9 May 2012
Julius Maada Bio – the presidential candidate for the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is indeed a man with a mission to become president of Sierra Leone at the polls in November.
He is enjoying a successful tour of UK cities, meeting supporters and well wishers. There is little doubt now, that, he is the president of Sierra Leone in waiting.
Bio is visiting the UK, along with key SLPP policy advisers – Alhaji kanja Sesay, who is the Chairman of the party’s Sierra Leone southern region, and Mr. Andrew keili – heading the party’s policy committee.
In London last Saturday, over a thousand loyal supporters and politically neutral Sierra Leoneans living in London, greeted Bio at a fund raising event.
And on Monday, he arrived in Reading, where he made a stunning speech to the applause of hundreds of Sierra Leoneans. It seems Bio is now unstoppable, as he mobilises supporters and well wishers in the UK, in support of his bid for office at the November 2012 elections.
Yusuf Keketoma Sandi reports:
In Reading, Bio launched two new SLPP Chapters – Reading and Bristol, incorporated into the United Kingdom and Ireland Branch of the party.
Also present at the reception hall to meet and greet Bio, was a throng of UK and international media reporters, as women, young men and children danced with him into the hall. Bio is in good company and he is enjoying every minute of it.
But the smiles and ecstacy that gripped the Reading crowd, did not last long, as Bio, Kanja Sesay and Andrew Keili narrated a sad and grim reminder of the painful existence that the people of Sierra Leone are having to endure under the leadership of president Koroma.
With a striking sense of purpose on their faces, the trio painted the grim economic and social reality facing millions of people back home, who appear stranded in the wilderness of APC government’s induced hardship.
First to address the audience was Kanja Sesay, a man who played a huge part in the social and infrastructural development of post-war Sierra Leone, through the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA).
Sesay had the crowd in stitches, when he reminded them of what president Koroma told the people of Sierra Leone in 2007.
“When APC came to power in 2007 they said it was for 40 years, in 2009 the APC reduced it to 20 years, in 2011 the APC further reduced it to 10 years and now in 2012 the APC is begging the SLPP for a second chance”.
One could not help, but laugh, and so did the audience. But the laughter was once again short-lived as he lamented; “the jittery APC is now treating SLPP members as dangerous species”.
“Everyday SLPP members face molestations, marginalisation, rampant intimidation and dreamt-up court charges,” – Sesay told the crowd.
However, Kanja Sesay was quick to point out that, such an APC policy has only continued to strengthen the SLPP, as people are now resolved more than ever to kick out the APC from power.
The next SLPP bigwig to make a statement was Andrew Keili. He is a man highly respected across the political spectrum. As a policy guru, he started by rubbishing APC’s economic record of slow economic growth, double-digit inflation and the highest youth unemployment since records began.
With passion, he told the audience that the country’s mining industry has been operating without transparency.
It is now clear that the reason for those poorly negotiated agreements with the mining companies, has little to do with the nation’s interests, but simply to ensure that the mining companies bank-roll APC’s election campaign.
Although Keili stopped short of naming names, he also took a swipe at few people who have defected to the APC.
He said that politicians should have strong values and principles. But, by the time he finished his statement, the crowd knew very well who he was talking about.
Then, it was the time for the man of the moment – ‘Mr. President in waiting’ – Julius Maada Bio. The crowd couldn’t wait to hear Bio speak. Speak, he did, and they were not disappointed.
When Bio spoke, his sense of growing impatience with the lacklustre APC government causing so much pain and suffering to the people of Sierra Leone was visceral.
He told the audience that, the days of SLPP being seen as nothing other than “Cry Babies” are over, and that in the November elections, he “will lead a Stronger SLPP that will do all it takes to defend the peace, democracy and freedom, which Sierra Leoneans so cherished.”
This got the audience unto their feet with loud applause. But the most compelling moment of his speech, was his appeal to every Sierra Leonean, that in these coming elections; “Voting the APC out of power will be our national service to save our Country”.
He painstakingly catalogued the reasons why every Sierra Leonean should perform this national service: the wanton hardship, the decline of the country’s fledgling democracy and civil liberty, as opposition members are humiliated daily; the glaring regional and tribalistic APC policies; the crippling economic crisis and the lack of life’s most precious needs: light, water and food.
The audience noted Bio’s call of duty, from a man who once led as a Brigadier, but now ready to lead his people through democracy into economic prosperity.
Indeed, it is a call to national service which every mother whose household budget has tripled since 2007 will heed; a call to national service which graduates who have no jobs, or worse still – those who have been denied jobs because of their tribal backgrounds and lack of political connection will heed; a call to national service which every civil servant who works without salary will heed; and a call to national service which jobless young people who go to bed hungry and the bleak prospect of no food the following morning will heed.
As the International media and British press watched on, Bio also sent a message of warning for Christiana Thorpe – the country’s Chief Electoral commissioner.
He said that, unlike in 2007, when she invalidated hundreds of thousands of SLPP votes illegally, this time – 2012; “I want to assure you that if Christina Thorpe does anything like 2007, I will protect your votes”.
Indeed, the warning which Christina Thorpe was never given in 2007, so she had the audacity to deprive the people of their right to make a political choice. But this time, “A word for a wise is quite sufficient”.
It must also be said that the biggest accolade for the successful launching ceremony of both SLPP Chapters – Reading and Bristol – should go to the Jimmy Bartilo Songa’s led executive and the entire membership, which comprises of dynamic individuals who continue to widen the membership of the SLPP across the UK.
However, as I left the hall after the launching ceremony, I could hardly stop thinking of this call to national service, which Maada Bio asked every Sierra Leonean to engage in, come 17 November 2012.
It was the very same call to national service, which the former opposition leader – now President-elect of France – Francois Hollande, asked the French people to show in the just concluded presidential election on Sunday.
And the result: the French people voted out President Nicolas Sarkozy, thereby making him only a one-term President, after a spell of economic hardship and joblessness.
Hence, on 17 November, Sierra Leoneans will put their country first and perform this national service, by voting president Koroma’s APC from office.
The people of Sierra Leone must never reward a president with a second term, whose only legacy is hardship.
What I would like to know is this: Why is Mrs Kadie Sesay not in Mr. Maada Bio’s entourage?
As his running mate, it would have made sense for her to accompany him to the U.K.
Mrs. Sesay is very charismatic, easily recognisable and seems to be liked by the general populace, so I am rather surprised that Maada Bio chose to travel instead with Messrs Sesay and Keili.