National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Presidential Aspirant Announcement Speech
NDA aspirant, M.C. Bah on December 15, 2010 declared his candidacy to thousands of students at Fourah Bay College. “Right here from the mountain of hope – Fourah Bay College – where the symbol of our educational prestige still stands, I want to begin a long journey with you to transform our nation,” he declared. (Photo: Mohamed C. Bah, Freetown, Sierra Leone, December 2010)
The event was hosted and organized by the FBC NDA representative headed by Ibrahim Kamara who invited all political parties on a discussion about political tolerance and youth violence. Dignitaries from all walks of life were invited, the media, non-governmental organization and the NDA membership. The students of FBC were the majority of the guests.
Aspirant Bah’s declaration was inspiring and moving as one student Mohamed Sannoh mentioned: “We need candidates to talk about issues and problem solving solutions, not attacking other political parties.”
Below are excerpts of his speech at FBC
Executive members of the NDA, Party members, friends and supporters, good morning:
Today, I want to begin to take a long journey with you to transform our nation. It is a journey of many roads with endless promises and possibilities. Sierra Leone has given me a cherished gift of being a citizen. But this natural gift also comes with many sacrifices and a lot of shared responsibilities.
I must give back to a nation that has done so much for me by helping to build a better future for the next generation. This is the historic mission our generation has been solemnly and urgently called upon to do.
I come here today after leaving all the comfort and luxury America can bring, and like other great Sierra Leoneans before me, I heard the voice of the voiceless echoing across the valleys and hills of our nation. From a humble heart and a patriotic love for Sierra Leone, I answered the calling to serve because I know what my country can be.
There has never been a nation that has shown so much resilience in the face of despair and depression like Sierra Leone. Be it the brutal civil war in the early 1990’s that raged for ten years, or the economic hardship our people face daily, we continue to strive in the midst of so many adversities. As a unique people, we have overcome the odds and the impossibilities because of our enduring courage and our unyielding faith in the Almighty God.
Because of who we are, we have never stopped reaching for what is possible. Even when we are divided by those who seek only their political ambitions, many of us have asked why put the interest of Sierra Leone behind the mask of false promises and seduce our young people to seek confrontation and violence over collective national dialogue? Why let our promising young men and women languish in the corners and streets of our nation with no jobs to support their families? Why do so many of our children have to go bed hungry?
Every day, we move further and further behind the poverty lines because of a political system that is devoid of practical solutions with so many misguided economic agendas that serve no interest to the people. We have been a nation today where the poor are abandoned and neglected, while the few wealthy and corrupt public servants build gated mansions with no drive ways. And the ordinary citizens have been forced to make choices by staying home without medical attention because of a helpless system that cares only for those who can afford it.
Young boys and girls have to travel many miles to obtain an education – because their towns or chiefdoms does not have a school system. Indeed, I want to tell you how I got here. I was born in Freetown and my parents moved to the diamond rich district of Kono, where I learned about the values and strength of diversity. A melting pot, Kono district was richly diverse with so many cultures, tribes and nationalities. The people of that district for so many years have been exploited by their own government who should provide them the basic infrastructural services of good roads, better hospitals and schools with decent jobs for young people in exchange of the foreign investment opportunities their district brings.
I walked to school on the dusty roads of Kono district couple of decades ago knowing that being a Sierra Leonean was the greatest gift and treasure I have. It is that nationality that instills a sense of pride in many of us and the common identity that holds us together as one people with a promising future.
I went to the Ansarul Secondary School in Koidu Town, Kono District built by two life-long champions of education who never sat in a classroom but believed in the concept that education is the ultimate road to human freedom. These God-fearing men touched the lives of so many students who walked through the corridors and hallways of the Ansarul School Mission across Sierra Leone – because of their humble service to mankind.
It was in the school rooms, the streets, and neighborhood, that I discovered the great potential and promising future of our nation. Where, I saw how people of diverse faith and ethnicity came together because of the common fear and hope they shared. Where they believe in the pursuit of their dreams of economic security for themselves, their families and fellow citizens.
I developed my moral fortitude by embracing the philosophy of a unified nation with a common destiny while growing up in Kono District. Nothing has made me value the reward of serving my country more than what my parents, teachers and neighbors taught me by their good actions and deeds. That the power of our nation belongs to the ordinary people and its destiny can only be shaped by the people themselves.
I moved back to Freetown and attended the Saint Edward’s Secondary School. There I saw the common challenges our school system faced in the enrollment and education of students with different backgrounds. There I found also what it means to be a Sierra Leonean. As the name Saint Edward’s proudly stands today; I was taught the civic duties of being a good citizen with the moral character of integrity, openness and honesty in everyday life. I was privileged to come in close proximity with the real hope and the spirit of determination that many of my fellow students developed from those trying years.
In the Netherlands and the United States of America (USA), I found the adversities these nations also faced, but I saw how their market-oriented economy, their new technologies and industrial machinery made them self-sufficient and profoundly wealthy. As my horizon expanded and my imagination grew into a vast ocean of knowledge, I came to better understand the disparity and the cycle of poverty in which Sierra Leone has been trapped for so many generations. I began to envision solutions that would liberate the people of Sierra Leone from these troubled patterns of the past.
I knew then that my comfortable life in Atlanta would not be enough to satisfy me. Something must be done to give our people the dignity and the reason to live. Somewhere, the struggle of the average Sierra Leonean must seize to exist. We have to depart from the failed politics of the past, one that tells us that we are different and must not trust each other because we don’t come from the same region or ethnic background.
And walking among the skyscrapers of America, I am sometimes amazed to think that the United States was a very poor country only one century ago. In those days there was little capital, little infrastructure, and people struggled each day to subsist. They had a wealth of untapped resources, like Sierra Leone. They had hardworking people, like Sierra Leone. And they transformed into a very wealthy nation in only a few generations, as Sierra Leone could do.
I know that if we could move away from the economics of aid and dependence, and toward the economics of the Industrial, financial and agricultural Revolution, there is nothing that could stop us from achieving our highest aspirations.
I have a mission to work harder to realize the dream of a Sierra Leone free from poverty. A Sierra Leone that works every day for unity, freedom and justice. A Sierra Leone with a more hopeful and brighter future for the next generation. That is why today, I am announcing my candidacy for President of the Republic of Sierra Leone under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
I know this is an ambitious announcement. Some may say that I have not been in the political landscape enough to understand the problems our great nation is facing. Others will try to create a false sense of fear and division by looking at what ethnicity and region I belong to. But the people of Sierra Leone will not accept anymore the politics of ethnocentrism over the need for visionary and strategic leadership, sustainable economic growth and job opportunities for the ordinary citizens. It is time for a new political thinking and a new economic order that must lift us from almost half a century of poverty and social stagnation.
When the father of our nation, Sir Milton Margai, led an independent movement in the late 1950’s, it was his desire to see that a sovereign and free Sierra Leone would become the greatest nation that ever lived. It was that same spirit of hope and courage that guided us throughout the course of our history – one that led a famous Sierra Leonean by the name of Bai Bureh from Port Loko District to resist the hut tax war in 1898 with a few armies of defenders against the injustice of foreign dominance.
It was the labor unionist, Isaac Theophilus Akunna Wallace-Johnson from Wilberforce, Freetown in the 1930’s, who taught this nation how to organize and fight for the rights of the common workers. It was the brilliant leadership of Almamy Suluku, the son of Sankailay, chief of Biriwa who made the people of his chiefdom wealthy and prosperous. And it was Madam Yoko who gained the control of Kpaa Mende land through her astute leadership and charismatic personality – a Sierra Leonean woman who, up to this day, personified beauty, elegance and substance.
It was the legendary Dr. John Karefa Smart from Rotifunk, Moyamba District, who inspired our nation to greater heights with his uncompromising principles of nationalism and his strong commitment to nation building.
It was Ella Koblo Gulama, the first woman to be elected to parliament in 1957 who represented one of the defining moments in the role of women in our national history. She reminds us today of the new struggle to fight for gender equality and the need to encourage greater participation of women in politics.
It was the village headman, Pa Demba, who embodied the generous and compassionate culture of this nation when French warships sailed into our harbor and attacked the Freetown colony in 1794. This great nationalist helped the Nova Scotian settlers with food and shelter during their painful ordeals.
Even when we were divided, it was the charismatic Paramount chief Briwa of Kono district, who was part of the coalition of the willing to make our nation governable. It was his voice of conscience that helped in the formation of a progressive governing political party after the tumultuous 1967 elections.
But our great nation today has drifted away from the principles and dreams of our founding fathers. Our government system is broken on many levels while our fragile democracy seems threatened. Our dependency on aid has crippled our ability to manage our economy. Government has not created an environment for the poor to sustain their livelihood like creating jobs for the average citizen. Incomes are not being created for many of our citizens through the private sector and foreign investments seem hard to come by because of the lack of quality infrastructure, reliable services, good investment climate and transparency in government.
Sierra Leone has not yet fully restored its basic utility services like light, water, roads, good hospitals and better schools. The health care disparity is growing wider and many of our citizens cannot survive a stroke or heart attack without being air lifted out of the country.
Our declining school system is reducing every hope of a promising future for our children. And youth unemployment is still hovering around 70%. Inflation has sharply risen to 17% while our GDP has shrunk from 7.0 % in 2005 to 4.3% today. Cost of living has become unbearable and too expensive. The situation is dire and we must take up the new challenges to build a Sierra Leone of peace and prosperity.
Every generation in the moment of history is called upon to make sacrifices and leave a mark of legacy for others to follow. This is our time and we must seize the moment. Those who fear to stand up to the challenges of the day must give way to those bold and courageous citizens who are determined to leave their footprints in the sand of history.
The problems we confront today are the loss of national values, entrenched corruption and the lack of strong commitment to nation building. There is a failure of leadership on all fronts simply because we do not see each other as Sierra Leoneans, but rather as opposing factions seeking to destroy one another. Instead of building strong democratic institutions and inspiring our youths to lead, we have turned them into weapons of violence and destroyed their future by our failure to govern with a progressive vision. We structure our government on tribal and regional lines, instead of selecting qualified and competent citizens to represent the will of the people. Today, many of us feel disillusioned and excluded from the process of our governing system. This is a grave mistake of the past that must be corrected. Fellow Sierra Leoneans, with your support, we will eliminate the geo-political strategies that have made our nation a sleeping giant and deprived our people access to clean drinking water, better schools and a decent hospital to care for the sick and the poor.
Today, more than ever, we need a politics of reconciliation to replace the politics of place and tribe. The old ways and the old political conflict of personalities do not help to build a bridge, lift a child from poverty or make life better for our people. That is why I seek this mission: to charter a new and bold course for our nation. We can do this by creating our own budget and setting our own national development priorities. I believe that government will play a major role in bringing about changes, but we must come together and solve our problems with a common vision. It is no longer a Sierra Leone of the North or the South and the East or the West, the only way forward for Sierra Leone is a nation at peace with itself, where its citizens are valued by their character of integrity and their ability to shape the destiny of their homeland.
All of us are distanced and marginalized from achieving our sense of national community when we look at how we are different, instead of looking at what makes us the same people. No Sierra Leonean should be denied the opportunity to serve their country regardless of their political affiliation, gender, ethnicity or social status. And our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora must be willing to come home and take an active role in building a new Sierra Leone.
Let us be the generation that transforms the ethnic and regional divisions of the past four decades with the 21st century politics of idea – ideas that promote unity and national development. Let us be the post independent generation, who transformed our nation from a fragile state into the most transparent modern institution in Africa.
Let us eliminate greed and the culture of corruption that is destroying our society by promoting the principles of good governance and the transparent values of democracy. Let us be legacy makers and not career politicians who seek only the welfare of their families and friends.
Let us be the generation who puts the utility crisis once and for all to rest by providing the citizens of Sierra Leone with alternative energy security like solar and wind power source, expand our water services to meet the new housing boom, and provide better schools for our children to learn and succeed in life.
Let us build more roads and open new factories to advance local, regional and global commerce. Let us equip our hospitals with good doctors, better medical resources, accessible and affordable drugs for our citizens.
Let us make colleges more affordable and once again restore the legacy of Sierra Leone’s educational prowess – the Athens of British West Africa. Let us link our colleges to the University of Durham, England; Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities in the United States of America.
Let us provide a good agricultural climate to grow our own rice and flood our market with surplus food. Sierra Leone was once an exporter of rice, cocoa, and coffee. We must reinvent our economic thinking to realize the dream of a thriving industrial and agricultural crop production in our country.
Let us promote the entrepreneurial spirit of Dala Modu Dumbuya, a Sierra Leonean businessman who built a prominent community in Lungi around the Kaffu Bullom chiefdom in 1795. Our nation cannot afford to have a high tariff that discourages the ingenuity of small businesses and the benefits of free market enterprise.
Let us attract more trade not aid with lower taxes and increase national savings through investment opportunities. It is time to realign the wheels of our economic philosophy in a new direction, one that leads us to the road of growing multi-national investments in Sierra Leone.
We therefore have a choice today to build a stronger and more prosperous Sierra Leone through education, technology and investment. We can work together and transform our nation into a center of economic development where human rights and the democratic institutions of justice are protected and valued.
We have a choice to make Sierra Leone become a full participant in the global society, helping to create wealth and removing the causes of poverty that we have seen across the Sub Saharan continent for half a century now.
I know that some people will dismiss our hopes and aspirations as too superficial. I understand why politicians have lost the trust of the common citizens. But this time around, we are determined to restore confidence in our political system and build strong democratic institutions that will last forever. From nowhere, we will find the bridge that will lead us to the road of economic freedom. That is why our campaign will be about the people and their desire for change. Our goal is to explain how we can bring about progress and why it is necessary for everyone to be stakeholders in this struggle against poverty, lawlessness and endemic corruption in our society.
We know that only when we embrace our diversity and trust our shared vision can we bring greatness to a nation that has been forgotten, to a people that has known poverty for so long and to our youth who are ready to welcome the 21st century development in education, technology and job opportunities.
I enlist you to join me on this journey of change, where we take back our country and rebuild it with a new foundation of trust and a sense of national commitment, where we let our government work for the people and not for their own self-interest, where our allegiances are directed to our flag and not to our tribes, where we take this improbable pursuit of the freedom of our citizens and the ultimate redemption of the troubled soul of our past.
From this day forward, our work begins. I have shared with you my vision. I ask you to help me create it now, here, today. This campaign is not just the beginning of a great change in our politics. It is the dawn of a brighter future for all of Sierra Leone.
Let us all work together for this great purpose. Victory awaits us all.
May God bless you and May God bless the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Mohamed C. Bah, President Aspirant for the National Democratic Alliance Party (NDA)
Sierra Leone, West Africa.
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