensure that we stick to the constitution as closely as possible in order not to allow unscrupulous individuals to exploit or hijack the process; or strangle the party with court action.
Sticking with the constitution has the added advantage of creating room for adequate grassroots participation and avoiding unwarranted interference in the party nomination process. The constitution provides for constituency, sectional and zonal participation in the process, all of which are building blocks of the party structure. Creating room for adequate grassroots participation is a sure means of mobilizing support for the nominated candidates.
Incumbency, no doubt, is going to be a thorny issue and must be handled carefully. The party should acknowledge that incumbency deserves to be respected, however, it must not be allowed to stifle the popular and true wishes of the electorates. There is also the issue of the “huge elephant” that must be watched, which if not checked will overshadow the transparency of the process; that is party members with “deep pockets” who will use their monies to manipulate the process and compromise the most forthright officers and leaders of the party to their advantage. However, towering above all of these potential obstacles, if I may humbly suggest, will be the impression of a lack of credibility in the process. When party members have deep mistrust that their leadership is not working in their interest in a fair and credible manner, the other issues mentioned above pale into insignificance.
It is a delicate tight rope that should be managed carefully in a transparent, sincere and fair manner, with the party interest at heart. My humble experience suggests that a party in power should have the courage and latitude to avoid all these potential pitfalls.
The Party leadership must therefore step up now to start putting in place modalities and mechanisms that will guarantee a credible process, which can then be transmitted and explained to party rank and file to improve their understanding of what is at play and for them to have a buy in.
The Party’s National Executive Council, the highest administrative organ of the party is currently idle, largely ignored and yearning to be consulted on how the party should be managed. The NEC as it is fondly called has sufficient constitutional authority to address some of the key issues. The Party Leader can also come up with other ideas that will set the stage for an orderly process.
This short piece is an expression of my general impression of what to guide against. Details of how this can be done can be discussed further.