NOVEMBER 3, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin
“Woe to the idle shepherd that leaves his flocks,” says the Holy Book – The Bible.
Several months after the first case of the deadly Ebola virus was reported in Sierra Leone, every district within the country has recorded an incidence; with the most hit being the Western Urban – Freetown. Despite the upsurge of new Ebola infections in Freetown, Mayor Franklyn Bode Gibson has been “a painted ship upon a painted sea”. He has continually loathed speaking about the Ebola virus menace ravaging his primary constituency.
The Mayor of Freetown knows the situation of the city since the outbreak like the back of his hand. But his refusal to speak on what his administration is doing to contain the continual spread of the virus has kept all – stakeholders, opinion leaders, the media and civil society – in uttermost befuddlement.
Although we know meetings are dispensable when you don’t have anything positive to contribute, but he has been conspicuously missing at crucial meetings related to the fight against the Ebola virus in his domain. His new found love for idleness is a no brainer. Nothing is being said about development of the capital city – Freetown. Residents have continued to be in the dark about the city’s future outlook after the Ebola outbreak may have been defeated.
Freetown-Sierra Leone, before the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, was the world’s most promising emerging destination for international investors, with its gross domestic product forecasted to grow at more than 13% this year, following rapid expansion in the mining sector. But for all the optimism surrounding this, the Ebola outbreak has dealt a blow below the belt on the country.
Regardless of how large or small the city may be, the Mayor is considered to be its leader. The daily administration of the city rests squarely on his shoulders and not that of the central government. He is responsible for overseeing the operations of the city. He manages the daily operations by supervising the officials of each city department.
The success of the city hinges on decisions he makes and how efficiently he carries out his duties. He is responsible for enforcing the city’s laws and ordinances. He signs all permits, commissions and legislation. This gives him legislative authority. He is practically involved in short, medium and long-term planning of the city. He makes sure that each department is working toward its set goals.
To this end, the decisions the Mayor makes on public health safety will determine how successful the city will be in avoiding a public health disaster like the Ebola virus. He is also in charge of keeping the peace of the city, although we have witnessed pockets of violence and breakdown of law and order in the city in recent times.
The Mayor can also recommend the best course of action as well as provide any information that will be of immense benefit to the central government towards the advancement of the fight against the dreaded Ebola virus for the overall wellbeing of city dwellers.
However, not a single legislation or by-law has been formulated by Mayor Bode Gibson. Not a single recommendation to the central government to complement her effort towards the fight against the Ebola virus; that’s as far as my knowledge goes. The Mayor, who ought to be responsible for a wide range of decisions in the city government – Freetown City Council – has gone ‘AWOL’.
I have not heard a jingle on the electronic media, nor read an advertorial in the print media sponsored by the Freetown City Council towards the fight against the Ebola virus. The Freetown City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Bode Gibson, has completely gone to sleep.
The Mayor has not delivered a state of the city address since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Freetown. But he owes the city dwellers this constitutional duty. He has also failed to give residents of Freetown a progress report on the success of the City Council towards curtailing the geometric spread of the Ebola virus in his jurisdiction. Neither has he informed the populace of the changes that have been, or will be made towards combating the Ebola scourge in Freetown, like his counterparts in Bo, Kenema and Makeni City Councils have done and are doing.
The Mayor has failed to take a holistic look at, and to strategize with the central government of President Koroma on how best to find a lasting solution to the Ebola epidemic.
I am sure that indolence – indefensible indolence – is the true state of Mayor Bode Gibson. Peradventure, Mayor Bode Gibson is euphoric when he is idle.
The Mayor, who has the ability to veto, sign legislation and enforce the city’s laws and ordinances, has not done any. He has failed to mobilize resources towards ensuring the compliance of residents of Freetown to the ‘Public Emergency Orders’ passed by the central government as street traders, bar owners, bike riders and taxi drivers have continued to flout the Public Emergency Regulations.
I don’t want to subscribe to the obnoxious rumour that paucity of funds has been the problem of the City Council since the outbreak of the Ebola virus as the central government has raked-in huge funds from foreign missions, donor agencies and development partners, sister countries, religious organizations and statesmen. What the Mayor lacks is a sense of direction in coming up with a roadmap on how to support, complement and sustain the efforts being made by the central government.
The country’s economic activities revolve around Freetown; hence the Mayor is expected to be on the frontline in the fight against the Ebola outbreak. The Mayor needs to wake up from his ‘bed of slumber’. He needs to put on his ‘right thinking cap’. He must now ‘think outside the box’ because he plays a significant part in the success story of the city and country at large.
Mega thanks to the central government for creating new Ebola holding and treatment centers across Freetown. It is sure a good way of arresting the unabated spread of the Ebola Virus Disease in the city.
Finally, in the words of George Turbervillie – “eschew the idle life, flee, flee from doing naught. De-breed the idle thought.” We hope Mayor Bode Gibson will now ‘do the needful’.