The case against Julius Maada Bio
Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio is seeking to be SLPP’s flag-bearer for the 2012 Presidential Elections. The ex-junta leader had sought this same position for the 2007 General Elections. In 2007 Maada Bio’s aspirations to lead the SLPP were not a worrisome equation because the flag-bearer ticket had long been allotted to then Vice President Solomon Berewa by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. The Makeni convention was simply an exercise in democracy foolery or “play-cook” in local idiomatic expression.
Today we find Maada Bio vying to lead the SLPP at presidential elections in an entirely different situation. The situation is that unlike 2007 the SLPP desires that no presidential flag-bearer is imposed on the Party for the 2012 elections in the first place. This is to say that the SLPP’s flag-bearer would emerge as the person chosen by the Party as most fit to secure victory at the national polls. This is to say that a man or woman would become flag-bearer of the Party on his or her own merits. It is against this background that this article looks squarely at the candidacy of Julius Maada Bio.
There are nineteen persons vying to lead the SLPP at the 2012 general elections. In terms of their prospects these persons could be divided into the laughable, the ‘may be’ and the serious. Those in the laughable group are persons who have no chance in the world of becoming SLPP’s flag-bearer for 2012. People laugh whenever these persons’ names are mentioned in discussions about 2012 flag-bearer. Persons in the ‘may-be’ group are those whose candidacies are not highly considered; but accommodated in varying degrees. Persons in the serious group are those with a real chance to win the SLPP ticket and pose a serious challenge to the APC.
I have always placed Maada Bio’s aspirations to lead the SLPP among the laughable. As the SLPP’s convention in Freetown draws closer, I have come to be shocked by how some people have taken the Maada Bio candidacy seriously. One person who has been accused of seriously pushing the Maada Bio candidacy is the Party’s Secretary General J.J. Saffa. Whether he denies it or not, I must hasten to add that J.J. Saffa has had very little support for this Maada Bio enterprise amongst his SLPP peers. Anybody’s support for Maada Bio leaves me pondering my own political judgment. What is it that anybody sees in Maada Bio as good for the SLPP and this country that I am not seeing? I am convinced that I am not wrong in seeing Maada Bio’s candidacy as laughable. It is simply the case that my calculus and that of anybody supporting Maada Bio are different.
Maada Bio has his own qualities. It is obvious that all of those seeking to lead the SLPP have their own qualities. It must also be added that I am not looking for an angel to lead the SLPP or Sierra Leone. My uncompromising stance however is that anybody choosing to lead me via any political Party’s ticket must have redeeming qualities that far out-weigh his negatives. Among all the persons seeking to lead Sierra Leone via the SLPP ticket the Maada Bio candidacy is the one I find most repulsive. Let us first put Maada Bio’s candidacy in context and tell ourselves that the man is seeking to lead no other Party but the SLPP. For matters of democracy niceties we can accommodate the aspirations of the likes of Maada Bio, but the Party has no business making such aspirations a reality.
In the SLPP tradition, no half-baked man leads the Party. Maada Bio is only reasonably educated. I agree that Maada Bio has a Masters Degree in something. This is certification acquired for suspect pursuit. It is the same kind of pursuit that took Samuel K. Doe to read at the University of Liberia, or took Valentine Strasser and S.A.J. Musa to pursue university education in England. Samuel K. Doe, Valentine Strasser and S.A.J. Musa chose to become leaders without education. Inferiority complex and the sin of being called a leader without education is what compels the Bios, Strassers, Musas and Samuel Does to seek a university degree.
The likes of Maada Bio, Strasser, S.A.J. Musa and Doe only acquire certification to play up to our own logic. They do not inherently value education as a basis for leadership. S. A. J. Musa aptly illustrated this when he dropped out of college to lead the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council in pillage and plunder of the country in 1997/1998.
Writing in the January 19, 2011 edition of the New Vision newspaper a certain Ann Koromai suggests that “Maada Bio was born to lead”. I can only answer such people that the leadership record of Maada Bio says the contrary. Let me be magnanimous and even excuse the misbehaviors of the NPRC regime to which Maada Bio belonged. Maada Bio has had chance to display his “born-to-rule” fine character in normal circumstances today. What has been the verdict on his display? The recent stories in newspapers about a group of young men smoking pot and causing havoc in the vicinity of the SLPP Party headquarters all point at Maada Bio.
There is little value in arguing that the charges against Maada Bio for the behavior of the cannabis smoking group are false. The fact remains that only Maada Bio, among the 19 candidates holds the circumstantial appearance and profile to be associated with brigands. The most wicked fabricators of lies would dare not associate Andrew Keili, Usman Boie-Kamara, Kadi Sesay, and Alpha Wurie with brigands and Jamba smoking gangs.
Anybody who has been privileged to hear Maada Bio’s supporters speak their hearts out would know how central the mobilization of violence is in their candidates’ calculations for 2012. Maada Bio is seen by his supporters as the only candidate capable of meeting the ACP’s violence with robust violence. As reported in the February 2, 2011 edition of Awareness Times newspaper, Honourable Foday Rado Yokie did not mince his words in Kenema recently about Maada Bio’s capacity to fight the APC. A Maada Bio candidacy is simply therefore a call to arms.
Some people have said that Maada Bio was the only aspirant with experience in leadership. Those pointing at leadership experience may not have in mind positions Maada Bio held as platoon and battalion commander in the army, or as minister in the NPRC regime. If they do, then Maada Bio’s leadership credentials come to nothing in the face of the service records of many of the flag-bearer aspirants. Those talking about Maada Bio’s leadership experience point at his six months or less stint as Junta leader. Dr. Abass Bundu in a speech in London last year endorsed Maada Bio’s leadership experience in a disguised way as criteria to beat the APC. Heading a military regime for a few months is no leadership experience. It is precisely the leadership actions of a “command, push, beat, sack and kill” regime that is today haunting Maada Bio.
In the past four years two ex-military officers who served in the Maada Bio-led Junta have been deported from the United States. Last year, word was out that a high-ranking officer in the present military who had also served under Bio was refused entry into the United States. Can this explain why Maada Bio has avoided taking his campaign to the Sierra Leone community in the United States? Let Maada Bio attempt to fly into the United States now, and his supporters would realize that the man has only temporal pardon for gross human rights violations and abuse.
In fact, the only thing keeping Maada Bio’s aspirations vibrant is the mobilization of regional sentiments. Beyond primitive considerations, I cannot understand how any delegate would see Maada Bio as standing taller in credentials than Andrew Keilie, Kadi Sesay, Usman Boie-Kamara, Alpha Wurie or Momodu Koroma.
By Philip Massaquoi
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