Reproduced by Popular Demand, this article was first published on January 22, 2008.
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) is one of the most formidable institutions Sierra Leone can lay claim to. It survived many torrents and storms only to bounce back from the wilderness like the proverbial Phoenix bird. For generations to come, the SLPP will be around and make no mistake about it, a future generation of SLPP will definitely come back into governance in Sierra Leone to build upon the legacy of their fore bearers. The SLPP is too powerful an entity to be dismissed. It figuratively flows in the blood of many people to the extent that they will pass it on in their genes to their generations yet unborn.
|Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
When a previously campaign-dormant SLPP son in the person of Dr. Albert Joe Demby decided to vociferously trump his support for SLPP Leader Berewa during the desperate Run-offs, Demby explained he was doing it for his children and descendants.
The SLPP is stark broke almost to the point of being moribund but yet still SLPP sons like Lawyer Bu-Buakei Jabbi are offering their services for free to ensure they set the records straight about what happened during the last Run-off Elections. If you ask Bu-Buakei Jabbi why he is so generous with his time, his money and logistical support to ensure the SLPP’s case against Christiana Thorpe come to fruition, he gives a very simple answer. He is doing it for his children.
The SLPP is a great party. Its membership know that for decades to come, the party will still be around either in the reigns of governance or in opposition aspiring to once again take over the reigns of governance. Come what may, the SLPP is here and here to stay and the SLPP will one day rule this country again.
However, currently the SLPP is in a state of confusion. The brilliant Sama Banya will not like to accept this as he believes they are in a state of rejuvenation all set to bounce back.
But here lies the point of this piece. BOUNCE BACK TO WHAT? When someone or an entity bounces back, it means seeking a state of former glory which was previously attained and which is now wished to return to. What will the SLPP be bouncing back to? Obviously, they desire to bounce back to the scenario of when they were in governance.
Well, let us look at that wish of theirs.
Like any solid political entity, the SLPP wishes to be in governance so it can use its pronounced policies as a basis for programmes to be implemented for the good of the citizens of the Nation. However, the SLPP will first have to sell its policies, planned programmes and mission to the voting public. Upon successfully marketing itself to the voters, the SLPP will finally get back to power one fine day.
It is left to how SLPP plays to the voting gallery, its successful term under an earlier leadership that they stand any chance of ever getting back into State House. You see, voters will not just blindly vote for the SLPP to return back to power.
They will want to see and hear a proven track record of the SLPP which would be seeking to be voted back into office. Every five years, a new set of voters reach the constitutional age which empowers them cast votes. And going by our demographics, those new voters make up a large chunk of the voting populace. Sierra Leone has a young population as the life expectancy is so low that not many people will live long enough to vote more than a few times in their lifetimes. The young will always be the significant determinants of Sierra Leonean elections and these young voters would only have to rely upon the historical recordings recounted to them about days gone by.
So, as the SLPP stands poised to "bounce back", what is the legacy they are going to try to have recounted to the young voting public to ensure they make informed decisions about who they cast their ballots for?
If the SLPP does not come out of their confused state and acknowledge the immense effort of their former Leader and President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, they are losing their biggest asset: THE AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH LEGACY.
If they do not acknowledge the Kabbah Legacy, they will never have a modern legacy to recount to the young. And it does appear, the current batch of SLPP ‘frontrunners’ do not seem to be proud of the immense contribution of Tejan Kabbah towards the enjoyment of whatever freedom and democracy this country is enjoying today. Imagine, the old recycled faces we saw at this month’s Bo mini-convention opening their mouths to boo when Tejan Kabbah’s name was mentioned in the Hall?
What a show of immaturity! They publicly cut off their noses to spite their faces. Can they not see that by publicly deriding the gentleman for what they perceive to be his last minute election failures, they are publicly destroying the only chance the SLPP has of ever coming back with a sellable legacy to the people of this great Nation?
Many Sierra Leoneans had to laugh as failed politicians who were not streetwise; who were so politically naïve that they promoted lousy campaign strategies now dare to boo at the mention of the name of probably the greatest leader their party has ever had?
Let us now look at the Tejan Kabbah Legacy left for the SLPP to use to market itself.
In recent times, this newspaper has published a few scathing articles against ruling party APC kingpins like the recent one on the errant Defence Minister and many of our readers raised concern over our safety. Our response has simply been that we are enjoying the freedom that Tejan Kabbah left for us in Sierra Leone. This newspaper it was that once wrote and advised Tejan Kabbah to "shut up and sit down" if he could not protect the people of Yenga. Kabbah did not flinch but allowed us to tell him off! The freedom which allowed Emmerson, Daddy SAJ, Pupa baja and others to sing their hearts out against the SLPP without let or hindrance. Make no mistake, there are many ways Kabbah could have curtailed the freedoms that he allowed in his second term in office. These freedoms are legacies of the SLPP that we should all guard earnestly. The SLPP brought true freedom and democracy to this land. But who was the architect through which the SLPP can today lay claim to such an enviable legacy? AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH.
Can the SLPP even take the praise for the freedom we are enjoying today without mention of the foresighted leadership of Kabbah that enshrined such freedom into our national psyche? Of course not!
Kabbah made his mistakes; one of which was not being more aggressive enough in defending his Government against over-bloated charges of corruption which led to some sectors of the International Community wrongly labeling the country as being an uncontrolled den of corruption. However, despite this, the reality is that Kabbah was able to successfully get the attention of the United Nations, United Kingdom and other donor countries to be focused strongly upon the land and to pump in support to consolidate the peace. Many countries all over Africa and the world suffered from wars that devastated them but due to the foresight of the SLPP leadership, Sierra Leone emerged as the first beneficiary of the Peace Building Commission Funds. This was not an isolated incident. It took great leadership on the part of the SLPP to have the United Nations take that decision to support our peace building efforts over that of war torn countries. The Sierra Leone Government under the SLPP received support and accolades continuously despite the SLPP’s lack of understanding how to translate such accolades into local appreciation of their efforts. Rather, the SLPP not being as streetwise as their political opponents, allowed unsubstantiated rumours of massive corruption and mismanagement to stand. Time, will eventually tell if the support was mismanaged.
However, the evidence of the massive reconstruction and rebuilding of a country which had been entirely laid to waste, lies in every single chiefdom of Sierra Leone and this is one benchmark the SLPP is going to be proud to recount to future voters. At the drop of a hat, people will speak of donor funding but many local budgetary development initiatives were undertaken all over the land by the SLPP. The Vice President’s Office, the Police CID Headquarters and the Treasury Building at George Street are all living, beautiful monuments of SLPP reconstruction. But who was the architect who ensured socio-economic structures got built in every nook and cranny of Sierra Leone? Who was the architect who made the SLPP build health clinics, schools, markets and court barrays in all chiefdoms in the land? AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH
President Ernest Koroma inherited Sierra Leone in September 2007 on the threshold of taking off due to the diligent handling of the post-war economy by the SLPP which inherited a struggling economy in 1996 that was followed by a military coup in 1997 which started a string of events that eventually brought the economy to shambles, the country bankrupt and basic infrastructure completely destroyed. The SLPP inherited a public debt of $ US1.6 billion but with stringent financial practice, the SLPP caused Sierra Leone to enjoy total debt relief and left over 500 billion Leones at the Central Bank. This is a wonderful feat that the SLPP can showcase to future voters but who was the architect of this? AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH
The period between 1996 and Kabbah’s start of second term in 2002 was fraught with security mistakes and the ill-advised reaction of Kabbah’s SLPP to the Johnny Paul Koroma coup of 1997 (military intervention against genuine dialogue) simply worsened National Security. One of the saddest mistakes of the SLPP regime during the war years, was the execution by firing squad of Kula Samba and her colleagues. However, following years of experiencing such mistake-catalyzed security wracking, by 2002 when the war came to an end, the Kabbah led SLPP ensured the security of the state was maintained so much so that Sierra Leone did not even appear to be a post-war country as armed crime was minimized.
Additionally, truth be told, under the SLPP, Sierra Leone was more of a whole entity and less regionalized than ever before. The SLPP refused to only recognize their strongholds but spread the national largesse all over the entire country. The SLPP had a true One Country; One People policy. This policy of inclusion solidified National Security. During the war years (until 2002) lots of security mishaps occurred but after 2002, under the SLPP, it was unheard of for any tribal group to try to intimidate another tribe. It was almost unheard of for any one tribe to attack another tribe and slaughter their cows or burn their settlements. The SLPP ensured NATIONAL COHESION was now an accepted way of life so much so that our cohesion was almost taken for granted. This National Security and National Cohesion is something the SLPP can show case to future voters but who was the architect of this? AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH.
A vibrant Local Government Authority is an important policy of the SLPP and under Tejan Kabbah, wonderful efforts ensured the recreation of Local Governance nationwide as well as massive decentralization was been restored. The SLPP’s Legacy in this direction; bringing back the Local Governance after decades, will be another they can show to the eager voters in future elections. But who will they say was the architect who made the SLPP to now have the chance of this glory? AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH
As soon as the war ended, the SLPP under Tejan Kabbah assiduously embarked upon the task of repairing and restoring the road network so that numerous roads were constructed including roads in South, East, North and Western Area. The Highways such as the Masiaka-Makeni Highway and the ongoing Masiaka-Bo Highway are of international standards. SLPP, under Tejan Kabbah can also boast to future voters that they procured funding for the construction of well over one thousand kilometers of feeder roads throughout the provinces as an integral part of SLPP’s food security programme whilst feasibility studies for many other roads such as the Freetown-Lungi link road were completed. The Kenema-Koindu Road funding was secured by the SLPP.
SIERRA LEONE POLICE
The security forces, especially the Police, under the Kabbah-led SLPP enjoyed unprecedented independence in going about their work and through the efforts of Kabbah, many officers started to go once again to study in British and other highly respected policing institutions. The SLPP can point out this independence they granted to the police to go about doing their work when asking for the voters to vote them back in.
Much has been said against the SLPP’s education policy but the truth is that under the SLPP, educational opportunities have multiplied all over the land. Not only did the SLPP ensure parents no longer had to pay for their children’s Basic Education but Female Children were not only provided with automatic scholarships but free books, uniforms and other essentials to ensure they get educated. And the SLPP Legacy includes an additional University in the land. Today, for Sierra Leoneans to boast of holding Double Masters from local Universities is no longer strange. The University of Sierra Leone’s IPAM, a formerly nondescript entity is now churning out MBA students of high caliber. The 6-3-3-4 System ensures that Technical and Vocational careers are more actively pursued with formalized education at Tech-Voc Institutions that have popped up all over the Nation. The SLPP has a lot to be proud of as far as the educational arena is concerned but under whose leadership did all of these policies come about? AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH
Mentioning Government Corruption was once a taboo until SLPP made it a topical issue of national concern and Tejan Kabbah actually implemented measures all aimed at reducing corruption and procurement leakages. These included enacting legislation which removed procurement from Ministries to a Commission comprising people of high integrity and knowledge on procurement matters; Setting up a National Policy Advisory Committee (NPAC) of highly qualified and reliable citizens to advise Cabinet on all Sector Policies and Cabinet papers, and make recommendations for Government action; Creating the Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS) system designed to ensure goods and services reach their intended beneficiaries and are not siphoned away along the road; Ensuring a transparent and participatory Bugetary process with civil input. Such measures were all pointers towards the determination of the SLPP to eradicate corrupt practices from the land. It is an indisputable fact that regional leaders like Ghana are only now trying to set up anti-corruption structures that SLPP Government had set up years ago but under whose leadership did these SLPP initiatives come about? AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH.
The Kabbah Legacy is vast and will surely take the better part of a month to outline in newspaper pages but the above few short pointers are for the SLPP to wake up from their dreamland and state of confusion and reach out to grab the Tejan Kabbah Legacy with their two hands.
It is this Legacy they are going to be able to use to market their Party to voters. They should extol Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and not deride him for his few mistakes against the interest of the party’s successes at the last elections.
The Truth and Reconciliation Committee that the Party proposes to be set up, should ensure true introspection is done to find out how the SLPP allowed itself to be floored. The blame lies not alone on Tejan Kabbah as the entire SLPP was simply not streetwise enough. Kabbah made mistakes and those who speak with him say he is now ready to acknowledge such mistakes but for few recycled, failed politicians to boo at the mention of Kabbah’s name is not fair. Each and every SLPP member who kept mute (mumu!) and did not propagate their Party’s successes are to blame for the party being floored last elections. If you don’t market your party positively, how do you expect voters to buy it? If you did not propagate your successes, how did you want them to be known? So, the question now is this: Is the SLPP going to propagate the successes of the Kabbah led SLPP Administration or is SLPP going to continue to cut off its nose to spite its face? The ball is in the SLPP’s Court. SLPP’s GREATEST ASSET IS THE KABBAH LEGACY. Be proud of it. Shout of it over the rooftops. Hail it whenever you get the chance. Ceaselessly chant it out until it gets drummed into our national psyche. The Ball is in your court!
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.