Dear Dr Banya,
I have been concerned for a considerable period about your overt partiality in SLPP leadership matters, often manifested in your active support for people and issues even when this has meant your adopting undemocratic and unconstitutional means in so doing. This is even more surprising to me when I consider that you have been a Chairman of the party and an elder, so highly regarded both in the party and nationally that you have been appointed to be on major committees of the party for resolving thorny issues.
My silence on what I consider a perennial attitude incompatible with your revered position has been out of due deference to you as an elder and your national standing. I can no longer keep silent about a major player that in my opinion is playing a large part in destroying the party and have decided to be publicly true to my own conscience. I am particularly galled by your recent article “A Word of advice to the SLPP” in the Sierra Leone Telegraph of 2nd April. 2014 and reproduced in other newspapers that would seem to suggest to me that you are adopting a posture of selective amnesia on the party leadership issue.
I will refer to various specifics in this article with which I take umbrage.
In this article you attempt to "correct" a statement made in an article about you by referring to it thus: "It states that, I had all along been a supporter of retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, in the campaign for the position of flag bearer in the 2012 presidential election." You go on to say further, regarding the 2012 elections: "And throughout the campaign, with its many problems and challenges, not one of my colleagues can testify that I canvassed for, or asked any of them to support any aspirant including Bio"
This is patently untrue. Your active support for Brigadier Bio precedes the flagbearer election. I witnessed you rally round people on the floor of the 2011 party conference, getting them to accompany you and Brigadier Bio to prevail on John Benjamin to reconcile with him and to get his support for Bio's election. A supporter of mine reported to me you had tried to convince her at Mr Sawi’s house in Brookfields to support Brigadier Bio in preference to me because as you purportedly said, I was "financially secure in the corporate world" and Bio needed to be given a chance to "be comfortable". A straw poll of all the other aspirants and delegates will indicate overwhelmingly that your support was for Brigadier Bio and such support was overt and hegemonic.
The next issue concerns your assertion about Brigadier Bio's popularity. You state that both he and President Koroma are the most popular politicians in Sierra Leone. To make your case about Brigadier Bio you have dragged myself and others into your argument to make a point.
"Within the SLPP opposition, even those who are uncompromisingly opposed to Maada Bio, such as John Oponjo Benjamin, Andrew Keili, Joe Kallon, John Karimu, and others, acknowledge that unless they rally behind a single popular candidate (an Achilles tendon of the party) within that group – and even with that, theirs would be a formidable task to match the popularity of Maada Bio today."
This is very disingenous from a man of your intelligence and standing. It is elementary logic to expect that a man who had just stood for national elections, had been in the eyes of the media and had visited every nook and cranny, especially in the party strongholds, accompanied by those you now consider as mortally opposed to him would be popular. Berewa as flagbearer was even more popular as was reflected in his votes. Such popularity is however always ephemeral and a sensible party would follow its constitution, opening the field wide to see if there are others who would not be drubbed at the national polls as the previous aspirant was. Unfortunately, you have been in the avant grade of the movement to have a flagbearer in perpetuity. This has been manifested in your actions on the floor of meetings and conferences and in your utterances. A discerning observer would ask the logical question: Why not just follow the party constitution, have an even playing field and allow your "popular" candidate to win the flagbearer election by a landslide? It also galls me that someone like you should resort to unnecessarily making disparaging remarks about other potential aspirants. You seem to be a man obsessed with conspiracy and see nothing but “reds under the bed”. Every potential opponent in your opinion is only in the race to spite Bio.
This is further evidenced by your statement about Dr Yumkella: "Unfortunately for the doctor and diplomat, most of the grassroots members of the party already regard his candidacy, not in its own right, but as the product of the have-been group who appear desperately to spite Bio." Why would the mere appearance of anybody on the stage be with the intention of “spiting Bio”? For a man like you to have this kind of self-serving, dishonest and monofocal view of things is symptomatic of what has gone wrong with the SLPP as a national party with a proud history of transparency, inclusiveness and adherence to its constitution.
You continue your ad hominem attacks in the article and lump everybody together. For you to make the following statement about party supporters surprises me:
"They see the Benjamin group rightly or wrongly, now regarded as old and been-there-before, and in their minds – tired as well." Are you lumping everyone together in what you call the “Benjamin group”? If “has-been” is a valid metric for judging substance in our party affairs, then, why should anyone listen to what you have to say?
You seem to vacillate between giving the impression that you are an open minded independent person and on confirming that you are a die-hard Bio proponent. The following statement reaffirms your confusion on where exactly you stand: "For the records, I have every personal reason, not even to say a single word in favour of Maada Bio, and he knows that. But to me, the SLPP looms much bigger than Puawui or anyone else." Good try, but not convincing. Please take a personl poll of the public to learn how unmistakable your partisanship has been since Bio became a flagbearer candidate.
It is even more surprising that you talk about reconciliation, praising the initiatives undertaken by the young members of CUT, whilst in the same breath castigating VP Berewa in the following statement: “Sadly, I have to admit that my younger friend – the former vice president and SLPP candidate, has disqualified himself by his association with the other faction, and not in an advisory capacity at that." With all due respect sir, it is you and not Mr Berewa that is proving divisive. Everyone who knows Berewa cannot be in any doubt as to where he stands on these issues bearing on constitutionality. I have seen VP Berewa berate Maada Bio and John Benjamin on different occasions based on his perspectives on the constitutionality of issues. Whereas he made a clarion call for unity in the party at his Party Office speech at President Kabbah's laying out ceremony, you were busy sowning the seeds of discord by urging unity in the party by “uniting behind Brigadier Bio”, in what I was told was a disgraceful speech which mandated some people to stage a walk out. I also recall that on many issues which would have required your intervention as a party elder, you have deliberately kept quiet. For example you were on the floor of the NEC meeting when Jaiah Koroma was wounded, with blood oozing from his head by supporters of Brigadier Bio but chose not to say a word.
My only conclusion in all of this is that you appear to be morally confused. Your statements in your article are grossly at variance with your actions. You are certainly not fooling anyone. You have lost the moral high ground you had in the party and you are now regarded as a divisive old man who stretches the truth to serve his political goals.
You end with the following: "The old order must therefore give way to the new. Ask those who participated in Rex Bonopha’s recent Kenema wedding, and they would tell you." By this I suppose you are inferring that Brigadier Bio’s popularity was manifested at Bhonapha’s wedding. You do not even have the courage to condemn the verbal invectives reined on John Benjamin at this wedding by a Bio supporter-so much for your neutrality! It is surprising for a man of your stature to resort to such puerile antics. This was Bhonapha’s wedding-pure and simple and he deserved that attention to be focused on him. That you resort to essentially cult worship surprises me. In my view, you seem to be an integral part of a group that is obsessed in keeping Maada Bio in the public eye at all costs, including hijacking funerals and weddings. As a party elder and statesman, this should be beneath you.
To end, I advise that all elders who truly care about SLPP and its unique place to influence the direction of this country should unite, not behind any particular individual at this point but behind its time honoured principles of transparency, inclusiveness and constitutional rule. The party needs to be made organizationally whole and effective again and when the time comes for the Flagbearer race it should be open to all who qualify to run as per the requirements in our constitution. This in my opinion is what an elder like you should be pushing for.
I look forward to meeting you soon to discuss these issues for the greater good of the Party. Meanwhile I can assure you that any statement you make in the public domain that I consider divisive and untrue will be met with a robust response to bring the truth to the public for the greater good of the party. I would also advise that you desist from ad hominem attacks.
Indeed the old order must give way to the new, as you say. You could however be excused for defining the old order wrongly.
I wish you well in your endeavours.