Sierra Leone and to a large extend friends of Sierra Leone worldwide awaits Brigadier (Rtd) Maada Bio’s speech on Saturday 3rd September. What a relief, finally the unofficial presidential campaign will kick-off after that speech. But what is he going to say? I was asked, the other day by one Pa Foday, who works for one of the Government Ministries at New England Ville. I first met Pa Foday in July when I went to New England Ville to conduct some business with my partner from London.
On my second visit to New England Ville a few days ago, I met Pa Foday at the same corner I first met him back in July, with some of his colleagues discussing as usual, politics; Libya was top on their minds, but then as I passed trying to avoid the conversation, Pa Foday, shouted out to me, first extending greetings then without allowing me to answer back, a question from one of the other men with Pa Foday came flying. “So what do you make of Maada?” he shouted, turning towards me, but before I could answer another man joined the conversation, “Bo you know say Ernest go beat Maada,” came the answer.
I had no time to join the conversation, I had a deadline to meet, so as I extended my hand to say hello and good-bye at the same time, another voice came from my right , “sharp 12” the voice without a face replied. Libya was suddenly history, the topic changed to APC and SLPP, with the PMDC, fighting its way into the conversation, complaining of bullying and that we should not forget that they too are a force in this matter.
As I tried to explain to Pa Foday and his colleagues that it is too early to tell, I slowly turned my back and walked towards the office I was visiting that wet August afternoon.
Comfortably in a chair inside the office, a crucial picture of the political landscape emerged. The men sitting with Pa Foday outside are split straight down the line.
Pa Foday and two of the men are undecided voters who care – less, and not very impressed with Fohism and the APC attacks on the SLPP presidential candidate neither are they moved by the other talks about Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio’s character.
They are more concerned about the “bread and butter issues” and whether their standard of living and that of their families will improve in the next five years? And from several opinion polls in recent days-Pa Foday’s group is growing and looking for someone to talk sense to them.
On the other hand, four of the other men, are supporting Ernest Koroma and passionately believe that he is doing what is right for the country. But you remember the voice without a face from my right. Well, he and few others inside the building are strong SLPP supporters and looking forward to “sharp 12”, 2012. Returning back to the office that day, one question kept coming back to me; what should Maada Bio say on the 3rd? And who should both parties be targeting in the next 9 months?
First, let’s talk about the speech: Since his election victory 1st August, Maada Bio has been in a slump, with a few pedestrian interviews, a behind the scene peace-making, chris-musing his way around Freetown either trying to talk to God or letting Victor Foh and the APC know that he too knows the way to heaven, and ofcourse there has been the meetings with several Ambassadors and High Commissioners – all of which we call pressing the fresh.
From the conversations I have had with those who know him, this is just what he relishes: pressure to perform. And perform he must, if he wants Sierra Leone to take him seriously. He must be brave enough to say SORRY for his youthful days (NPRC period), and to say we were young men, thrown at the highest level of power. It is not an excuse; it was just a fact of life; and on the timing of the coup, and the rights and wrongs of that period.
Well, we all know what has happened in other countries during that period when they too had military coups; Ghana is a case in mind; that was the acceptable way of changing governments, bad and corrupt regimes in many parts of Africa, South America and Asia. But don’t spend too much time on that period. Move on; you have to appeal to Sierra Leoneans about the enormous costs that have been exacted upon us and the challenges for the times ahead….
Let the people of Sierra Leone and Friends of Sierra Leone know that you have grown up; that you are now a matured and well-balanced man ready to govern as a civilian and as a “Social democrat.” This is a unique time that could define your campaign. It is neither the time for a laundry list of policy prescriptions nor too partisan moment.
It is an opportunity to galvanize Sierra Leone and Friends of Sierra Leone, who are worried about you (yes some folks are worried), on themes and issues of the day.
ECONOMIC HARDSHIP; BUT NOT IN DETAIL WAIT, THAT TIME WILL COME AGAIN.
Unlike the APC, show respect to President Koroma but don’t be afraid to question his policies. But again, don’t talk too much about policies, Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”. What is required of you on Saturday is to convey confidence and a sense of the sacrifices and possibilities that lie ahead if you are elected to the highest office of the land.
In the coming months during the campaign, you will have to keep in mind that many, if not most people still love President Koroma, But these same people will also tell you that they are not very happy with the APC government. Indeed, the President himself has told several close -confidantes in recent months that “many people he once trusted and hoped would do great things have disappointed him over the last four years.”
And this is the fault of the President.
He is a good and generous man with a vision for Sierra Leone, but rather unfortunately, he has surrounded himself with visionless people who see the corridors of power as their only means of getting rich; this in turn has exposed the president and tomorrow, history will judge him to be an unremarkable leader because he was not bold enough to take or make the right decisions or challenge decisions that were made in the name of his government. But mind you, this could change if he is brave enough to look the other way.
Victor Foh and others have claimed that you have issues-and that it is unacceptable that the SLPP have chosen you as their presidential candidate. They have the right to say so; it is politics. But remember, President Koroma too have personal issues – and there’s a tinge of arrogance or more accurately (especially from Alpha Kanu), self-righteousness about the way and manner the APC expect people to talk about President Koroma.
There is nothing special about President Koroma. He just happens to be our President and rightly so we MUST respect the office and its occupant.
I heard Alpha Kanu yesterday morning on the radio talking, you see, I have always thought of him as a good spin-master for the APC party but listening to him yesterday talking about the Mines industry and his attempt to convince Sierra Leone that the agreement with African Minerals is a better deal than the one in Liberia, I can confirm my worst fears, that Alpha Kanu is a disaster to him.
Tell us who is Julius Maada Bio and why you think you could do a better job than President Ernest Bai Koroma and his present APC government. Character is destiny. There have been many political leaders both in Africa, Europe and even in America with lots of good character who failed; but as a student of political history, I cannot recall any leader without character who succeeded.