Sierra Leone Telegraph: 05 December 2017
The presidential candidate for the demoralised Paopa SLPP in the March 2018 general election, Julius Bio, was on 4th December 2017, given the opportunity by the world renowned BBC focus on Africa to explain why he should be elected president of Sierra Leone.
In a wide ranging televised interview, Julius Bio horrendously disgraced himself, exposed his incompetence and embarrassed the SLPP , a party that is known to have produced some of the brightest in Sierra Leone politics.
Bio’s performance was a combination of amnesia and ignorance; and intellectually – a dunce.
He rambled, mumbled and not unsurprisingly incoherently as some of us had assessed his past interviews, including Paunga Abenteous Marnoh-Sesay – a young industrious supporter of Bio in the USA, who was in utter despair following his recent interview on a popular local AYV programme. He was forced to described Bio as ” uninformed” – a nice way of saying that Bio is ignorant.
I myself have sat in that chair at the BBC in strand 5 times before Bio and even though these were my very first world interviews, my performances including a panel interviews were excellent and highly appreciated by the Sir Banja-Tejan Sie (RIP), Dr Peter Tucker (RIP), Mathew Ganda, a retired UN staff, Professor C P FORAY (RIP) former Sierra Leone High Commissioner to the UK and by everyone I met inside and outside Sierra Leone who listened to those interviews during the struggle to restore the exiled SLPP government of president Kabbah to Sierra Leone.
I had faced some of the toughest BBC interviewers in that room , from Elizabeth Ohene, Julie Swallow, Oliver Scot, David Omanor, Khadera Ahmed , who told me that she was nervous to interviewed me after the program. I made sure I was on top and got my facts right.
But what I saw yesterday from the SLPP presidential candidate, was an embarrassment to the oldest political party in the sub-region and a complete disaster for their elections campaign.
Throughout the interview and on every question, the incisive interviewer Paul put to Bio, he had no clear answer and gave none at all. He skated around the questions and rambled incoherently, revealing his poor communication skills and lack of understanding of the serious socioeconomic problems Sierra Leone faces.
Let me start with the interviewer’s opening questions to Bio:
Paul: How do you see your chances this time?
Bio: Very good. I was in NPRC and people have fond memories of what I did. People are happy to have me as their president.
For a leader of the SLPP to cite his involvement in a coup de facto junta regime as the basis of getting people to vote for him is pathetically misguided.
The NPRC left a bad legacy of human rights abuses, economic ruin and the plunderisation of money from the country for which the former SLPP President Kabbah held Julius Bio personally responsible.
Bio then showed his unfitness to govern when the interviewer reminded him that serving in an undemocratic junta regime was not enough a qualification to become president.
What are your academic qualifications? He asked. I have a degree in peace studies, says Bio. But that is not enough. You have not work for 21 years, it was put to him.
If this was a job interview, Bio would have failed palpably, and no employer would have given him the job. Because, he became disoriented, mumbled and conflicting.
Struggling to fill his two decades of joblessness, Bio said he was out of politics for 10 years, then realising his folly, he quickly made it up to 20 years out of politics before he came back.
So what did he do in 20 years? Here again Bio struggled to explain. He said he spent 4 years studying and still studying for his PhD, with three chapters left to complete.
He said for the first time that he was a certified diamond valuer. He left it because it was not interesting. He then opened a Cacao export business which he closed after 3 years to focus on politics.
Two discrepancies are easily discernible. First, there are still several years gaps in his employment history. Being a student is not classified as employment. Second his claim that he had been an employer who created jobs is bogus. There is no record of how many people he employed, or taxes paid.
Some of his supporters had lied that he was a consultant and a doctor on social media in an attempt to fill his joblessness. When the interviewer put this to him, Bio unashamedly agreed that his supporters called him a doctor because he is a political doctor.
This was a serious interview where he was expected to lay out his policies; and why the people of Sierra Leone should elect him as president. But this was a comedy show and he failed spectacularly.
He promised free education for all primary and secondary schools, but when asked how he was going to fund it, he said ‘by stopping the leakages’.
This I believe he plagiarised from the ideas of Dr Kandeh Yumkella on leakages. But whereas Dr Yumkella has given us the exact amount of revenue being lost, Bio couldn’t tell us, nor does he know how much school fees parents are paying for their kids.
He mumbled about 75,000 Leones per child when the fees is about 200,000 Leones per pupil. Three months into the election Bio, said he hasn’t calculated how much his promised free education will cost.
On the country’s poor health system, Bio suggested it falls under human capital. The country , he said have 5 cardiologists. By implication, more of them is the panacea for the ills of the health care system.
The BBC interviewer tried to help him out by suggesting the development of primary health care system which is fundamental to generating good sustainable health care.
How would you change a sick country, the interviewer put to him. Again, Bio has no clue other than the rhetorical standard statement of providing efficient and disciplined leadership. There was no mention of what was needed for the transformation of Sierra Leone’s poor economy and development trajectory to compete with countries like Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia for example.
On employment, Bio laid bare his poor understanding of economics vis a vis job creation. He said he will create half a million jobs in just one year of his presidency. This is a dangerous lie, a scam. How would this fellow create 500, 000 jobs in one year?
In his shallow mind, he talked about foreign investment and vocational training. Vocational training by itself don’t create jobs. The country needs a massive encouragement of private and public sector investments and the empowerment of indigenous entrepreneurs as the vehicle for economic growth and wealth. Not once did Bio mention this tried and proven economic theory.
But as I had pointed out, job creation through foreign investment is a spurious economic foundation to rely on. We see that from the Chinese who brought in their own workers in to the country to do jobs which our local people can do.
No government, even in advanced economies can create half a million jobs in just one year. The truth is that it will take a year for the new government coming into office after the 2018 election to settle in, take stock and prioritise the multifaceted problems we face as a people in Sierra Leone.
To this extent, I can emphatically say that Bio didn’t know the dynamics of economics and governance matters. His promise to create half a million jobs is a despicable lie.
On corruption, he offered no solution on how to deal with this cancer in Sierra Leone. And given his record on corruption and theft of public funds, he cannot be trusted to deal with corruption; nor does he have the moral compass to criticise government about corruption.
On women’s equality, he failed to show any understanding of the empowerment of women, and appreciation of the major economic and social roles of women in our country. He failed to give us any specific policy provision to create an equality of opportunity and gender equality when asked. It appears that his understanding of gender equality is measured by 30% of women in parliament; and when he appointed a woman as his running mate in 2012.
As I write, Julius Bio is scheduled to address Chatham house in London today. He is expected to talk about his policies and governance matters.
But as I have always said, there is a mismatch between his personal capability, experience and knowledge from his policy statements which are unrealistic and unachievable. The BBC interview confirmed his incompetence.
Another sad day for the SLPP. A party that can still boast of good people and the finest brains, has fallen so low by allowing an educated illiterate and intellectual lightweight to humiliate their party in the world media.