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Solomon Prattís Memoirs (Sudden Increases in Nomination Fees in Sierra Leone)
By AWARENESS TIMES
Aug 1, 2012, 17:17
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Professor S.A.J. Pratt, the Doyen of Creole Politicians is 92 years old. This Friday at 8pm in London, he is personally hosting a special dinner for the Sierra Leone High Commissioner H.E. Edward Turay in London. Indeed, Pratt is hale and hearty in both mind and body which serves as evidence of his diligent and faithful service to his country over the years. In today's edition, against the light of the recent increase in Nomination Fees, we have published extracts from Pratt's Autobiography; part of which reads:

 

There was yet another shock looming in the skyline. My hitherto brief acquaintance with the A.P.C. regime convinced me that Comrade Siaka Stevens was practically shouldering the full burden of financial administration and responsibility for the A.P.C. Party; and, to my knowledge he was not a rich man. I had my doubts whether, if pushed to the corner with financial constraints, his comrades would not let him down. No doubt, Sir Albert the Prime Minister and S.L.P.P. Leader entertained similar hopes, which he revealed when he played his Ace of Trumps! Just before Nomination Day, the S.L.P.P- dominated Parliament endorsed a motion to increase nomination deposits for parliamentary elections from two hundred leones (£100) to five hundred leones (£250). Many of the A.P.C candidates, indeed the great majority of them, could not afford this sudden and unexpected increase. All A.P.C. party candidates were required to attend at the Party Office with their supporters on the afternoon of the day before nomination, duly and properly to complete their nomination forms. I was there, but by nightfall only a few had turned up. Comrade Siaka Stevens was at his wits end. He immediately dispatched A.P.C. activists and youths to seek out the absentees at their homes or Freetown addresses... SEE BELOW


Extract from JOLLIBOY!

SAJ Prattís Autobiography (Pages 155 - 169)

 

I interpreted the non-submission of my Railway Development Proposals to Cabinet as direct sabotage of all the work I had been doing and I had no alternative but to offer my immediate resignation, both as General Manager of the Railway and as Economic Adviser to Government. This, I immediately notified Sir Albert. I added that, after resignation, I would enter politics and contest the next general elections and that any S.L.P.P. candidate standing against me would surely lose his deposit. The Prime Minister at first thought I would change my mind. When he realized that I was serious, he replied in his usual good humoured manner, ďSolomon, we shall pulverize youĒ.

 

He then ordered me and Secretary Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to go on a secret mission to President Ahmad Sekou Toure, the Head of State of the Republic of Guinea. Before leaving for Conakry, Guinea, I however made certain that my letter of resignation from both offices was safely delivered to the Establishment Secretary and a copy of Sir Albert.

 

My resignation from the railway (and from the office of Economic Adviser to the government) marked the end of an epoch in my life history. The 1967 General Elections were looming and I decided to contest. Of course, I could not bring myself down to the level of aligning myself with the government ruling party, the Sierra Leone Peoplesí Party (S.L.P.P.) and I did not then think much of the opposition party, known as the All Peopleís Congress, or the A.P.C.¬† While I was not adhering to the advice given to me in 1959 by Governor Sir Maurice Henry Dorman, I decided to put myself forward again as an Independent candidate in my home constituency, the mountain rural district.

 

The S.L.P.P. candidate was the Minister of Housing and Country Planning, Mr. Gideon Dixon Thomas. He had been an elementary school teacher at the Regent Amalgamated School. He had started his political fortunes in the U.P.P. (The United Progressive Party), but had cross-carpeted to the S.L.P.P. after the Independence Constitutional Talks. The A.P.C. party was disorganized in the mountain rural constituency and could not decide on a candidate to match the S.L.P.P Minister although a party activist from a neighbouring village appeared to be in the running.

 

I gathered quite a good following, as an Independent candidate, particularly from among students of the University College located within the constituency (Fourah Bay College). The majority of the youths in the mountain villages rallied round me with a made-up clarion call: ďG.Y.M. Ė G.Y.M.M.Ē (Get your man! Get Your Mountain Man!).

 

The highlight of the Election revolved around certain constitutional proposals Sir Albert Margai was making. To begin with, shortly after he assumed the reins of government in 1965, he was bandying the need for a one party constitution. This met with countrywide opposition, even from within his own party. I myself, as an Independent candidate, published a tract of some 28 pages against it. He doggedly stuck on to his ideas for some time, but ultimately and gracefully abandoned his one party aspiration. He had, however, provided his enemies with some fuel to attack him.

 

Practically the entire country, particularly so in the Western area, was in revolt against the government S.L.P.P. party, for one reason or the other. Some of my supporters advised me that public feeling was violently against the S.L.P.P. and in favour of the A.P.C., and that many of the older folk had strong reservations about the genuine intentions of Independent candidates. As a female relation of mine, who had just returned from a visit to the rural township of Waterloo, put it, ďIf a broom stick was dressed in A.P.C. garb, voters would cast their votes in its favour rather than vote for the most intelligent Independent candidate!Ē

 

For my part, I had my own misgivings about the A.P.C. Its rank and file looked more or less like a lawless and disorganised rabble. From my background activities as Agricultural Economist in the rice fields and in my countrywide economic and social surveys in the fifties, I had developed many friends among the Paramount Chiefs and the rural elite. The A.P.C. youths perpetrated all sorts of atrocities against these friends of mine and I could not see myself fraternising with groups I regarded as vandals, completely different in political outlook and philosophy from the youths I was developing and training at the university and the surrounding mountain villages.

 

Besides, the suggestion of that great administrative sage, Governor Sir Maurice Dorman, was always ringing in my ears: ďDonít join a political party; maintain your Independence, but as far as is humanly possible, keep near the Prime Minister!Ē In the end, my family and my youth supporters won the day and I agreed to a change of tactics and policy, to join the A.P.C.

 

Wasnít Leader Siaka Stevens pleased? He welcomed me with open arms, introduced me to the Central Committee of the party and unequivocally assigned me the partyís symbol to contest the 1967 general elections in the mountain rural constituency. Then I got one shock after another. With all its outward show of popular support, the A.P.C. had no manifesto! I asked for a copy, and members of the Central Committee disclosed that one had yet to be drafted and I was given the mandate to remedy that defect.

 

This was only a few weeks away from Nomination Day.

 

I settled down to the task armed with ideas from the Leader and Secretary General, Comrade Siaka Probyn Stevens.

 

Then came another shock. After the Central Committee adopted the draft manifesto, I could not come by any printer who would agree to print it. Even my friend, Willie Frazer, who had by then set up his own modern New Era printing press, refused to have anything at all to do with the A.P.C. Manifesto- printers were all in mortal fear of unwholesome reprisals by Sir Albert Margai. Everyone was scared stiff of this political giant, who would not hesitate to pulverize any who stood in his way. In the end, after many entreaties and with the assistance of a Central Committee member, Comrade Mrs. Nancy Steele, New Era agreed to take on the task on certain conditions.

 

There was yet another shock looming in the skyline.

 

My hitherto brief acquaintance with the A.P.C. regime convinced me that Comrade Siaka Stevens was practically shouldering the full burden of financial administration and responsibility for the A.P.C. Party; and, to my knowledge he was not a rich man. I had my doubts whether, if pushed to the corner with financial constraints, his comrades would not let him down. No doubt, Sir Albert the Prime Minister and S.L.P.P. Leader entertained similar hopes, which he revealed when he played his Ace of Trumps! Just before Nomination Day, the S.L.P.P- dominated Parliament endorsed a motion to increase nomination deposits for parliamentary elections from two hundred leones (£100) to five hundred leones (£250). Many of the A.P.C candidates, indeed the great majority of them, could not afford this sudden and unexpected increase. All A.P.C. party candidates were required to attend at the Party Office with their supporters on the afternoon of the day before nomination, duly and properly to complete their nomination forms. I was there, but by nightfall only a few had turned up. Comrade Siaka Stevens was at his wits end. He immediately dispatched A.P.C. activists and youths to seek out the absentees at their homes or Freetown addresses, or wherever they might be found.

 

Some later turned up, a few much the worse for drink.

 

The upshot was that they couldnít find the money to pay for the increased election deposit fees. As fate would have it, I was lucky to have had some savings tucked away from my lucrative Kono diamond-land legal practice and rents from my landed properties. I supported Comrade Siaka Stevens in the emergency rescue operations; with the result that there were A.P.C. registered candidates to contest seats in practically every electoral constituency. Whether those Ďloan advancesí ever got repaid, due to the subsequent army coup, is another story!

 

The rest is history. The elections were held on the 17th March, 1967. I won the mountain rural constituency for the A.P.C. and the S.L.P.P. candidate lost his deposit. The A.P.C. made significant gains in other parts of the country, enough for it to secure a majority to form a government. By the 20th March, 1967, it had been declared that the A.P.C. had won 32 seats, the S.L.P.P 28, and Independents 6.


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