Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 March 2023:
Last Friday, President Julius Maada Bio received an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Njala University in Sierra Leone, for what the heads of the university described as “his outstanding demonstration through his public service and leadership, and for also infusing the country with a renewed and revitalized sense of purpose.”
With just three months before presidential elections are held, campaigning has started in full-swing.
Although critics of the president and political observers say that universities in the country should stay out of politics in order not to compromise the principles of impartiality and public trust in their work, the citation for the conferment of the Degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt), Honoris Causa, reads: “Under powers conferred by the Universities’ Act and Njala University ordinances, Njala University has determined that His Excellency, Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, be awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters, Litterarum Doctor, (Honoris Causa) of this university.
“The University notes Your Excellency’s outstanding record of public service as a brave soldier; a daring patriot who initiated peace and a pluralist democracy after a generation of repressive autocratic rule; as a visionary and transformational leader over the last five years; and, as a key driver of irreversible, inclusive, and sustainable progress in Sierra Leone.
“Your leadership at the continental level is evident in your very successful tenure thus far of the chairmanship of the Africa Peer Review Forum and the Committee of Ten for the Reform of the United Nations. Sierra Leone’s unanimous endorsement for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in the non-permanent category after over half a century and your co-chairing of global United Nation’s steering groups and summits on SDG and education.
“But it is your visionary reforms in the educational sector that will have far-reaching impacts for sustainable and inclusive development. You have said the future of education will define the future and fortunes of this country and that education is good for personal development, good for community development, and good for inclusive and sustainable national development”.
Chancellor of Njala University, Professor Sahr Moses Gevao, believed to be a strong supporter of the ruling SLPP said the ceremony leading to the conferment of the honour on the President is in accordance with Section 4(b) and Section 2(1), Subsection 3 of the University’s Act 2021.
“On behalf of the University Court and Senate, I, therefore, declared this congregation for the purpose of awarding the degree of Doctor of Letters to His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone,” he read.
The University’s Public Orator, Dr. Samuel Senesie who is also believed to be a patron of the ruling SLPP party, said, “President Julius Maada Bio has outstandingly demonstrated through his public service and leadership of this moment that our best days as a nation are yet to come. For this and many more things that you have done to infuse our great nation with a renewed and revitalised sense of purpose, and for restoring our faith that through education, inclusive and sustainable national development can be achieved, Njala University takes great pride, therefore, in awarding you the Degree of Letters”.
In his acceptance speech, President Julius Maada Bio thanked the university for the honour, saying, “I felt really privileged to be accorded this very unique honuor by a university that has contributed tremendously to the development of our beloved nation, Sierra Leone.
“This great nation has been very kind to me. It has given me opportunities to lead. It has inspired me to think critically about the many challenges it perpetually throws at all of us. With the right mindset, the right leadership, and right policies, I have been thrilled by the transformation of the education sector over the last five years”.
Defending the role he played in returning Sierra Leone to democracy after a long civil war, President Bio said: “Those who facetiously argue that I had nothing to do with birthing democracy in Sierra Leone should ask themselves whether, after five election cycles, Sierra Leone has never looked back.
“The citation references the many things that we have achieved collectively as a nation in the field of education. Let me dare say that what I am doing for education is simply the actualisation of the dreams of a bare-footed five-year-old orphan in Tihun – a boy, encouraged by his illiterate mother, Yei Amie, to explore and participate in the life-changing, nation-changing experience of education.”