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Bio breezes in town with pomp

- says peace in SLPP is collective responsibility

October 14, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi

Thousands of party enthusiasts and members of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) on Sunday thronged the streets of Lungi, Port Loko, Masiaka and Freetown to welcome Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio in what some political watchers described as an apparent endorsement of the candidature of the former flag-bearer.

Mr. Bio’s supporters were unyielding in their call for the other intending flag-bearer contenders to endorse their man to lead the party to the 2018 presidential election, as according to them, “he is the most popular figure within the party that can take us to State House”.

The SLPP flag-bearer hopeful addressed his supporters at the SLPP headquarters in Freetown, and they were unwavering in their call for Bio to be endorsed as the party’s sole candidate.

“We want to endorse Maada Bio as our sole candidate for the flag-bearer position,” roared the enthused supporters. “We are calling on all other candidates to give Bio their support so that the party can win come 2018.”

Before the arrival of Bio on Sunday at the Lungi International Airport, hundreds of his supporters held a vigil on the periphery of the Lungi airport, waiting anxiously to receive their leader. Hotels and guest houses were fully booked to accommodate senior officials of the ‘Team Bio’.

While addressing supporters in Lungi, Bio said he was returning to Sierra Leone to engage communities across the country and to commend all those who contributed towards the fight against Ebola, including the government of Sierra Leone.

“We need national cohesion during difficult situations like Ebola or the recent flooding that occurred in the country that led to the death of people and the destruction of property,” he said. “When I initially came during the Ebola crisis, I was unable to visit certain communities to engage stakeholders on certain developmental issues, including the fight against the disease. I have been receiving mixed messages about issues of governance, the economy, and the level of poverty among Sierra Leoneans. I’ll be conducting a proper assessment [of these issues] before making my comments on them.”

Dr. Kadie Sesay, former running-mate of Bio in the 2012 presidential election, told the people of Port Loko that the SLPP was well poised and determined to take over the governance of the country come 2018, “to ensure that issues around women and children are propagated”.

She said Bio has demonstrated leadership quality over the years, which was what had given her the courage to continue to support the retired Brigadier.

“I know that Sierra Leone needs quality leadership and I have confidence that Bio will provide that,” said Dr. Sesay, who was Minister of Trade in the erstwhile government of the late President Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. “I want you all to give him the required support so that Sierra Leone can be liberated.”

The ‘Team Bio’ convoy breezed into Freetown and to the party headquarters where Bio addressed supporters and members on certain development within the embattled party. But before his statement, some supporters were concerned about the way and manner the party symbol for the by-election in Constituency 107 was awarded, and also the issue of peace, among other things.

Bio assured them that he was one of the vanguards of peace within SLPP, but that peace within the party should be the collective responsibility of all party members. He said some of his opponents were accusing him as being a violent person but challenged every member of the party to provide evidence of any violence he had orchestrated to disunite the party.

According to him, people were using such a tagging to tarnish his character, insisting that he had never engaged in violent activities from his school days to present. He also dismissed suggestions that he had monopolized the leadership of the SLPP, noting that every legitimate member of the party has the right to contest for the flag-bearer position, thus people should stop accusing him unnecessarily.

“I have come again to remind you that I am still interested in the flag-bearership of the SLPP,” he said. “For the peace process, I am asking you also to talk to our brothers and sisters because it is a two-way traffic.”

He continued: “I want to thank you all for what you have been doing in my absence because my presence has been more than those in the country. So you did not disappoint me. We have moved from Lungi to here without any report of violence. The SLPP is not a violent party and I do not believe in it. With a free and fair electoral process, SLPP will win every day.

“I feel honoured, I feel blessed for the reception you have given me today. I am happy that the youths are here in their numbers. The youths of this country have enormous potential to develop Sierra Leone.”

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