‘Ponder my thoughts’

Puawui – Dr Sama Banya: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 March 2019:

There has been much activity and quite a lot of discussions in the media about the recent decision of some prominent former members of the now ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) to return home. That is, to return to their party.

Prominent among them is Brima Keita – a former western regional chairman of the party. There is nothing wrong with people coming back to their roots, especially if they have acknowledged their fault and repented.

The first sign of repentance is an acknowledgement of our sin. Manjoroca the publisher of the Global Times newspaper which previously prominently featured my Puawui column, has published two strong commentaries on the situation, and in principle not only welcoming the decision because it is the right and sensible one, but he has encouraged more such action and as it were exhorted the faithful to receive their former brothers and sisters with open arms.

I do not want to cross words with my editor-in-chief who for some unexplained reason has carried only one edition of the revived Puawui column.

Manjoroca compares the current movement with that of those of us who contested for the leadership of the party along with former and late President Tejan-Kabbah in 1996. With utmost respect I must remind Manjoroca that the circumstances are very different.

Of the four of us who participated in that contest for flag bearer, only one left the party. The rest of us not only stayed on but played a prominent role in the election campaign.

In a similar manner, of the eighteen other contestants against Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio for the position of flag bearer in 2011, only one – Alhajie Usu Bois Kamara, went away in a huff and left the SLPP, which was reminiscent of Charles Margai in Makeni in 2005.

What about our men and women of today, Brima Keita and the rest who no doubt will be following his example sooner or in the next few months if not weeks? I will not speculate on what may have prompted the decision or the reason that the event must be accompanied by pomp and pageantry and disagreement.

The Mende are good story tellers. Time there was, in what is often referred to as the good old days when the harvest was plentiful and the rivers and streams full of fish. The traps nor communal hunts never failed to yield their dividends of deer or antelope. After the evening meal, especially if the moon was up, the men and women with the older children would gather round for storytelling. Sometimes itinerant professional storytellers would be at hand.

The same ethnic group also have a repertoire of interesting proverbs, many of which are quite amusing. One such is that a man and his mother-in-law may fall into temptation and have a sexual relationship which is taboo in the culture. Although they may be traditionally “cleansed” for their indiscretion, yet every time they meet their minds would avert to the incident.

In a similar way, our men and women left us of their own free will and at a time when we and our party needed them most. The smell of SLPP victory was in the air and all it needed was a united and determined membership like J J Siaffa, Abass Bundu, Alpha Wurie, Alpha Timbo, Fatmata Sawaneh, Prince Harding, late Alhajie Mohamed Kallon, Mansour Dumbuya, Kanja Sesey, and Veronica Sesey.

The list is inexhaustible, to say nothing of the young men and women who were often the victims of APC, military and OSD brutality, encouraged and even ordered by the likes of AIG Karrow Kamara, Palo Conteh, Pat Sow, Minkailu Bah, Lansana Fadika, Maya Kaikai, Ex Major Sengu Koroma and others.

Yes, our compatriots walked away on us and formed the nucleus of Kandeh Yomkella’s National Grand Coalition (NGC) party. Whenever I heard expressions like “coalition for change” and other inappropriate expressions of the new group, I would ask what was new about them; and that in any case, what change was the new group going to introduce into our political system when every one of them was a deserter from the SLPP?

It all began after the 2012 Presidential election in which Christiana Thorpe handed victory on a platter to the incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The executive Council decided that as the result was being challenged before the courts, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio who had won the flag bearer contest, would stay on as well as retain the office which had been allocated to him until the court decision.

That decision was later reversed by the party chairman and leader John Benjamin without resort to the executive. The confusion and acrimony arising from those actions continued right into the convention that elected Chief Sumanah Karpen as party chairman and leader.

That and the earlier nomination of Bernadette Lahai as minor Parliamentary Leader are in my opinion the worst things that has happened to the SLPP in a long time; but that is another story another time.

During the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, most people felt that the chance of our victory would be enhanced if Maada Bio shared the ticket with Kandeh Yomkella. Because I also shared that view and I was constantly under pressure wherever I went, including from “okada” riders to petrol station attendants, I was persuaded to engage the two men.

I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts and the aspirations of our supporters with my two young friends, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and Alhajie Kandeh Korleh Yumkella at my residence one morning. There were no advisers or supporters, just the three of us.

The discussion went on for quite a while but remained cordial throughout. Because the purpose of the meeting itself is now history, I will not go into detail except that finally I had to get in with my own advice directed mainly at Kandeh.

I reminded him that no third political party had yet succeeded in either dislodging or replacing either the SLPP or the APC – both of which now appeared to be entrenched in the country. I gave examples of Karefa-Smart’s UNPP, Charles Margais PMDC, John Karimu’s AFRC backed party and even Thaimu Bangura’s  PDP Sorbeh.

Yes, I went further to alert him that 99 percent of the people who were hovering around him were doing so not because they admired him or his leadership potential, but because they had not liked Bio all along. That they were rallying round him for their self-interest.

In addition to some of the names already mentioned, I added Ambassador Foday Dabo, Ali Bangura, Tejan-Kabbah’s widow Isata Kabbah, Haja Memunatu Koroma, Andrew Keilie, Haja Rugiatu Davies, Alusine Fofana and his wife Yasmin, Denis Bright, former Vice President Albert Joe Demby, Dr Momodu Yilla and others. I also emphasised that those people would NOT add any value to his ticket.

It is pertinent to mention Hon Brima Conteh and a few Members of Parliament who had much earlier been led astray by their nose against Maada Bio.

I am sure that the results of the Parliamentary and Presidential votes vindicated my allegations. We shall now wait and see how many of our friends will be left with him at the end of the second year. Yes, “Ponder my thoughts” with acknowledgement to Andrew Keilie

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