President Julius Maada Bio’s ascension to power marked a significant turning point for the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). His relentless efforts in leading the party back to power in 2018, after a prolonged stint in opposition, stand as a testament to his determination and political prowess. Bio’s journey in politics, from his military rule in 1996 to his current presidency, reflects a complex narrative of transitions, challenges, and strategic maneuvers.

As a former military head of state, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio played a pivotal role in steering Sierra Leone towards civilian rule in 1996, following multi-party elections. His commitment to democratic principles was evident when he peacefully handed over power to the SLPP after Dr. James Jonah declared Ahmad Tejan Kabbah the winner of the run-off presidential election. However, the SLPP’s subsequent defeat in 2007 ushered in an era of opposition that lasted nearly eleven years.

The resurgence of the SLPP can be attributed, in part, to the election of John Oponjo Benjamin as the party’s National Chairman and Leader in 2009. Alongside Benjamin, astute politicians like Jacob Jusu Saffa and Mrs. I.J. Kabbah injected renewed vigor into the party, challenging the ruling APC and garnering support from disillusioned SLPP members.

Brigadier Julius Maada Bio’s formal nomination as the SLPP flag bearer in 2011 and his subsequent victory in 2018 reflected his enduring popularity within the party. Despite being frequently absent during the 2018 campaign, Bio’s well-organized team, comprising stalwarts like Dr. Abass Bundu and Alhaji Dr. Kanja Sesay, propelled him to success.

President Bio’s administration has initiated transformative projects, such as Free Quality Education and Feed Salone, aimed at uplifting the lives of Sierra Leoneans. The success of these initiatives will undoubtedly shape his legacy upon leaving office.

However, as the SLPP looks towards the future, the question of leadership succession looms large. With a plethora of aspirants vying for the party’s top positions, including Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh and Hon. Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, President Bio faces the delicate task of navigating intra-party dynamics while ensuring a smooth transition of power in 2028.

The list of aspirants vying for the SLPP flag bearer position continues to grow, akin to seeds sprouting. Notably, many are familiar faces to party members and supporters, with their public service records being well-documented.

These aspirants are not strangers to the incumbent they aim to replace. The challenge of leadership succession in a party as sizable as the SLPP is a complex affair. Calls for a National Delegates’ Conference this year are growing within the party, with the goal of electing (or re-electing) National Officers. The coveted roles of National Chairman and National Secretary General are particularly contested. This year’s conference is anticipated to be pivotal for the party’s ambition to retain power post-2028.

President Bio is navigating a delicate situation. He is cautious to avoid showing favoritism towards any flag bearer hopefuls, many of whom are his mentees or political allies, such as VP Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, and Timothy Musa Kabba, who regard President Bio as their political mentor and godfather.

Others, including Hon. Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Hon. Alhaji Musa Tarawally, Ambassador Alie Kabba, etc., are considered close political allies of the President.

For VP Juldeh Jalloh, President Bio has recently entrusted him with significant responsibilities that were not afforded to him from 2018 to 2023. This change is understandable; the President previously preferred not to share the global spotlight, especially when he had aspirations to continue in office beyond 2023.

As President Bio approaches his final term, his interest in his successor—both as the SLPP flag bearer and as President of Sierra Leone—is undoubtedly heightened. He is well aware of the unfavorable outcomes that can arise from relinquishing power to adversaries.