By Alusine Sesay
On Saturday, February 18, at the Ernest Bai Koroma conference Centre, the regional headquarters of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), thousands of APC members and supporters had converged to witness the party’s National Delegates’ Conference.
At the close of the opening ceremony, former President Koroma delivered the keynote address and also bade farewell as chairman and leader of the APC, having served for years in that capacity.
In his non-script address delivered from the bottom of his heart, former President Koroma catalogued a range of successes of the APC under his administration and delved into the pathways to victory come June 24, 2023,emphasising unity and national cohesion.
Reflecting on his sojourn as a leader of the APC and President of Sierra Leone
As an insurance broker, former President Koroma said he only had the intention to support the APC party financially and never had the intention of playing a lead role in the party.
“But due to the hurdles the party was going through, some people decided to choose me to lead the party,” he said, citing SBB Dumbuya,Minkalu Mansaray,Dondodo and later Osman Yansaneh.
“It was a great moment in my life and a moment I appreciate being the chairman and leader of the party,” he said.
Dilating on the hurdles the party is currently going through, President Koroma said “What is happening now in the party is not new. I had 13 court cases before 2007 and that means there is victory. It is the struggle destined by God and we have to overcome it.
Former President Koroma assumed office in 2007 when Freetown was referred to as the darkest city in the world. He came at a time when the world was faced with recession.
Addressing the marmot crowed of APC diehards, President Koroma noted that, “We have to be proud of APC because our record of achievement is unmatched. And God has given the people the opportunity to compare and contrast. The APC survived a commodity crisis, fuel crisis and financial crisis. By the time I was being sworned-in, the price for a barrel of fuel at the world market was 75 Dollars, but we were able to manage all the crises. We had business people who supported us overcome our challenges.
Sierra Leone experienced an eleven-year brutal civil war, which led to the destruction of many lives and properties, leaving thousands homeless. When President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was elected in 1996, his mission was to bring peace and restructure the country’s institutions and build new ones. After several engagements with the leadership of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), President Kabbah, through a nationwide address in 2002, declared lasting peace. President Kabbah ruled for two terms and handed over power to Ernest Koroma in 2007.
“We came at a time when we were consolidating the peace and I took deliberate actions to maintain peace. My first trip outside Sierra Leone was inclusive of the current president and several executives of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), which was then in the opposition. I was lambasted by my party people but I told them that, I am the President of Sierra Leone and not for the APC. Before I left office, we were the third most peaceful country in the world and APC should be proud of that record,” former President Koroma told the ardent listening crowed in Makeni.
Emphasising the need for unity within the APC and national cohesion
In a rather solemn tone, former President Koroma bade farewell and emphasized the need for a smooth transition and the maintenance of peace and unity within the APC for the benefit of all and sundry across the country.
“The reality is here. I must go! If I do not step down, people will not grow. The old folks must give way to the younger ones who have the energy to move the party and country forward. We must manage the transition well,” he noted.
Assuring victory for the APC come June 24, former President Koroma said the party should prepare for two transitions- transition within the party and transition of the governance of Sierra Leone.
“We have to manage the transition of governance because the expectations are high. We need unity to make things happen .The party is seeking governance to rule Sierra Leone and we have a responsibility to cater for people in all regions and all tribes. We have to be united to win elections and build the nation. It is hard but that is the sacrifice we have to make for the country. We should not tear ourselves apart,” he emphasised.
As an experienced leader who served the country for two consecutive terms and after his presidency, participating in so many international missions across the world, former President Koroma cautioned all flagbearer aspirants that, “ Everybody is fighting to be the flagbearer and subsequently president, but I want to tell you all that governance is not like a social club but a holistic management of people. It is not all about grabbing power but it is about the people out there.
Seeing a future in the country with APC assuming power on June 24, former President Koroma called on aspirants to use the APC to salvage the suffering of the masses.
“We have to use the APC as a vehicle to save the people of this nation. We have to have a moment of excitement but we should have a rethink that there are people out there who are suffering and we should cater for them. We have to know that beyond all our ambitions, we have to be humane. That is why the theme of this convention is ‘uniting Sierra Leone for a better future’,” he noted.
To crown it all, former President Koroma promised to now concentrate more on ensuring unity within the party and the country at large.
“I cannot be going out making peace in other countries and leaving my country behind,” he promised.