The Oswald Hanciles Column : Incredible words from credible leaders in the Mende heartland
In Kailahun!! ? Ardent support for an APC President!!!? Kailahun in the Eastern Province has been believed to have the most fanatical supporters of the SLPP in all free and fair elections in the country?!! Unbelievable, that Kailahun indigenes would genuinely support any political party, or, president belonging to any other party, other than the opposition SLPP!! I have heard such incredible words when President Ernest Bai Koroma went to Kailanhun a couple of months ago to hand over agricultural equipment for the Agriculture Business Center (s) which are part of the APC government’s Smallholder Commercialization Programme.
President Koroma noted that the Le21billion worth of tractors, tillers, ‘de-stoners’ to remove stones from locally-grown rice, threshers donated by government to Kailahun people were the largest sum of materials and equipment which would be donated to every district in the country. Chief Kailondo Banya, head of the Council of Paramount Chiefs in Kailahun poignantly said then that the benefits the Kailahun people were receiving from the APC leader, President Koroma, is not one they have earned, since they cast less than ten percent to their votes for the President in the 2007 elections – so, the people of Kailahun owe the President a ‘political debt’, which can only be cleared when they vote for the President massively during the 2012 elections. That was said during a meeting in a crowded Kailahun field. Standing on the podium with the President, Chief Banya was some fifty yards away from me. I couldn’t see his eyeballs. I couldn’t really decipher the sincerity of his words. This week, on Tuesday, August 8, 2012, I sat on a plastic chair at arm’s length from Paramount Chief James Sheriff Coker-Jajua VI of Njualahun Chiefdom, Kailahun District.
It was on the marble covered veranda in his residence in Segbwema, Kailahun District. He was clad in fashionable blue jeans shorts, with matching dark blue polo shirt, and dark blue base ball cap on his head. I could not only see his eyeballs, but, could feel the vibration of his near-incredulous words, and could feel the heat of his admiration for President Koroma’s developmental thrust in Kailahun, and the sincerity of his appeal to his people tingled in my brain!
P.C. Coker-Jajua:Don’t be Sentimental. Vote For Ernest Koroma and Development
Like with nearly all indigenes and residents of Kailahun who I spoke with this week, Chief Coker-Jajua spoke most glowingly about the Kenema-Pendembu road being constructed by the APC government: “You would never get the benefit of your crop without good roads. Now, this agricultural district would reap the full benefits of its agricultural labours as it gets its product faster and more cheaply to markets….”
Chief Coker-Jajua said that the about the best hospital in the country before the civil war, the Nixon Memorial Hospital, had become “dilapidated”; and, repeated appeals to former President Tejan Kabbah (SLPP) for the speedy post-war rehabilitation of the hospital yielded no result. With just a single appeal to President Koroma, he facilitated $1.8 million for the rehabilitation of the hospital. In almost the same spirit, the paramount chief said that many letters and representations had been made by the people of Segbwema to the SLPP leader between 1996 and 2001 – President Tejan Kabbah – to have their mosque edifice completed, but, it got them nothing. And, almost instantaneously, when President Koroma was told about the mosque which had taken 35 years to be constructed, he whipped out his cheque book, and donated the $40,000 needed to have the mosque constructed.
He lauded the “tolerance” of President Koroma, which has resulted in him embracing the Kailahun people, though he had few votes from Kailahun in the 2007 elections. He lampooned the previous SLPP government: “We would give them 98% of votes in Kailahun district, what development did they bring to us? Nothing!!”. Pledging his “hundred percent support” to President Ernest Bai Koroma, he then made a passionate appeal to his people: “Let us not vote on sentiments. Here is a president from another region who has brought development to us, shouldn’t we support him? We should!”.
P.C. Coker-Jagua’s words obviously carry weight among his people. As paramount chief, he is royalty in a lifelong position: the sixth elected person from Coker-Jajua Household among the ten paramount chiefs since the establishment of his chiefdom. A strong Catholic, with a huge silver crucifix dangling from his neck to his ‘prosperity-belly’, he spoke in fluent English that some twenty years ago he was a Sales Manager of the French company exporting agriculture produce and marketing imported goods in Sierra Leone, CFAO.
Ordinary Kailahun Farmer Ready to Campaign for ‘Ernest’
Mohamed Bawoh is clearly an ordinary farmer. He was dressed in ordinary sleeveless vest, his black trousers tied around his body like a lappa. He emerged from behind the Meluglama ABC in Bendejuma village in Kailahun with his farmer’s cutlass held in his hand when I reached his village. He introduced himself as the Chairman of the ABC; and he expressly mentioned other ABC executives – Mohamed Musa; Momo Moi Foray; Musa Soa. With the muscles in his slim body rippling, the tall farmer said that in Mende to me: “People here used to look down on us farmers; but, with the help of President Koroma and the ABCs, we are now being reckoned with, gaining respect in society”. Bawoh said that he not only would cast his vote for President Koroma in the 2012 elections, but, asked for mobility to go round his chiefdom to tell people that President Koroma is a “President sent by God to save Sierra Leoneans – especially farmers like himself”.
Sheikh Tejan Koroma: Let God Make President Koroma to win on November, 2012
Invoking God for long life and continued health and strength for President Koroma came with spiritual strength from Sheikh Ahmed Tejan Koroma, the Imam of the Central Mosque in Kenema on Hanga Road in Kenema Town. Clad in off white Islamic robe, with red-and-white-chequered Arabic cape on his head, Sheikh Koroma said that President Koroma is the only president to have been “simultaneously developing all the districts of the country”. Born in Segbwema, Kailahun District, on the 25th of January, 1950, a graduate of Islamic Law in the famous Al-haz University in Cairo, Egypt, the Islamic leader praised President Koroma that though a Christian he responded promptly to the people’s request to construct a mosque in Segbwema. He has been impressed by the development of the president in road construction, in the Free Health Care system which is helping our people to fulfil an Islamic injunction – to multiply, and to live healthy and worthy lives.
Chief Francis M. Koroma, Town Speaker of Nyadayama Town with about 3,000 households in Nongowa Chiefdom, in the Kenema District (a town with about the largest number of mosques in the country, in per capita terms) also asked God for “long life for President Koroma” and for victory in the 2012 presidential election so that “he can continue with more development for our country”. Chief Koroma said that President Koroma has embarked on all “the five foundations of development” in any nation – electricity, food, water, education, and health care. While deriding the SLPP government’s development in Kenema district even after the war between 2002 and 2002, he gave kudos to the APC government for its “visible development”. He pointed out to the newly paved streets within Kenema Town: Combema Road; Sumaila Street, etc.
He also made a passionate appeal to his people: “We are telling our people to massively vote for EBK. He is the only one who has the vision to help this country. Don’t look at the color of a party. Look at the person who is heading a party. EBK is a good person, so, support him”
Kamajor Battle Commander Ready to fight political battles for Ernest
A Battalion Commander of the ferocious civilian-turned-military movement during the civil war between 1991 and 2002 in Sierra Leone, Abdul Lahai; who was also a Deputy Initiator of the Kamajor movement which boasted bullet-proof inviolability and the prowess of combatants to make themselves invisible at will; a man who told me he had 1,775 men under his command during the war, now pledges his feisty support for President Ernest Bai Koroma. Dressed in off white lace, his tone even, but with traditional intelligence, he said: “Why have we left the SLPP government that we sacrificed our lives for during the war; the government that we helped twice to restore to power?”. He mentioned the name of Chief Surrur in Kenema district who told him that he had ‘discovered’ a “good man; pure in heart; and sincere about developing the country”. That “good man” is President Koroma. The former commander, whose mystical military outfit was much feared by the RUF rebels asked rhetorically: “In eleven years in power the SLPP didn’t develop the country; in five years we can clearly see the development of President Koroma in every district in the country; what can the SLPP tell us they can do better than what President Koroma has done?” And speaking in Mende, he answered his own question as if pulling a trigger: “Gbohgboh!!” ( ‘Nothing!!’).
Kailahun’s Multmillion dollar Hotel Owner, Maya Kaikai, Hails Ernest
The owner of Luawa Resort in Kailahun Town, the biggest investment ever in Kailahun’s history by an indigene, reminded me that he is the nephew of Professor Septimus Kaikai (first Presidential Spokesman, and later, information minister to the SLPP’s President Tejan Kabbah), and today he is a passionate supporter of President Koroma because he has befriended him, impressed as the President was with his substantial investment in the district: “President Koroma did not care whether I was Fullah, Mandingo, Gissi or Limba, Mende or Temne. He sees all of us in the country as one family. He is m y friend”. He made snide comments of the SLPP whose leaders “do not recognize talents”. He warned people to realize that the development of the government of President Koroma in the health sector, in road construction, is “money being put indirectly into the pockets of individual citizens”.
The norm in politics in Sierra Leone since independence has been that all political parties headed by Northerners (especially the APC) would receive massive support in the North/West axis of the country – while the SLPP would receive almost 100% support in the South/East of the country. Until 2007 when there was a slight shift in this electoral computation, most Sierra Leoneans recognize this political divide like ‘divine order’. The words emerging from Kailahun among opinion leaders and ordinary people supporting President Koroma if it translates into significant votes in the 2012 elections for the APC’s President Koroma would mean a monumental or revolutionary political shift in the Sierra Leonean political arena.