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President Koroma and the Burden of Leadership

SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin

DON’T LOOK BACK ... President Koroma requires the support of all Sierra Leoneans to defeat Ebola
DON’T LOOK BACK … President Koroma requires the support of all Sierra Leoneans to defeat Ebola

The outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease has put a heavy burden on leadership at every stage, most especially on the national leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma. Every problem of the country, even if minor, is blamed on poor leadership at a time when many good people are scared of being called leaders or be invited to become leaders in their various communities.

This is so because in the past, communities invited their leaders as opposed to the present situation where ‘leaders’ impose themselves on the community and vis-à-vis. Some analysts and political commentators have diagnosed the country’s leadership problem since the outbreak of the dreaded Ebola Viral Disease as by-products of deficient political structure, corruption, insincerity and the deep-rooted ethnic and regional fears among the political class.

There is this common agreement that every Sierra Leonean is at best a tribalist per excellence as distinct from a patriot. In fact, the word patriotism seems uncommon in the Sierra Leone political dictionary. Any appointment that is being made by President Koroma is weighed on the scale of tribe and region, and all his actions since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone seem to be viewed through the dark glass of ethnic and regional sentiments.

The fears of Temne, Mende, Krio and Fullah (Sierra Leone major tribes) domination are still rife despite the Ebola outbreak. The election of the current President from the Northern Region, which was believed would douse ethnic and regional fervor for power as things are at the moment, has complicated the political and economic woes of the country.

President Koroma is blamed by some as being responsible for many of today’s ills Sierra Leone is grappling with; especially the poor, decayed and dilapidated health care system, which could not be fairly placed at his door steps, the continual spread of the Ebola virus, monumental corruption, and general decay in infrastructure.

The poor, decayed and dilapidated health system in Sierra Leone has existed before President Koroma was born; monumental corruption existed before he became President; and general decay in infrastructure has roamed dangerously all over the country before his adventure into national politics.

The dilemma and predicament of President Koroma’s leadership since the outbreak of Ebola seem to lie in the failure to differentiate between the principle of politic, the strategy of statesmanship and the inability to reconcile them in a plural society such as Sierra Leone. Is the President the leader of a political party or the father of the nation after his election?

In an unstable health atmosphere pervaded by the dreaded Ebola virus and its corresponding economic uncertainties, continuous application of wrong methods does not portray positive thinking or rational behaviour. If your retinue of advisers and ministers, and Members of Parliament are feeding you daily with half-baked truth about the current state of affairs regarding the Ebola outbreak and mismanaging logistics meant for the fight against the disease, then something seems basically wrong or abnormal.

The answers lie in looking into the mirror to see the image of a very talented and passionate President, but surrounded by awkward and wayward foes (who pretend as ‘friends’). They are in dire need of correction and reformation. Therefore, it is naïve to think that any other president could have succeeded and done better in this critical period of the nation’s history.

It is not a bad idea if President Koroma realizes his limitations in terms of the effectiveness of his teams – mediocre, howbeit conscientious. The present team has proved to Sierra Leoneans – at home and in the Diaspora – that they are incapable, incompetent and totally bereaved of ideas in providing full support needed by the President to tackle and curtail the continual spread of the Ebola virus in the country by its harsh stance and allergic nature to constructive criticism.

The pursuit of high exchange rate occasioned by the outbreak of the Ebola virus (which has caused devaluation of the country’s currency against the dollar) would rob the country of the ability to import cheaply those required equipments to accelerate the fight against the disease.

In the recent stride to purge, restore sanity and public trust in the health and sanitation ministry, President Koroma has replaced the former minister, Ms. Miatta Kargbo with Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah. This was a surprised move by onlookers and those close to the corridors of power. How be it? It was a right step in the right direction, as the change in the hierarchy in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation was long overdue.

President Koroma, whilst keeping his integrity, should have absolutely nothing to do with the purchase and supply of the equipments needed for the fight against Ebola in order to avoid sabotage by some unscrupulous government officials, promote transparency, accountability and judicious use of the donor funds.

If the existing health facilities across the country cannot meet the domestic needs in the fight against this dreaded disease, the government should – as a matter of urgent public interest and importance – build new “state-of-the-art” health centers to complement the already existing ones.

It is in the interest of President Koroma and Sierra Leoneans that the Ebola virus be wiped out of Sierra Leone within the shortest possible time. To this end, the question of political and regional affiliation ought not to be on the front burner. The fight against Ebola should be all-inclusive in order to avoid an unforeseen revolution.

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