Cocorioko last week held a marathon interview with the Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, Hon J.B. Dauda. We have already published three installments of the interesting and eye-opening interview with one of the most experienced politicians in Sierra Leone. As the Minister returns to Sierra Leone tomorrow, we bring you the final installment of the interview.
From all the responses we have heard from you, I am sure that readers will agree with me that you really understand the issues in Sierra Leone. Knowing yourself to be however constrained at the time by your membership with the opposition SLPP, what was the first thing that came to your mind when President Koroma offered you the job?
Well, before the offer, the President and I have been friends discussing national issues. As Minister of Finance, I was a frequent visitor to Parliament to introduce Bills .We had known each other and spent lots of time together. When President Koroma approached me to become a minister in government, I did not look at myself being invited to join a party. He did not invite me to join his party or leave my party .When he spoke to me, he said he was inviting me in my personal capacity and during this time we did not discuss party loyalty. He only invited me to be a minister , which to me was a good opportunity to serve my country. To me, my country has always come first.
Throughout my political career which has lasted three decades, the interest of my country has always come first. I thought it was a good opportunity to serve my country. But after my appointment, my own party wrote me the same day suspending me for accepting the job and when they decided to arraign me before a disciplinary committee I offered my resignation from the party because I said that throughout my political career, I had always put my country first and this was the first priority that made me accept President Koroma’s offer. Up until today, I feel very proud of my decision to be associated with the APC government which has embarked on very substantial development projects which are transforming our country and therefore justifies the slogan of our 50th Anniversary that we are celebrating a new Sierra Leone because this is the first time a huge infrastructural development covering the entire country has been undertaken, and which justifies the slogan. The infrastructural, energy, water, health projects when completed will really transform our country to a new country that would move us towards sustainable development.
But how did your people in Kenema take it? The opposition press said they were angry with you.
When I was appointed, some of my detractors in the SLPP said I was a spent force and I had no support in Kenema. When they approached me to respond, I told them that words were not sufficient, but action. Therefore I invited them to Kenema to go and see for themselves the reaction of my people to my presentation to them by President Ernest Koroma. On that day, thousands of people from all walks of life converged at the city football grounds in their colorful dresses of red, with various groups displaying banners, ashoebi etc. There were thousands of people who had spent their own money to go and celebrate my appointment. That was a clear demonstration of the support of my people and a befitting appreciation of the President’s gesture for appointing me minister. Thus those who held the view that my people were not happy with me were completely ignorant of the political situation in my area.
How do you find working with President Koroma?
Extremely good, enjoyable, pleasant and rewarding. It is rewarding because I find him to be very diligent, honest, committed and patriotic. He loves his country and is always talking about resources in developing the country. I find him a good partner to work with to develop the country. He is a man whose programs know no line of division. He knows no tribe or region. He only knows Sierra Leone as a unit and the result can be seen in the development projects going on all over the country.
Given all your experience with your old party and the demands of national reconstruction, what advice do you have for the people of Sierra Leone who are part of the equation?
For Sierra Leonean , based on my experience in politics going three decades, the current trend in Sierra Leone today is a new thinking that politics is based on the performance of a party or government in power . The old idea of drawing support for ethnic reasons is no longer valid. Sierra Leoneans now, particularly the young ones , are looking for a leader who delivers ,who performs and who is developing the country .The voting pattern is now dependent upon the services and programs delivered to the people. The APC understands this and that is why development is being taken not only to the North but to the South and the East and people are now proud to come out and associate with the government because they are glad that government is spreading development all over the country, e.g., Bo and Kenema where substantial development is taking place.
The President draws huge crowds of admirers whenever he goes there and this is reflected in the polls results in the South/East He is very popular in the South/East and secondly his personal disposition is also very pleasant.
Well, thank you, Mr. Minister, for giving this long interview . Our readers indeed have a lot to chew on. Thank you for giving us such a valuable part of your time.
Thank you too for interviewing me.
Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN, New York, USA