Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 April 2017
When the vice president of Sierra Leone who is also one of the most influential politicians in the country went to his local electoral ward over a week ago to register his intention to vote at next year’s elections, the Sierra Leone Telegraph asked: “Vice President Foh registers to vote – but will he stand for the presidency?”
Victor Bockarie Foh is a shrewd, astute and highly experienced politician, if not the most experienced in the ruling APC party and the Koroma government. He does not wear his heart on his sleeve; neither does he give anything away about his political ambition.
John Baimba Sesay – the information attaché at the Sierra Leone Embassy in China spoke to the vice president a few days about politics in Sierra Leone today, his efforts in nation building, and the current voter registration process.
John also asked him about whether he will be throwing his hat in the ring in a bid to become the president of Sierra Leone. This is their conversation:
Vice president Victor Bockarie Foh was from 2013, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to China until he was announced and sworn-in as the country’s new Vice President on 19th March, 2015, by His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma.
A household name in the country, he is cherished for his steadfastness in highlighting the ideals of his Party – the APC.
Vice President Foh is a respected political loyalist that has, for decades, built a rich pedigree in the senior hierarchy of the governing All People’s Congress, a party he joined in the 70s and has never for once left it for any other.
The President’s decision in 2015 to appoint him Vice President was seen by many as the right choice, given Ambassador Foh’s character of loyalty, steadfastness, hard-work, gratitude and subservience.
Undoubtedly, these are his greatest assets. He is a distinguished public servant, with the desire to deliver services at all levels.
He is a strategist, politically. As Secretary-General, he won two elections for the APC Party; the first, removing a governing Party-SLPP from power in 2007 and second, re-electing, with a landslide, the APC in 2012. He has had a rewarding stint in the field of diplomacy, having served as Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, taking the ties of friendship and bilateral cooperation between Sierra Leone and China to a highly productive level.
He was, during his diplomatic tenure, also accredited to a number of countries in the South-East Asian Pacific, including, but not limited to Japan, Vietnam, Australia, and India.
Vice President Foh’s ambassadorial era in China witnessed huge turnout of major development support from the Asian nation; especially during the Ebola outbreak which saw an unprecedented Chinese support. Through his diplomatic intervention, China was the first country to fly in with medical support to the small West African nation of Sierra Leone.
With the National Electoral Commission (NEC) currently conducting voter registration exercise for the next general elections, the Vice President is presently traversing the country on what he referred to as “mobilization drive”, encouraging citizens to register and be part of the democratic process.
Whilst in Koindu, Kailahun District on April 2nd, 2017, he spoke via phone, on a range of issues. His agenda, he still maintains, “is the President’s agenda.”
I first asked him to talk about his ongoing mobilization drive through the voter registration process, which he referred to as one of several ways citizens could participate in the country’s democratic process.
VP Foh: We want everybody of voting age (age 18) as at March 7th, 2018, to participate in the democratic process. It is only by full participation in the democratic process that a citizen could be said to be a good citizen. Every citizen must have the right to vote for a government of his or her choice.
So the message is; every Sierra Leonean must come out to participate in the democratic process. We, as a government, under the leadership of the President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma believe in democracy and we want to ensure that every Sierra Leonean of voting age participates in the process.
But that is just one arm of it. We have committed ourselves as a government (the APC) to building roads from Freetown to every corner of this country. Kailahun is one District that has been behind in terms of major roads.
The President recently launched the Pendembu-Kailahun road project. So, I am also here in the district, to see the extent of mobilization work for the project proper to commence. The President is committed to building this road network unto our borders with Guinea and Liberia.
John Baimba: Will you be undertaking this voter registration mobilization drive nationally?
VP Foh: Yes. On the weekend of April 8th, I am going through Port Loko (Lunsar), Bombali (Makeni), Magburaka and Yele, to assess the road networks. I will also be going to Kenema to launch the Rural Solar Electrification Project. On Tuesday, 11th April, I will be launching the same project in Segbwema. I also will be encouraging people to register.
We are taking Sierra Leone as one Unit. We are building bridges, to connect the North, West, South and East. The process is a bridge-building Process; holding Sierra Leone together as one unit, devoid of tribe, region, or any other biases that could destabilize our unity as a State. We are taking development, pioneered by His Excellency the President, to every part of the country all in the spirit of nation building.
I believe that is what every politician and every good citizen must work towards; building bridges and holding Sierra Leone together. This was what President Siaka Stevens did; this is going to be part of the legacy of President Ernest Bai Koroma. He is holding Sierra Leone together.
It is not just a slogan to call Sierra Leone ‘One Country’; it must be seen to be done. We must ensure that no region, no tribe and nobody is left behind. In my very first twelve months in office as Vice President, I visited every district. This is all in pursuit of holding the country together. So it is a continuation of what I have been doing along government policy, not just party politics.
John Baimba: Though APC, you are also cutting across nationally. How is that happening?
VP Foh: Sierra Leone is a name, yes, but we should treat everybody equal in nation building. I look at things from a national front and not from a regional or tribal platform. I am married to a northerner who hails from Port Loko and who is a Temne-Mandingo. I am a Mende from the south-east. Above all of these ethnic extractions, I am a Sierra Leonean. Outside of this country, I am referred to as a Sierra Leonean.
My primary loyalty is to Sierra Leone. I belong to Sierra Leone. This is what every Sierra Leonean should inculcate and transmit to generations coming after us. No one tribe can be efficient in managing the affairs of a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. We need cohesiveness. Together we can build a strong and productive Sierra Leone.
John Baimba: You were an administrator for a long spell, having worked in the civil service before entering politics. How has that helped in your political life?
VP Foh: I brought into politics a wealth of experience. I was fortunate to serve in eight (8) of the twelve provincial (12) political districts out of Freetown. I served in Bonthe, Kabala, Bo, Kambia, Pujehun, Kailahun, Kenema and Kono. That makes me the Sierra Leonean politician who knows people, who knows everywhere and who knows the country.
I have no enemy; I look at everybody in politics, particularly those in the opposition as Sierra Leoneans with different views. I may disagree with them. They may disagree with my views or with the views of our party. That does not make them less Sierra Leonean than me.
We need each other in nation-building. I only ask that we remain civil in our disagreements and that we learn good lessons from each other for the good of our country.
John Baimba: We see the political atmosphere gearing up towards the next general elections. You have always maintained that your agenda is that of serving the President and country. Is it still the same today?
VP Foh: I am still part of the President’s agenda. The President is a democratic President and our Party enjoys democracy. We are a disciplined Party. Now, I am serving the President and I wish to serve him very sincerely, faithfully and truthfully to the spirit of the Party Constitution and our National Constitution.
John Baimba: Are your eyes are on the presidency?
VP Foh: I enjoy serving my President. When the time is ripe for us as a party to take decisions, we will do so under the leadership and guidance of our Leader and Chairman, and we will do so in a very admirable way. I am sure, like every Sierra Leonean, you will be part of that process, even if as a distant observer.
John Baimba: Thank you for your time Mr Vice President.
VP Foh: Welcome, John Baimba.