On his maiden international trip to the United Kingdom which has been a diplomatic success, the chairman of the SLPP made the statement at a jam-packed social evening event organised by the Council of Elders, the Electoral Commissioner and team and the outgoing hardworking executive of the SLPP UK/Ireland branch on Saturday, 12th October 2013 at a prestigious hall in London.
In his thrilling message, which was the climax of the evening Chief Kapen focused on hope for Sierra Leoneans under the SLPP and the emergence of what he described as the "basic elements of our democracy" which his leadership in SLPP will pursue.
On hope, Chief Kapen describes it as an important element that determines man's faith. He said as Sierra Leoneans hope should give us energy to transform our society from backwardness to a brighter future. "Let us look for that hope, and you will only find that hope in the SLPP", he confidently boasted to a loud applause of his audience.
No doubts, if you are a leader of the opposition and you see a government in which the relationship between the President and Vice President is more symbolic than functional and a government in which ministers spend more time in planning a succession plan for the President rather than initiating policies to improve the lives of citizens which has even resulted in some members of the government not in speaking terms. And at the same time as leader of the opposition, you see on a daily basis, ordinary people who have now been despaired in their daily struggles either to feed themselves, to feed their families, to get employment, to cater for their children or to shelter themselves, that opposition leader has a duty to tell those suffering ordinary people that HOPE can triumph over DESPAIR. And for an audience which comprised member of PMDC, APC and SLPP there could have been no better platform to send a message of hope for all Sierra Leoneans.
But as an astute politician, Chief Kapen knows that just by talking about hope for ordinary people under the SLPP, as crucial as it is might not be enough, so he fleshed out his vision for the leadership of the SLPP and how SLPP will make a difference in the lives of ordinary people in what he described as his "basic elements of our democracy". According to chief Kapen, the "basic elements of our democracy" should be based on :
(i) How to utilise our common efforts for the common good;
(ii) How to win the heart and minds of the people; and
(iii) How to restore the social affection amongst ourselves as both party members and citizens
On "how to utilise our common efforts for the common good", Chief Kapen said the SLPP is now a party for all Sierra Leoneans. And he stressed that the party will create a platform for every Sierra Leonean to contribute to national development.
On "how to win the hearts and minds of the people", Chief kapen said that as a result of his election, the SLPP has shown that it is now a grassroot party as the party elected a chief who served his local people for 22 years. And that for the first time in the history, the party has elected a Northerner and a Temne as Chairman and Leader which gives the clear message that SLPP is NOT a "mende-man" party. As such this singular act that was done in the Bo convention has significantly transformed the party to win the hearts and minds of the people of Sierra Leone. Also as a part of his message of winning the hearts and minds, chief Kapen said he believes in the politics of "bottom to top" and not "top to bottom". As I sat listening on his philosophy on how to win the hearts and minds of the people, I had the impression that his leadership will be mostly about building an SLPP that centers on the grassroot people. Whatever we say about the APC, if there is anything SLPP can learn from APC is how to effectively mobilise and broaden our grassroot membership. In a country where the literacy rate is nothing to write home about, SLPP cannot only win an election just with the "bookman" or "elitist" party tag, we have to reach out to every home, community and every Sierra Leonean. But undoubtedly, the recent bye election results in both Kailahun and Tonkolili must have given the Chairman the belief that he is heading the party in the right direction where ordinary Sierra Leoneans can proudly feel to be part of an SLPP as the ONLY party that stands for their hopes and aspirations.
On "how to restore the social affection amongst ourselves both as party members and citizens", chief Kapen advice that as party members and citizens we have to extend a hand of friendship to one another by helping, doing things, and caring for one another. This is the only way by which we can unite our party because SLPP stands taller than everyone and as a country this is how we can be united because Sierra Leone stands taller than everyone of us. No doubts his analysis of the basic elements of democracy was well received by the audience.
As Chief Kapen concluded his well received address, the National Secretary General, Sulaiman Banja Tejan Sie was also very keen to stress to me in our personal discussion in the hall that the foremost priority of the new executive is to unify and reconcile members in the party as that is why they created the twelve-man reconciliation committee headed by Dr. Alpha Wurie. And that for the Secretary General, he said SLPP is the only party in the country that has the human resources with the required expertise to form a government which can bring meaningful changes in the lives of ordinary people which is why they will do everything it takes to unite the party so the SLPP can fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the ordinary people.
During the dance, Chief Kapen took the opportunity to familiarise himself with the SLPP members in the hall with the usual handshake and greetings backed by his trademark smiles. You could tell from his face he was pretty pleased with the success of his maiden international visit amongst which he attended the governing Conservative party conference in Manchester, he was hosted in the United Kingdom Parliament and has engaged in numerous behind-the-scene diplomatic meetings with UK government officials. And I could not help but smiled when an SLPP member said to me during the dance that even though he did not support Chief kapen during the past chairmanship election Chief kapen's speech and the manner in which chief Kapen was interacting with the SLPP members has made him to believe that Chief Kapen will transform the SLPP from a party in opposition to a party ready for state governance in 2017/2018.
Also in attendance at the social evening were various dignitaries amongst whom were the National Organising Secretary, Sheku Kondeh; the Deputy Chairman of APC UK Branch; a former Minister of Youth and Sport, Dr. Dennis Bright; Mr. Foday Yumkella; Chairman Council of Elders, Alhaji Khalil Mustapha; Past Chairmen of the SLPP UK/Ireland branch; Executive members of other SLPP Chapters within the UK/Ireland branch; the Outgoing Chairman, Mr Jimmy Batilo Songa who is going for re-election; the Outgoing Vice Chairman, Nat Sandi who is going for re-election; the Outgoing Women's Leader, Mrs Sandi who is going for re-election; the Outgoing Secretary General, Dr Abu Karim who is going for re-election; the outgoing Legal Adviser, Mr. Prince Goba who is going for re-election and a host of other distinguished members. The social evening was chaired by Albert Dugba, Secretary General of the Electoral Commission, SLPP UK/Ireland branch.