Titus Boye-Thompson, London
In what is seen as an ominous sign of a state capture itself under siege, the Sierra Leone government is slowly walking into a period of paralysis as rumours around the health of President Julius Maada Bio makes the rounds on social media and triggering nothing but a weak riposte from the Sierra Leone High Commission in London that has succeeded in throwing fuel on burning embers.
The secrecy surrounding the President’s hurried departure to London, supposedly on medical grounds comes immediately after a trip to East Africa where he visited Uganda and Rwanda on a whirlwind tour of the Region. One of the few Sierra Leonean Presidents to forge such close ties with his counterparts in that part of the continent, President Bio’s trip to the East of Africa was itself riddled with controversy.
Political pundits are reluctant in promoting any relationship with these two despots as anything meaningful to the rest of Africa as many saw no immediate strategic import of such a visit other than an embellishment of what is regarded as a ruthless agenda, with Presidents Musuveni and Kagame known widely as two aggressively warlike and war embattled Presidents in Africa. Hobnobbing with them, it is understood, would be limited to a discourse on how to sustain oppressive regimes, retaining power at all costs.
President Bio has indeed been well travelled in this short time in office, traversing the globe like a man on a mission but to the chagrin of many who feel that most of these assuredly unworthy trips abroad are pure junkets, bringing very little benefits to the treasury or to national prestige. In the event, those who organize these trips have been accused of state capture, subjecting the Presidency to meaningless excursions to promote their own limited and myopic agendas for self-aggrandizement and personal prestige, in a short form, these trips would only serve to fatten their CVs with useless experiences.
Going straight over to the United Kingdom was therefore a surprise that was then inflated by the secrecy and personal nature of the trip. In some way, the allegations of state capture seem to gain traction when it unfolded that the President had gone away with the Chief Minister, Prof. David Francis after both men complained of stomach pains. Close confidants were quick to put the blame on dodgy dinner shared by the two men in some obscure location where it was privately dished out.
It would seem that Prof. Francis was much more hardened and his constitution proved to be resistant to the strain as the was known to have been discharged much earlier and therefore returned to Freetown to man the barricades as it were. News of this situation then became confused when it was understood that the Vice President had been sworn in to act in the absence of the substantive position as Head of State even though such a swearing in was not disclosed a priori.
It could be recalled that even at the time of the President’s absence while in East Africa, violence erupted at his Party’s internal conference where a vicious challenge to the Party Chairman Dr Prince Harding and an imminent coup de grace to replace him by Battillo Songa failed but not without violence and the reported deaths and grievous bodily harm which led evidently to the dismissal of Dr Prince Harding from his Chair at NATCOM immediately after the reports landed at the desk of the President on his return.
The internal squabbles in the ranks of the governing Party is widening as the Party now seems to be split in the middle by the radical Paopa wing going against the conservative wing. To add to this quagmire, there are signs that the capture of the Presidency by his former collegiate colleagues have proved to be a failing strategy with the mechanism of government buckling down at the knees even before the first shots of rebellion are sounded. The reason for this insidious internecine feud has always been a resistance to the shift of more power to the Presidency.
The SLPP has always been minded to set clear blue water between itself and its main rival, the All Peoples Congress and therefore SLPP’s political purists would be wont to support any situation that is aligned to that of the party on the other side. This resistance points to the fact that the APC are now embroiled in a crisis of confidence in a leader who has left power but is refusing to leave office.
The SLPP conservative wing have been known to oppose a capture of their Party in this manner wherein a leader who goes out of power may wish to hold on to the Party without recourse to its tradition of separation of powers and a clear dichotomy between its head of party and head of government.
While all of this is happening, Sierra Leone’s Indian summer sizzles with a President presumedly absent from his station, an ex-President running rings around the government of the day and a Presidential opponent also making waves to stay relevant in the burgeoning political landscape but amidst the chaos, a reluctant Vice President is reported to have been sworn in to hold on to the fort.
The bells that clanged for change are slowly being silenced and State House seem to be losing its grip on its machinery and communication. The decision to keep lull over the President’s illness may come back to hunt those who have stood before it, the apparent displeasure of the First Lady becomes now a matter of public speculation, knowing that she had been scathing of those who had surrounded the President and have condescended to cloud his vision even as she herself would testify to knowing what good he may have planned to do if elected President of this country.
The confluence of events pose a threat to Sierra Leone’s democracy and integrity of the state of the nation, to the extent that a robust account of the circumstances surrounding the Presidency is now being demanded by all sides and while political arguments may remain, it is hoped that the country pray collectively for the good health of our President. He is after all, the fountain of honour, supreme Head of State and Commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
God save our President.

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