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October 14, 2015 By: Yusuf Keketoma Sandi

For many years, many things have been said and written about him. For the smear campaigners Maada Bio is a poor and jobless man but in contradiction other smear campaigners would accuse Maada Bio that he runs a business empire in Ghana. For others, Maada Bio has committed crimes against humanity but he can travel everywhere just not to the United States of America. There are also those who do not like him because he is a strict and disciplined man, so they have fears about him being president of our great republic. Sometimes, when there is no other reason left in the recycle bin then this comes out – Maada Bio does not smile and always looks too serious. Just maybe, the newest requirement for the presidency is smiling.

If it was a sensible strategy to attack a presidential candidate as jobless and poor, President Buhari would never have won landslide elections recently in Nigeria. In fact, during the Nigerian elections, the Director of Media and Publicity of the then governing PDP, Femi Fani-Kayode, once mocked Rtd. Maj. Gen. Buhari about being jobless to newsmen: “We believe that our dear General would have done himself proud even if all he could do was to set up a pure water manufacturing business that could keep younger Nigerians around him in gainful employment. Yet even this he failed to do. This is a man that wants to be elected President of a country that has the largest economy in black Africa.” The Nigerian voters were too intelligent enough to dismiss the nonsense from Fani-Kayode and voted emphatically for President Buhari.

Similarly, if travelling to the United States of America was a requirement to be a head of state of a country, in the 2014 Indian elections Narendra Modi would never have won landslide elections to be Prime Minister; and in the 2013 Kenyan Presidential elections, Uhuru Kenyatta would never have become a President. Both men were demonised during their respective elections by their opponents that they could not travel to the United States of America for allegations of human rights violations. However, majority of Indians and Kenyans dismissed the smear attacks as utter nonsense and voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Uhuru Kenyatta respectively because they cared about their own nation and love their people. In September 2014, President Obama welcomed Prime Minister Modi to the White House and stated it was an extraordinary pleasure; whilst in August 2014 President Uhuru Kenyatta was hosted at the White House for the State Dinner on the occasion of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit. When the Indians and Kenyans emphatically voted, the United States Government listened.

However, despite all the opposition towards their candidacies President Buhari, President Kenyatta and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have one common denominator with Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio – massive support from the ordinary people. None of the three elected Heads of State ever worked for the United Nations or campaigned in their respective elections with pictures of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It is not that to have pictures with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is a bad idea but surely it is not a political requirement to either lead a political party or a nation.

For Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, the Presidential elections are still many months away but his spectacular welcome on Saturday 11th October, especially in Freetown, has once again put beyond doubt that he is the people’s choice. The homecoming excitement was so figuratively infectious that some people started travelling to Lungi on Friday and thousands did on Saturday. Some people slept in the open at Lungi international airport on Saturday night; some did not even sleep; tens of thousands danced in the rain; those who were part of the motorcade said the number of vehicles was more than 250; there were cultural masquerades and “bubu” dancing; musical sets mounted on vehicles and there were just people, people, people. An APC friend of mine had to admit to me that the huge number of people was like a presidential election campaign rally.

So when few people, normally out of dishonesty, say that Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio cannot win elections in the Western Area, sometimes you think they live in a different planet. Funnily, for many months out of the same dishonesty few have painted people who support Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio as violent but spectacularly even with the tens of thousands of people the event took place largely with no violence or fighting on the streets or at the party headquarters. For such a mammoth crowd of ordinary people to come out in the rains to welcome a politician, he does not have to be a karaoke singer to sing in bars; Sierra Leoneans are far too intelligent than that.

And despite his huge popularity across the country, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio also has a special gift – the gift of rising above party politics to call for national cohesion when the country faces a great disaster or the country needs it at the international stage. When Dr. Samura Kamara contested for the Presidency of the African Development Bank, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio did not see his candidacy just as an APC Foreign Minister, he publicly supported his candidacy because as a statesman he genuinely believed that if Dr. Samura Kamara was elected that would have accorded Sierra Leone respectability amongst the comity of nations and our international partners.

So too when there was an Ebola outbreak, he was the first politician to call for national cohesion; he travelled to Sierra Leone; he made huge donations across the country to Ebola victims; he even visited a quarantined home and he launched an educational trust fund for Ebola orphans. When severe flooding occurred in some parts of the country, he also called for national cohesion and made huge donations to flood victims not only in Western Area but also in Bo District.

Therefore, the fact that President Koroma welcomed Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio at State House during his courtesy call should not be a surprise. Human tragedies like the Ebola and flooding should go beyond politics. They created an opportunity for politicians to be statesmen and President Koroma and Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio seized that opportunity at the State House meeting. Now, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio has returned home to thank everyone across the country for the bravery, courage, resilience and fortitude in the collective efforts to fight Ebola. What the Ebola outbreak and flooding have shown is that devoid of politics we can be united in our compassion, love and care for one another. Yes, for few people, politics can sometimes be a very nasty game and sometimes people exploit it to demonise others. But on human tragedies it must unite us.

And just for those who suffer from selective amnesia, for many years and on many issues, whether it was on the initial management of the Ebola funds, the initial concerns regarding the Census and constitutional review processes, the sacking of the former Vice President and many other issues, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio has always offered constructive criticisms including proffering policy suggestions for government consideration. Unfortunately, out of lack of understanding, it is not surprising that few people have deliberately misunderstood Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio’s comment on the Supreme Court judgement on the Sam-Sumana case. Even many respected lawyers who hold different opinions from the Supreme Court judges in their interpretations of the constitution, like Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio stated, we can disagree with their interpretations but we should respect the judgement of the court. And there is no better person to have said that than Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio who clearly felt he did not get justice from the Supreme Court in his election petition case and disagreed with their judgement on that case, but in the interest of the peace and security of the country he respected the decision of the court.

In conclusion, the return of Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio will also give SLPP the opportunity to continue internal dialogue and peace efforts in the party. Like Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio has assured in his interview to radio democracy, he is committed to a peaceful and united SLPP and will always play his part. Sadly, maybe out of naivety, others think their own idea of peace is to build a coalition against a single candidate. But what the return of Rtd. Brig. Bio has demonstrably shown is that coalition against him is like forming a coalition against the majority of SLPP members and by extension against an SLPP victory in 2018.

What our country needs beyond the Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma presidency is to have a President who is disciplined; experienced; principled; understands governance issues; a capable commander-in-chief; a servant of the people; and above all a truly popular politician with the gift of rising beyond party politics – Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not represent those of Concord Times

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