Titus Boye-Thompson, APC Communications Expert
There is hardly any doubt that the position of First Lady carries an expectation from the people of Sierra Leone of respectability and a high moral standing for the person who holds that title. Many observers agree that the former First Lady, Madame Sia Nyama Koroma left a very high profile for that office both in the national and international stage. While many point to her advocacy for new-born children and pregnant mothers, to her relentless support and awareness raising for initiatives to reduce infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone and above all for her overall grasp and empathy for the sufferings of the less privileged in the country, the disabled and the displaced, it was the silent work that she did especially in building international networks for Sierra Leone that went largely unsung. Her work in raising awareness and helping to reduce the rate of infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone would remain her lasting legacy, though surprisingly, she has never claimed credit for one of the signal initiatives that has benefitted so many women and children across the country – en the free medical facilities offered to children under five, Pregnant and lactating mothers. This is because not many know of her constant campaign alongside the former wife of the British Prime Minister, Ms Sarah Brown who herself suffered still birth on her first child and took an interest on infant mortality at the very first opportunity when her husband took up office and used her status to raise the profile of this fact that in most parts of the World, many children die needlessly at birth and so do mothers succumbing to childbirth in circumstances that could have been avoidable.The zeal with which Madame Sia Nyama Koroma took to her task as First Lady was symptomatic of her natural instincts for empathy, sincerity, understanding and care for others as she moved effortlessly into the position of mother of the nation. This was not incidental nor was it a pretence but an in built natural ability to do good for others less privileged than herself. Sia Nyama Koroma came from a well to do family, her father already served as Attorney General of the Republic of Sierra Leone, has had a distinguished law career and tenure as Chairman of Sierra Leone Diamonds Mining Company (DIMINCO) and was without question one of the foremost political figure from Kono District, Her family life knew no want, she grew up in a caring and loving environment within a close knit though extended and typical African family of a very prosperous man. Theirs was a Christian Methodist family deeply rooted in their faith and the Christian ethos of charity and empathy for the poor and distressed. A highly educated political activist in her own right, Sia Nyama Koroma had always stood firmly behind her husband supporting his political career growth throughout their union of over 25 years. She often recalls campaign husting with her late father, Abu Aiah Koroma, the doyen of Kono politics and the rumblings of Bintumani 1 & 2 during the transition from war to peace in Sierra Leone. In the throes of the War, the family had to make a decision that she took refuge in England with her two children who were girls as she was a British citizen while her husband continued to stay the course in Sierra Leone to battle on for recognition as the leader and Chairman of the All Peoples Congress Party. Many a family were split this way and it was not uncommon for those who found themselves abroad and eked out a living from work had to make a contribution to the rest of the family back home through remittances. From time to time, her husband would find time to visit and at some point, used the UK as a base for developing international support for his bid for the Presidency in due course. All in all, Sia Nyama Koroma had been a supportive and progressive wife to her husband and a caring, loving mother to her family and the nation of Sierra Leone. She brought a great deal of dignity to her status as wife of the President, her establishment of an office of the First Lady was not without great opposition from other quarters, some of whom felt that an African woman should not build a status for herself but remain at home to care for her husband. Sia Nyama Koroma raised awareness of the near catastrophic and needless deaths of Sierra Leonean girls and women in childbirth, the poor health status of new born children and the need for concerted efforts to reduce infant and maternal mortality. During her tenure, the reduction in these deaths are a testament of the number of lives she saved and touched through her work on local and international diplomacy to change lives and make a difference for the poor and underprivileged of this country.

Considering that she worked unpaid and largely unsupported by the government of Sierra Leone, no one would doubt her relentless efforts to effect change and the positive outcomes of her attention that she focused on this area of our country’s development. In fact, it was a measure of the respect that she commanded that in reporting an exchange with her after the new government of President Julius Maada Bio sent a task force to harass her daughter and her husband in their private homes, that Hon. Rado Yorkie, the official in charge of the task force admitted on national radio that the people who went to that house were wrong in doing so and that he had apologized to the former President and the First lady for that incident but he further went on that on account of the very frank exchange that he had with the former First Lady, he would not repeat what she told him but that he had been severely humbled by her admonition to him. This showed the respect that Sia Nyama Koroma commanded even in the hearts and minds of those opposed to her husband.

While Sia Koroma would go down as a caring and compassionate person who occupied the position of First Lady of Sierra Leone, it would be unfair to compare any other person who comes after her in the same manner or to expect the same approach to the office as Sia Nyama Koroma effected. Hers has always been a performance borne out of a sense of duty and responsibility to the country. A preparation for supporting an individual in political office learned from being the consort to her father for part of her adult life when her mother was indisposed to play that role. It has always been Sia Nyama Koroma who had engaged more loosely with the Kono people in the heady days of her father’s political career and growth thus learning much from the interactions between the people and herb father and learning also of how to be magnanimous in majesty.

Sia Nyama Koroma took to the role like a fish to the sea and in the course of her husband’s tenure, has been able to guide and guard her family in the principles of service and commitment to mankind, selflessness and a recognition of the needs of the poor and less privileged. She has never been hard or difficult to reach, always ready to meet the people at their levels and to engage in community activities whenever called upon. Her main motivation has always been that she can do so much good by accepting an invitation to serve than to stay aloof in the splendor of a Presidential Lodge. In that consideration, she was always looking forward to Christmas period when she would open up the Lodge to the children of orphanages, Children’s homes and other care centers for the blind, deaf or infirm at her annual Christmas treat to them. She would put out a large display of entertainment, food and drinks for these children of deprived backgrounds to enjoy themselves as she visibly engages with them, holding and carrying the smaller ones with that warmth and are that only a mother can give. Many a child had enjoyed themselves from that one day spent with the First Lady and many more, girls and others who have benefited from scholarships and bursaries from her personal purse. She has always been excited about the prospect of giving to make good some very bad or worsening situation than to withhold and see the poor suffer needlessly. Sierra Leone will always honor her and her legacy will always be measured by the good deeds that others bring to that office. Sia Koroma has laid the foundation; it is now left for others to build on what she has done. For her own part, her actions would always be visible in the footprints she has left on the sands of history at the Presidential Lodge as First Lady of Sierra Leone.

Titus Boye-Thompson, APC Communications …

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