By Sorie Fofana
President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was a very shrewd Politician. He knew how to get his way out of difficult situations especially in the politics of SLPP. He was good at spotting those who matter in the party. He never allowed Dr. Prince Harding to be against him. That is why, even after he sacked him as Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources in 1998, he kept him on side and allowed him to continue to be the party’s National Secretary General.
President Kabbah had nominated one of his friends for a top position in his administration. The Majority Leader of the House, Hon. S.B. Marah who doubled as Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments and the Public Service was opposed to Kabbah’s nominee. In fact, the nominee was, on two occasions, stood down by the Appointments Committee. The nominee became so embarrassed by media reports about his ordeal in Parliament that he asked President Kabbah to quietly withdraw his nomination to avoid further embarrassment. President Kabbah got very furious and invited Hon. S.B. Marah and other senior SLPP MPs to State House for further consultation.
During the meeting, President Kabbah read the riot act to S.B. Marah. He threatened to abolish the position of Majority Leader if he does not approve his nominee. He reminded S.B. Marah that the position of Majority Leader was created for the sake of political convenience because it is not a creation of the 1991 Constitution. Two days later, President Kabbah’s nominee was approved without any further rancor.
Leader Of Government Business
Hon. Mohamed Sidi Tunis of Constituency 101 in the Pujehun district was appointed Leader of Government Business when the SLPP came to power in 2018. He actually wanted to become Speaker of the House of Parliament but Dr. Abass Bundu was the President’s own candidate for the top job. Hon. Sidi Tunis had to settle down for the less-influential position of Leader of Government Business.
Whether one likes it or not, Hon. Sidi Tunis is a likeable character. He is a quintessential gentleman and above all, a very persuasive politician. He has carried himself with dignity and has been a great unifier in a Parliament dominated by opposition MPs.
Very recently, Hon. Sidi Tunis was crowned as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament. That is a high-profile position. As Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidi Tunis’ new job comes with clout and a lot of perks. Undoubtedly, Hon. Sidi Tunis enjoys being Leader of Government Business in the local Parliament here. That’s a very influential position.
In an interview with Radio Democracy 98.1 on Wednesday, Hon. Sidi Tunis made it very clear that, he would prefer to retain the position of Leader of Government Business than assume the role of Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament. This is the extent to which he loves his job as Leader of Government Business.
Appointment Of Hon. Mathew Nyuma
On 2nd April 2020, the Chairman and Leader of the ruling SLPP, Dr. Prince Alex Harding formally informed the Speaker of Parliament that Hon. Mathew Sahr Nyuma of Constituency 019 in the Kenema District has been appointed as Leader of Government Business.
According to Dr. Harding, “This action has been necessitated by the assumption of the Speakership of the ECOWAS Parliament by the erstwhile Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mohamed Sidi Tunis, representing Constituency 101, Pujehun District”.
Aside from the letter, Dr. Harding, in an interview with Radio Democracy 98.1, threatened to invoke Section 77(1)k of the 1991 Constitution to remove Hon. Sidi Tunis from Parliament if he refuses to abide by the new changes announced by him.
Dr. Harding has insisted that he did not have to consult the party’s NEC to take such a decision. He said that by virtue of his position as Chairman and Leader, it was within his remit to take any decision that is in the best interest of the party.
Some people have argued that, under normal circumstances, such a letter should have been written and signed by the party’s National Secretary General.
Hon. Mathew Nyuma is clearly a sober Politician. He is very articulate and clearly understands party politics in Parliament. He has shown great leadership in several roles he continues to play in Parliament especially in his role as Chairman of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Information and Communications. He comes across to many as a bridge builder.
As I see it, Hon. Sidi Tunis has demonstrated great leadership since this brouhaha started. He has to continue on that pathway. In the interest of the party, I am appealing to Hon. Sidi Tunis to decrease the tension by stepping down from the role of Leader of Government Business without further delay.
My former Chinese Landlady in London once advised me that, “It is better to walk away from a fight that you can’t win than to fight and lose such a fight”.
Going forward, Dr. Prince Harding should learn to handle such matters without having to resort to writing letters. Once such letters go out, they are difficult to retract.
Hon. Mathew Nyuma has a lot to learn from Hon. Sidi Tunis. In the job of Leader of Government Business in a Parliament dominated by opposition MPs, one has to be able to carry everyone along including opposition MPs.
Hon. Sidi Tunis can still be appointed by the Speaker of Parliament as the “Father of the House”. He deserves such a dignified title by virtue of his position as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.
May common sense prevail!