Ernest Bai Koroma may not go after all, as his detractors fiercely and abusively canvass.  Hundreds of APC grassroots members staged a demonstration in the streets of Makeni on Friday and ended up at the former President’s residence, calling on him to remain Chairman and leader of Sierra Leone’s biggest opposition party. The APC and the ruling SLPP have been eternally embroiled in bitter power struggles since Independence in 1961.

Waving banners with different messages asking him not to go and hailing him, while singing party songs, the crowd said they had come to appeal to Mr. Koroma to remain the party’s Chairman and leader. And in a high-octane statement which he used later to seriously deride and ridicule the reigning SLPP, the retired Head of State, who was at the helm when the party’s presidential candidate, Dr. Samura Kamara, lost to the SLPP flagbearer and the present President of Sierra Leone, Maada Bio in 2018, gave the all-too-familiar Sierra Leonean response that suggests likely agreement— “Ah hold word”.

There is nothing in the APC’s new constitution that became legally operative on March 25, 2022, to suggest that former President Ernest Koroma should not chair the party again. While, according to the new constitution, the presidential candidate becomes the leader of the party, the office of Chairman is open and is to be contested during the national delegates convention. If Dr. Koroma accepts the appeal of the grassroots members to stay and enters the contest, there is no way he would not win, given his cult-like persona and popularity within the APC. Some party fanatics predict that he might go unopposed.

Since the APC lost power in 2018, the SLPP had behaved in absolute dread or fear of the former President. As if Ernest Koroma is the actual opponent that will stand between them remaining in power or making an early, unceremonious exit, SLPP have poured all kinds of ire, scorn, disrespect, hostility and outright harassment on the former Head of State, accusing him of dictatorship and clinging to the leadership of the APC, as if they have everything to lose, if he did.

The SLPP’s dread of Ex-President Koroma is often equated with Liberian children’s fear of the BOOGOO MAN (A mythical FEARFUL character). When parents or guardians frighten naughty kids that “Boogoo mehn coming ya “, the children run away to hide in fear. Liberian children are scared of “BOOGOO MEHN”, actually a corruption of the term, THE BOGEY MAN. SLPP are afraid of EBK because they see him as the man capable of destroying their aspirations to cling to power in Sierra Leone.

The government accused him of corruption while he was President, and the matter is now with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). APC members describe the accusation as a witch hunt and once actually massed around him in solidarity support in Makeni and the ACC had to give up their scheduled trip to question him at his residence.

While the former President was addressing APC grassroots supporters in Makeni who appealed to him to stay as chairman, SLPP supporters in the social media have expressed their anger at Friday’s pro-Ernest Koroma demonstration in Makeni and the call on him by APC grassroots members to remain Chairman of the party. They were particularly incensed by Ex-President Koroma’s sardonic ridicule of their party’s extremely poor performance in power during his well-applauded statement to supporters. The often non-confrontational, quiet, and circumspect Mr. Koroma, who however perfected the art of oratory and ridicule of opponents when he joined politics, took subtle digs at President Maada Bio for running the economy through propaganda and paying public relations firms in America to give him undeserved praises.

Koroma, amidst laughter from his audience, said that when you do that, reality ultimately catches up with you –an apparent reference to the mess the SLPP Government finds itself in presently, with the country facing extreme shortages and increases in the prices of fuel, food and basic commodities and total darkness from the persistent electricity blackouts. Mr. Koroma even mocked the SLPP Government that they spent their five years in power chasing opponents and delivering no development projects.

Mr. Koroma profoundly thanked the grassroots party members for standing tall for the APC in its vicissitudes since losing power in 2018. He assured them that once the High Court dispenses the party’s case in court, the national delegates conference will be held, and the APC might have its flagbearer for the 2023 elections by June. As for their calls for him to remain Chairman of the party, he will hold consultations with party stakeholders and get back to them.

It is not known whether Ernest Koroma will consent to be Chairman of the APC again but if he does, interesting times are ahead in Sierra Leone, given his massive popularity and the apparent endorsement the international community and stakeholders have now given him, through their constructive diplomatic engagements with him, that he is still vital to Sierra Leone’s sociopolitical and economic metamorphosis.