The APC party flag bearer contender isn’t just campaigning to win an election. He’s bent on reorienting the APC party and Sierra Leone.
Like a football player afraid of jinxing his game, Dr. Richard Konteh will not speculate about whatever legacy he might leave behind. “Too early.” But his campaign philosophy provides a handy guide to what he is trying to accomplish at this crucial moment in what is already one of the APC party’s most defining political era.
“The thing I’m proudest of, obviously, is bringing all APC members, supporters and sympathizers together under one tent,” Dr. Konteh said, speaking deliberately, pausing often to consider his next phrase. “You know, the APC party has been pulled together in the past on several different occasions. But it’s usually been a kind of a ‘throw out the bums.’ And you had a whole bunch of elements elected that ultimately blew apart—because they didn’t make much of a united coalition. “I actually think this time, we will pull together a bunch of unifiers, forward thinking minds from different regions of the country that will actually fit together pretty well. We’ve got some people who are still standing a little closer to the fence—but they’re certainly not sitting on the fence. They are just afraid to stand up or stand out at this time uncertainties, for certain reasons.”
In all provinces and districts, D-Unifier’s campaign has started to build a strong movement that actually has a national vision, as opposed to being just a pocket of individual candidate’s flare, which is what we’ve seen in the past flag bearer campaigns.
His “long-term goal,” Dr. Konteh said, “is to make the APC party the natural governing party of the country. And I’m a realist, a unifier! You do that in two ways. One thing you do is to pull the party to a middle ground which can appeal to both ends of the political spectrum. But what you also have to do, if you’re really serious about making transformation, is you have to pull the centre of the political spectrum toward a national agenda. “And whether it’s an agenda that has a high emphasis on prosperity or poverty reduction; an agenda that focuses on delivering benefits to people and to families instead of creating bureaucracies; whether it’s restoring pride in the country—not just in things like, you know, promises to build a bridge from Freetown to Lungi or various government programs, but restoring pride in things like our institutions - parliament, the judiciary, government agencies, our schools, colleges, universities, our law enforcement/national security - the police, military, our arts, culture, traditions and history—I think that’s what we want to do. We’ll also build the country towards a definition of itself, creating what I will call “the Salone Dream.”
All the elements of Dr. Konteh’s long-term plan for the APC and Sierra Leone are in that statement above. From day to day the APC flagbearer contender can be so full of surprises, so confounding to his opponents and even to some of his supporters, that it almost always helps to take the long view when trying to figure him out. Ever since he came to the political arena in 2007, Dr. Konteh’s career has been built on a few driving ideas. Consistently and with formidable discipline, he has sought to gather the diverse strains of APC party ideology into a single cohesive movement. APC party members across the country and in the diaspora all have to feel at home around Dr. Konteh. He wants to make his party competitive, not just once, but for election after election. For decades.
There is a constant tension in his politics between a short-term impulse to unite the party and a long-term determination to move it—to transform Sierra Leonean society. Dr. Konteh captures that tension when he calls himself the Unifier. It’s the label a man gives himself when he is willing to take many detours on his way to his destination. When he is so intent on his long-term goal that he will not let mere distractions or principle get in the way of reaching that goal.