October 17, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi
The main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) ended their national delegates’ conference over the weekend, with the Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio emerging as standard bearer of the party, with efforts now underway for the losing aspirants to work together and strengthen the party.
One of the aspirants who came second in Sunday’s delegates’ conference, John Oponjo Benjamin, has described the election as “democratic, credible and in the best interest of the SLPP and Sierra Leone as a whole” and promised to assiduously work for an SLPP victory in the March 7, 2018 elections.
Mr. Benjamin said the tenets of democracy are part of reasons that have kept the SLPP together over the years and that the delegates conference was first of its kind in that party members and supporters clearly demonstrated high sense of respect, unity and peaceful co-existence.
Before delegates could cast their votes for their respective candidates at the Catco International Hotel in Freetown, all the five aspirants were given the opportunity to woo the delegates, with Mr. Benjamin the first to speak.
“We are all SLPP. I have come a long way in promoting the ideology of the SLPP not because I want to be a flag-bearer for the party only. I have worked at various levels of the party, first as councilor, chairman of the Kailahun District Council, minister of government and Chairman and Leader of the SLPP at the time the party headquarters was in complete disarray,” he told the more than 600 delegates.
He added: “We have real democracy in the SLPP, we have changed the political pattern, if there was no contest it should have been a coronation for just one person. I am contesting to get your vote after serving you at a very difficult moment; I want to get the flag and take the SLPP to State House.”
Another aspirant, Ambassador Umaru Bond Wurie, on the other hand said his services to the nation were very clear, as an engineer. He said a good number of roads within the country were designed by him during the SLPP administration.
“I have contributed a lot; without my effort there was not going to be the Bumbuna you are now enjoying, I have been around the country talking to people. What you are doing here today will take the party forward or backward. I am asking each and every one of you candidates to support the winner of this conference,” he urged.
Engineer Munda Rogers also said that he contested the race not only for members of the SLPP but the average Sierra Leoneans who are suffering in the hands of the current APC administration.
He said Sierra Leone is now a country where the rights of citizens are being grossly abused. “I have come to work for the party and for Sierra Leoneans to have access to good job and other facilities because we are all Sierra Leoneans,” he said.
Dr. Alie Kabbah also noted that as a career politician, he respects the right of the delegates in choosing their leader but warned that their decision could affect the lives of millions of Sierra Leoneans.
He said the SLPP is the last hope for the people of Sierra Leone, and described his track record as one of international repute and one that inspires young people to join the SLPP.
“I am in this race not for personal mission but we do right things for our people,” he said.
The last speaker among the candidates was Retired Julius Maada. He told delegates that, “I am here as your former Chief of Staff who fought for this country, somebody who brought democracy and peace you are now enjoying. As delegates you have to make an important decision, you are looking for a leader that will take SLPP to State House. You have that in me; I have been tried and tested as a leader at one of the defining moments in the history of Sierra Leone. I contested against the popular candidate of the APC and among all other hurdles and got 38% of the vote, all I need now is a top-up that will lead us to State House.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Bio emerged victorious by a landslide margin as the opposition party’s standard bearer in the March 2018 election. He got 475 votes, representing 77% of valid votes cast while Mr. Benjamin came second in the contest, polling 114 votes.