As the tide of the Ebola virus is beginning to recede with Pujehun and Bonthe confirming Zero cases in 42 days, many Sierra Leoneans are now breathing a sigh of relief. This dreadful disease has not only exposed our weaknesses institutionally, but has tested our human capabilities internally. It is clear to all that the political leadership in all countries in our sub region have woefully failed the people by their unpreparedness in dealing with the Ebola crisis. It is time to think post-recovery and work to rebuild our nation’s healthcare system.
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea now understand that political governance is not about dividing citizens into ethnic rivals and mismanaging state resources; it is about providing the health care infrastructure with equipped and modernized hospitals, seasoned and experienced doctors and nurses that will care for its citizens before, during and after national emergency. The new reality check we are confronted is asking the question: what are you doing to help your citizens in their moments of health crisis?
A new norm is evolving in the political world across Africa that by creating the conditions that eliminates poverty and building the foundation of a sustainable health care system – diseases like Ebola will be eradicated easily with a thriving population that is healthier and more economically prosperous. Infact, the wellbeing of our people today is not only a matter of urgent concern, but a necessary prerequisite to our paramount survival as a nation.
While witnessing the destructive pathway of Ebola, where many innocent citizens collapsed and succumbed to the invasion of the EVD, and while watching pregnant women dying on the steps of our hospitals and treatment centers, rebuilding our health care system is now an increasing priority if not the most important social service policy agenda for the next 20 years. Thus, the need to increase our 15% GDP budget on health care is contingent upon fighting against the massive corruption we saw during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone.
A nation of six million people today have been subjected to the calamities of Ebola because, many public officials –people of no genuine good will – believe in the aging concept of the “self- serving ritual of individualism” – where amassing wealth are more important than expanding access to electricity for millions of households, encouraging foreign investments to create ladders of opportunities for the youths, while investing in science, technology and education to open doors for Sierra Leoneans to build a future that aligns to their social and economic wellbeing.
The government of President Koroma have, indeed, missed many opportunities to restore the trust that people want to see in their national leadership. Today, police brutality against innocent “Okada” riders – who have been denied employment opportunities remains ruthlessly unabated with no sense of justice for their legitimate grievances. A young girl in Sierra Leone cannot be protected against some predatory teachers or lecturers and public officers who see them as sex slaves instead of investing in their promising future.
Sadly, a 10 year old kid is still allowed to roam in our streets selling chewing gums instead of sitting in a classroom to learn, while members of parliament languish in the corridors of power with nothing to offer their constituencies. Sierra Leoneans everywhere have lost faith in their government because the Ebola Virus revealed that – those who are in governance – lacks the visionary leadership and compassionate culture to address our complex national emergency challenges.
In assessing the battle damage of the Ebola virus disease, our weak public finance management system directly boosted the rapid exposure rate in urban population including the senseless death of many of our innocent citizens. Funds and resources were not properly allocated to highly affected areas while nurses, burial teams and contact tracers could not perform their jobs because of unpaid salaries. The frontline responders like doctors are still working in depraved and dangerous conditions – as we have seen the increasing number of death in that demanding profession. We have lost most of our experienced doctors and nurses which will take more than 15 years to recover and replace.
Invariably, the mismanagement and mishandling of Ebola funds even caught the British government’s attention that a second human virus – entrenched corruption itself- has to be contained before considerable gains can be achieve in the fight against the EVD. The British government’s worrisome concern about the widespread institutional corruption in Sierra Leone was echoed in their parliamentary chambers – resulting in their renewed focus in working with aid organizations instead of the government of Sierra Leone.
This is telling of the fierce urgency to seriously reform our public finance system. It is not that we don’t have the solutions to reforming our governance structure – the problem is we don’t have an ethically committed national leadership that is capable of instituting these changes. The fact is, politicians see their purpose of national service as building an investment portfolio that is bankrolled with the people’s money. Public service should be about changing lives and inspiring others to serve. Anything less than that is tantamount to a breach of public trust.
Indeed, Sierra Leone has drifted away from its core national values and principles of freedom and democracy – as we saw the mismanagement and abuse of public resources by the government of President Koroma. These few self-promulgated politicians have callously betrayed the trust of the people and lost the moral legitimacy of political governance. Political Power has now become the necessity of survival instead of the will to govern the people. The most unpopular profession in Sierra Leone today is: Politicians who carry the red (APC) and green (SLPP) colors of deceit and double standard rhetoric.
We saw how the people of Sierra Leone were abandoned in cabinet meetings and how our national leadership showed serious insensitivity to the plight of our people. Men and women who hold the sacred obligations to protect and care for their own citizens watched Sierra Leoneans drenched in their own blood by the brutal onslaught of the Ebola Virus Disease. How can we recover from such abysmal failures and political negligence without changing our political direction?
Our nation today is struggling from the poor governance culture of those in power who are so obsessed about retaining their political positions rather than improving the economy and eradicating diseases like Ebola. And foreign investments do not come with signing memorandums and handshakes. It happens when a nation proves its credit worthiness; its ability to pay its debts and its responsibility to manage its resources. Fiscal responsibility with low interest rates and a balance national budget are some of the solutions to our economic problems.
When you focus on a donor creating economy with a $1.6 billion debt and a volatile extractive economy – opportunities to create jobs and improve the national economy becomes obsolete. When we distanced and marginalized potentials citizens from sharing their innovative talents, we are deprived of building the financial capacities to grow our economy and provide jobs for our citizens. The only choice we have: is to work together as Sierra Leoneans.
Thus, as we witnessed the lines of shallow graves and the stenches of death which looked like a war of genocide in the past. And as fear still riddles the clouded minds of the poor rural farmer in Daru, Kailahun and hungry children across our nation, there is hope in the horizon. There is a rainbow across the weeping sky of our grief stricken nation today. Sierra Leone will rise against every odd and impossibility – as we have done so during our tumultuous brutal civil war. There is a new day ahead of us. The sun will shine again.
And Ebola is gradually retreating into the valleys of oblivion. With our abiding faith in God and our sincere determination to change our ugly past, Ebola is now on the run. This disease has exposed the darkest hearts of men and women who hold positions of prominence in our nation’s political capitol. It would seem as if their main purpose for being in governance is for serving themselves as they continue to demonstrate very little compassion to the unbearable plight of our people. Even an apology for their mistakes will serve as a healing process for our nation – but egocentrism and emotional immaturity will discourage them from taking such a high road.
Nonetheless, what Ebola can do today now is to surrender to the courage and fortitude of the Sierra Leonean people. Rising up from the wrath of this deadly disease, we will be a new nation that will inspire many other nations in Africa and elsewhere. Young Leaders are going to embrace a new culture of good governance with a sense of renewed patriotism by turning against greed and corruption. It will no longer be business as usual, but a new political consciousness that is built on the solid bedrock of national progress.
The new generation of reformists will work divinely to change poverty into opportunity and despair into hope. Sierra Leone will emerge as the world’s new research and development center against more potent diseases than Ebola. The world will see how this ruthless disease has created a fortress of genuine love among Sierra Leoneans. We will advance a new renaissance of social liberation for women, girls and boys. Our future will give birth to a new democratic credence anchored on the foundation of Justice and transparent government.
We will love each other more than ever before. Our ethnic diversity will embolden us to offer different perspectives into our national aspirations. We are going to come out stronger and more prosperous after the Ebola outbreak is over. And corrupt governments in Sierra Leone will vanished while the people will no longer be lured into voting for people because of their ethnicity and regional affiliations. The people will know that the security and welfare of Sierra Leoneans transcend ethnicity and regionalism.
Sierra Leone will come to see that what makes us the same people are far greater than what divides us as Ebola taught us that no one is immune from its merciless carnage. The twin evil of tribalism and nepotism will be marginalized by a team of progressive Sierra Leoneans – who will care more about the alliances of our diversity than the pride of our ethnicity. We will create a new national conversation driven by political ideas with the social philosophy of economic opportunities for all.
The Ebola story will resonate into the majestic hearts of many Sierra Leoneans who will come to appreciate the power and values of mutual love bound by a common commitment to a better Sierra Leone. The constitutional and moral duty of protecting the health and welfare of Sierra Leoneans will be the new national agenda for the future. Sierra Leone will have the best hospitals in Africa and its epidemiologists will serve disease stricken regions like our present military role in Darfur and Somalia today.
Sierra Leone will rise again – not only from the invasion of Ebola but also from the slumbers of its economic nightmares and the ghettos of its social predicaments. But we seriously need an ethically committed leadership that is integrity based across the board – one where politicians fear God and respect the dignity of every human personality. Sierra Leone will rise again when men and women of genuine conscience replace the value of money and reckless power with the enduring legacy of becoming true servants to the common people.
Sierra Leone will rise again when we begin to see each other not as distinct ethnic groups but as Sierra Leoneans with an indivisible heritage link together with a common aspirations. As we did it in the past when the legendary John Karefa Smart inspired our nation to greater democratic heights with his uncompromising principles of nationalism and his strong commitment to nation building. As we did it not long ago when President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah taught us that we can shake hands and make peace with those who may be our enemies in the interest of peace and security by signing the Lome Peace accord.
We revolutionized the world when a Sierra Leonean renowned scientist, Dr. Monty Jones discovered the NERICA rice – a cross breed of African and Asian rice – that is widely consumed all over the world today. We demonstrated our human ingenuity when Dr. David Kargo, a Sierra Leonean scientist equated to Einstein and Thomas Edison was indoctrinated into the world’s exclusive club of scientists for converting sludge (filth) and other fatty substance containing wastes into bio-diesel.
Sierra Leone will rise again from the ashes of incompetent governments and the unpatriotic hands of those politicians who have betrayed the goodwill of our people. Sierra Leone will rise again from the brinks of ethnic discrimination and the dungeons of political exclusion into an economic hilltop of progress and prosperity for every Sierra Leonean. Sierra Leone will rise again from the divided walls of the “Northern and Southern politics” into a tolerant nation that believes in the goodness and greatness of its constitution.
Sierra Leone will rise again from the treacherous door steps of those who deprive our children from enriching their lives and fulfilling their dreams. From those who sold our mineral resources in exchange for personal gains and from those who use the good name of our nation to sign memorandum of agreements that are never implemented. Sierra Leone will rise again because we as a people have overcome adversity with hope and resilience, fought a deadly disease with the weapon of spiritual prayers and survived the tyranny of corrupt governments with the promising faith that change will come tomorrow.