Politics in Sierra Leone’s Southern Region : Interview with Mustapha Massaquoi
By Brima Michael Turay, APC-NA PRO :
The name Mustapha Massaquoi, commonly known as “Staffay”, is not being trumpeted within the APC party but that should not be surprising, given the fact that the man who carries this name has always enjoyed being in the back seat working tirelessly on the engine to help the drivers in the APC do the perfect job of navigating the political fields. In Bo town, where this man resides, he is, of course, very well known and very popular amongst the young and old – and that is not surprising either, given the fact that he grew up and went to school in this second city of Sierra Leone which, undoubtedly, is one of the political strongholds of the opposition SLPP party. I was fortunate to spend some time with Mustapha during my 4 day stay in this town after covering the President’s visit to Nyandehun town, which is situated along the main road just a few miles from Bo itself. On the last day of my visit, I requested an interview with Mr. Massaquoi and he graciously granted me one in the quiet restaurant of the Sahara hotel where I was residing for the duration of this stay. Below is the product of that encounter. For purposes of this interview, he asked me to go by his nickname of “Staffay” and I also granted him the pleasure of calling me by my initials – BMT; representing not “Black Man Time”, or “Big Man Trouble” but Brima Michael Turay.
BMT – Thanks Staffay for sparing time to allow me to have this interview with you.
Staffay – Thanks BMT for having me, and I want to say, it is a pleasure having a conversation over our politics with a man whom the opposition has come to see as someone who calls it as it is!
BMT – Well, thank you; and let me proceed by asking you my first question:
Prior to the 2007 Presidential elections, knowing the strength of the SLPP in the East and Southern regions of the country, and the extent to which the SLPP had encroached in the body politics of Sierra Leone, did you have any reason to believe that the then leader of theAPCparty, Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma, would be the next president of Sierra Leone?
Staffay – I would say, “Yes” and would like to explain a little bit why I say so. Prior to meeting him between 2001 and 2002, I had known his younger brother, Sylvanus Koroma, because we both went to Bo School and I saw how Sylvanus was enjoying life as a result of Mr. Ernest Koroma’s support. When I finally met Mr. Ernest Koroma through my uncle, Mr. Victor Bockarie Foh, and spent time with them, I saw in Mr. Koroma two unique qualities of a great leader – his accommodating temperament and his listening skills. In addition to the fact that he loves his family, as evident in Sylvanus’ life style in Bo School, coupled with the understanding that he had created jobs for many Sierra Leoneans while he was I serving as Managing Director for Reliance/RitCorp Insurance companies, I just knew it would only be a matter of time before Mr. Koroma assumed the mantle of leadership of our nation.
BMT – I was made to understand that when Mr. Ernest Koroma was campaigning in the Southern region prior to the 2007 elections, word had gone round the hotels in Bo that no one should allow him to have a room in any of them. You took the risk and offered to have him stay in your house in Bo at a time when most people were running away from him for fear of opposition reprisals and threats to burn any house where he and his campaign team would be accommodated. What was your motivation for doing that?
Staffay – I am a man of my own and I always want to stand by what I believe in – good or bad! I have been in theAPC since 1995 when my uncle, Mr. Victor Foh, was a running mate to Mr. Eddie Turay. Uncle Victor’s home was burnt down at the time but I knew we had to sacrifice in order to be where we are today. I saw this vision which most people did not see at the time. In fairness to the majority of people in Bo town, and in the Southern region for that matter, I would say, it is hard to see a vision for theAPC in a place where the opposition SLPP had made it almost like a taboo to even mention the nameAPC; let alone talk about voting for any candidate under that political party. So, yes, it was a real sacrifice and I am glad that I did!
BMT – What is your relationship with theAPC party officials in the Southern region?
Staffay – I have a very, very cordial relationship with them; and it has to be that way because I am the Youth Leader in Constituency 75, which is the Constituency that has the onlyAPC councilor in the entire Bo District. I am a member of the Youth League in Bo District; member of the Regional Youth League; Deputy Regional Organizing Secretary; Deputy Organizing Secretary for the National Youth League; Regional Youth Mobilizer for the 2012 elections in the Southern region and I am connecting with every level of the party hierarchy in the region.
BMT – Very Impressive, I must say. I understand, from my interaction with people around Bo town, that you have a great reputation for pushing people up while you remain down; and you seem to enjoy doing things that way. Why is that?
Staffay (With his usual broad smile) – Well, that is how and from where I gain my joy everyday! In a world where everyone is aspiring for something big, there has to be those who have the humility to serve as foundation blocks upon which many would build their future and do great things for themselves and for mankind as a whole. I like to be in that spot because it is safe and rewarding. Besides, in politics, try to wait for your own time so that everybody will appreciate you more.
BMT - Are you considering running for office someday? If your answer is “Yes”, for which office would you like to run? And if “No”, why not?
Staffay – I would say “Yes”, and this is why. Before I came to the limelight of politics, I have been working with Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the humanitarian field – connecting with the grass root communities in the entire country. I have a grounded understanding of the people’s needs, how to address them and above all, I can relate to them. I have a clear idea of how to help the poor and needy from when I was working for NGOs and I have continued to do so to this day. I have a political base, which is Constituency 75, and the people do appreciate what I have been doing for them. I have knowledge of cross-cultural and infrastructural development to include building schools, creating jobs, formulating Youth Development Schemes, career development and capacity building at both village and district levels. I would love to see my people benefit, someday, from these skills that I have acquired and accumulated over the years. I would therefore like to represent them in any capacity that I may be appropriate someday down the road.
BMT – Some people refer to you as the Personal Assistant (PA) to Resident Minister Moijue Kaikai; and you seem to be hanging out with him a lot. What is your impression of him?
Staffay – BMT, it is only fools that would not love to hang out with good people and good things; and I happen not to be a fool. Minister Moijue Kaikai, whom I fondly refer to as “Res Min”, is a great human being. You cannot imagine how much fun and pleasure I get every day hanging around this guy. He solves political issues with great humour and achieves results with the same humility. He is what I would call “Action Man”! He hears a problem from the people today and he starts recommending solutions right on the spot. I can give you one example; and in fact, you were present at the Njala University Campus in BO when the students, after shaking hands with him, were rushing out of the campus to go watch a football match in some nearby hall. He asked why they were rushing and they told him. He stood there and promised them that they would be watching the next football finals and subsequent matches on their own TV screen from their satellite in the college campus; and further asked them to suggest where and when they would like the installation to begin. And remember, we were standing in front of what would soon be a “Covered Bus Stop” which the students had requested and which was being constructed under his supervision and will soon be ready for the students to use. How can you not hang out with a man like that, BMT? Besides, he is serving the APC party in one of the most difficult and controversial regions when you think of the political history between the two parties. If he is making progress, and in addition to the vested interest I have in the APC party, I see no reason why I would not serve as his Personal Assistant if that is what people want to call me (Smiles)!
BMT – What can you say about your uncle, Mr. Victor Bockarie Foh, who is currently the Secretary General of theAPC; and one of the Southerners who is known to be the most stable supporter of theAPC party?
Staffay – There can never be two Uncle Victors in our family. Uncle Victor is unique in his steadfastness and sense of loyalty to theAPC party. He saw something in theAPC that most of us are struggling to see because of the environment we hailed from; which is inhabited by predominantly SLPP supporters. I greatly admired his unique qualities and at some point I thought I should emulate such outstanding characteristics; and that is how I started looking into theAPC and its leadership until I finally formed my own opinions about the two. Uncle Victor is family and I will ever remain to respect him as my family and my best friend.
BMT - What is your message to the people of the Southern region for theAPC party and President Koroma?
Staffay – First of all, I want to thank the people of this region for understanding and accepting the President’s development-oriented stance for this nation. Their declaration for theAPC party is phenomenal and very encouraging for me and all otherAPC supporters in the region. I want to encourage them to continue to be violent-free and accept the situation as it stands because Mr. Ernest Koroma is currently the legitimate President of the country and we must support him to the fullest. Those who are still sitting on the fence should come on board and help in nation building. Politics is like a game of football. One should take his time and be very calculated and well coordinated in order to be able to score the goals. No one has a permanent position in theAPC party and it certainly does not belong to people of one particular tribe, religion and region. It is a party for all those who want to see this nation succeed. It is not surprising that I am in it and will stay in it for good!
BMT – This concludes our interview for today and I want to thank you for your time and your wisdom in answering the questions.
Staffay – Thank you too, BMT; and you are welcomed anytime