The Ebola epidemic is an issue about which it is difficult to speak and impossible to be silent.
While any criticism of the government now will be automatically seen by advocates as insensitive and/or with ‘political’ undertone, there is no need dressing something up nicely when it is not. Neither can we continue to pretentiously ignore the reality of our embarrassing socio-economic and political situation, like some fart in an elevator.
However, because as sure as night follows the day, it is a no-brainer that once the red flag is down, we’ll all return to our old, selfish ways. We’ll continue to whistle in our tornado, fooling ourselves that we are making music.
Instead of the old things being passed away and us becoming a new creation, the web of paranoia and prickliness in the uppermost echelon of government which sees any filleting of its day-to-day running of events, as a conspiracy theory, will simply acquire a new and heightened toga.
Our leaders will still ignore the plight of the masses; their hunger and poverty; their homelessness and health issues; education will still be a mirage or at best the by-product of the political fatwa on the poor.
Like Dracula complaining about robbery in a blood bank, those saddled with the task of leading us to the Promised Land would still display bravura smugness; oblivious of potential pitfalls like Ebola, as they raise the pitch of self-gratuitousness.
The fatuous stunt of those jokers, who first described the alert of the impending Ebola doom as the usual conspiracy theory and who even in the light of prevailing circumstances are still pushing the blame button, will see many in the corridors of power become accidental millionaires in the course of supervising the several well-funded containment initiatives.
Oh yes; those who are now bedecking themselves, peacock-style, will lay claim to being proactive and dynamic in fighting the disease whose arrival on our shores is replete with moments of heroism as well as villainy.
I am aware that it is hard to hear the truth from people whose professional calling is lying or those who get paid to distort it.
As a result, the fact remains that the Ebola drama, borders on the threshold of the truth; and the reality of our understanding of the failures surrounding the role of our leaders in the whole apocalypse, will guarantee a space in the kind of future that we want.
And since it is a well-known fact that by telling the truth, you take away your enemies’ power to fabricate or distort events, we might as well start pre-empting those who will eventually want to portray their initial callousness, as the stuff of geniuses meant to avoid a panic situation.
For one, the recent frenzied response of the political leadership to the Ebola crisis is like when a he-goat has a dip in the nearby puddle. It increases its smell not make it any cleaner.
Secondly, more than three months after Ebola forcefully found itself an abode on our shores, our so-called leaders were and are still caught in a warp of utter helplessness, resignation as well spasms and confusion over the intensity of the much dreaded disease and how to arrest the doomsday scenario.
Therefore, as a result of the number of needless lives that have been victims of the raging killer, it is morally indefensible to keep quiet (even though there is a clarion call for national unity) because the initial nonchalance of government to the outbreak is symptomatic of our dire lack of leadership and exemplifies everything that is wrong with us as a people and a nation.
From education to health, nothing seems to be in place in this country as this present administration is now like the King who danced naked. Its existence also is now full of sound and fury as it goes cap in hand for foreign aid and assistance for every little thing.
From the onset, the government handled the Ebola outbreak, like a pensioner wading through puddles in an attempt to catch a poda-poda when one looks at the length of time it took to live up to its responsibility and provide the necessary leadership at the initial stage.
Then just imagine that it is only now, amidst the ever-increasing trail of sorrow and the unquantifiable social and economic cost of Ebola, which has turned Sierra Leone into a near pariah state, that the parliament has decided to pass a law designed to ensure that Sierra Leoneans realise the seriousness of the situation and not to see the disease as a mythical fiction conceived by spurious earthlings to scare the hell out of us.
Considering the amount of potential investments that may have been abandoned and the future implications of the catastrophe, no doubt the country’s leadership must be made up of clowns if, after the health minister had claimed that promiscuity was the cause of the initial death and then the health authorities are busy hiding the actual toll of the deaths and casualties, the information minister is still claiming at this latter stage, that politics and incompetence by some parliamentarians was responsible for the spread of Ebola.
Let’s also not forget the balderdash from the irrelevant ministry of political affairs earlier on, about the politicisation of the tragedy, which of course flies in the face of what the government itself is doing, trying to claim all the accolade and making every reference to APC and the president while cleverly ensuring that those who have gone out of their way to champion the cause and those who gave up their time and lives, are relegated to the background.
Yet, where were all those weeping more than the bereaved now, when months after the outbreak of the disease in neighbouring countries and reports of its spread towards our shores; and despite its obvious risk, the government and indeed we as a people, did nothing and instead chose to ignore the impending disaster; only to wait for it to arrive first before finally believing that it’s serious.
Our leaders let their guards down and allowed the infection unfettered access into the country when a general and timely public enlightenment and sensitisation would have done a world of good then.
Apologists can go on their hair-pulling tantrums as much as they like but I believe that had there been money involved earlier at the onset of the outbreak, those in the corridors of power would have been falling over themselves (like they are doing now) to show decisive action.
Now that money is pouring in everyone is on the road. Call me cynical if you want but that is my belief.
The same government’s propaganda machinery that is so powerful and effective against political and perceived opponents suddenly lost its verve when it was most needed.
The blood of those who have died needlessly, will forever be upon their heads because decisive action could have reduced the toll.
So I cannot for the life of me accede to the ostrich-in-the-sand posturing that we can disconnect events selectively by screwing up our eyes and clicking our heels when we know fully well that our situation captures or covers the entire spectrum of the history of hypocrisy and deceit that have led this nation to its present predicament.
So amidst our crisis, let us say it as it is.
This is not the time to heap praises on President Koroma but to make more demands on him after he let slip an opportunity to show true leadership and prove that his administration was not a hapless one when his minister of health spewed out that most nauseating and amateurish display of decorum as well as atrocious submission before this very same ‘august’ parliament that has just woken from its slumber.
With no roadmap for such an overwhelming devastation which shines the light on the level of our acclaimed health system and an ill-equipped and disorganized medical infrastructure, an effective leader, aware of the fragile, distrust-laden and polarized ethno-cultural society like ours, should have, without political and other cultural sentiments, exercised wisdom and shown true leadership.
The threat posed by the disease is real and can only be turned back by actual policy deliverables. The stakes are too high and the light-hearted or propaganda approach by nincompoops definitely is not the way forward or the antidote to our yoke.
While it is not possible to remedy the structural deficiencies in our health system overnight, but after six years of the present administration, it is important to underline the universal nature of public health and its relationship to official policy as well as the glaring shortcomings of the government in this area.
Ebola has finally shown that instead of such fanciful projects as a new airport and the continuous kow-towing to cowboy investors who took flight at the first sign of trouble, it is the shortage of medical personnel, inadequate essential drugs and basic things like gloves, protective and diagnostic equipment as well as ancillary facilities in our private and public hospitals that we need to pay attention to.
Ebola has further opened the nation’s stable door which we were being told is securely bolted within the train of prosperity and El-Dorado.
The most potent lesson to learn amidst the sorrow, tears and blood of the ravaging Ebola, is that this is a wakeup call for our health care system to be revamped without further ado and to be finally dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.
And while we are at it, will someone please put a plaster on the mouths of clueless ministers and government officials. Even a tap has valve that prevents excessive running of water, unlike some of those in government whose mouths have lost vocal valves, thereby running uncontrollably, and spewing caustic substances, out of personal and political frustrations.