By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte
The belief that the South/East is the stronghold of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) was ostensibly debunked last weekend when thousands of Easterners came out to welcome President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma first in Kono and later in Kailahun. I was totally surprised that such mammoth crowds could come out with smiles on their faces as they sang praises of the astute and transformative leadership of President Koroma for unleashing development that is unheard of in Sierra Leone’s fifty-one years of self-governance.
Most of the people I spoke with told me the SLPP had woefully failed to reconcile with their developmental aspirations. One indigene of Segbwema who I had the privilege to interact with unequivocally maintained that the SLPP should wait for a very long time to come. They said they still want the All People Congress (APC) to have a second term. “The reason is simple. They are not honest as many a time they had lied to us in the South-East that they are the only ones who care for us. Unfortunately and wickedly too, there has been no development in our area until Ernest Koroma arrived on the scene,” he said.
The Imam of the recently commissioned Njaluahun Central Mosque by President Koroma in Segbwema, described the President as their Solomon and Joshua. “We the Njaluahun Chiefdom Muslim Jama’at recognize your Excellency President Koroma as our Solomon and Joshua in fulfilling our dream for a chiefdom central Mosque. You and your entourage are welcome today and forever,” a giant banner hung at the newly constructed Mosque read.
Candidly, I believe most South-Easterners support the SLPP but the new wave of awareness blowing across the South/Eastern political landscape suggests that the SLPP is in big trouble. Because the people have now become far more conscious about who (between the APC and SLPP) is more serious about turning around their lives and those of their children for the better. “Today, our only aim is to support development because our area was the most devastated during the war as the war itself started here in Kailahun and raged for years before spilling over to other areas,” Samuel Sesay, formerly of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) now a new convert of the APC maintained.
According to Hon. Robin Fallay, of Constituemcy 7, representing the people of Njaluahun Chiefdom, including Segbwema, in Parliament, President Koroma has done extremely well especially in the introduction of the free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children below five years. Hon. Robin Fallay of the SLPP said that the elders, women and youths of his constituency have asked him to thank the President on their behalf for a job well done in less than five years. “Take the construction of the Kenema-Kailahun Road for example and tell me whether this is not a clear manifestation of responsible and visionary leadership?,” Hon. Fallay rhetorically asked.
Hon. Paramount Chief Alhaji Mohamed S.K. Banya of Luawa Chiefdom in Kailahun described President Koroma as a just leader. “I therefore request you’re Your Excellency to permit me to refer to you as an EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION President,” the Chief said. He went on to note that with all what President Koroma has done for Kailahun District, “we want to assure you that whatever party colour you stand for; we have to be grateful to you this time round so that others will know that we are not political fanatics but people who cherish and appreciate development.”
From a very personal perspective, I believe the passions and feelings of the people of Kailahun towards President Koroma’s leadership style clearly demonstrates that Ernest Koroma is not just talking about good governance, including inclusive politics, but he is actually implementing and fulfilling what he promised that his Government would be; all-inclusive by taking and delivering development in terms of not just the road projects to facelift Bo and Kenema and make Kailahun more accessible and open to markets for especially their produce, but also the free health care for our women and children, the smallholder commercialization programme which seeks to empower farmers, the improvement on the doing business index, the provision of electricity in our homes- the list is endless.
When we got to Kenema on the last day of our trip, a Councilor of the Kenema District Council revealed that the Kenema Town Hall which the APC started to construct in the 1980s was left derelict throughout the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) era and the SLPP’s eleven years of maladministration. He said that it is only now that Ernest Koroma’s responsible Government had resumed the construction of the Kenema Town Hall, which is almost now nearing completion.
With all of these declarations you begin to imagine what is wrong with SLPP hardliners who, it appears, have no respect for their people to begin to even contemplate that they are only deceiving the President. This is no deception at all as could be seen everywhere we went, from Walihun to Jaiama Nimikoro and Gbane Chiefdoms in Kono, from Lower Bambara Chiefdom in Kenema to Njaluahun to Luawa, Kissi Tongi to Kissi Teng, Mandu to Pejeh West Chiefdoms in Kailahun.
But the question of South/Easterners warming up to the APC is long overdue when you take into cognizance the ongoing massive development all across the country. Even if South/Easterners previously hate the APC’s guts, the leadership qualities and focus of President Ernest Bai ‘Development’ Koroma have really won the people to his clarion call to continue the unprecedentedly massive development taking place in every chiefdom, town, district and region, irrespective of which political party stronghold development is taking place.
At this point, I fervently believe neither that the tribalistic card, nor the propagation of deception, lies and propaganda by the SLPP against this very responsible, astute, visionary and transformative leadership of President Koroma (our Solomon and Joshua) could distract the people of the South/East from seeing the light that is now shining all over the place. Nothing would possibly distract the South/Easterners from voting for the APC massively in the November 17, 2012 elections.
This is no joke as the future of our kids and the development and transformation of the country are on the line. And if we don’t act as one people now, but instead allow a gang of self-seeking, arrogant and dishonest people to take us for a ride, it will be our problem at the end of the day, because we would have ourselves to blame. No other group would be blamed but those of us who have seen the light but failed to seize the opportunity by putting a break on the wheels of backwardness from pressing the reverse gear. This is the SLPP for you, and Julius Maada Bio’s supporters who continue to believe that they have a better plan for the country than the current president are nothing but “Dandogoes.”