By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
“When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool”, noted the Nigerian celebrated writer the late Chinua Achebe. How true of the current state of affairs in Sierra Leone! While majority of Sierra Leoneans are now being foisted into abject poverty, through the warped policies of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government, President Julius Maada Bio finds ways and means to engage in his touristic escapades each month.
Now that President Bio has returned from one of his touristic escapades in the United States of America, can his media handlers tell the nation what has been, or is, the economic benefit to the nation in the President taking a photograph in front of the statue of John Harvard? Or addressing a thin audience at Harvard University—an audience that would have been thinner had members of President Bio’s delegation been subtracted from it? I am asking this question for the simple reason that the amount of US Dollars spent on chartered flights and per diems given to his alleged over two dozens-member delegation could have solved some of the “bread and butter issues” which Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa aka JJ Blood, no longer seems to be an expert on.
But again when a nation gets a leader who always behaves like Alice when she first finds herself in Wonderland, then citizens should not be surprised if the situation in that country degenerates into that which is painted by William Golding in his novel: “Lord of the Flies”. As I see it, the only reason why President Bio appears to be over-obsessed with visiting the USA is to prove the point that he can now fly into the United States without any incident not “over it” if he wants to “go to Canada”, as he once stated in an interview on AYV television during the run-up to the 2018 Presidential Election.
Now that President Bio has proven the point that he can now travel to the United States without any incident, could he please settle down and start thinking of how to solve the “bread and butter issues” which were the centrepieces of his campaign? This is important because the SLPP government is now synonymous with hardship.
Every day poor Sierra Leoneans keep hearing about jaw-breaking monies from either the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as budgetary supports to the SLPP government. Each week the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will insult the people’s collective hunger by telling them about billions and billions of Leones being recovered and transferred to the Revenue Consolidated Fund. Every month, the National Revenue Authority (NRA) will tighten the noose around the necks of business people just to boost the government’s resource mobilization drive. And every now and then the Bank of Sierra Leone will auction millions of dollars like palm oil at “Barmoi Luma”, yet there has not been any improvement on the lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans.
In fact, the warped policies of the SLPP government are making prices of essential commodities to hit the roof of the Sam Bangura Building. The Dollar keeps playing hide-and-seek with the Leone, while to “clear” goods at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay is now a nightmare. For majority of Sierra Leoneans, getting one meal a day is now as elusive as getting the State House Communications Unit to publish President Bio’s delegation list! It appears as if the Bio administration is still figuring out how to solve the “bread and butter issues” with the Finance Minister and Bank Governor Prof. Kelfala Kallon behaving like bulls in a china shop.
I am still at a loss as to why the Finance Minister and Bank Governor are not putting into practise the economics theories they were spewing out while the SLPP was in opposition. It is true that majority of Sierra Leoneans might not be economics-savvy but they know that the government’s economic policies are warped when they are going to bed hungry every day or are unable to provide lunches for their children as the SLPP’s “school feeding programme” appears to be a sick deception.
But in the midst of the hardship and hunger in the country, all what President Bio seems to be concerned about now is how to make overseas trips. And I will not be surprised if he makes another trip to the United States of America next week just to take photographs in front of the White House lawn or the Statue of Liberty. Why not? He is now The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone who can no longer think of flying “over” the United States but into it!
The only thing I missed during President Bio’s Harvard and MIT Universities’ visits, where he gave bland public lectures, is the “Ngorboi debul”. If I may ask: was the “Ngorboi” not visa-ed this time? Or did he (or she) miss the chartered flight at the Freetown International Airport at Lungi? Just curious because the “Ngorboi debul” seems to have been a sort of permanent feature of the President’s overseas trips!
But “when suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool”, to quote Achebe again. Indeed, with the SLPP at the helm of affairs, suffering has really settled amongst majority of Sierra Leoneans because the SLPP is now synonymous with suffering. I only hope JJ Blood and Prof. Kallon will wake up from their reveries and realise that economics jargons do not feed people.