Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin, the Leader & Chairman of the main opposition SLPP party in Sierra Leone, has broken his silence on the issue of the NPRC Coup of April 29th 1992, the executions of December 29th of that same year of 1992 whilst issuing an assurance that he will continue to provide strong opposition leadership and at the same time issuing "a very strong warning" to his former NPRC colleagues currently within the SLPP, to "desist from any compromise with the ruling APC that might derail the important role of an effective opposition voice in a multi-party democratic plurality". Benjamin has been facing recent unfair denigrations that he was the Chief Secretary of State (i.e.: Prime Minister) who signed the Death Warrants of the people executed on that fateful December date. Speaking Thursday July 8th 2010, Benjamin, who has never denied his role in the successful and widely acclaimed coup-plot of April 1992, however lamented that when it came to remembering that he was one of those who ensured the success of April 1992 coup that toppled the then oppressive APC one-party status quo, his detractors had no qualms about that but when it came to remembering that he had been disgracefully and unfairly sacked as the NPRC’s Chief Secretary of State in November 1992, his detractors developed "convenient amnesia".
"I have never signed any Death Warrant in my life. I was not NPRC’s Chief Secretary of State on December 29th 1992 because several weeks before, in early November 1992, I had been sacked by Strasser and relegated with no portfolio. I was removed from the Cabinet and was not even attending Cabinet Meetings. How could I then have signed anyone’s Death Warrant? What power did I have?" Benjamin mused.
It is all rubbish and malicious propaganda with no substance to them, insist allies of John Benjamin who are in the know. Surprisingly, even some of the ruling APC party members have a lot of respect for the courage and integrity of Benjamin when it comes to National affairs.
"It is a fact that by undertaking to cooperate with and even help finance the soldiers who toppled the former brutal APC dictatorship which is different from our own Ernest Koroma led democratic APC, Mr. John Benjamin will go down in History as one of those whose courageous actions ensured Sierra Leone is enjoying the multi-party democracy we are all enjoying today. Have people forgotten so quickly about the tyranny we were under? Where issues like ‘careless talk’ would see citizens arrested in public transports and thrown into prison for merely condemning the excesses of the APC back then? Have people forgotten the long queues for petrol and how rice chits and sugar chits and everything chits were the order of the day? Or how one was unable to remove one’s own cash from the bank’s because the APC had instituted economic emergency?" said a very senior current APC strongman on condition of anonymity last evening.
According to those who were close to the country’s governance for the six months period that John Benjamin served as Chief Secretary of State, Benjamin’s uncompromising stance on corruption, led him to step on the toes of many business interests and other powerful forces who had seen the former Computer Executive as a stumbling block to their nefarious tactics to mislead the naïve young soldiers.
John Benjamin was only 39 years old when he risked his life and that of his young family to succeed in doing what numerous others had fruitlessly tried but though he was relatively young in age, he was already the Managing Director of an international Computer company with oversight for a significant chunk of the West African subregion. He was well traveled internationally and experienced in worldly matters and thus able to effectively analyse and debunk shady projects and proposals that his colleague NPRC soldiers might have otherwise endorsed. As a result, he stepped on a lot of powerful toes and a plan was developed to have John Benjamin not only removed as Chief Secretary of State but relegated to a non-Cabinet status and with practically no say in any of the running of the affairs of State.
So it was that at the time of the December 1992 executions, Benjamin had been sacked ostensibly over an incident at Njala University campus which had been blown out of proportions in order to have his detractors succeed in removing him as Chief Secretary. The Njala lecturer in question even led a big delegation to Freetown from Njala to clear the air on behalf of John Benjamin but yet still the late S.A.J. Musa and his like-minded cohorts had gotten their way and insisted on the removal of Benjamin from the position of Chief Secretary of State for allegedly "misbehaving on Njala campus".
Speaking exclusively to this newspaper last week, Benjamin confirmed the views above and went on to say he personally had "absolutely nothing to fear from the proposed Inquest into the executions". JOB said he opposes the Inquest not because of any personal fear of his role in the said executions but because he believes it would not be a unifying act nor would it promote reconciliation. Benjamin recalled an Open Letter he had written to one Lawyer Alieu Iscandari ten years ago, in which he had clearly and unambiguously stated that not only was he no longer Chief Secretary of State at the time of the Bambay Kamara and Salami Coker executions but he had had no knowledge of the executions until after Strasser announced them.
Speaking on the manner in which he was disgraced and removed as Chief Secretary in November 1992, several weeks before the December 1992 executions, there was still a visible amount of pain on his facial features as he recalled how his efforts as NPRC Chief Secretary of State for "just six months only" had led to remarkable developments such as the permanent eradication of petrol queues and rice/commodities chits, as well as sustained flow of money in the banking system and development initiatives such as the re-institution of National SLBS Television and Radio service.
John Benjamin also used the opportunity of his chat with Awareness Times to comment on the recent missives launched at him by Rtd. Lt. Col. S.I.M. Turay in which Turay used unprintable invectives to describe John Benjamin.
"Honestly and I say this with all sincerity, I have no anger towards SIM Turay. I have read his articles and I feel more pity than anything else for him. I am not angry with the insults he writes against me; No, not at all. I sense he is very angry and confused and so, of late, he is one of the people I pray for everyday. I pray for him to find some inner peace," John Ben said in his familiar soft but firm voice.
John Benjamin however ended his chat with this medium by saying that anyone who believes that Benjamin’s role in the NPRC can be used to blackmail him away from effectively serving his people and his country as Leader of the main opposition SLPP party, should rethink their strategy. He also warned former NPRC members currently in positions of trust within SLPP hierarchy not to betray the ideals of SLPP which he warned would happen if they allowed themselves to be blackmailed by APC operatives using "threats of Inquest". He urged them to instead offer their resignations than betray the SLPP.
"As for me, Inquest or no Inquest, John Benjamin will continue to serve my country, my people and my SLPP party fearlessly and with all my political ability within the ambit of the multi-party constitution. I personally have nothing to fear from any Inquest. SLPP can rest assured that they have a focused National Leader and Chairman," John Benjamin assured adding that not only will the Monthly SLPP Press Briefings continue but they will eventually soon become Weekly Press Briefings all as part of strengthening multi-party plurality in the country.