By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
Who else is more determined or has actually demonstrated willingness to have the Ebola virus eradicated from the Northern District of Port Loko than the Minister of Information and Communications- Hon. Alhajie Alpha Kanu? This is a question that surfaced at one of the two monthly meetings of key Stakeholders comprising of Ward Councillors, Paramount Chiefs, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and Ebola District Taskforce Members in Port Loko. It was in fact the submission of the Paramount Chiefs to the Ebola Taskforce Chairman-Mohamed Sheick Kargbo after a brief consultation on the thorny issue of either to postpone or quarantine Port Loko District by Wednesday this week.
Quarantining Port Loko District was one of the most crucial decisions to be developed after the motion was introduced by Hon. Alhajie Alpha Kanu himself. He based his proposal for a lock down by Wednesday on the grounds that the Ebola virus will wreck this Nation if decisive moves were not adopted .He cited the negative impact it has already caused on almost every sphere of life ranging from the immense loss of invaluable lives, through the prolonged ‘no school system in the Country, to the stagnation of the economy and eventual hard times everybody is now faced with.
The Information and Communications Minister opined that the mode of transmission of the virus can be better contained, if the movement of people is restricted for a considerable period of time. But he was seemingly challenged by Hon. Saidu Barba Kamara of Constituency 058 who said even though the idea was fine, yet there should be am ample time for people to get themselves prepared against the proposed lock down in the District. He gave the example of what obtains in other sister Districts where sufficient food and hundreds of millions of Leones were secured first before they ventured into such a decision.
He was buttressed by the District Coordinator for the Ebola Response Centre- Hon. Raymond Kabia who said any attempt to lock down at this moment would only expose the people to uncontrollable hazards. He spoke of the sort of idle interest most of the Descendants of Port Loko have shown to the fight and how there was absolutely nothing in terms of food and other logistics for the implementation of such a move. Hon. Kabia said he sent out a lot of letters for the Descendants of the District to come on board when he assumed office as District Coordinator some months ago, but there has never been any positive response. A motion for the cancellation of the idea for a lock down was shared by almost every other speaker including the Deputy Director of Education-Briama Thaimu Koroma who called for at least a two week grace period to enable them prepare well. An argument ensued for a couple of minutes and it became apparent that Hon Alhajie Alpha Kanu must have lost his case.
The scenario I saw only reminded me of what Dr. Monica – the leader of the team of consultants that was earlier imported from Kenema by the District Taskforce to help strategise for a winnable battle against Ebola. She has often said that Ebola meetings can only go to a logical conclusion after very serious arguments and confusions.
Indeed that gap was bridged after the Taskforce Chairman Mohamed Sheick Kargbo had allowed all those who wanted to comment on the issue had made home their points. It was therefore quite interesting if not baffling when the Information and Communications Minister stood up to give what turns out to be the winning submission. He said it was pointless for the Stakeholders to shift to a later date not only because Port Loko has been under quarantined status, but largely because there would not be any additional input from anyone else as purported by Hon. Barba Kamara and all those that had pressed for a postponement. The resolve of the Minister to selflessly salvage the situation was deduced when he outlined that there was hardly any cooperation from his colleague Politicians in spite his efforts to have them on board. Hon. Alpha Kanu won the support of the audience, when he put it to the District Coordinator –Raymond Kabia that no letter was ever addressed or even copied to him for assistance despite the fact that he is always available.
Perhaps the only ‘Daniel to judgment’ was the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the North/Western Region Mr. F U K Daboh, who observed that a lot of time has already been wasted in helping people to know the importance to comply with the rules and regulations of the fight. He noted that most communities were still engaged in the washing of dead bodies and secret burials which are the fastest ways through which the virus can be transmitted. He said the earlier they resolve to go into active action would be the better for the entire, adding that his Personnel were always ready to do as required.
It could have been no better motivation for the Minister to stand his ground.
Hon. Alhajie Alpha Kanu was therefore quick to re echo his stance against any form of postponement of the Lock down. He said the Ebola virus is so dangerous that people must not afford to was accorded a thunderous applaud when he single headedly opted to donate One Thousand Bags of Rice which is tantamount to one hundred bags of rice for each Chiefdom. When the need for the establishment of a Committee on the proposed Lock down surfaced, the Information and Communications Minister wad automatically required to serve as its Chairman. This Committee was therefore charged with the mandate to work out all the modalities for effective lock down .It is supposed to meet the following morning for a clear cut decision, details of which I intend to offer in due course. It is therefore the fervent hope that Ebola will be eradicated not only from Port Loko District, but the Country as a whole, once that crucial stage is passed.
Meanwhile have a look at the pictures to help you visualise how it all went at the Conference Hall of the Port Loko District Council, where the meeting was held…….