On the infrastructural level, old-fashioned and dangerous ferries gave way to modern, concrete bridges; footpaths to motor feeder roads, laterite roads, often impassable during the rainy season, to asphalted highways; oil lamps to electric lighting; bacteria bearing brook and ditch water to treated pipe-borne water, shacks and frame houses to modern multi-storeyed buildings. The almost total dependence on foreign vested interests, which political independence from Britain had done little to reduce, gave way to a substantial and growing Sierra Leone share in the management and control of key companies in industry, mining, commerce, banking and insurance. In foreign affairs, virtually exclusive relations with a very small number of traditional partners gave way to cooperation with a broad spectrum of countries around the globe.
If any credit is due for what has been achieved, it should go in the first place to the rank and file of our party, the ordinary men and women, young and old, who elected us to govern the country and who subsequently helped us overcome some of the difficulties and perils which I recalled in the chapters of this book.
Personally, I would neither claim full credit for what has been done, nor apologise for what remains undone. Whatever the temporary difficulties we still have to face — difficulties which I do not wish to minimise — the fact remains that we have built a solid foundation for the future development of Sierra Leone. In this respect, my assessment of our task and the measure of our success are expressed in thesummary of the recently published history of our Party, The Rising Sun, which was researched and written under the direction of the A.P.C. Secretariat including, of course, its Secretary General.
This summary refers to the foundation which we built as one on which “future generations will be able to reply in shaping the economic system and the political institutions of the next stage on the road to national fulfilment”.
It went on to explain that “the most important pillar of this foundation has been the unification of the country, the creation of a national consciousness out of disparate and often conflicting ethnic and social outlooks; the weaving of a fabric which, while binding together the many entities of Sierra leone, preserves the features and cultural identity of each constituent group.
“Then came the effort to educate vastly increased numbers of young people in all parts of the country, an effort representing yet another long-term investment which involved sacrifice of immediate benefit for the sake of future dividends.
“Finally, in the economic sphere, building for the future has involved sacrificing part of the possibility of higher living standards, and of some wealth generating activities liable to produce short-term returns, for the sake of infrastructural projects, such as roads and bridges which are needed for the long-term development of the country.
“Future historians will recognise the extent to which the A.P.C. leaders had to compromise, balancing the temptation to satisfy immediate needs with the statesmanlike responsibility of providing for the requirements of the future and erecting the framework needed for their fulfilment.”
A fuller account of our struggle and of my own political record will be found in the history of our party to which I referred above and which I regard as one of our many minor investments in the future. Indeed, that book is largely intended to acquaint the younger generation with the efforts of their elders and the history of their own country which, as noted by the compilers, has been closely interwoven in recent years with the history of the All People’s Congress Party.
The present book has mainly given me the opportunity to pore over my life, to trace the misfortunes and the successes, and to record the people and places that have meant so much to me. I am lucky that I have had such a full life— I feel that I have enough material to fill not ine, but two books! Most of all I am lucky that I have been able to do so much with the life God gave me. Who would have dreamt that an ordinary little Limba boy would have become President of his country?
I remember that when I was very young my father would tell me tales of heroic deeds and magical things, of brave boys who killed leopards and returned to their tribes and became chiefs — they were the stories that all parents tell to their children as they drift off to sleep at night. And my dreams would often be filled with continuations of these wonderful yarns my father told. I sometimes feel that I have lived a life like one of these tales, that I have made what seemed impossible and improbable to me as a child come true. And so this old man has much to be grateful for, much to give thanks for, much to reflect on as the years pass by.