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OPINION

The President Julius Maada Bio I Know

January  8, 2020

By Elkass Sannoh

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As a practicing journalist for more than a decade, I firstly engaged His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio in 2010 as a flagbearer aspirant for the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). My second engagement was when he defeated his main contender, Alhaji Usman Boie Kamara at the Miatta conference hall in Freetown, 1st August, 2011. The election ended after 5:55am.

 Bio scored 238 votes as against Usman Boie Kamara who came second with 186 votes. My interview was great as I even asked him about his relationship with John Oponjo Benjamin, the former SLPP National Chairman and Leader.

His unimaginable victory threw spanner in the spine of many SLPP stalwarts including IJ Kabba, the former wife of late President Ahmad Tejan Kabba. Since then, Bio remains the most vilified and castigated Sierra Leonean in the country’s political history.

The President Bio I know endured and didn’t allow his focus to be distracted. Apart from late Hon. Musa Tamba Sam who openly launched a campaign for Bio to run for the second term, he has been nailed by almost everyone with all derogatory titles.

The Bio I know will only say, “I know I am going to become the next President of Sierra Leone.”

THE 2018 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Many Sierra Leoneans rejected and voted out the Ernest Bai Koroma led Government because they were not ready to follow the same failed political class led by former President Koroma’s handpicked Presidential candidate-Dr. Samura Kamara. They voted out a reckless and hopeless ‘Tolongbo’ in favour of a prosperous ‘Paopa’ which is the New Direction. In the New Direction manifesto lays the hopes and aspirations of the average Sierra Leoneans.

Alarming as the previous situation was, the Global Hunger Index 2017 ranks Sierra Leone as the third hungriest country in the world with percentage of population that is undernourished estimated at 38.5 percent compared to 28.6 percent in Guinea and 16.2 percent in Ghana.

According to the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis study conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 49.8 percent of households were food insecure in 2015 compared to 45 percent in 2010. That is, they consumed limited or insufficient food to maintain a healthy and active life. Corruption was the rule rather than the exception. The media was highly depleted with fake promise to repeal the Public Order Act and blatant violation of the IMC Code of Practice.

A NEW SIERRA LEONE WITH ECONOMIC HARDSHIP

President Julius Maada Bio said, “Initial assessment indicates that my administration will be faced with the worse economic situation since independence.” He was speaking on Friday, April 13, 2018 at the joint International Monetary Fund and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development High-Level Forum on Economic Policy Priorities.

He stated that, “more serious is that today, Sierra Leone’s external debt is at the level of 2.0 billion dollars and domestic debt is 4.9 trillion Leones.”

Before now, Government cannot pay monthly salaries without borrowing or heavy reliance on overdraft facility at the Bank of Sierra Leone which now stands at over 160 billion Leones.

According to President Bio, “coupled with low levels of economic growth, high incidence of poverty, lack of economic diversification, high unemployment and challenging business environment for private sector development have further exacerbated the problems. It is in light of these challenges I pledged to the People of Sierra Leone, which are well articulated in my Manifesto that we must restore economic discipline by substantially reducing leakages in domestic revenue mobilization and controlling expenditures to finance development programmes.”

For the general good of all, the ruling SLPP has “Suspended all duty waivers except those covered under the Vienna Convention.

Directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies that collect and retain Government revenues to transfer all revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund with immediate effect consistent with provisions of the Fiscal Management and Control Act 2017.

President Bio promised a change in the New Direction to the people, a change that restores sanity in economic and financial management; a change of zero corruption tolerance; an improved health facility and a change that provides quality service delivery to the people of Sierra Leone.

The President further vowed to repeal Part 5 of the 1965 Public Order Act which criminalises the work of journalists and undermines Press Freedom. Indeed the Bill has been tabled in Parliament awaiting further debates.

2020 NEW YEAR MESSAGE

With a renewed hope and commitment, President Bio calls on all citizens to make Sierra Leone a better place by doing it with a firm commitment.

He highlighted the successes and admitted that there are challenges but those challenges are not in any way insurmountable. He said the expectations from the public are also high but can be met.

“Time to bid farewell to 2019 and time to look forward to 2020,” he said adding that, “as we look back into 2019, we were shackled with high domestic foreign debts; unfavourable mining lease agreements; low domestic productivity; high youth unemployment; high inflation and currency depreciation.”

Because of those heinous challenges, President Bio said our confidence and optimism as a nation got shaken by economic turbulence and unavoidable shocks.

The President Bio I know has been able to restore the international confidence and strengthened the bilateral and diplomatic relations.

The President Bio I know has been given a standing ovation by the IMF, EU, UN, World Bank, DFID and ADB among host of other recognised institutions.

The President Bio I know has not only created the space for young people, he had involved them at all levels of national governance.

Like he challenged his contenders and other detractors, the President Bio I know will transform Sierra Leone and make the country great with our prayers and support. He cannot do it alone and therefore let’s support him succeed for the sake of Mama Salone.

The President Bio I know is always set in making the impossible-possible like he has done with the Free Quality Education and the Sierra Leone Premier League.

This is the President Julius Maada Bio I know. Happy New Year to you all.