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.
In the last elections in 2012 Julius Maada Bio appointed a northerner – a woman and a Temne – Dr. Kadie Sesay as his presidential running mate.
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.
At age 22 in 1987 as a second lieutenant, his first military posting was at Lungi Garrison, Lungi, Port Loko District. He was later posted to Kambia District as part of the Economic Emergency Unit.
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.
Let us discuss the policies and initiatives to improve the lives of ordinary people who have been betrayed by Koroma’s promised agenda for Prosperity that benefits only the few.
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”.
Mr. Sandi, I am from Bo district and I frequent my chiefdom(Gallu-Babgwe) very often. I am yet to meet any person in all the villages I visited who do not comprehend Krio. So first please stop spreading blatant lies.
Secondly I want you and your boss to give concrete detail on how Maada has built support in opposition areas. Statistically SLPP has 38 percent in the nation in terms of elections and that figure represents the south and east. Since he lost in 2012 tell me exactly how Maada has even attempted to win support in Freetown and the North.
His campaign has been centered on how Kandeh Yumkella is not a member even when both the secretary-general and the national chairman have released statements that he is a member. I have pleaded with those in Maada’s camp to focus on forging alliances in the north and forget about attacking other camps but it seems like that is the only way he knows how to play politics.
SLPP is one country one people not just for one region.
Please explain to us why the party had a peace meeting where Maada not only refused to show up but he did not send any representative.
ON KISS FM in Bo, Maada started the interview in Creole but ended in Mende putting off most of the listeners that were not mende. WHY?
Kandeh Yumkella has a divine appointment by the Almighty Father creator of Heavens and Earth to lead the People of Sierra Leone out of extreme poverty. Nothing will stop that. I saw it all in dreams. His popularity will increase.
APC ruled under one party system from Siaka Stevens to Major General Joseph S.Momoh until the latter was overthrown by young military officers. The Vote under all those repressive years was YES or NO for APC Candidates. Voting was not democratized.
Kandeh Yumkella, just like Salia Jusu Sheriff, was right by not casting a single vote during those oppressive times. A true blood born SLPP just like his late Father who refused to allow APC to campaign in his chiefdom in Kambia and was hunted for that.
Julius Maada Bio does not have what it takes to win a single chiefdom in the north. In Freetown, his support has faded over the years, especially with the emerging KKY movement and Yumkella, a more experienced and trustworthy candidate vying for the flag-bearership.
Unlike Bio, Yumkella is poised to captured Kambia, Freetown and Pockets of other places in the Makeni and Port Loko districts. When you add those places to the South east, an SLPP victory is assured.
I encourage Mr Yumkella not to give up the fight. The Lord is with you in the fight to bring his people out of poverty. The battle is the Lord! As long as the earth is the lord and the fullness thereof, and a very strong prayer is going out for you all over the Globe, You fear no Evil for God is with you.
Take courage and be strong in the Lord and the Power of His Might. Peace with you.
Very well said Patsy. I think it is time we bury the hatchet if we all want SLPP to win in 2018. There are APC troubles causers who are stirring the hornet’s nest so as to destabilize SLPP.
APC knows that a united and strong SLPP with Yumkella involved, will win the 2018 elections by a large majority, so they are working very hard to destroy the party’s chances. Some of them have even infiltrated the KKY movement as moles and worse. They are the enemy within, not Bio and Yumkella.
The SLPP NEC must quickly get the flagbearer election going and bring it to a swift close, so that all rank and file members know exactly who the candidate is and throw their weight behind that individual. The longer the NEC leave this process, the worse it is for party unity.
The NEC must also get Bio, Yumkella and all the other aspirants around a table and knock their heads together to make peace and sign a new working concordat that is based on collaboration and mutual respect.
Bio’s return to the country and his modus operandi thereafter, is vital to achieving this peace process, and he must remember that the party is bigger than himself and all the other aspirants put together.
NEC must set a date now for the candidacy election and invite all the candidates to an urgent meeting.
Thank you Patsy.
Joe Kallon in Kenema
Where will all this character assassination get you and your candidate Kandeh Yumkella? Bio has never cast any aspersions on Yumkella, so it is quite puerile to try to use negative campaigning within the SLPP to elevate Yumkella’s chances of becoming the party’s flagbearer.
Such negative campaigning can only benefit APC and those in the KKY movement that want to see Yumkella cross-carpet to APC, using the excuse that he is not wanted in the SLPP party.
Let us get real here. If Bio want to use negative campaigning against Yumkella, he would have done so long time ago. After all don’t forget that Yumkella was working for Bio as his trade minister and knows his record of how he managed or mismanaged that ministry (if at all).
It is sad that the police have not been able to identify who is behind all the violent and disorderly behaviour at the SLPP office. The NEc must conduct their own inquiry and take appropriate action against those responsible, be it Bio or otherwise.
So please until then, let us keep this candidacy fight between Yumkella and Bio within due bounds. Lets us wait for each of the candidates to publish their manifesto, then we shall see who is capable of taking the party into 2018.
None of the allegations against Bio has been substantiated, so to continue to spin the same old scratched record is nothing but mischievous. Bio will be coming home in two weeks and will be meeting Yumkella at some point, like two old colleagues.
Let us give them a chance to find a common ground, irrespective of who wins the flagbearer election. Both candidates will have to work together at some point, assuming Yumkella decides not to defect to APC, which will be disastrous for his own credibility.
We want to hear their respective policies, not anecdotal stories about ‘who done it’ – miss Marple style. Thank you.
Patsy, Bo district
Mr Sandi’s attempt at re-branding Maada Bio is a spectacular failure and it is a clear sign of the desparation within the Bio camp in light of the momentum that is developing behind Kandeh Yumkella. Sierra Leone is gradually waking up to the fact that following Bio is like following a hearse.
Mr Sandi describes Bio as a Nationalist and maintains that he is not tribalist. I say that he is first an opportunist, who resorts to tribalist sentiments and a Mende hegemonic world view to further his selfish ambition.
To suggest that there is not an under-current of Temne and Mende hegemony in both APC and SLPP would be to deny the reality of politics in Sierra Leone.
The only reason why post the 2012 election, Maada Bio has maintained a suffocating grip over the SLPP is because of the Mende world view which asserts that all the ills of Sierra Leone is manifested in the victimisation of the Mendes and only a Mende strongman who is susceptible to violence can challenge the APC.
Mr Sandi claims that these allegations amount to tribal bigotry and that they are dishonest, but offers no meaningful example of Bio’s nationalist credentials. Please Mr Sandi give us an example of a nationalist agenda that Mr Bio has championed for all of Sierra Leone. Even when he was in the army and charged with the defence of the nation, he became a serial coupist in furtherance of his own agenda.
Please Mr Sandi tell us about the national institutions which Bio developed, strengthened or reorganised and explain to us how his involvement in ‘passportgate’, extrajudicial killings, dealings in P Banga Investment Limited and self appointment to Brigadier is consistent with the development of national institutions.
Again please explain to us why during the three years of the NPRC, Sierra Leone was on the wrong side of every deprivation and socioeconomic index and what he did to reverse this.
You die-hards in the SLPP need to wake up to the fact that your revisionist view of Bio will not withstand scrutiny and he is damaged goods. Whether he interviews in Mende or Krio is not an issue. The reality though is that he is unable to articulate the concerns of the majority and offer them Hope, Opportunity and Transformation.
Your grip on the SLPP will be loosened because Mende hegemony is not an antidote to APC corruption. They are both elements of the same flawed politics which has ruined our nation for the past 50 years.
That interview became infamous. It was lased with tribal appeal. And it was deliberate done so as to set up Mende delegates against candidates who are not Mende in the contest for the SLPP flagbearer.
By referring to himself as a warrior is a lie. A warrior that led SLPP to its worst defeat is not a warrior but a lamb. Even in the army, a general who led his battalion to defeat will be replaced.
When Julius Bio addressed a nation on a radio with 15 ethnic groups, it was inappropriate or rather discourteous to the other tribes when he veered from the common lingua franca to address a specific tribe in a language he claims to be from that tribe. Some may see this as insensitive and discourteous, raising the question from listeners who don’t speak or understand the mende dialect, oh what did he say in the mende language.
The trouble that engulfed Julius Bio’s campaign is that, which ever way his notoriously deceptive team tries to hide his blunders,they raise more doubts and questions about the claims they alluded to him. Instead of accepting that it was an error for Bio to single out a specific tribe and speak to them in his own language, they now referred to this offence of discourtesy to other tribes as the behaviour of a nationalist. How?.
It is clearly not nationalistic to shun other tribes on a national radio. Beside, Julius Bio has been exploiting the residual Southern resentment felt by many Mendes who had accused former president Kabba of doing nothing for them, but did more for the North, even though he was elected on the SLPP ticket.
Bio has positioned himself as the army man who removed the APC, a warrior who would fight fire with fire and protect the southern interest and hegemony.
As much as his politics is dangerously divisive, it regrettably resonates with significant Mendes – including even some educated ones who should educate our people about political inclusiveness in the centre ground, as the far sensible path to regaining the national trust and power in Sierra Leone.
In the 2011 flagbearer campaign, Bio’s campaign was blatantly divisive and tribal. Usu Boi who is a Mandingo, was depicted by Bio’s campaign team as a Kabba clone, reminding the south-easterners of how Kabba disappointed them. They shouldn’t elect another Mandingo, but their kind who would not sell them to the APC. His team will deny this, but I travelled across the country, and spoke to delegates and party supporters.
There is a significant constituent in the South-east, who, to my mind, don’t seem to fully understand that SLPP cannot win a national election based on Bio’s prescriptions and political postures.
This same constituents are not receptive to any rational reasoning, vis-a-vis other electoral calculus, such as credibility, trust, experience and the aspirant’s ability to appeal to voters in regions such as the west and north, where elections are won.
This same constituents don’t accept that Bio’s alleged background of corruption and public theft, an accusation made against him by SLPP in 1996, weakens the SLPP ‘s campaign on corruption against the APC incumbent at the next election.
It is difficult for me to understand how SLPP should have elected someone as their presidential flagbearer in 2012, with such an excess indefensible NPRC baggage, above the several credible and accomplished candidates, without those electoral impediments.
This is my personal appeal to my party – the SLPP:
I want us to form the next government. The country is ready for a change of government. But voters can only trust us and have confidence in us, if we give them a credible alternative leadership, by rejecting a damaged and divisive candidate.
Sierra Leone is not looking for a warrior, the country is in need of leadership, a leader who can transform our country for all to be proud of and have a stake in shaping our country’s destiny.