Will COVID-19 Be President Bio’s Own Albatross?


By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)

The cliché “what goes around comes around” appears to have come full circle; Sierra Leone is at present being faced with a clear and present danger called Coronavirus aka COVID-19. And President Julius Maada Bio and his team are suddenly faced with the stress, frustrations, and trepidations which former President Ernest Bai Koroma and his All People’s Congress (APC) were going through while fighting the Ebola epidemic between 2014 and 2015.

In 2014, when the unwelcomed guest, Ebola, visited Sierra Leone and told Sierra Leoneans not to worry for where she would have to sit down because she had already come with her own stool (to paraphrase Achebe); the then Mr Bio and his team appeared to have tried to make political capital out of it. For every move the All People’s Congress (APC) government of President Koroma made; it was given a political interpretation by the SLPP which insinuated that the APC-led government was not doing enough to scare away the Ebola epidemic.

And when a State of Emergency was declared by the Koroma-led government, again most members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) interpreted it as a move tinted with a hidden agenda. And though majority of the funds to manage the “Ebola efforts” were being puppet-stringed by some foreign organizations; yet the SLPP’s Governance Transition Team (GTT) Report of 2018 still accuses the APC administration of giving “all the major Ebola-related contracts to a small network of businessmen, each owning several companies, and all of them with close personal ties to top APC Government officials….(Section 54)”

That accusation, in the SLPP’s 2018 GTT Report, feigns forgetfulness of the fact that ex-President Koroma was on record to have openly stated that “Ebola Money” should not be either mismanaged or siphoned because it was “Blood Money”. And the former President even asked for an international forensic audit on the Ebola funds, which was done and its report showed the criminality exhibited by some foreign organizations during the duel against Ebola. But the SLPP, which has the proclivity of seeing berthed ships and submarines in landlocked countries, still holds on to its preconceived apparitions of Ebola corruption.

Now many Sierra Leoneans seem to be getting the feeling that they had lived through what is at present taking place in their country (or what the French would call “déjà vu”). The stress, frustrations, and trepidations of fighting a pandemic by a Government that is running a country on a shoestring, in the midst of a global lockdown, are having their grasps on President Bio. I truly, and honestly, sympathize with the President. It is painfully frustrating when a leader thinks he is doing his very best to prevent people from an imminent danger; but his very best is taken as not “best” enough in the best of efforts.

But this is expected when national issues are being clad in partisan colours. For the SLPP in 2014, Ebola was dressed in Red. So President Bio and his team should not be surprised if the shadow-boxing COVID-19 is now being clothed in Green or even be regarded as a problem created by the SLPP.

And for the very first time, in close to two years, President Bio may have suddenly realised the beauty of national cohesion to fight a pandemic that knows no tribe, region, or political party. For the very first time, our Commander-in-Chief may have also realised the merits of bi-partisan collaboration to the extent that he now knows that he needs every Sierra Leonean not a particular tribe or region to fight a common cause or enemy if you like. And most importantly, our Fountain of Honour may have realised that being a spectator on the stands is more easy and relaxing than being the skipper on the turf.

And I never knew that our Head of State was that prayerful until now. It is a truism that in times of troubles, tribulations, and calamities; people turn to the Almighty God for guidance and mercy. And President Bio is no exception. Suddenly, a “Prayer of Supplication for Sierra Leone”, purportedly authored by President Bio, has appeared out of the blue. But before going further, I must state that I find it tautological for someone to write “prayer of supplication” because one of the synonyms for “prayer” is “supplication” and vice versa. And I’m not too comfortable that the phrase “Jesus Name” appears twice without the appropriate apostrophe put in its rightful place.
And if I should do a brief Content Analysis of that “Prayer of Supplication for Sierra Leone”, I will surmise that the “prayer” itself is very confusing. It is not clear whether the supplicant is actually offering a collective prayer or an individual one. The word “We” appears 12 times and the personal pronoun “I” appears four times which might leave the reader or listener in a confused state as to whether the suppliant is praying for himself or his country. This seemingly confusion is made more confusing in the second and fourth verses. In the second it is “We come before You…”, and in the fourth it is “I humbly come before You… as the President and leader of this great nation Sierra Leone…” The mental picture created in the former is that of congregants standing in-between pews evoking the Holy Spirit, while in the latter it is that of a lone worshipper seeking God’s mercies and help.

Furthermore, it appears as if the “Prayer of Supplication for Sierra Leone” is a revised version of “Governor Clarkson Prayer for Sierra Leone.” And like Governor Clarkson’s, that entire supplication fails to encapsulate the secular nature of Sierra Leone. For, in its entirety, it treats Sierra Leone as if she is purely a Christian state, not taking into account that the Muslims are in the majority!

Dear reader, sorry for that digression. The looming threat of the Coronavirus seems to have suddenly frightened President Bio and his SLPP into believing in the concept of national unity! But the manner in which the “Coronavirus Sensitizations” is being conducted appears to be having hints of financial mistrust, which might later be President Bio’s own albatross.

After the Ebola catastrophe, ex-President Koroma never recovered as a person and President. Even the country, itself, never recovered from the financial and human devastations which Ebola left in its trail. Will that also be the fate of President Bio? Even if COVID-19 does not eventually make Sierra Leone one of its arenas, the preventive measures which the Bio administration has now put in place will have far-reaching economic ramifications for the future.
In a nutshell, ex-President Koroma had his Ebola which he contended with and President Bio now has his COVID-19 to contend with. But in the end, the next administration might inadvertently record President Bio’s COVID-19 fight the same way the Bio-led government recorded former President Koroma’s fight against Ebola.

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