Expectation Management | Fantasy History 10

Dr. Margai and Dr. John Karefa-Smart 
In the summer of 2000, Vitabu interviewed Banja Tejan-Sie in London over several weeks. Born on August 7, 1917, Tejan-Sie died August 8, 2000, aged 83. He was the last governor-general of Sierra Leone.  

Since the last general elections were held in 1957, the government decided to hold the next general elections in 1962.  Out of the 32 ordinary members of the 1957 House eligible for the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) symbol, thirty obtained it. 

There were strong local SLPP committees whose composition the Member of Parliament could not control. In these constituencies, Dr. Milton Margai (then Prime Minister) fully exerted his influence authority, and patronage. In a number of other constituencies, there were no local committees in existence. Here the chiefs played an important role.

The allocation of party symbols in the provinces was not a vitally important matter for candidates. When a candidate failed to win the SLPP nomination, he simply stood as Independent, and if he won he quickly joined the SLPP with the hope of a ministerial appointment.

I was still stationed in Bo as a senior magistrate for the provinces. 

Some leaders in the Northern province and in the past supporters of the SLPP came to see me in Bo to discuss my political future. They felt most hurt that I had been so badly treated by the party, which I had helped so much to establish in the Northern Province.

They felt Dr. Margai had cheated the North, and that the South, with the Mendes as the ruling tribe, had it all their way too long. 

In short, they wanted me to lead the North in the forthcoming general elections. The leaders of this movement were my agents in the previous elections. They were businessmen stationed in Lunsar. I told them to give me time to consider the matter.

Meanwhile on their return home, they seemed to have broadcast the fact that they had been to see me.

Rumors started spreading that I may be leading a breakaway party in the forthcoming elections.

Dr. Margai, as prime minister, had unlimited access to intelligence reports.

When he was told of this, I got a message that he was flying to Bo to discuss important matters with Mr. Massallay, then member of the Southern Province, and me.  We held a vital meeting in the Minister’s house on a Sunday in 1961.

Dr. Margai addressed me with the following words “ I am told that you intend to stand for election and that your people in the North want you to lead them. I think this will be a disaster. I do not think this is the right time for you to embark into this kind politics. There are three jobs which I can offer you after the elections: Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, or Governor General. I want you to think seriously and to let me know what you feel. “

It did not take me long to think over the matter. I told him I would support him.

A few months after the meeting, I returned to Freetown after almost three years of continuous service as a temporary magistrate. 

One Tuesday morning after I retuned to Freetown, I had a call from the Lodge that I was to see Dr. Margai accompanied by Dr. John Karefa-Smart and Paramount Chief Bai Koblo Pathbana.

When we got there, Dr. Margai called us into his study. He said he had called the three of us as political leaders of the Northern Province on an important subject, which he wanted us to keep secret. He then went on to say he had decided to appoint me as Governor General on the departure of Maurice Dorman in May 1962. 

Karefa-Smart and PC Bai Koblo were excited and happy at this announcement. Before leaving, Dr. Karfea implored Dr. Margai not to change his mind even if pressure was brought to bear on him, as he had been known to change his mind before on several issues.  He promised he would not.

To my utter surprise and dismay, the Daily Mail of April 10, 1962, a newspaper published in Freetown, carried the following banner headline “BANJA TEJAN-SIE LANDS SIR MAURICE’S JOB, IN ACTING CAPACITY.”

It went on to say that when the governor general, Sir. Maurice Dorman, leaves Sierra Leone for good next month, Mr. Banja Tejan-Sie, a temporary police magistrate in the Western province, will relieve him.  

The Daily Mail also added that under the Constitution, the chief justice, Sir Salako Benka-Coker, should act as governor general. But since he is out of Sierra Leone on holiday, the government decided that Mr. Tejan-Sie should relieve Sir Maurice in an acting capacity. The editorial went on that that I had been selected because I was from the North.

A few weeks later, Prime Minister Dr. Milton Margai said Her Majesty [Queen Elizabeth II was the reigning constitutional monarch of the Commonwealth] had come out strongly in support of Mr. Henry Lighfoot-Boston, who was then Speaker of the House.  

Dr. Margai said I was young and had a long way to go. He did not want to say no to Her majesty whom he absolutely admired. He had decided therefore to suggest the name of Mr. Lighfoot-Boston to Her Majesty as the next Governor General of Sierra Leone.

Dr. Margai said there were two other jobs going that of Speaker of the House and Chief Justice. I could have any of these.  He concluded that with any of these offices, I could still be in a position to influence and help in the good governance of the country.

I had already resigned my temporary appointment as magistrate.  I had been out of active law practice for three years so I accepted his suggestion and duly waited for the development. The elections of July1962 were to hold soon.


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