From the Editor’s Keyboard

The Wheel Turns Full Circle (Parts 2 and 3)

30 June 2006 at 21:04 | 323 views

We offer this space this week to Freetown editor Olu Gordon(photo) as he narrates his conversation with the famous student leader Hindolo Sumanguru Trye who led the 1977 student uprising. Hindolo recently joined the APC, to the amazement of many people. In this chat with Olu, Hindolo explains that he and others were not fighting against the APC but against "the system" that was then in place.

PEEP NEWSPAPER
16TH JUNE 2006

THE WHEEL TURNS FULL CIRCLE (2)

Hindolo Trye says he backs Ernest - ‘because he’s sincere’!

By O.R. Awoonor-Gordon

It’s almost 30 years since the peaceful demonstration against Siaka Stevens at Fourah Bay College on January 29, 1977.

Hindolo Sumanguru Trye was FBC student union president then. He did not stage the demonstration single - handedly, (unlike my dear friend Suluman Banja Tejan-Sie, who has a liking for ONE-MAN Demons).

The so-called ‘Generation of 77’ was fully behind the decision to demonstrate against Shaki.

demonstrate

Indeed I remember being part of a delegation which informed Hindolo Trye that we were going to demonstrate - come hell or high water.

We were totally fed up with the de facto APC One Party State and the overwhelming dominance of one man... Siaka Stevens.

‘the System’

“We protested against The System.. not against the APC”.

Sitting and rapping with Hindolo, I realize that there are many things which I, a 19 year old student then, didn’t understand at the time.

Less than 400 students held up banners calling for political change when the then Chancellor, Dr. (??) Siaka Stevens started his speech to the January 29, 1977 Convention at F.B.C. (U.S.L.).

demands
“We called for free and fair elections, disbandment of the Internal Security Unit (150) - which was more of a presidential bodyguard - improved conditions for workers, an end to corruption and better educational facilities” Hindolo explains.

Out of this little drop of water was to come a mighty flood... We can effectively date the start of the struggle for restoration of multi-party democracy from January 29, 1977.

And whether you like it or not, Hindolo Sumanguru Trye stood up at the helm of a vessel that was to sail through treacherous waters

“Stevens was a very humorous but ruthless man” he recalls.

The APC launched a counter attack at Fourah Bay College of January 31, 1977 - ‘All Thugs Day’. Hindolo was arrested and detained a few days after the demonstration.

“Stevens told a delegation of religious leaders that I would be ‘exterminated’ unless I called off the strike. I told him that I did not have the mandate from students to do so. The religious leaders begged me... one even prostrated at my feet. Finally we compromised. I said I would make an announcement for school children to go back to school... the Selective Entrance exams were only a few days away and we didn’t intend to make an entire class of primary school children miss one school year... but I told them that I’d only do so in my own name - not ‘on behalf’ of students”.

no college, no school
On February 1st, 1977, the school children of Sierra Leone - from one corner of the country to the other - rose up to protest the APC attack on Fourah Bay College.

“No College, No School!”

was the motto. The student uprising of 1977 was the first stone thrown at the glass façade of personal empowerment of Siaka Stevens.

Though FBC students were beaten and harassed, Hindolo doesn’t feel that 1977 failed.

“We succeeded in our main objectives - to force the government to hold free and fair elections. But the politicians stepped in and made moral compromises which set our country back several years”.

elections
The SLPP, moribund and cowered by Shaki, finally raised its head above the parquet and won 12 seats in the 1977 elections (this despite APC intimidation and violence).

Hindolo recalls that the 77 Generation was neutral and he gives me two examples to prove his case.

symbols

“Emmanuel Grant, who’d just graduated, came to the S.U (student union) and asked us to intercede for him to get an SLPP symbol”.

I can attest to this. I was a follower, not a leader when FBC students met Salia Jusu Sherrif and M.S. Mustapha to ask for Grant’s symbol.

He wanted West Two - but was given Central Two because SLPP secretary general at the time, Julius Cole, was contesting in the former constituency.

Hadson the gentleman
I was also in the crowd that stormed APC candidate Hadson-Taylor’s offices warning him of dire consequences if he attempted to rig Central Two elections. “We told him discreetly that we’d break all his bottles, (he was, and is, a soft drinks/beer distributor), if he tried to use violence in the 1977 election”.

Emmanuel Grant was the only SLPP candidate to win the 1977 elections in the Western Area. How far our (students) threats contributed to his victory is left to future historians to assess.

even-handed

But where ‘Guru’ surprised me was his revelation that he interceded for the present APC leader Ernest Bai Koroma to get an APC symbol!

APC links
This I’d never known. My Koroma was several years senior to me... but I’d heard he was a strong APC Youth League member.

After the brutal 1977 ‘selections’, we physically chased the APC Youth League out of FBC campus... I’d never known Hindolo Trye had been so magnanimous as to intercede on Ernest’s behalf months earlier.

“He’d actually been selected for Bombali after I met S.I Koroma. There was great antagonism from S.Is people when I went there. But as a student leader, it was my responsibility to represent student interests. We were genuinely neutral and I remember Ernest telling me that he would bring ‘change from within’”.

too young

However Ernest was dropped because the APC hierarchy thought he was ‘too young’.

The major reason Hindolo Trye gives for joining the APC - the party we fought against in 1977 and for a decade or so afterwards - is Ernest Bai Koroma’s steadfastness and sincerity.

sincerity

“The 1977 demonstration was not against or for a political party... it was against a system which we as youth rejected”.

Hindolo says that Ernest, in his opinion, is a very sincere person.

“What he told me 30 years ago is what he still says today - “I’m determined to bring about change”.

Hindolo says it is the caliber of the APC leadership - amongst other things of which we’ll talk later - that convinced him to declare for the APC, “The first political party I’ve ever joined”.

Momoh’s apology

“When General Momoh came to the U.S.A. in the eighties he apologized (for the assault on Fourah Bay College) and asked us to return from exile to ‘build the country’

sincerity

Hindolo says he never accepted that invitation because “I wasn’t convinced of his sincerity”.

Sincerity is a buzz - word with Hindolo. And I must say frankly here that in the 30 odd years I’ve known him - though we have disagreed many times - I’ve never doubted that he acted out of what he analysed to be the nation’s best interest.

NPRC service

Hindolo has no house. He ‘accumulated’ little or nothing from his service with the NPRC.

And I know that he’s being sincere when he explains that he made his choice of political affiliation based on a measured evaluation of the present situation.

rotten eggs
‘Sama Banya was with the APC in the seventies and eighties, so was S.B. Marrah, Abass Bundu, M.S. Tarawallie and many others’.

Now all these people are aligned with the SLPP.

“It is the same characters that keep cropping up over 40 years of our disgraceful national history” Hindolo argues.

For most of the political elite, party labels are just that - labels.

“The nomenclature differs... their ideology is the same” Hindolo says.

He describes the current SLPP as “protective covering for an assortment of crooks and criminals”. Hindolo says he respects political figures who remain true to principles.

choices
He recalls 1978 when the APC ram-roaded a One Party Bill through parliament. He argues, as I often have that the twelve SLPP M.Ps - who only went to parliament through the blood, sweat and sacrifice of the ’77 Generation - should have opted to stand down rather than cross carpet to the One -Party APC. He, like I, felt disappointed and betrayed.

We muse about Sierra Leoneans lack of knowledge of history.

Solo B
“In 1991, Solomon Berewa was lawyer for the N.D.P (National Democratic Party). He met us in the U.S (Hindolo was still in exile) and we decided to merge our young political grouping (National Democratic Alliance) with the NDP”. Hindolo smiles as he recalls Berewa’s political amnesia.

“They had opted to take Karefa-Smart as NDP leader... we argued that such a choice should properly be made by a party convention”. It became a moot point.

Adviser

The young officers kicked the APC out of power in April 1992. Amongst those who were picked to advise the new government was... one Solomon Berewa... “I made him legal adviser to the Transport/Communications ministry when I was secretary of State there”.

Hindolo is dismissive of Berewa... “If I believed in his sincerity, like I believe in Ernest’s, I probably would be in the SLPP today, not the APC”.

PEEP NEWSPAPER
23RD JUNE 2006

THE WHEEL TURNS FULL CIRCLE (3)

for Hindolo it has ben 30 years of struggle against a rotten System...

By O.R. Awoonor-Gordon

For simply declaring his political affiliation, which is the constitutional right of every Sierra Leonean, Hindolo Sumanguru Trye has attracted the wrath of some powerful people.

Parasite
Presidential spokesman Khanji Daramy called him a political parasite.

Dr Sama Banya rambled on in his usual obtruse fashion condemning Hindolo for ‘not going to his home region Moyamba’ since he returned home in 1992, (as if that was either true or relevant).

Hindolo shrugs off most of these comments.

Amnesia

“The problem with this country is that we often show signs of political amnesia”.

He lists a veritable rogues gallery of unsavory characters who have turned up in the SLPP.

hypocrites
“When you are with them - the SLPP will not attack you... when you oppose them... you become their worst enemy”.

He finds it strange that some people now attacking him for being in the NPRC.... Were themselves NPRC adherents.

adviser
‘After all Solomon Berewa and President Kabbah himself were part of the Advisory Council to the NPRC’.

John Karimu.., John Benjamin.. all are now in the good books of the system. “General M.S. Tarawallie took hundreds of million of leones meant for ammunition while this country was fighting a war for its very survival”.

stolen ammo money

Yet the SLPP nominated him to head the NPA Board... only when it was revealed that he may have misled Parliament did they back down on that nomination..

“Abass Bundu is guilty of fraud one minute.. the next, when he joins the SLPP they ‘discover’ that the case was a ‘mistake’.

manipulated
Hindolo is disgusted by the hypocrisy of all this. “What’s right is right. And what’s wrong is wrong”.

He says that the SLPP has ‘blatantly’ manipulated the political system. “The guilt or innocence of Abass bundu should be for a judge - not a politician - to decide”.

tennis player
He recalls that he was NPRC Secretary of State for Transport and Communications when (Khanji Daramy) was then SALPOST head. And even before that Khanji Daramy was the late J.S. Momoh’s favourite tennis partner.

“He used to travel to Binkolo regularly to play with J.S. Momoh on weekends”. So who’s the political prostitute?, Hindolo asks.

He says he had the greatest respect for politicians who stand by their word.

Charles
All those shouting ‘Hosanna’ to the SLPP today were never around when the party had to fight for its existence”.

He recalls 1977 when Siaka Stevens detained Charles Margai - only releasing him when he lost his parliamentary seat for non-attendance.

“I have great respect for Mr. Margai and he’s man of his word”.

rifts
He also respects Eddie Turay and Seray Kamal who upheld the APC banner in the 1996 elections when to be APC was’t ‘fashionable’.

Hindolo says he’ll do everything in his power to heal factional rifts in the APC and ensure that the party presents a united front in 2007.

convictions
The Generations of 77 was a ‘conviction’ generation.

system
“We were not fighting the APC as such; we were fighting a system which benefited one man and deprived most of our people”.

The roots of the rebel war lay in the One Party system which marginalized the young.

ghosts to rest

Hindolo believes that the ghost of That System still haunts Sierra Leone. So the wheel has turned full circle and, as we used to say back at FBC ‘the struggle continues unabated’.

TO BE CONCLUDED)

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