Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very happy to be with you today in this first national convention since our party came back to power. And it is with humility that I say thank you to our members, our supporters and the general citizenry of this country who made this remarkable feat possible.
49 nine years ago, some farsighted men and women met in a little house in the east end of Freetown to found a party that would defend and promote the interest of the common people. They called the party the APC because it was the name of a very effective tablet amongst the common people for relieving pain and suffering. They called the party the APC because the ordinary man and woman could easily identify with it. They called the party the APC because they wanted it to be a party of the common people, by the common people and for the common man and woman.
The founders of our party faced tough times. They were locked up during the formal celebrations of independence in April 1961. It was as if the big men and women of the time thought that by doing that, they could forever put aside the aspirations of the common man of this country. But they were wrong. The founders of our party were resolute, they were action oriented, they were progressive, they were committed. Siaka Stevens was determined; SI Koroma was determined; CA Kamara Taylor was determined; SAT Koroma was determined, SA Fofana was determined, Bobor Kamara was determined; Nancy Steele was determined, Haja Dankay Kabia was determined; Alhaji Muctarr Kallay was determined. And because of that dedication, because of the unity they displayed in very trying times, because of their commitment to progress, they became the first opposition party in all of Africa to take over the reins of government through the ballot box.
In 2007, the party of the common man and woman repeated that achievement again. We were able to do this because the majority of the people of this country know that the APC is their party. You donít need to have a big family name to feel at home in the APC; you donít need to have lots of money to feel welcome in the APC; all you need to have is respect for the common man and woman; all you need to know is that our party is not the old peopleís congress, or the young peopleís congress, or the east peopleís congress or the west peopleís congress, rather it is the All Peopleís Congress, a party for all the people, the young, the old, the educated, the illiterate, the farmer, the trader, the office worker, the employed and the unemployed.
Our party has often been criticized for being open to the ordinary man and woman; our party has often been criticized for having no reserved seats for people with big family names or accents like BBC newsreaders. We make no apologies for that. For it is the ordinary man and woman that got us elected. When we had no power they stood by us. They were offered money to leave us, but they stood by us; they were harassed to leave us but they stood by us. Today we are back in power because of the power of the common man and woman.
We must harness this power of the people to stay in power and move this country forward. That is what the people hoped for when they transformed our party from an opposition party to the governing party.
As the governing party, we are responsible for translating the wishes of the people into reality. Our people want increased agricultural productivity, our people want an end to corruption; our people want good infrastructure, our people want a new partnership with the government to improve their lives. The people want an agenda that will positively change their situation. And true to this desire of the people the APC designed an Agenda for Change.
The Agenda For Change prioritizes Agriculture, Energy, Infrastructure and improved social services as the engine for the transformation of the fortunes of this country. My governmentís approach to delivering on this Agenda for Change is by creating an effective partnership between the public sector, private sector and the general citizenry. Each part of the partnership must deliver on its part of the bargain to ensure the success of the Agenda. My government has signed performance contracts with ministers to make sure we deliver on our part of the bargain; I have launched a private sector development strategy to enhance the ability of the private sector to meet its own part of the partnership. We are promoting an attitudinal change campaign to make sure that we all have the right attitudes for ensuring a democratic, progressive and action-oriented country.
The APC government is an action-oriented government. Just 100 days after assumption of office, we brought electricity to Freetown. We have since that time strengthened the Anti-Corruption Commission; improved our credibility with international partners; revamped the agricultural sector through a tractorization program, and passed legislations improving the economy and the rights of women and children.
Fellow delegates, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Bumbuna project is near complete; we are only awaiting the rains to ensure that there is enough water to turn the turbines and generate electricity. We are also facilitating the creation of a national grid that would greatly improve electricity supply to the regions of the country.
Fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen, women constitute more than half the population of this country. Their effective participation, development, emancipation from poverty and injustice would therefore have a positive impact on more than half the population of this country. But more importantly, our country would be at its best when women are better-off. We are therefore determined to ensure that we remove the obstacles to womenís full enjoyment of the rights and fruits of our collective achievements. My government would coordinate efforts to fully implement the provisions of the gender acts. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that those who violate the rights of women are brought to book; we will ensure that women get redress for wrongs committed against them, for no country deserves to be called democratic and progressive if it lets women down.
Fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen, youths are the pillars of our country and the strength of our hopes. They are young citizens with the requisite energy for transforming their lives and that of this country. We are in the final stages of establishing a National Youth Commission that will mobilize their energies and creativity for socio-economic development.
Fellow delegates, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, last month, our party signed a communiquť to ensure better relations between the main parties of this country. The APC is fully committed to implementing the provisions of that communiquť. And I call on all members and supporters of the party to continue to uphold the law, promote national harmony and live up to the ideals of tolerance and goodwill to all.
And let all present here today relay this message to all that are absent here today: I, Ernest Bai Koroma, will use the powers vested in my office to bring to book lawless and indisciplined individuals. I will not allow acts of violence from any quarter to jeopardize our collective achievements. If you want to stay in our party, stay within the law. To our friends in the opposition we extend a hand of friendship. We need you to oppose us, but oppose within the law. We will listen to what you have to say, but please remember that the APC was elected to implement the Agenda it has presented to the people of this country. That is our mandate and nothing will distract us from implementing the change for which the people of this country elected the APC.
Fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen, we applaud the support we have been receiving from our international friends to promote stability, democracy and development in the country. However, the sustainable development of our country ultimately rests on what we do for ourselves. We more than ever before need to revive the traditions of self help; we more than ever before need to believe that our greatest resources are our own will, our own actions and our own efforts. Let us unlock the great potentials that are within us. When the going was tough as an opposition leader somebody asked me, are you sure you can make it. I looked around me, saw the determination in the eyes of our people and replied, ĎYes, there is victory for us!í. I saw the thousands of people at our rallies and replied, ĎYes, there is victory for us!í. I saw resolve in the eyes of the youths, I felt the determination in the voice of the petty trader; I saw hope everywhere and replied, ĎYes, there will be victory for us!í. We are at our best when we believe in our abilities to effect the changes that we need. We are back in power because we had faith in our ability to ensure victory. Let that same faith in our abilities propel us to be leaders of our own development.
Fellow delegates, last night, I heard a mobile phone ring tone saying, ĎKoroma APC, 997,000í. I want the number on that ring tone to be translated to membership. I want that number plus more to be card-holding members of our party. We know the ordinary man and woman support this party, but let us further energize them by making them card carrying members of our party. Let us continue to take our party to their doorsteps. Let the sun shine in every household in the country; from the hills of Koinadugu to the beaches of Sulima; from the Scarcies of Kambia to the Mano of Kailahun. Go tell it everywhere; the party of the common man and woman is on the move.
We are on the move because we need to move away from indiscipline, we are on the move because we need to move away from wrong attitudes, we are on the move because after many years of inertia that is the only option left to us to move the dreams and aspirations of our people to greater heights.
Fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen, three years ago at the National Convention in Port Loko, I called for unity within the party. I made that call because I know the APC is strongest when it is most united. I made that call because I know that through unity we will live up to the expectations of the common people. I made that call because I believed that through Action, Progress and Commitment we would emerge victorious in the presidential and general elections.
And today I stand here not only as leader of the APC, but also as President of the Republic. My call therefore to you is to stay the course of unity because through unity we shall be victorious again and again and again. Through unity we will win elections again and again and again; through unity we will deliver on the expectations of our people again and again and again. For there is victory for us, there is victory for us, in the struggles of the APC, there is victory for us!!!