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John Benjamin says Maada Bio should Support Him

By  | 20 June 2014 at 07:11 | 2207 views

John Oponjo Benjamin (photo) commonly called JOB is among the numerous people vying for the flagbearership of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), the country’s oldest party founded in 1951. He has been a Chief Secretary of State in the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) , former leader of the National Unity Party (NUP) and one time Minister of Finance in the government of (late)
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and is currently in private business holding the
position of Chief Executive Officer in the African Information Technology
Holdings. At his office in the center of the capital Freetown, he spoke to The
Patriotic Vanguard Freetown Bureau Chief Alpha Rashid Jalloh on solutions to the
problems plaguing the SLPP, the shortcomings of the present regime and his own
ambition to rule Sierra Leone. Below is an excerpt of the interview with him.

PV: Some people suggest that you and Julius Maada Bio should step aside so as to give the party greater prospect of winning, do you subscribe to that view?

JOB: To me he has been given the opportunity to run once. I gave him my support in the previous elections. I believe I should be given an opportunity to run this time. With his support our party can win. If I enjoyed his support I can
lead the party to victory because I have the requisite competence.

PV: Mr. Benjamin, you sacrificed the National Unity Party (NUP) in 2002 for the
sake of the SLPP, do you now regret it?

JOB: It is not about sacrifice. We did not sacrifice the NUP for the SLPP. It
was in the best interest of our country. We decided to put in place structures
by bringing the two together… If you look at the stronghold of the two parties,
you would find out that the supporters of the NUP and the SLPP come from the
same region. We had our challenges to overcome in the SLPP. We (NUP) have made our own contribution and we are happy about that.

PV: What is the way forward for the impasse in the SLPP?

JOB: Everybody in the SLPP should do the right thing. They should not do things
in their own interest but do what is right to the party and the people. I think
we need to move forward. SLPP is a great party. All we need is just to come
together and do the right thing.

PV: SLPP supporters usually grumble that the party has failed to adequately
publicize its achievements, what is responsible for that?

JOB: What you should not be confused about is this; we did not spend our time
talking about what we have done. We need not sit on the house top shouting about this. We (SLPP) brought peace to this country. We established institutions and built their capacities. Do you have to talk about that every day? We took
governance when the country was at war, with a battered economy but we ended the war and established institutions, built their capacities, for example, the
National Commission for Social Action, (NACSA) the Anti- Corruption Commission
(ACC) and many more. All of them have benefitted the people. Do you have to
shout about this from the roof tops? You know, people took a big risk in voting
for the All People Congress (APC). They have proved to them that they have not
done the right thing. They promised to end corruption but it is multiplying
every now and then, you hear of sacking every now and then. The only way forward now is for the SLPP to come to power again. They have proved themselves as a government of exclusion. You hear them? They call the youths grassroots supporters because they have reduced them to grass.
Now look at what is happening in the eastern region. We are suffering from
Ebola. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation was not equipped for the outbreak.
We have lost 50 to 60 lives as result of the inefficiency of the government. We
have paid for their incompetence. It has a great effect on our youths. Our
brothers and sisters have dropped out of school and even when they pass they
would have no opportunity of getting jobs.

PV: You pointed out the shortcomings of the current regime, if the SLPP were to
come to power again, what would be your priorities?

JOB: We would do the right things and would do what is for the benefit of the
people. We would make very Sierra Leonean proud. We would manage the resources efficiently and not just for own benefit but for the benefit of the whole
nation. Positions would be occupied by the competent.

PV : Critics say SLPP puts too much premium on academism.

JOB: No! It is not a matter of putting too much premium on academism; it is a
matter of quality performance. We give jobs to people according to capacity and
competence. You do not put a nurse in the place of a doctor. We establish an
open door policy for competent people. Once we open up, people offer their
competence to serve. When you do that, you need not have to sack people as is
happening. A president should not be a manager. He should not be an employer.
Just look across the board, there are so many vacancies. So, you see our own
strategy is not about priority in academism, it is about putting quality people
in the right place who have the requisite competence. We believe if we create
the enabling environment every body would be happy. We give opportunity based on equity no matter which region you come from, you would have an opportunity for a job.

PV: Do you hope to win the 2018 elections with so much chaos in the SLPP?

JOB: APC had a bigger chaos in 2007 when they won. I assure you, we would come back together. What we are fighting for is for the party to be the next
government. I am not vying just for the sake of flag bearer; I believe if I won
it, we would get the best president. We would bring the party together. APC does
not deserve to continue to govern.

PV: Thank you Mr. Benjamin

JOB : Thank you very much.

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