By Alusine Sesay & Alhaji Haruna Sani
The race to occupy the highest seat in the Freetown City Council is heating up. Over the past weeks, two names-incumbent Yvonne Aki-Sawayerr of the main opposition All People’s Congress(APC) party and Mohamed Gento Kamara of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), have been making the news as who would occupy that enviable seat. But, it seems as if the city will be greeted with surprises. Bjourn Greene, a young businessman, has added up to the list. Within his late 30s, Greene is aspiring to run for the position under the APC party. Optimistic of getting the symbol, Greene will definitely give incumbent Aki-Sawyerr, who many had thought would sail smoothly for a second term having served for five years, a run for his money. On Friday, April 14, a team of Concord Times journalists conducted an exclusive with Greene at his Spur Road Residence in Freetown.
CT: Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
Greene: Yes, I was born in England – my dad was a politician and my grandfather is the only one alive from the original founding fathers of the All People’s Congress (APC) Party. I grew up in Freetown where I attended both primary and secondary schools. I later travelled to England where I studied psychology. Afterwards, I did postgraduate and other certificates including canceling psychology, psychological coaching, cognitive behaviour therapy, smoking cessation techniques. All these are helping me to know how to deal with people.
I started business at age 16 in England where I employed so many people including refugees from Somalia and other East-African Countries. Naturally, my business grew so big that I eventually became a successful businessman. Here in Freetown, I own a lot of businesses including a duty-free shop in Lungi and I do supply a lot of NGOs in Freetown.
CT:What informs your decision to run for the Mayoral position in Freetown?
Greene: There has been a lot of complaint about how things are not going well in Freetown. And as a businessman I do bring a lot of business partners to Freetown but we almost always do face a lot of embarrassment because of the way things operate here in town. So, those are some of the issues that informed my decision to run for the Mayoral position in Freetown. I strongly believe in working with everybody and I have friends across all political parties. The country is becoming very divisive but with my nature as an individual who mix with people from different walks of life and as a grassroots man, I firmly believe I can be the best to create the desired change that Freetonians need.
Q. CT: Why do you choose to run for the position under the APC?
Greene: Hahaha… for me APC is in my root. I was born into APC and I fully understand the ideology of APC, as the party has always been a grassroots party and I have that kind of mindset. Because of my background, I got to understand a lot about the APC politics and the need to help grassroots people. So, naturally my ideology of working with people within the grassroots sector that will impact the life of everyone fell in line with the ideology of the party.
CT: How long have you been in the party and at which level?
Greene: Hmmm… well, to put it to you in simple terms, I have been a member of the APC all my life. I was born into an APC family; my father was the youngest minister ever under the APC and my grandfather was one of the people who started the party. I was the member of the APC Youth League for years I can’t remember. I am a senior Honorary Executive of the party since 2015. The APC is what I am known for who I am. In short, I am APC.
I have supported the Western Region financially for the longest time, at least since before 2010- 2011. I have physically and financially supported the party during bye-elections in the West and Northern regions.
CT: How would you convince the party to award you the symbol?
Greene: I do my work, and I will let my people talk. One thing I have learnt in life is that what is meant for you would be for you, that is why I have never been position thirst. If I was position hungry, I would have attained higher positions in the previous government. I have supported the party for all my life. I have not been doing my work because of political position. I have galvanized a lot of people during voter registration process and organize structures. We have done wells, supported communities with water tanks. I have supported the markets, communities, bike riders and more. I have been supporting people throughout my life. Because if you want to work for your people you wouldn’t have to wait until you are seeking political position. So for me, I am an asset, I am going to help my people regardless of what happened. I have good relationship with everybody in the party, which is why I don’t belong to camps. I only belong to the APC camp.
CT: With already an incumbent mayor under your party, what are some of your credentials you have to serve as an alternative?
Greene: As a psychologist, I believe in creating relationships. My personal way of operating in my businesses and from any kind of situation I am in, is to build relationships and to create practical solutions to problems. I don’t try to create big outlandish solutions that never actually materialised. I have a simple way of operating but very effective. For instance, a lot of politicians have been lamenting about the poor waste management system in Freetown but have never been able to provide a solution to the problem. Majority of our waste is plastic and plastic cause a lot of problem but politicians have failed to provide solution to it. I will solve that problem by using those plastic to make other items.
CT: Many observers would argue that successive mayors have failed to maintain proper sanitation in Freetown: What difference would make if you are elected mayor?
Greene: I will create proper sanitation management by dealing with people in wards and constituencies. I will make sure plastics which are the major waste substances in town become useful by converting them into other items that would make them valuable thereby getting rid of them which will also promote flood mitigation. The genuineness of sanitation is not quite clear, and there is a lot of defunct staff in the council. One thing I will do is a complete evaluation of my workforce. I will create land fields of about 200 hectares outside the city for disposing waste which will last for about twenty-five years. I am here to connect Freetown because I am one of the very few people that can appeal to everybody. From left to right, forward to backward, I can interact with everybody. In terms of tax collection, we will reduce the property tax significantly but enforce payment. In the area of education, we will make sure every school has disability access and we will make sure special disable schools have access to all important books in braille.