Yusuf Keketoma Sandi
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 August 2015
You have to be as powerful as Julius Maada Bio to always make the news headline, or have anything you say – every word and sentence, constantly scrutinised.
We accept that with his high level of popularity and being a politician vying for the highest office in Sierra Leone, there will always be public scrutiny.
However, public scrutiny is different from smear campaign, raining insults and spreading lies and senseless imaginative stories about a young man.
The latest interview Julius Maada Bio gave to Kiss 104 FM last week, is one of his most powerful. He was passionate, confident, reassuring, composed, witty, methodological, factual and showed why he is an excellent political communicator.
But as always, our friends in the APC just could not accept that Maada Bio is a political class act. And funnily, the crying babies have added another crying contingent – few notorious supporters of the opposition.
Desperately for these few notorious supporters of the opposition, they seem to be hotly contesting with our APC friends to be spreading scare stories, cheap propaganda, lies, defamatory stories and cooked-up events on social media about Julius Maada Bio.
But like APC, despite their desperation, they are really bad at the job.
So the latest “tribal bigotry” charge is as nonsensical as it is a cheap shot to seek attention by few desperate people. But of all the charges, referring to Julius Maada Bio as a “tribalist” is as dishonest as is laughable.
Here is a young man whom all of his private security men are northerners and non-mendes. Bio entrusted his life, wellbeing and protection in the hands of dedicated men, who they do not belong to the same tribe as he is, nor come from the same region.
Most of Bio’s senior advisers are non-mendes. At the last SLPP convention in Bo, Julius Maada Bio went on air to endorse the candidacy of a northerner and a Temne – Chief Sumano Kapen, as Chairman of the SLPP.
Therefore to accuse him of being a “tribalist” is quite simply a sign of political desperation aimed at smearing a man who has won the hearts and minds of people across the country.
But let us put the charge into context.
Here is a politician who was speaking to a specific audience in Bo district. Majority of the people living in some villages in Bo do not speak or understand krio.
And look at the shocking facts of the radio interview. The interview lasted for 24 minutes and 45 seconds (24:45). During the interview he started speaking mende at 4 minutes 51 seconds (4:51) and finished at 5 minutes 28 seconds (5:28).
For an interview which lasted for 24 minutes 45 seconds (24:45) Julius Maada Bio only spoke mende for 37 seconds and the rest of the interview 24 minutes 8 seconds was in krio.
There are many people in the villages in Bo who do not speak or understand krio, who would have to rely on others to explain the majority of the interview to them. And, if that has been raised as an issue they would have called those people “tribalists”.
Ironically, this was a radio interview which Bio had to insist to be done in krio for the benefit of a wider audience, even at the disadvantage of some of the targeted listeners who do not speak or understand krio.
And that shows why he will always be a national leader, putting country above other interests.
In 1988 Julius Maada Bio was re-posted to Lungi. Even at his tender age he spent a fair share serving and protecting the lives of northerners and non-mende speaking people.
Like many Sierra Leoneans, I detest the politics of tribe and region. It is crude and outdated politics. To use it as a smear campaign tool is low minded. We must all be proud of being Sierra Leoneans, but also recognise that we belong to tribes to share specific features with sections of society.
We must celebrate our diverse cultures, languages and traditions, but we live in a society where a Temne man can marry a Mende woman and a Mende man can marry a Krio woman.
Therefore it is distasteful to smear any politician, whether APC, SLPP or PMDC on tribal lines.
It is also worthy to note that very recently, Madingo singers have released a Madingo song, showering praises on Julius Maada Bio.
As we get closer to the elections, there may also be other songs in different languages extolling his virtues as a great politician and a national statesman.
I guess that does not make him a “tribalist”, but shows that he is a politician who commands huge respect and popularity amongst all the tribes and regions, because what every Sierra Leonean has in common is the genuine belief that through the leadership of Julius Maada Bio “Salone for beteh…Paopa”.