The pandemic that has gripped the world for the last two years has brought unprecedented challenges, human suffering, and painful loss. At the same time, however, it has shown us vividly how much we can accomplish where there is resolve, collaboration, and, above all, the right leadership in place.
SLPP National Chairman Aspirant Jimmy Songa Visits the USA
About two weeks ago, I honored the invitation of a fellow member of the SLPP North America region to attend a fundraising event for one of the contenders for National Chairman, Mr. Jimmy Batilo Songa.
I already thought highly of Mr. Songa. Based on my observations and interactions, he is a competent individual and an aspirant. His involvement in the Party’s affairs at various levels is impressive. So, I eagerly took advantage of this opportunity to get up close and hear what Mr. Songa had to say. His message to the general audience and party members was about his candidacy, hopes, and aspirations.
Let me start by saying I was not disappointed at all. I was moved, first by Mr. Songa’s very strong message of unity and inclusiveness and second by his thorough understanding of the most pressing issues facing the Party. But perhaps even more impressive and encouraging his compelling solutions on how he would approach resolving all of the problems and challenges facing the SLPP he outlined.
Mr. Songa’s message addresses global SLPP and national issues. He also discussed the problems that concerned diaspora members, including North America – compassion and honesty. One gets the sense that Mr. Songa cares. He was not just paying lip service or saying what he thought people wanted to hear.
Moreover, while interacting with the audience, the aspirant listened attentively, showing genuine interest in our thoughts and ideas. He and his wife, Honourable Wuyatta Songa, were in no hurry to leave as long as people wanted to have a conversation with them. For me, this speaks volumes because people are at the core of politics, especially party politics!
The SLPP is facing serious challenges. Our challenge is to ensure cohesion and unity within the base of the Party and in our strongholds. As we approach the crucial 2023 elections, I firmly believe that SLPP needs someone like Jimmy Batilo Songa at the helm. Jimmy Batilo Songa has demonstrated he cares about people, especially those who feel marginalized.
Pulling the Party Together Is Greatest Challenge Into 2023
We need a chair who can bring people together and erase the division in our ranks. To me, this is where Mr. Songa towers over other aspirants in the race. Bringing people together is critical because national elections are potentially less than two years away. The Party will undoubtedly encounter significant hurdles if we cannot come together and mend fences. The Party needs someone to restore trust, mutual respect, and transparency across the board and at all levels of the party structure.
But just as importantly, the Party needs an individual in the highest administrative position who can exemplify excellence in terms of competence and conduct. Jimmy Batilo Songa is a chairman who can motivate and empower others through his actions. I have observed how he inspires and allows others around him to demonstrate that he is such a person.
As a focused and visionary leader, Mr. Songa is best capable of elevating the Party’s strategic thinking, planning, and competitiveness during these challenging times. Mr. Songa proactively recognizes the internal challenges we face in the Party. He will ensure that we address them committedly and measuredly and not just react to them.
Leading The SLPP By Example
I saw this bold leadership style in Jimmy Batilo Songa first-hand when I attended his caucus event in Washington, DC. These same qualities are evident as Mr. Songa communicates his campaign message in the media and meets the people. It is the same qualities that he brings to the grassroots and delegates across the country to discuss his platform and the direction he will take the Party if elected National Chairman.
Mr. Songa is best positioned of all aspirants to lead the management of SLPP at this crucial time for the Party. Based on his practical experience, Mr. Songa exudes enviable political competence deriving from holding various positions within the Party. With his deep understanding of the needs and aspirations of all members, Mr. Songa has convincingly demonstrated that he is the right man for the Chairmanship.
Moreover, Mr. Songa is a unifier, team player, and people-centered person. Mr. Songa can assemble a formidable team to formulate and implement strategies to strengthen cohesion and harmony within the Party. His actions would solidify the Party’s ability to mount successful campaigns for the must-win 2023 and beyond national and presidential elections.
A Confident and Coherent Message Is a Winning Strategy
The key to a winning election strategy is a coherent message that resonates with voters, their interests, and aspirations. The Songa leadership has the potential to persuasively explain the successes of the President, his team, and the SLPP as a whole.
There have been recent public relations challenges under the watch of the current Chairman, including embarrassing internal election planning and management-related glitches. It stands to reason that new leadership must take on this crucial function to be credible and convincing. Mr. Songa understands that transparency and inclusiveness are required to run a well-organized Political Party and campaign.
Many Party members are disillusioned, frustrated, or aggrieved. The Party’s internal election debacles and delays must be erased in the minds of the general populace, electorate, and party members. The surest way of doing that is to elect a new Chairman like Jimmy Batilo Songa. He knows that running the Party well and with inclusiveness and transparency ensures that members are engaged, loyal, and enthusiastic.
Moreover, the Party can better shore up its support and expand its base by attracting new members or voters. From my interactions with Mr. Songa, it is clear that Jimmy Batilo Songa has an intuitive grasp of these critical election-related issues. Similarly, he fully understands the vital importance of social media and the ever-evolving array of communications technologies and data tools available for message development, dissemination, and connecting with the electorate.
Jimmy Batilo is The Leader with Scars to Show
The Party is fortunate to have a loyal and longstanding member like Jimmy Batilo Songa. He has been in the trenches fighting for what is best for SLLP. Mr. Songa is now stepping up to contest for National Chairman and chart a new path for SLLP. He deserves commendation.
Mr. Songa’s move to run for the Party Chairmanship is timely because the Party is truly at crossroads. Part of the problem is generational. We are faced with two competing narratives about where we go from here.
On the one hand, some may believe almost instinctively that the current Chairman, an old hand, should continue to be at the helm as we approach a new election cycle. On the other hand, it has become inescapably clear to many others that the Party needs a change of direction ahead of the crucial 2023 contest. Jimmy Batilo Songa provides this youthful and necessary change.
2023 is A Watershed Moment for Sierra Leone and the Party
The upcoming national and presidential elections present a watershed moment for the country. Voters must decide who will govern Sierra Leone at one of the most critical junctures for our nation – a decision with enormous implications for our future. Simply put, SLPP must be victorious to allow the President to complete his reforms, poverty reduction, and growth-driven agenda. The potential alternative is an APC government that will likely reverse the gains of the SLPP administration.
The incumbent SLPP government has performed well during its first term. The Party has achieved every manifesto pledge after manifesto pledge, turning around the nation’s economy and restoring the faith of the international community and development partners in the governance system. Such results would make re-election a foregone conclusion in a normal election cycle. But because of the devastating economic and other impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic and their adverse effects in turn on “bread and butter” issues, SLPP would need to put together a formidable campaign for 2023.
I discussed these pressing “bread and butter” issues with Mr. Jimmy Batilo Songa. Mr. Songa is equipped with the appropriate knowledge and depth of experience to lead on these crucial issues as we approach 2023. I can safely say that the “Po Man Padi“ stands alone among the aspirants as eminently qualified to lead the Party now. I mean now!
The experience of the other candidates notwithstanding, Jimmy Batilo Songa is the only candidate that, without reservation, can be deemed to be “the right choice for what the party requires today.” He knows and understands the needs, concerns, and aspirations of men, women, and their families across the nation. For this reason alone, Jimmy Batilo Songa must be elected National Chairman.
The Stakes Are Too High to Rely on Tried and Failed Leadership
The stakes are too high for our Party and the nation because when SLPP thrives and is in governance, the country and the people’s lives are improved. Mr. Songa possesses a rare combination of “big picture” thinking, vision for the future, competence, integrity, humility, empathy, and an unfailing commitment to bringing about positive change and making a difference in the lives of others. That is the kind of Chairman SLPP needs now as we gear up for the crucial 2023 campaign.
The campaign must begin now and not next year, and it must start with the election of a brand-new Chairman – Jimmy Batilo Songa.
I am therefore urging delegates to vote for Jimmy Batilo Songa to become National Chairman. His election would revitalize and strengthen the SLPP for the 2023 campaign, which can begin now. Jimmy Batilo’s election will be the best decision for the Party and the nation. It will ultimately result in the President being allowed to build on the successes of his first term, with Sierra Leone continuing to develop and prosper.
The author, *Ishmael Taylor-Kamara*, is *Chairman* of the *SLPP North America New York Chapter*.