From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Ernest Should Introspect, Retrospect & Reshuffle
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Feb 27, 2009, 17:19

I will never forget the very first time I ever set eyes on the current President Ernest Koroma in real life. It was in August 2004 and I was lying on a Netlands Hospital bed after having been admitted alongside scores of other Sierra Leoneans who had all, like me, survived a plane crash on August 11th 2004 at the Lungi International Airport. Hon, Ibrahim Bundu, an APC Parliamentarian from Port Loko has been like a brother to me since our days in the United States and upon reading in the local newspapers that I had survived a plane crash, he telephoned me up on my mobile phone and said he was on his way to the Hospital. To me, it was just a big brotherly figure coming over to visit.

Hon. Bundu entered my private hospital room alone and proceeded to tell me he had brought along someone who wanted to meet and sympathise with the plane crash victims but who was especially interested in meeting with me. He said the person was standing outside the room in the corridors but Hon. Bundu refused to say who was the person, left the room and came back in seconds later with a tall, very handsome, dark-skinned gentleman. The gentleman turned out to be Ernest Koroma. It was the first time I ever met him in my life.

What I saw that day in Ernest Koroma was a compassionate human genuinely interested in seeing to the plight of the hospitalised victims of the plane crash. He was very impressive as he took out his mobile telephone and called up the new Mayor of the City and also Hon. Kemoh Sesay whom Ernest Koroma later introduced to me as his Shadow Minister of Transportation. Kemoh Sesay took the victims’ names and details whilst the then Mayor Winstanley came with his wife, food items and flowers. It was an impressive Ernest Koroma and it was an impressive first meeting! What I saw was a compassionate Opposition Leader.

Now, I happened to be at Connaught Hospital yesterday February 26th 2009. I was there when scores of wounded school children poured in alongside concerned parents searching for missing children. Connaught Hospital was chaotic; it appeared as if everyone was at Connaught Hospital; everyone except APC Government functionaries!

One of Yesterday’s School Victims

I eventually left the hospital at around 10:30pm and until that time, not a single Government functionary had arrived to even sympathize with the bleeding students. Shamefully, there was barely enough drugs to treat the patients and I witnessed with my two eyes as doctors fumbled around inside the Intensive Care Unit trying to find the right drug to inject into a poor schoolgirl whom I doubt will make it through to this morning.

It is shameful but it is true. There was an unprecedented stampede at the National Stadium involving hundreds of schoolchildren right inside this city last evening but at the hospitals, there was no Minister of Health; No Minister of Education; No Minister of Youths & Sports; No Minister of Social Welfare and Children; No Minister of Presidential & Public Affairs; No Minister of Information; No Minister of Internal Affairs; No Director of Sports; No Director of Education; No Director General of Medical Services; No Director of Social Services; No Mayor of the City; No Local Councilor; No-one. Kaput; Zero! Nada! Nothing! Natin!

It took my mind back to the day I first met Ernest Koroma. What had struck me back then was just how distant the then Kabbah Government had been from the realities of citizens’ needs. Upon being discharged back then in 2004, I had written what became a very famous scathing Open Letter to the then President scolding him for not being in touch with his people. In my Letter, I had openly compared the compassion shown by the then-Opposition Leader Ernest Koroma to the lack of interest shown by the then Kabbah Government.

Unfortunately, what I saw with my own two eyes yesterday is another similar dis-connected Government headed this time by H.E. Dr. Ernest Koroma. If Ernest Koroma does not take a good hard look at himself and what he seems to believe is a functioning Government, he will have only himself to blame in three years time.

When I wrote my hard letter to President Kabbah in 2004, what surprised me was the good faith with which the former President took my criticisms and the speedy manner with which he got the then Transport Minister Prince Harding to issue an open apology over National TV and Radio to us the victims. I don’t know what will be President Koroma’s reaction to the fact that he is running a Government disconnected from the governed but what I know to be a fact is that the lack of interest by his Government in the hospitalised students’ last night was just too shameful and disgraceful.

What a disgrace
yesterday night was!

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.