By Titus Boye-Thompson :
Sidiratu Mansaray is an overnight sensation, a concerned Sierra Leonean who feels it her duty to go on electronic media and lay blame for everything under the sun upon a Government at best distracted by efforts to tackle a scourge that is killing ordinary people in Sierra Leone in droves. Rosaline Sesay also joined the bandwagon with her definitive style of addressing Mr Government. Now these are Sierra Leoneans who have come across as passionate in their concern for country, brave for speaking out in such an open forum yet despondently misguided in their anticipations and portrayal of the facts on the ground. No matter how close the electronic media has made the world, nothing beats a hands on approach to events as it unfolds with the rapid momentum characteristic of the spread of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. In a geo-political context, such outbursts are not to be unexpected. There are various emotions and contemplations raised by the defenselessness that had been the experience of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). There is no other condition for which there is not only no known, tried tested and proven cure but with an added complication of its resulting in death within a very short period of time. Ebola is a death sentence, and the very essence of its spread in a native land will arouse concerns and emotions especially from those so far removed from the epi-center, and that must be understandable under the circumstances.
The allusion to corruption is an emotive one and readily understandable within the context of a country that has its own battles to fight on that front. The matter of a perception that everything Government undertakes is suspect by definition obscures any rational analysis of efforts to get this situation under control. Sad to say that these commentaries may tend to expose an inner realization that the corruption relayed in such a public forum is itself an indication of a personal conflict within the proponent. The conflict of betrayal, unforced on the individual by a situation of poverty, an inability to be self assured that the proponent may have done all that is necessary to protect his interests or that of his kith and kin, to the extent that any inability or incapacity is translated as a fault of Government as the ultimate authority, misplaced since the frustration n is misdirected from the authority that is considered to have been the root cause of that inability, due to suppression of mobility or economic expectations. The realization that things work where they are in such rapidity or with such predictability is proof of corruption in their countries of origin because in their lucid states, their rationalization is that had their countries of origin been a more orderly run environment, they would have no need to stay away or languish in a self enforced exile.
There is ample evidence that where Diaspora communities are given opportunities or attain high educational or economic status and with that a freedom to move freely between country of origin and country of habitation, the movement is gradually towards home. Their appreciation of home is more acute and positive. They relive the halcyon days so easily and in time imbue their offspring with that joyous anticipation of a return to a homeland, far removed from their current habitation. Their dissatisfaction with country of habitation becomes gradually more potent. They compare the idyllic and serene atmosphere of home and see the country of habitation as a workshop, a warehouse of labour and economic machinery designed to offer them a retirement lifestyle that they would be apt to construct in their home country.
The referencing of corruption as a causative factor in the inability to control or otherwise effectively manage the Ebola virus is therefore one of perception much more than it is one of reality. The personal attacks on people of high authority is again another manifestation of the inner conflict, and the battle with a society that is seemingly oppressive when countenanced in a private engagement such as the fight to regularize a stay, the fight to keep a family together or the battle to exert fundamental human rights to self determination. Those battles are of greater magnitude to Diasporans but of every little consequence to people in countries of flight. There is a practicality in living within a confined environment, unable to reach a full potential or condescending to undertake menial jobs merely to maintain a certain level of economic independence. Such considerations lend themselves to the politics of envy. Those who languish in Western economies hold to ransom their counterparts in developing countries and regard any expedient expenditure of public money as corruption or otherwise unnecessary. What they fail to consider is the extent of sovereign power and authority that is of necessity a factor in the exercise of statesmanship and public rectitude. It would be easy for them to rationalize Government functionaries attending conferences without proper accommodation or recompense, for Ministers to fly coach or the Country’s President to do his own laundry.
The exercise of state power is not only problematic in the least but accords for much chagrin and retrospection. In the event, it is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The President has to contend with a situation to which in his formative years up till his assumption of office, no other President has been faced with. A Minister of Health is suddenly left to grapple with a situation spiraling out of orbit with no technical expertise at her disposal to deal conclusively with the problem, and a virus with such a savage outcome that the care givers and those left to combat the disease or dispose of its victims become a significant statistic.
Mr Government is easily the one to blame for all this. It may be left to be seen whether history, in retrospect, will adjudge Mr Government as harshly as these armchair experts have done. Some have attacked their methods and conduct as misplaced anger and frustration. Others have applauded their bravery for “going live”and saying what is invariably in a lot of people’s minds. However misguided they may have been, whatever conflicts that have convulsed upon them to arrive at that decision to go viral, the fact remains that in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the peoples face a scourge of epidemic proportions and the practical fact is that people are dying. The cultures and traditions of these countries contribute to the spread of the virus, though unwittingly, and the call now is for their citizens to effect a radical realignment of values and traditions especially in how they handle those vulnerable to the scourge, succumbing to illness and death. Ebola virus is real, it is killing people and no amount of self recrimination abates its effects. Rather, more effective communication, messages and information designed to change attitudes and behaviors are needed. The President of Sierra Leone shall be considered visionary for having called much earlier on for attitudinal and behavioral change to enhance development, for now and simply put, attitudinal and behavioral change saves lives.