The New People Online Newspaper recently conducted an in-depth interview with Dr. Alpha Wurie, one of the 23 aspirants for the position of Presidential Flagbearer. Awareness Times Newspaper is today reproducing the interview by kind courtesy.
The New People (TNP): Who is Dr. Alpha Wurie?
Alpha Wurie (ATW): My family hails from Port Loko District in Sierra Leone. My family has been founding members of the SLPP. My late uncle Amadu Wurie was a founding member and my father Alieu Dawzie Wurie was a councilor for Port Loko District and an alderman for the Western Area. I was born at Gorie Street in Freetown. I went to a Christian primary school in Freetown although I’m a Muslim which confirms that I comfortable with people of all faiths. I attended Bo School for secondary. I went to Fourah Bay College and graduated with honors in Chemistry in 1978. I later taught at the St. Joseph’s Secondary school from 1978 and 1979 before going to Brunell University in London to study Chemistry for my PhD. After that I lectured at the University of Sierra Leone for 14 years before joining the Tejan Kabba administration as a minister of Education, Science and Technology. In 1987 I opened a clinical laboratory with hundreds of doctors in Freetown and Bo District.
TNP: Why do you want to run for the SLPP flag bearer?
(ATW): I think I have contributed a great deal to the party. With eleven years of serving as a cabinet minister I have a wealth of experience and knowledge in administration and dealing with people that I can bring to the table. The people of Sierra Leon also need change at this time because I do not believe that there is enough capacity in the APC government to improve the lives of the people. As a lecturer and former cabinet minister, I have a lot to offer and that is why I am running for the SLPP flag bearer
TNP: What is your vision for Sierra Leone in the next five to ten years?
(ATW): I think as a country people we are not living in dignity. I think as a country that the health capacity is very low, therefore the vision is to bring in an economically viable environment to bring in a forward looking healthy and educated Sierra Leonean people
TNP: Speaking of economic viability, what will your administration do to generate private sector jobs in the country if you were to become our president?
It will not be so good to highlight what think we will do at this stage however, our country is in a rudimentary stage with regards to industry and services. I think we are extremely urbanized and have not been able to support the rural areas. I think we will be in a position to energize the rural areas for there to be enough economic activity and create industries to support job creation.
|Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie shown moving the crowd last Saturday at Waterloo in Rural Freetown.
TNP: What sets you apart from the other candidates vying for the SLPP flag bearer?
(ATW): I served at the University of Sierra Leone for 14 academic years. I have trained a host of people that are in middle level and senior positions in the country. I served as a cabinet minister of Education for 11 years. I have supported families’ right across the country. I was fortunate and had the drive and initiative to solicit funds that allowed me to run programs that affect everybody that access schools. I solicited funds that allowed me to build physical infrastructure inevery chiefdom in Sierra Leone. More importantly I was able to motivate parents to send their children to school as when we took over we had just three out of ten accessing school but left with 8 to 9 out of ten accessing education and training. Importantly I know how to work with people and have been the chairman of the manifesto committee for the past two elections which gives me an insight into other sectors that sets me apart from the other candidates.
TNP: What strategies will your campaign employ to guarantee victory for the SLPP in 2012?
(ATW): After 24 years of one party rule and the SLPP being in the doldrums, when we returned to office in 1995, we saw a lot of people return to the party. From those who have been around for awhile to the younger ones. In 2007 after the Makeni Convention we had a breakaway faction in the PMDC. I think the party lost most of the traditional families. My first strategy is to reach out to all those traditional families to return to the party and to send out a hand to the strong men and academic sound people that went to the PMDC. We also should adopt policies that are not divisive and live according to our ethos of one country and one people.
TNP: What will you say to critics that say you served in the previous Tejan Kabba Administration and the people passed a verdict on that administration by rejecting Solomon Berewa who also served in the previous administration and that you will be bringing back similar policies and politics that have already been rejected?
(ATW): First of all I want to point out that the people of Sierra Leone did not reject Solomon Berewa or the policies of the Tejan Kabba administration because the official differential vote was so minimal. The APC government got 51 percent while the SLPP received 49 percent. I think the people really confirmed that they liked the policies we had in place. I do not think the people will reject a policy that made an outreach to the poor such as the support for the girl child in the north and eastern region, the support of micro credit loans to women, the creation of NASSIT to ensure that people in their retirement will not become beggars, the financial policies that allowed us to be able to wipe off $1.6 billion debt. These achievements cannot be discredited by anyone. I do understand the human tendency is to demand a change after a period of time and we did not get the numbers to ensure us victory. There was a group of people who were disgruntled and just wanted a new team not because the policies were bad but because they thought a new team can deliver faster. I think that people tend to forget very easily considering our administration spent from 1996 to 2002 in a period of war when people were being killed. People think we spent 11 years in government forgetting that we spent 5 of those years trying to bring peace.
TNP: Let’s talk about this current APC administration, what are your thoughts on how the APC is leading the country in terms of the gains the previous administration made in the areas of peace and unity.
(ATW): I will say that the country can be viewed as secure. Major steps were taken to consolidate the peace. However there are certain steps that the APC has taken that could jeopardize that peace. It is a small country and every tribe has a right to contribute to the growth and development. Any group that sets out on a divisive mode which separates our people because of sex, tribe or religion has a tendency of weakening that peace. I think there are some steps that have to be revisited.
TNP: Your past administration left about Le 500 billion and there have been reports that the current APC government has depleted those funds. What do you attribute this depletion of the reserve funds to?
(ATW): Let me emphasize that we actually inherited a $1.6 billion debt that we wiped off and left Le 500 billion and although it is small amount of money there were programs and projects that we left requiring funding and there was this campaign promise to provide electricity within the first 100 days and I am not sure if they used most of the reserves to fund the acquisition of those generators. What I can say is wee left the economy on the first runs of being healthy from one where we were paying a lot of money to service our debt to a debt free economy.
TNP: In terms of the attacks on the SLPP headquarters, what are your thoughts as to the reason why this APC government tends to encourage such violence from their supporters?
(ATW): You know in everything in life, you need to have generational upbringing to be tolerant and recognize that other people will have different views and that does not mean they hate you. It is sad for a government to rehabilitate a clock tower that has been standing there for over 100 years and then lead to such conflict resulting in the destruction of our party office. Personally I think the drive was to destroy our radio station in the party office. It is difficult for people not exposed to governance earlier. There is an inadequacy that tends to manifest itself in the form of violence anytime it is questioned.
TNP: We are currently conducting this interview with the use of some of the latest collaborative technologies, how will your administration utilize technology to help in the development of the country such as reducing travel costs by ministers.
(ATW): Definitely as a minister of science and technology in Sierra Leone for five years, the use of ICT is to be able to partner and interlink with a wider fora of people. Rather than focusing on jobs, I want to highlight that the jobs depends on the skill level of people that will emerge from the tertiary sector and it is at that level that we can outreach considerably to get a large number of people up to speed on these technologies. It is an invaluable tool in distance education technology. For a country that is now sending a large number of students for the advanced subsidiary exam for which there is a shortage of teachers and a weakness in certain subject areas, I can see the use of such technologies to reach a wider sector of the population. For now we tend to look at jobs in Freetown and the Western area instead of reaching out to people in the rural areas.
TNP: What will be the areas of priorities for your administration if you were to win the presidency?
(ATW): Health, Education and Economic growth.
TNP: Do you have any plans for the youth in your agenda?
(ATW): I served as a minister of youths and sports for a few years. I think most of the young people are not employable because they lack the skills so I think one major step is to initiate a mass training in vital skills that are needed in the workplace. For example, in the areas of mining we should be able to train people from the technical institutes. It is sad for us to bring people from abroad to serve in such critical areas.
TNP: What is your net worth and how did you acquire the wealth that you will be spending on your campaign?
(ATW): I am the sixth son of Alhaji Aliieu Dawzy Wurie who was the first African to serve as resident director of a mining company in Sierra Leone and also served as the chair of the chamber of commerce so I will not say that I am coming from the grassroots. I also started the first indigenous clinical laboratory in 1987 and to put it in perspective for the first three months of operations, what I earned a day from the business was higher than what I earned a month as a lecturer at the University of Sierra Leone and what I earned a month as a minister of Education, my laboratory was able to amass per day from 1996 to 2007. I am not a poor man and have been frugal with my wealth. People assume that when you serve as a government minister you should have amassed some money illegally but every program I led has been audited and the inquiry that has been launched for over two years have not found any irregularities. I see myself as one that owned my own home before becoming a minister. I came in reasonably comfortable and I left reasonably comfortable. I own a business that makes me reasonably comfortable in Africa.
TNP: If you were to lose the nomination for SLPP flag bearer, will you be supporting the winner and how will you demonstrate that?
(ATW): I was the chairman of the inaugural meeting of the SLPP in 1995 when the party was re-launched. I was the chairman of the manifesto for the past two elections. I was the keynote speaker at the Kenema convention and played the role of unifier when things wanted to go awry. My family has been with the party ever since the party’s inception so I have nowhere else to go. In an election, you highlight what you think you have done and leave it to people to make the final decision. If the party looks at the attributes of each individual instead of tribe or region we will win the elections. I will support whomever emerges as the winner for the flag bearer.
TNP: One question of foreign policy, what are your thoughts on the concept on a United Africa with one foreign and economic policy?
(ATW): It is rudimentary for now. I think when we were allocated independence there was a policy to deliberately divide Africa and we have not grown or matured away from that yet. We guard our boundaries and to this day we do not have easy access to jobs in the region. While I think that should be the eventual goal, I do not think we are ready at this time.
TNP: Any final thoughts or message for our readers?
(ATW): The people of Sierra Leone have been shortchanged within the last three years. I think that former president Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabba had the right persona to come in during the period of war. Some will say he was soft but he had the fatherly aura to be able to lead this country to emerge from war. What we need now is a dynamic young person that can lead us into the developmental path. One with knowledge, awareness and exposure. What we have now is maybe people with academic degrees but still a weakness in exposure and lacking the skills to be able to lift the people from the doldrums.
The people have seen what I accomplished in the areas of education in the country; I believe they will be happy to give me a hand to be able to do better in all other sectors.
TNP: Thank you very much for your time Dr. Wurie. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. We wish you the very best in your campaign.