“Ten American aid workers who may have been exposed to Ebola are being brought back to the US from Sierra Leone. On Friday (13/03/15), it was announced that a US aid worker back from Sierra Leone had tested positive and was being treated in hospital near Washington DC. The evacuees may have been in contact with the Ebola patient and are being flown back in non-commercial transport. They will stay in voluntary isolation for a 21-day incubation period. If any start to show symptoms they will be taken to one of three hospitals which are equipped to deal with Ebola cases” (BBC 14/03/15).
That is exactly what Mr. Sam Sumana (can we still call him VP?) did about three weeks ago, when he voluntarily put himself in quarantine, following the death of his bodyguard from Ebola. He reportedly said then, that he had chosen to be quarantined to “lead by example”. As a country, we never miss the opportunity to amaze the world with ironies. We are one of the richest countries with the poorest people on mother earth. The irony this time is that while America was busy evacuating 10 aid workers for quarantine in the US, Sam Sumana, who had been in quarantine but had not completed his quarantine period was reportedly breaking loose to seek asylum at the US embassy.
Interestingly, when Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was aspiring to lead this country under the banner of the APC, he also faced a series of court cases against his youthful leadership, the executive and the 2002 APC Constitution. On the 22 June 2005, he was eventually stripped of his de jure leadership of the APC by the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone. In spite of all the intra-party opposition and wrangling, the APC party voted for him unanimously as leader and presidential candidate ahead of the 2007 elections. Ten years on, it is the VP that is fighting for his political life; and you say that history does not repeat itself? But as ironies go again, reports indicate that the President enlisted the intervention of the former incumbent Vice President, Solomon Berewa, the man that he defeated in the 2007 elections, to facilitate Sam’s resignation.
The issue facing Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad are so disheartening that one will need the conscience of a chainsaw not to be alarmed. Our country has just gone through, and continues to go through one of the toughest periods that you can only equate to the biblical plague of centuries ago. Our leaders, the donors, volunteers, international partners, WHO and citizens of Sierra Leone (except the Ebola Gravy- Gate culprits) have all come together to tackle the Ebola crisis. And as the disease loosens the screws on our lives, complacency seems to rear its ugly head and suck the air out of our optimism. So as the crisis fades in Liberia-no new confirmed infections for 15 days and counting; there is a tangible sense of relief as that country is beginning to shrug off months of isolation and economic paralysis. Sadly for Sierra Leone, we have been plunged into another crisis; as we seem to sleepwalk from one subuhana lahi to another. Forgive me, I was born a Muslim.
So while the lives of its citizens are still at stake, it appears that the current political gymnastics involving Sam Sumana is too important to take a back seat. This is not an attempt to slight the country’s constitutional reputation, but at what price should we undo all the good work that has gone into fighting the Ebola epidemic? This is not to say that work to fight the disease has stopped; but the focus of the people has unquestionably switched from that of the disease to that of a constitutional glitch in the making. And as we all know, AWARENESS is one of the biggest fighting machines against the Ebola disease. No matter how important this constitutional cyclone was, there are a lot of people who would question its urgency as against that of the Ebola crisis. How many people would have died by the time you finished reading this piece? Your guess, not mine.
We have been told by the NAC of the APC that Sam was being expelled because of falsifying academic credentials, lying about his faith, fomenting violence and involving in “anti-party activities”. Some people will see these allegations through different political lenses, but the question many would like to know is “what was the urgency?” Some of these same people have been asking what his academic credentials and religion had to do with the price of tea in China. But the man in the red T-shirt will tell you that it is a matter of honour, de facto, integrity, morals, and plain honesty. Others would question why these credentials and religious professing were not verified in the first place.
The other bit that appears to be shrouded in mystery is the allegation that Sam Sumana was involved in “anti-party activities”. That could be open to any interpretation, and if those anti-party activities were as grave as to require immediate action, then the APC will do itself a world of good if it can tell the world. This might not be politically expedient, but at what price would the rumour mill continue to churn out weekly loads of political fat? We know that in politics, it’s what isn’t said that matters. In a space of 3 weeks, we have moved from the VP being quarantined, expelled and to seeking asylum; in his own country. In between these yardsticks have been the odd speculations and rumours of coup d’état, VP defection, attempt made on VP’s life, VP forming an alternative party, Diana to replace the VP etc. If there was anything sinister taking place, does anyone think the world should know?
There are those, especially the faithful who think that the APC Party needs to come up with urgent explanations or risk rendering itself as the butt of political jokes to the International Community in general and the people of Sierra Leone in particular. Like I said in my previous article, the party may have very good reasons to expel the VP, but has so far apparently failed to convince the average Sierra Leonean. In the meantime, and if the social media is anything to go by, Sam Sumana continues to notch up sympathy points from the bloggers and “laboists” across board. Even those who used to beat their chest for the red corner have noticeably gone quiet on this issue. Is it because the party is not giving them much to run away with?
What is the price of all these founded and unfounded rumours? Rumours, I insist RUMOURS have it that Sam had “been orchestrating political violence and trying to form a new party in his home district” (The Guardian). An official connected to the US who insisted on anonymity because of a lack of authorisation to speak to the press on the issue said that “our embassy has been in contact with all relevant officials, and we urge all concerned to resolve the situation through appropriate procedures that respect due process and the rule of law.” As Sierra Leoneans, we know what the rule of law means to us in everyday life, as we can still recall what happened when there was no rule of law. Every Sierra Leonean would like to be governed by the force of the law, not by the law of force. So with a third of the country’s Ebola budget unaccounted for, can we now safely turn our attention to the more important matters about the change of security personnel for Sam Sumana?
To the ordinary onlooker, what may have started as a “party disciplinary action” in the first phase graduated into a propaganda war, after the public was treated to a slinging match of accusations and counter- accusations? The reasons given for the expulsion of the VP by the APC cooked up more questions than answers. The second phase has seen a full blown propaganda war; as both sparring sides continue to fight for the sympathy and popularity vote in equal measure. It has been widely reported that the VP was in hiding, fearing for his life. Indications are now that the VP has since refuted the stories about him seeking asylum from the US embassy, and has reportedly branded the reporter a liar. One is left to wonder why if so, a reporter for such a reputable news vent would embark on such a venture. Considering that the VP was reportedly not granted the alleged request for asylum, is the recent denial a damage limitation exercise?
Irrespective of where you stand on the issues, our soon to be 54 –year old history of political independence has been done a disservice here. This recent spat, if one will call it that, has made a chink in the armour of our hard fought independence. You wonder what the late Sir Milton Margai would have made of this. What does this mean for the citizenry? The “turning and turning in the widening gyre” has left some of us politically dizzy. Unfortunately, not being on the ground may have exposed some of us to the dark arts of political brinkmanship; especially at a time when “the falcon cannot hear the falconer”. This is especially so as most of our news fodder is second hand material that we garner from reliable sources and rumour merchants alike. Na for lef hakeh. There have been so many accusations, denials, retractions etc that we would not be surprised if we get a mention in the Oscars. The performances have been really cool.
After what we had gone through in our recent history, and just as we have begun to see light at the end of the tunnel; Sierra Leoneans have no desire to go out and buy any more tunnels. The hope and prayers are for A BIG NO. We know that politics has no relation to morals, but our Loyalty to the country must be always; Loyalty to any government when it deserves it.
This time, please don’t turn the lights off when you leave the tunnel.
The Will Of Allah Will Prevail And We Can All Live Happily Ever After: IN SHA ALLAH.