By Yusif Moigua
National disasters, as the ten years civil war, the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in 2014, the August 14th, 2017 mudslide and flash flood that killed so many, were led by strong leaderships of those past leaders including former President Ernest Bai Koroma and his predecessors.
This time round it is the spread of the Coronavirus disease, which we are at the moment confronted with, and for which we need a strong leadership to save lives, though there is no doubt in President Julius Maada Bio’s leadership.
There are high hopes that he will surely win the war on COVID19 and deliver Sierra Leoneans from the global health pandemic if only he starts leading by example now.
The COVID19 global pandemic is an emergency issue that should thus not be downplayed at national level by the government and authorities with emerging catch up measures that are prolonging the war on the novel virus.
In Sierra Leone, two cases that were recorded on Saturday 11th April, 2020 from self-quarantined points, according to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, were later reported to have escaped from treatment centres as reported by the Daily Nation- a Kenyan online newspaper.
Eleven confirmed cases have been recorded so far in Sierra Leone; with over four hundred and forty-five suspected cases under observation at quarantine centres. No death has been reported yet, which does not in any way mean restriction amongst other containment policies, which should be selective and relaxed by our leaders in favour of certain people like those who placed themselves under self-quarantines. That is unacceptable and must be discouraged now if we are to win the war on COVID19.
With governors and state leaders, busy taking the leads in their various states, in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, nobody should take a back seat in the war on COVID19 in Sierra Leone, especially the leaders. Not even the Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), President Julius Maada Bio, who is expected to lead the whole warfare rather than to resort to an armchair commander role.
The campaign requires President Bio to take a mere frontline position this time around, by way of leading social mobilization and community engagements with traditional leaders at all levels, instead of government continuing to lavish state funds on lockdowns, surveillance personnel and quarantine centre crooks.
For just three days lockdown government claimed to have spent over four billion leones. It is unimaginable, yet cases continue to emerge by the day, which remains the most annoying public concern in Sierra Leone. It appears as if the single handed containment formula is not working at all, as we are losing the war to coronavirus and the COVID19 disease with increasing number of cases.
However government and President Bio should note the fact that the coronavirus is real, the more reasons authorities need to step up now, with President Bio leading the campaign with an inclusive approach, involving all and sundry across the country. By so doing, we shall begin to note the level of government’s seriousness about containing the disease, because the battle needs nothing less than a strong leadership call on to firm and aggressive action against COVID19.
A global overview of coronavirus statistics, as at Saturday 11th April, 2020, projects confirmed cases at 1,754,457, with 395,418 people reported to have recovered worldwide and 107, 520 deaths globally. This is a serious global health concern that needs immediate action now before the COVID19 disease continues to destroy the world’s population.
Sierra Leone leaders should therefore not be playing catch-ups with coronavirus for it is rapidly destroying great nations with sophisticated healthcare and medical systems with far better economies than ours.
The United States, for instance, is said to be recording over 521,457confirmed cases, 29,263 recoveries and 20,126 deaths so far. For the USA, New York alone has recorded well over ten thousand (10,000) cases. The United Kingdom has recorded over 78,991 cases and over 9,875 deaths.
The deaths tolls in other countries around the world, including Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Iran, India, Turkey, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands and Canada, the list is long, are so alarming that our leader, President Bio, needs to enforce more precautionary measures now to provide the people of Sierra Leone an exit out of the COVID 19 global pandemic.
Sierra Leoneans and their leaders can’t continue to be playing catch ups with the COVID19 global health pandemic, considering its deadliness and the magnitude of destructions it is causing around the world.
So come on President Bio, get up now from the slumber in your armchair at State Lodge and State House and lead frontline health workers to defeat the deadly virus and deliver Sierra Leoneans from the COVID19 disease.
President Bio must also ensure that there is high level of compliance with behavioral reforms so that the country can see fruitful results in the whole national efforts. For the war on COVID19, failure must not be an option.
Moreover leadership failures have always formed part of Sierra Leone’s decade long problems, as it largely undermined efforts towards pursuing the ten years civil war, specifically at its initial period, when the then Sierra Leone Army-SLA staged a military coup, stepped in with the then National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC), dethroned the All People’s Congress led government of late President Joseph Saidu Momoh, on the pretext of handling the welfare problems of battlefront personnel but ended up engaging in something else.
The NPRC intervention didn’t end the war nor do they even solve the problems of war front personnel, which is all due to massive leadership failures. Rather, the then Chairman, Captain Valentine Melvin Strasser and the NPRC, ended up prolonging the rebel war onto 1996, when vice Chairman then, now President Bio, overthrew his boss, Captain Strasser, in a palace coup and later handed over power to the democratically elected President, Dr. Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
The late Pa Kabbah, with support of the international systems, including the United Nations, finally brought the war to an end in the early 2000s.
Similarly, as recent as 2014, strong leadership also prevailed in the country during the EVD outbreak. Former President Koroma demonstrated full leadership commitments in the fight against Ebola and brought the entire situation under control with permanent containment of the virus.
So, also, strong leadership is therefore highly needed to be demonstrated by the incumbent President Bio by leading the fight against coronavirus now than later, instead of government continuing to tolerate people closed to the powers that be, through flouting rules and regulations governing the COVID19 response operations under the guise of unacceptable self-quarantines.
People being protected from staying at quarantine centres are not supposed to be quarantining themselves at their homes like the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, son of the First Lady and the stepson of President Bio himself reportedly did as well as those who were recently captured in a video escaping from a quarantine centre elsewhere in the country.
All of which are largely compromising and undermining containment efforts. As such they have contributed to the spread of coronavirus disease, which is where we are now as a ‘headless’ nation.
No need for the authorities to have reduced the national campaign efforts to selective quarantines of certain people to special places and in their homes, while others are being placed under security restrictions at Lungi.
Selective quarantine measures are undermining the whole process. That is where political leadership failures are also militating against the war on the coronavirus, and such political leadership mistakes must be corrected now by the CIC, President Julius Maada Bio going forward in defeating the common enemy-COVID19.
With restrictions of movements, nationwide curfew from 9:00pm to 6:00am, state of emergency and partial lockdown as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus and the COVID19 disease, coupled with placing of suspected cases under quarantine, yet firm leadership actions are still required to be manifested.
Accordingly, the CIC, President Bio, should start leading now by example if we are to talk about robust actions in the fight to beat the virus and stop the spread of the COVID19.
The CIC should consequently take the bull by the horn, by also leading all frontline healthcare workers and start engaging formal and informal sectors with shared responsibilities, traditional and religious leaders in fighting against the COVID19 out of the country. This can be effectively achieved by granting full ownership of the process to communities and their leaders.
That is, government must ensure that community leaders formed part of effective social mobilizations and community engagements like the past government of former President Koroma did in the fight against the EVD, which eventually brought the Ebola virus war to an end.
So far, based on those practical experiences in the demonstrations of good leadership qualities by former President Koroma, in responding to the mudslide and flash flood, the deadly EVD outbreak in 2014 amongst others, there is every need for the CIC of the RSLAF President Bio to lead frontline healthcare workers, providing them with the needful logistical support in the war on COVID19. Gone are the days when slave masters were leading by lip services.
And for us at NightWatch, we can’t in anyway be cowed by unnecessary calls from government’s Strategic Communications Unity’s Abu Bakarr Joe Sesay, rather continue to advise President Bio on important national issues like the war on-going COVID19 until he gets Sierra Leoneans an exit out of the deadly global health pandemic.
Kpemeah! That is all as in your Mende tongue Joe.