When President Barak Obama appeared at the National Defence University, Fort McNair, Washington DC, on May 23, 2013, he appealed to the national consciousness of the American people for unqualified support to his government ‘s war against terrorism.
Osama Bin Laden was dead and keeping company with the fishes and other aquatic beings at the bottom of the sea, but the threat of terrorism was still alive, according to President Obama. .In another powerful message, President Obama said ( Among other things ) : “Now, make no mistake, our nation is still threatened by terrorists. From Benghazi to Boston, we have been tragically reminded of that truth. But we have to recognize that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of experience now to draw from, this is the moment to ask ourselves hard questions — about the nature of today’s threats and how we should confront them.”
PRESIDENT ERNEST BAI KOROMA, the President we elected overwhelmingly in two successful democratic elections , demands no less from us, the Sierra Leonean people as we too enter a crisis that threatens our existence as a nation. . This is not the time to lay siege on our government, look behind every bush for mistakes and inundate the President and the Government with blames. When you have such an invisible and insidious enemy, like Ebola, mistakes are bound to be made, as a developing nation that is still involved in the process of trying to develop our health care system to national standards.
All other nations that have been afflicted by Ebola made one mistake or the other, according to their citizens and international organizations . DR Congo did. Guinea did. Liberia did. Nigeria did. Ebola is beyond our African health care systems.
America, the Superpower of the world, the most technologically accomplished nation in the world, was found wanting in her initial response to 9/11. Critics of former President George W. Bush jr even accused his administration of having foreknowledge of the attack and they blamed the government that it was not able to nip it in the bud before it was executed , leading to the death of over 3, 000 people. There were even stunning security lapses that enabled terrrorists to beat airport checks and enter planes armed in some cases with boxcutters and knives , hijack these planes successfully and use them as weapons of mass destruction against innocent people in a country that is the most militarily powerful in the world, a country with a watertight security system that is second to none in the world. In an apparent admission of these facts, President Bush once said : “On September the 11th, we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores; whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states. ” Yes, the greatest superpower of the world learnt that it was not always that a nation could confront and stop a threat before it reaches her shores.
America , thus, once found itself in our situation. Something happened in the country that should not have happened. The difference , though , was the national response. Americans love their country with a passion. Instead of sitting down and bemoaning their fate whole day and engaging in a national orgy of blames games , Americans asked hard questions about the nature of 9/11 but they did not end it at that. They confronted it. They acted against terrorism. They went to action against terrorism. They put all partisan and other interests aside, placed their national survival at the frontlines and joined their President and their government fight terrorism. America broke the back of the national threat, and yet former President Bush said on September 11, 2006, “But the war is not over, and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious. ” That should be our defining perspective of this war against Ebola : We must defeat it, or it will defeat us. And we must not face defeat . We are a resilient people who have fought and won other wars against our survival. Ebola should not be an exception. We must defeat Ebola. But we cannot defeat Ebola, except we fight it as a nation.
The reason that we in Sierra Leone resort to blame games instead of exploring proactive avenues to throw weight behind our government to fight battles is that we look at national life as a POWER BATTLE . To some of us, it is a battle between one party and another or one region against another ; one former government against a present one or one former President against a present one etc. We do not have a national perspective or focus .We do not think Sierra Leone. It is time for us to change and begin to look at issues and crises from a national perspective. Americans do have the same struggles but when an issue emerges that threaten the safety and security of their country or their survival as a nation, they put all else aside and fight together as a nation. The Democrats and the Republicans pit their strength together to fight. Former Presidents and the present Leader put aside contending and competing ideologies and animosities and take the same podium to stir the nation to action. Even the American media throws its weight behind the government during a national crisis. I have been in the U.S. for over 20 years and read newspapers voraciously everyday. This is what makes America the greatest nation in the world.
I want to call on all Sierra Leoneans to think of this Ebola outbreak not as a test to the government alone –a test to government we must approach with stoicism and cynicism , sitting on the sidelines and waiting on the government to err, lambast it again and again and seek it downfall. It is not just the government that is being tested. It is our nationhood. It is not just the government that carries the nomenclature of Sierra Leone. We carry the nomenclature of Sierra Leone too. As one lady powerfully argued, we are the nation. We are Sierra Leone. We are the government too. We must help ourselves defeat Ebola.. We must all put our energies together to fight and win this battle for ourselves and our nation .
Whatever may be felt about him, the leader of the opposition SLPP, Retired Brig. Maada Bio has cut a very impressive figure during this Ebola crisis. Instead of sitting down and just finding faults with President Koroma and the Government or trying to create political capital, Brig. Bio returned home to join the fight. He went to State House and pledged his support and commitment and from there went straight to the field to give his own quota. Whoever is advising Maada Bio presently needs a raise in emolument. I may not agree with his politics or the things he once said about President Koroma but Bio has won my respect in recent times for his national outlook of the Ebola crisis.
Sensitization is a powerful tool to confront Ebola. Let us support the very valiant efforts of President Koroma by helping to sensitize the people. Ebola is spreading because our people too are not following preventive and containment procedures. This is an important element we are missing in our rants about the Ebola scourge. Nobody seems concerned about the nonchalant and often willful high-risk behaviour of our people, which exposes them to infection by the Ebola virus. All our forces are directed at the government and President, but we must realize that if the people themselves do not protect themselves, nothing that the government does to protect them will work. We in the diaspora must call our families and town-mates in Sierra Leone to sensitize them about how to contain Ebola. This is one very valuable contribution we can make.
We can also support President Koroma and the Government by joining the various initiatives directed towards the mobilization of resources and medical supplies for the eradication of Ebola in Sierra Leone. Many organizations have been formed. We should join one of them and provide funds and resources to boost their efforts.
Ebola, we must realize, also has a global dimension. But I will deal with that in my next installment.