If we were in a ruling government where in 2012 parliamentary election in constituency 050, we polled 24,251 votes and in a 2016 by-election we only strenuously marshalled 10,103 with almost 60% of those who voted in 2012 deserting us in our stronghold, we must be preparing to leave government. In a general election when the Presidency will be in contention and with no President Koroma, more thousands will be leaving in droves.

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For APC, there is also a nemesis -Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray of ADP. Whichever political party we belong and even those who don’t belong to a party, we have to admire the courage, perseverance and tenacity of a politician who has seriously challenged APC in its heartland. Many of the APC members who initially dismissed him as a fluke will be ashamed to see that Kamarainba carries the aspiration of ordinary northerners who have been abandoned and left in poverty by APC.

To put the ADP’s success in a context, this is a party which only received its final certificate from the Political Parties Registration Commission in July 2015. Just imagine if ADP had been in existence for longer and has one-tenth of the state resources APC uses in by-elections then the APC would have been on a free fall under the ADP gravity. And there is nothing funnier when I learnt that APC National Secretary General, Osman Yansaneh, described the ADP logo as red and stated that was why the ADP secured so many votes. Not sure anyone can beat that for the joke of the year!

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Sadly, the result by Kamarainba in Port Loko has also made all the SLPP northern flagbearer aspirants like a “failed experiment”. If you want to lead a party to a national election and in the very region where you were born you cannot secure up to 3% of the valid votes for your political party in a by-election, to say you can win a national election for that party must be self-delusional. How can I tell my party I am a serious contender yet I am afraid to campaign in a by-election because I am not popular even amongst my own people?

What is now evident both from the results of the Makeni and Port Loko by-elections, all the SLPP northern flagbearer aspirants must now look at themselves in the mirror and ask: how can I lead a national party if I cannot convince my people to vote for that party? No doubt, they can all play their parts to ensure SLPP prepares for a robust campaign in the north in 2018 but all talks of flagbearer aspirations must be dead and buried. It will also require that all our northern stakeholders including party officials, former ministers and former Members of Parliament must also go to the drawing board.

In Kailahun, the by-election result was further evidence of an APC government which is on its way to the exit door. If u had the misfortune of reading the Awareness Times Newspaper “analysis and statistics” on the constituency 001 by-election result, just regard it for what it was “munku analysis”. The fact is, in the 2013 by-election in constituency 001 the APC polled 4,856 (30.4%) and in 2016 the APC polled 4,493 (30.63).

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Since 2013, the APC votes reduced by over 350 and its percentage stagnated. The idea of a vote increase was only an illusion. For a government which threw everything at the Kailahun by-election – bags of money, truckload of ministers, sitting appointed Vice President, police loaded with tear gas canisters and guns and trucks of soldiers armed to the teeth – the APC result was a disaster.

For months and weeks, Vice President, Maya Kaikai and other ministers and state officials boasted they were painting constituency 001 red but what they took to Kailahun was “water paint”. Lo and behold, it only took just few hours for Rtd. Brig. Bio to wash off the “red water paint”, village after village and section after section. Even if you do not support Bio but to fail to recognise he is the most popular politician will be a “crime against one’s conscience”.

Unsurprisingly, those SLPP flagbearer aspirants who were born in Kailahun either completely abandoned the by-election campaign or did not have the political capital in their home district to physically join the campaign. And yes, these SLPP aspirants still want us to believe that even though they cannot influence votes in a single constituency in their home district, they can still win a national election as presidential candidates. What a hallucination!

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As a party the SLPP must equally be proud of thousands of our party members and supporters who braved the tear gas and guns from the very people who were meant to protect their lives. The Kailahun District party structure, party stakeholders, grassroots and the effectiveness and vibrancy of the candidacy of Madam Navo Kaikai have set a great example of what the party will require to return to governance in 2018.

So, the results from the Port Loko and Kailahun by-elections have shown that the APC is on a borrowed time – almost nine years in governance with spectacular incompetence, many failed promises, a legacy of a “broke government” and an ADP onslaught in its northern heartland. However, the results also show that SLPP does not have the luxury of time to be held hostage by a desperate “spoiler mentality” of very few people against the will of the majority.

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The suffering masses of Sierra Leone urgently need a constructive, vibrant and united SLPP because it is in the best interest of the country. The PPRC should also play its part through a speedy investigation and resolution of all petitions from lower level elections. Because to face an APC in 2018 which has state resources, state security apparatus and power of incumbency, the SLPP will require strong party leadership, a very popular presidential candidate, a unity of purpose, intense resource mobilisation and a concrete plan on the vision, policies and governance programmes we want to offer voters.

But, if all the SLPP flagbearer aspirants intending to challenge Rtd. Brig. Bio are truly committed to the SLPP and believe that our country deserves better than APC in 2018, they should now, after these by-election results, individually with grace and dignity tell their supporters “I DO NOT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO LEAD THE SLPP TO VICTORY IN 2018 ELECTIONS. THEREFORE, I AM WITHDRAWING FROM THE RACE TO GIVE THE PARTY THE BEST CHANCE TO WIN. I WISH BRIG. BIO (RTD) WHO HAS THE OVERWHELMING SUPPORT OF THE PARTY AND COUNTRY GREAT SUCCESS IN 2018. I ASSURE HIM OF MY FULLEST SUPPORT.” By Yusuf Keketoma Sandi