SLPP Chairman Aspirant Jimmy Batilo Songa Speaks On His Vision And Mission For The Party

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Jimmy Batilo Songa

By James Kajue

Unity: Good day Mr. Jimmy Batilo Songa. Would you like to do an interview with the Unity Press in relation to your declaration to become the next chairman of the SLPP?

JBS: I am genuinely thrilled to be interviewed by this strong party platform. I respect the work the Unity Press has been doing in accurately and objectively reporting on issues not just within the party but all around the country. I consider it a real privilege to be talking to a media team that has shown so much interest in professionally covering national concerns as well as international issues.

Unity: Let us start by asking you, why do you want to become the next SLPP chairman?

JBS: That’s an excellent question that would require many pages, if I have to do full justice to your readership, but I will try to simplify my answer here.

For me, the SLPP is not just a political party; it is a strong sacred institution that must be embraced, and nurtured with all the love and skills that each and every one of us has got in us.

The SLPP is a living breathing body and anyone aspiring to any leadership position within the party must see it as a responsibility to work hard enough to keep the party going and growing. We have to do everything within our powers to justify the many sacrifices made, and still being made, by so many of our compatriots to bring the party to its present status.

I want to take the opportunity presented by this interview to heartily plead with the entire membership of this great party to accord me the privilege to serve our party as the national chairman, not because of the sound of that title, but because of all the good things that I am rooting to bring to our party. I have a unique plan to bring the party to the people and the people to the party using practical strategies that would further endear the party to the nation. I have a plan to make all our party organs responsive to the needs of our communities and to strengthen responsibility and increase awareness by installing sound administrative structures at all levels.

The overall aim is to alleviate the sufferings of our people and to position the party not only to win the next elections but many more elections after that.

I love this party because I firmly and fervently believe in the values it represents for the unity and progress of our country. Without a doubt, the SLPP is the only real vehicle for taking our country where we all want it to go and there can be no greater privilege than to be given the chance to map out that journey in a clear, logical and doable way.

Unity: Give us a clue about your activities as a leading party functionary whilst you where in the UK.

I have always been an unapologetic member of the SLPP both here at home and abroad in the Diaspora.

I served my party twice as Chairman whilst I was in the United Kingdom. The UK has historically played a leading role in bringing together and sustaining our party, especially during the repugnant one-party autocracy and at all times when we were in official opposition. It is unfortunate that the voices of division within our party have recently sought to create a wedge between the so-called Diaspora membership and the home-based members. This is really sad because the SLPP is ONE PEOPLE. Period. We don’t have Canada SLPP or England SLPP or Australia SLPP or any other place SLPP. What we have is ONE SLPP!

Those geographical nomenclatures should only be used for administrative and not divisive purposes because it is the coming together of all of our people, old and young, male and female, both within as well as outside of this country which gives us that enviable identity and the sustaining strength to maintain our ideals in the face of anything and everything. We need the support and the skills of everyone to achieve our collective goals.

That is how we were able to expand the SLPP UK & I into a region adding more active chapters within a very short time. I delivered on a campaign promise of giving the region a new constitution to expand the democratic space. The 2014 constitution which bears my name is still in use in that region. I championed the cause of the party inside the British courts and won. I ably liaised with international Human Rights Organisations and Public Relations Firms to promote party policies and emboss party image. I represented the party in a crucial conference inside the British House of Commons. We were also able to galvanise the entire Sierra Leonean community in the UK, irrespective of party affiliations, to stand together and publicly demonstrate our mutual opposition to the despotic practices of the past regime during which I presented a petition to 10 Downing Street on behalf of the cross-party group.

My experience as the SLPP youth organiser during the President Tejan Kabba era and my stint as two times regional chairman for the SLPP in the most vibrant diaspora region has been a great enabler for me in enhancing my understanding of people and systems. I didn’t fail our party then and I can assure everyone that I will not fail our party now or ever.

Unity: Obviously Jimmy, being the administrative head of a revered party like the SLPP means you must be academically and ethically competent. Tell us what you have in that department.

It is easy for me to market myself but I prefer projecting other people who I know are competent and effective because it feels far better when you are helping to propel other people into positions from where they would be empowered to help many more people. That is the job I am trained for and that is the main reason why I am running for this position. To empower other people!

But to answer your question precisely, I will say two things here:

Firstly, I am not just a grounded practical politician; I studied politics as a discipline. I have an MSc in government politics and policy from the best university in London, the same university where the great Pan Africanist icon, Osagyfo himself (Kwame Nkrumah) attended London University.

Secondly, I have only ever been married to one woman and we have been together for 24 years now. She is the mother of all of my three children, one of whom is currently studying law and sociology in her final year in one of the top universities in the UK.

That strong family bound coupled with my undying faith in God almighty informs my approach not just to politics but to life in general.  Respect for all, especially the elders, is key ingredients here.

I treasure transparency and I am firm on fairness. As a seasoned political administrator, who has convincingly operated both locally and internationally, I come with a clean set of hands to clean all the cobwebs and to straighten any curves on the road ahead.

Unity: Jimmy, there are fundamental organizational and administrative changes that you would want to introduce into the party if you become Chairman. Can you outline some of them for the benefit of our readers?

JBS: Of course I make no secret about the fact that the party would change under my leadership. But it would be a change for the better. If there is no need for any change or if I don’t have any ideas that can bring about positive changes, then there would be absolutely no reason for me to run for this position.

I am fully conscious of the fact that our party is a people’s party with core values and certain traditional traits that give us our definite identity. There is no way that we can attempt to change the things that have worked well for us and there is no way that we can change anything without first convincing our people and securing their consent.

Since time may not permit me here to delve into details let me just summarise the guiding principles of my stewardship: transparency, accountability, accessibility, a people-centred approach and above all, a result-oriented drive that is inspired and would be mirrored on the leadership style of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio, with clear policies and clean procedures.

If elected, or shall I say WHEN elected, I would work to link the party with progressive partners with the same ideological leaning not just in Africa but all around the world.

Going forward I would ensure that the party owns its own office structures run by dedicated paid staff in every district and I would strongly recommend a proportionate investment in our non-traditional strongholds in an effort to expand our base and enhance the national character of the party.

Unity: Funding is central to the functionality, efficiency and effectiveness of any political organization. How do you intend going about making the party self financing and what fund raising activities you would use to ensure that?

JBS: Most people would agree that without adequate funding dreams would remain only as dreams. But again, we should understand that without dreams our realities would be stagnant. To act big you need to dream big and to work hard towards the realisation of your dreams.

I believe that we have enough sources and resources within the party to enable us to fund the party and its activities. What we need to do is to have a believable plan and inspiring programs with a clearly articulated pathway. When people understand that they journey is here and the trust is solid, they would certainly take the steps needed to walk with us.

We intend to construct a membership data base with an ID card and subscription payment system supported by solid financial discipline. And also at the heart of any fundraising strategy is the establishment of Business Hubs inside our party premises for selling T-shirts, memorabilia and other marketable items as well as investing in treasury bonds.

Unity: Jimmy, how do you see the future of our great revered party going forward as its potential Chairman?

JBS: This party is going to grow and rise.

We are record setters and trailblazers. We are going to leave no corner in the country untouched by our active presence. The SLPP is not a regional party or a tribal toy. It is a national institution with a strong umbrella reach. We are here to expand that umbrella and call many more to come pitch with us in unity and progress!

Unity: Thank you very much Jimmy for this wonderful interface with the party official mouthpiece. We look forward to having such discursive engagements with you in future.

JBS: Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity to say a few words to my people using a platform that we all respect and adore.

 

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