By Betty Milton and Ophaniel Gooding…..
Colourful parades and Mardi Gras like carnival painted Wilkinson Road with green and white Party colours.
From Freetown Mall to Catco where the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) convention was held, diehard supporters and sympathizers shrieked high pitched whistles in and out of the hall.
Police barricades, Party Marshalls and private security personnel directed the partying frenzy in paths that ensured the maintenance and sustenance of order.
Before commencement of the voting process, the five candidates; John Oponjo Benjamin, Munda Rogers, Alie Kabba, Umura Bundu Wurie and Julius Maada Bio, pledged to remain in the Party and support irrespective of whosoever emerges as the winner as they will be doing it for the good of the Sierra Leonean population.
After the signing of the ballot papers, the long awaited voting process started after 3:00 p.m. with about 657 delegates to vote for the five flag-bearer aspirants that will lead the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to the 2018 general elections.
After over five hours of voting, the Chairman of the SLPP IMEOC, Professor Lawrence Kamara announced the result at around 8:20 p.m. with Julius Maada Bio emerging as the winner with 475 votes, John Benjamin with 116, Alie Kabba 11, Munda Rogers 10 and Bond Wurie 6 votes. There were 39 delegates that were absent.
Before his victory speech, the song, “If I have hurt you am sorry”, blasted through the hall amidst the cheering and whistling of Bio’s supporters.
In his maiden speech, Bio explained that in 2012 their victory was stolen as the Presidential Election results were declared whilst counting and recounting of votes in a number of electoral districts was still in progress, but for 2018, “we want it to be clearly understood that NOTHING, short of free, fair and transparent democratic elections shall be acceptable to the SLPP.”
He said that the flag-bearer aspirants, “for their generosity, graciousness and the exemplary value they have added to our Party throughout the peaceful and mature flag-bearer contest.”
To the entire SLPP delegates, Bio assured them, “We shall win and win decisively. Nothing more; nothing less. We shall win both the Elections and the Results.”
He said, “Our elections management and monitoring will be the most robust and our polling agents shall be ever more vigilant. No one, I mean no one, dare attempt again to rig elections against the SLPP in 2018. This time around our march to State House is unstoppable.”
Prior to the elections, JOB said, “We have given it the colour not to have it as a coronation, the process was flawed in so many ways, but for the sake of our party, we want to hold it together and so went along with it and we are committed to stay in the Party.”
“We did the right thing because of what the people had been saying. I supported the democratic process. We have gone through the process were we see the people had spoken. It was free from violence; this gives our Party respect. This is not the kind of result I was expecting. I was expecting to become the flag-bearer but the people have spoken and I respect what they have said.”
As for Alie Kabba, he explained that when we started the peace process, not many people gave us the chance and opportunity to succeed. But “I believe in it and I believe that the SLPP is bigger than our petty differences.”
“Mine has never been a journey about personal ambition. I believe that what we need fundamentally today to make sure that millions of voters believe in the SLPP.
He said his new task now is “to brand the SLPP that the majority of voters will choose our Party. And, in the way, help in the opportunity to restore public trust in governance. We want to bring back the economy that we need in order to lead people out of poverty and actually want to be the Party of ordinary men and women”.