Sierra Leone Independence Weekend1 : President Launches his Attitudinal Change Campaign and SwitSalone gets to MC it yet again :-)

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Last week I got a call to MC the launching of the president’s Attitudinal & Behavioral Change Campaign at State House with the President and Vice President in attendance. If you don’t know by now u better recognize that this here girl will take any excuse to have a new aschobi dress made 🙂 So that the first thing that came to mind after I was asked was “oh damn what am i going to wear”. Ofcourse that’s never a difficult question to answer…perk numero uno of being co-owner of Aschobi Designs and best friend with the ever brilliant and creative Adama Kai: the guarantee that if i aint got something to wear. We can make it!!!!

I agreed to MC the launching of the campaign which if you heard the president’s speech at his innauguration back in November were yours truly was also one of the MCs…the topic du jour was that Sierra Leoneans need a change of attitude. They (meaning the government) have set up a Technical Committee on Attitudinal Change headed by Michel Sho-Sawyerr who is also the Director of the Office of Diaspora Affairs (It’s been clear to me since the days of lobbying for the office that he has no experience and I’ve told him so, but hey no one asked me. He is a friend of mine and I respect him but I am certain that others with training & experience with adminsitrative/govt affairs would be better suited). I was informed by someone at the Ministry of Information that It was Michel Sho-Sawyerr who was the consultant to the Ministry of Information and lead on the planning of the ABC Campaign launch (not to be confused with the ABC Campaign at the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat). It was Mich who called me to MC the event at State House.

It was truly my intention not to go out on Friday the night before the launching but it was quite easy for homies Adama, Mahawa, & Yeniva to make a sista feel like she needed to distress at @old skool…..the normal friday night ritual. And this night was worse than usual because we actually went to Paddies after we left Old Skool and sho nuff stayed at Paddies till after 5am. I must have gotten no more than 3hours of sleep because on saturday morning i had to head to Aschobi shop. When i got to the shop my dress was no where near complete, and niether was Mahawa’s or Adama’s dresses either. Super exhausted all three of us spent most of the day getting fitted for our dresses. By 7pm when i was supposed to be at State house, the final touches were still being put on our dresses…made from printex fabric bought from Ghana on our last Cup of Nations trip back in february.

At StateHouse everything started on time….
We made it to State House eventually and before the official start of events. I recieved my instructions and last minute details. I was very glad when no more than 30mins after my arrival I was asked to announce the arrival of Vice President Chief Sam Sumana…he came with his wife. After the traumatizing experience of waiting for the president and VP at the inauguration i wasnt sure what to expect. And then to add the iciing to the cake the president showed up no more than 15mins after the VP with the first lady. The words almost did not come out of my mouth as everyone always gets super antsy and expeditious when the president is about to arrive……a quality we like to call waju waju

Anyway the president arrived, as well as the minister of Information Honorable IB Kargbo who chaired the event with Mr. George Coleridge Taylor as the co-chair. After the prayers etc…I announced Mr. Sho-Sawyerr who was to give the opening statement…in his speech he outlined the ABC Campaign and highlighted what had been done so far by the govt to implement the campaign. The speech was much longer than i had expected it to be and a bit repetitious at times but Sho-Sawyerr is very passionate and that you cannot take away from him. In his speech it was clear that he was very much invested in the ABC process.

Next up on the Mic brief speeches by IB Kargbo and Mr. Coleridge-Taylor. Before i forget to mention it, the event at statehouse was also the launching of something called “Know Your Leaders Handbook”. The actual title for the event as printed on the program was : Launching of President’s Attitudinal and Behavioral Change Campaign (ABC), UNDP/GOSL Open Government Initiative and Know Your Leaders Handbook…try saying that three times…

Honorable Alpha Kanu, Minister of Presidential and Public Affairs, former spokesperson for the APC Party during the election period gave the opening address. It was the kind of speech I have come to associate with Alpha Kanu…sounds very very good on paper. Basically, the man knows how to speak:-) but I don’t believe a word he says. Did I mention he looked superb in his white gown…I would say that Alpha nears the president in looks but that may be an offence close to treason….

The most exciting part of the program and by far the best part of the night was a performance by the legendary, super talented Freetong Players…They gave us a spoken word-song medley of the history of Sierra Leone. It was funny, informative, and witty. The high table consisting of the President and VP were several times in stitches during the performance. I love the Freetong Players they are amazing…and managed to bring life to an otherwise dry event.

Know Your Leaders Handbook
After the performance by the Freetong Players…I was asked to announce as indicated on the program Artists for Attitudinal Change…they came on the steps ready to perform with polo shirts and some jeans to a formal state house event. they also gave their back to the high table and by the looks of things this group of 4-5 artists were not used to performing for the type of audience at the event. On their actual performance i will hold my tongue on my usual array of descriptive adjectives…saying it was not good is enough. Neither the audience nor the high table seemed interested in the performance. All i could think was “oh Lord, make it stop”.

After they finished i thanked them for their performance and the Vice President officially launched the Know Your Leaders Handbook-the book is over 70 colored pages with pictures of past and present govt personalities. It is actually very informative because it lists local council government officials from all the 12 districts.

Next up a talk from Sierra Focus International (the org responsible for putting together the book) given by Duada Kamara jr. the son of the minister of local government. He gave us a run down of why the handbook was important and how they went about putting it together. He also informed us that because of a contribution from Comium the cost of the Handbook was going to be Le. 30,000 ($10) instead of 35,000.
He said that it was important for all Sierra Leoneans to know their leaders yada yada yada but at ten bucks a pop i doubt it will truly reach those intended.

Anyway, SwitSalone has a copy…so if u want to know who is the MP or Mayor in Port Loko let me know. Just dont go asking me for no phone numbers and definitely no email addresses. Now that i think of it i wonder if the book has Paramount Chiefs and lesser chiefs listed as well….i will have to check on that and maybe scan a page so u get to see the format.

The worst part of the event came after dinner.
The Chairman of the event permitted reps from the other political parties to speak. The minority party leader (SLPP) in Parliament Momoh Pujeh was up first but he was not at the event. Then the word was given to the PMDC spokesman Mohammed Bangura (a friend of mine) who managed to give a speech that reminded me of the elections…he had to be told to wrap it up…and I wasn’t totally comfortable with the tone in which he said “Mr. President”, almost as if he and the president were peers. But maybe he’s carrying around the PMDC sentiment that it if wasn’t for them, the APC would not have won the elections. I was seriously going to break into song ” you too talk ay u too talk..u na small borboh” but i held my tongue 🙂

Up next
Mr Victor Bockarie Foh, APC Secretary General. After observing all protocols Mr. Foh went on to complain that his name was spelt incorrectly and if not for the respect he had for the president he would have spoken at all at the event. I think he spoke for 15mins and ignored every attempt to signal him to wrap it up. After he finished the chairman apologised for spelling his name incorrectly but reiterated that everyone should respect the three minute time limit. I smiled.

The Best Speaker of the night was Mrs Linda Koroma from the Minister’s Wives Association (no she is not related to the president and she is not his wife…I remember asking which one of the ministers she married but I cant remember anymore) Funnily, I don’t remember much of what she said either but her speech was brilliant and it had people clapping and nodding their heads in agreement. She put all the other speakers of the night to shame. It was obvious that she was the only person who spoke that night that had no personal agenda or self serving issue to promote. They should make her a spokesperson for the Campaign…yay Mrs Linda Koroma.

Other disappointing speakers included Philip Neville from the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Mrs Fanta Kanja-Sesay rep from the National Commission for Democracy, Ishmalai Sankoh from the National Youth Coalition, and Charles Mambu from the Civil Society.

The head of the military Sam Mboma was the only one who spoke for less that 1 mins. It was to the point and I appreciated it tremendously. He got a big round of applause from the audience. An indicator that the other guests were equally as tired of all the beaucoup talk talk.

Finally the president was able to talk about the ABC Campaign and the UNDP Open Government Initiative….yada yada yada…by this time of the night which was close to midnight my interest in the content of the president’s speech had waned and the music blaring from the lantern at Law Court had me going. During the president’s speech, there was a pause so we could listen to an excerpt of his Excellency’s inaugural speech.

Finally it was the end of the program and everyone stood up. The High table walked out and I descended the steps to join my girls for the night. We thought it would be a good idea to check out the lantern…afterall that’s exactly where the president was heading.

Looking extremely fabulous in our Aschobi dresses we walked out of State House ahead of the convoy and down OAU drive in the direction of the cotton tree. It was our intention to make it to law court but the crowd was heavy. Millitary Officers with school house canes whipped those who dared to come on to the main road away from the barricaded side walks. Who dared walk into the street?? Us ofcourse….looking like we did not even the head of the military would dare stop us…atleast so we thought. We were almost about to make the right turn to the court when we were asked to move to the side….there was no where to go but stand. I called my driver…we jumped into the car and said goodbye to any hopes of seeing the lantern.

We were going to attend the bonfire at chez nous but as we got closer to Wilkinson rd only one of us was still interested in going. I got dropped off at home and called it a night.

Next up Sunday April 27th 2008…The 47th Independence Anniversary of Swit Mama Salone……I will see you at the The Miss Independence Beauty Pageant were once again yours truly will be hosting the event 🙂

Hey to be the African Oprah…I gotta start somewhere…

(On tuesday the 30th Premier News Paper editorial lambasted the event. Also disappointed at the event was Theo Nicol…who writes the My VIEW Column. In summary both Mr. Nicol and the editor were upset at the time, “fake accents” from the JCs, and considered the event to be a waste of resources on elite society while the rest of the people starved. The event was Broadcasted live on TV & Radio)