By Raph Sesay
PAOPA, the political campaign slogan of President Julius Maada Bio, was historically couched by Sylvia Blyden during the hay days of the 2012 campaign.
The slogan, which was intended to mean negativity, was immediately popularised by the Rtd. Brigadier to mean everything positive that would salvage the country and usher in prosperity and move away from 57 years of decadence.
Since then the slogan grew from strength to strength, to a point that certain grass root members of the party, who strongly believe in the ability of Julius Maada Bio to salvage a party that has gone into the political wilderness, became ever more determined to move on, especially against the backdrop that many SLPP supporters were very much bitter with the loss of the 2012 elections to the APC.
Bio immediately built a cabal around him that strongly believed in him to take the party to State House. This group hugely constituted the grassroots of the party, mainly from the south and the east of Sierra Leone.
This group even went as far as contravening the SLPP constitution to let Bio go for a second time as flag bearer against the dictates of the 1995 SLPP Constitution, which was very clear on presidential flag bearers stepping aside after losing elections for the first time.
Even with the formation of the Alliance Group, which constituted over 99% of all the would-be flag bearers for the 2018 elections, the PAOPA group remained united behind Maada Bio and strongly believed that it is Bio and nobody else that would steer the ship safely to State House.
A lot happened, with series of court cases until when Bio was popularly elected as flag bearer of the Party for the 2018 multier elections in a well convened delegates conference in Freetown, where he won a landslide victory over the likes of Alie Kabba, John Oponjo Benjamin, Munda Rogers and Ambassador Bond Wurie, etc. From there, the battle for State House started.
The APC was very much determined to cling on to power. They relied solidly on all their dying 99 tactics, which included portraying the Rtd. Brigadier as a very violent individual and had alleged human rights abuses.
The long and short of the story was his historic election as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and his subsequent swearing on the 4th April, 2018 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown.
Like all leaders, the president immediately went to work with the appointment of cabinet ministers and other high profile officials.
There is growing frustration within the PAOPA ranks, to a point that many diehard foot soldiers of the PAOPA camp are almost going to be distracted by people who do not mean well for the President, who is very desperate to get a turn around and make history in Sierra Leone.
His move to bring in technocrats and people with international clout and diplomacy into governance, with the intention to quickly turn around the economy and close in on the poverty levels, corruption and indiscipline, has set forth his cardinal principles alongside his Free and quality Education flagship project.
It is against this backdrop that we are admonishing the PAOPA team to remain focused and united more than ever before. The game has just started and there is need to pray for President Bio to achieve what all Sierra Leoneans desire.
It is a very inexperienced and poor coach that would use all his good players in a very crucial match, by failing to anticipate injuries and other problems usually associated with the game. President Bio very well knows that he has a very good team that he can eventually use to further his goals.
Every effort should be made by the PAOPA team to remain together and continue to support whatever the President does. They should closely follow him and discourage any attempts to divide the camp and put a knife to the things that had held them together.