Kandeh Yumkella is a man who can lead – a man of purpose and conviction – says Andrew Keili

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 December 2017

Yesterday, Friday, 29th December 2017 – just four days after Christmas was celebrated across the World – signifying a rebirth; in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the opposition National Grand Coalition (NGC) party announced the name of the man who will run the final lap in the party’s presidential race for State House.

Gathered at the conference Hall of the Sierra Lighthouse Hotel in Aberdeen, downtown Freetown to hear this big announcement, were journalists, civil society groups, international development agencies, and foreign diplomats.

Although the name Andrew Keili is not unknown across Sierra Leone, the question for many was how long before that name appears on the presidential campaign ticket of one of the opposition political parties.

And the people of Sierra Leone did not have to wait too long yesterday, before that question was answered by the NGC presidential candidate and leader of the party – Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, who announced that Andrew Keili will be his presidential running mate for the 2018 presidential and general elections, which are due on March 7.

Andrew Keili’s acceptance speech was filled with emotion, but resolute about the challenges ahead, and the party’s chances of winning the elections – under his partnership with Dr. Yumkella and the entire NGC family.

This is what he said:

“I am filled with gratitude and joy – gratitude to Kandeh Yumkella for selecting me as running mate of the NGC Party; and to the party for organizing this occasion; joy – for this chance to serve my party and country. I accept the nomination of this great party and pledge myself to serve the party diligently.

I have known Kandeh Yumkella since his secondary school days. And I have got to further know him particularly well, politically – over the past two years or so when both of us, together with others incessantly faced challenging political circumstances.

We weathered the storm, standing up for what we believe would bode well for the furtherance of democracy in this country.

I have over this latter period admired his courage, his wisdom, his persuasion, his judgment, his passion and his leadership.

I have always had the deep conviction that the President of Sierra Leone must be a man of calm and deep assurance. Above all, he must be a man of clear mind and of sound judgment; and a man who can lead, a man who can decide, a man of purpose and conviction. My relationship with Kandeh Yumkella over this period convinced me he is that man.

That was then. This is now, when fate has brought both of us to the NGC, with the chance also for both of us to serve our new party and the country.

Our country’s problems are many and urgent, demanding reasoned solutions, not empty slogans.  Childlike answers cannot solve our man-sized problems. Let us reflect on some of the problems we have to contend with.

The economy is getting worse with our currency continuing to lose value. Prices of our basic needs continue to skyrocket beyond the means of the majority of our people. The result is that we are not reducing poverty.

Infrastructural development is being undertaken with little recourse to their providing value for money and for capacitating institutions and setting up management systems to maintain and sustain their operation.

Our restive youth are faced with massive unemployment and social problems. Our education and social sectors are neglected at the detriment of generations yet unborn.

Corruption is endemic, but we continue to pay lip service to fighting it. Meritocracy has been thrown out of the window, and decisions continue to be made along parochial lines.

There is little doubt that we need change – a marked change in the status quo for this country to be transformed. NGC is the party most fitted to bring about the required change we so badly need.

My appeal goes to all Sierra Leoneans to support the party of hope, opportunity and transformation. If you are sick and tired of a government that doesn’t create jobs, if you’re sick and tired of a government that values symbolism over substance, if you are sick and tired of a government that makes the future of our younger generation uncertain, then join Kandeh Yumkella and the NGC and work with us for change.

It may have to be across the political, tribal or an imagined divide, but you can still join us as we are one country and one people. We want you to be in an army of patriots for change.

I am pleased to work with Kandeh Yumkella and our NGC party to address the myriad of problems facing this country.

Paradoxically, people can use similarities and differences in many ways to achieve a positive outcome. Kandeh and I share a lot of similarities and differences in rather striking ways. We both attended the prestigious Christ the King College in Bo, married wives who lived around the clock tower area in Bo, share a deep passion for Sierra Leone, have contributed to development projects in the country and have a deep belief in the Almighty.

Whilst Kandeh has worked for a considerable time, rising to the top echelons in international development, I have been busy grinding it out in Sierra Leone. It is a testament to the inclusiveness in this land that Kandeh – a Susu boy from the North got to marry a Southern Mende girl, whilst I – a Kailahun Mende – married to a Loko Northerner.

Alhaji Kandeh’s deep Muslim conviction is accompanied by respect for Christianity. My Christian upbringing and Lay Preacher status within the Anglican Church are accompanied by a deep respect for those of the Muslim faith.

Both of our wives are educationists and have an abiding passion for the emancipation of women in this our society. I am more than convinced that an Agricultural Economist and international development expert can work well with an Engineer who has honed his skills in various areas of this country to propel the country forward.

I thank Kandeh and the NGC Chairman, Trustees, National Executive, and indeed all who were instrumental in providing advice on this decision for me to serve as presidential running mate, for their confidence reposed in me.

I will use all the skills at my disposal to take this NGC party to electoral victory, under a President Yumkella.

With roots deep in the Eastern Kailahun District from where my parents hail, to Bo in the South where I went to school and where my father sojourned in the Lord’s vineyard for over 30 years, to Kenema District where I was brought up in my tender years and worked for several years, to my fifteen years working for Sierra Rutile in the Moyamba and Bonthe Districts, I will bring my South-Eastern roots to bear positively on the campaign.

I will utilise my breadth of experience in working and producing positive results, as well as implementing change within the private and public sectors to assist Kandeh to implement the badly needed change that we need in this country.

I intend to assist Kandeh in fostering national cohesion and bridging the big divide that currently exists in Sierra Leone. Having hailed from the east, been brought up in the South, acquired a wife from the North, lived and associated with people and organizations in the west and worked in all regions of this country, I can say with confidence that bigotry is not in my dictionary.

I have friends and associates across regional, tribal, religious and even political divides – attributes that will hopefully stand me in good stead for this unification process.  I will bring my knowledge of policies and the operation of the private sector to bear positively on the way the NGC will govern this country.

As Sierra Leoneans look forward to the hope, opportunity and transformation the NGC will bring to this country, we should fully realise that the country needs a leader who recognizes the problems of Sierra Leone and is courageous enough to implement a change of direction.

Sierra Leone also needs a leader who is respectful of our cherished traditions and heritage, including the chieftaincy institution. It is time to bring Sierra Leone back from the abyss.  However, time is not on our side. Our country cannot afford to lose another 5 years – come 2018.

It is getting increasingly obvious that this country needs a leader to transform it to meet the demands of modern nation building. Kandeh Yumkella is that leader.

The election is upon us and in a little over two months the people will have to choose, not merely between parties, but between national greatness and national decline. Kandeh Yumkella and we in the NGC have a dream for this national greatness.

It is a vision of millions of our compatriots, who are convinced of a different concept of Sierra Leone’s destiny, understanding that they can reach across every barrier of age and tribe, of income and geographical location to reclaim control over their own lives.

Kandeh Yumkella and the NGC hierarchy have given me a charge. I pray that the good Lord will assist me in discharging my duties.

There is an inscription atop the staircase leading to the science laboratory in CKC, which best describes the power of the Almighty. It is by Robert Boyle and it states thus: “I should be much better content to see you ignore the mystery of nature than deny the author of it”.

Kandeh and I trust in the power of the Almighty. I pray to Almighty God, that I shall have the strength and the wisdom to measure up to the confidence and the trust that have been placed in me.

Many thanks again to Kandeh Yumkella and the NGC hierarchy for this opportunity; and to my wife, Helen and family, political supporters and friends for their unstinted support for me in this new venture.

May this country continue to move forward in the next five years, on the high road to peace, prosperity and opportunity, united behind the NGC and a great President Yumkella.

Thank you and God Bless Sierra Leone.”

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