A drowning man, they say, clings even on to a serpent. As the least on the United Nations Development Index, Sierra Leone and its government are forced to accept everything and anything in the name of helping it recover. And everybody keeps coming from those who invert to those who infest all in the name of investing.
The government plans to review all mining licences later this year, it has been said. But the run up to that makes the whole thing look suspect and can make one skedaddle. And the companies use every means. They try to influence everyone from cabinet ministers to parliamentarians, from the governing party big von to a hitherto untapped territory the president’s mother.
Madam Alice Koroma finds herself in a unique position in our country’s history. Apart from the military leaders we have had, I am told that Mrs Koroma is the only mother who has seen his son become President. This is an absolute feat! In this regard, I would not be surprised if her home in Makeni became a Mecca for people seeking the corridors of power.
I remember as if it were yesterday, when on 18 September last year, Mrs Alice Koroma was interviewed on the BBC about her impressions of and hopes on her son being elected to the highest office in the land. She was articulate and obviously naturally, sounded proud. My hairs stood on end. And being a sometimes emotional person, I almost broke down.
She sounded confident that her son would succeed. So far, even if too early to make any conclusive analysis, the signs look promising in a lot of fronts. That said, the First Mother should guard against those who pay her homage. Sometime this week, I read in the papers about her visit to the site of London Mining Company, in what appeared or was reported as an endorsement of the company’s activities.
There may not necessarily be anything extraordinary in this, after all she wants investors to come and provide jobs for her millions of unemployed children. But what happens if another company invites her to their site for an apparent endorsement? I ask from the point of view that London Mining Company, rightly or wrongly, is in some controversy. The Fist Mother’s visit to one company or another is bound to raise dust, not least when that company is locked in a controversy with another. At present, there is the issue of the derelict port at Peppel and the decrepit railway leading to it. Both London Mining and Moydow Mines lay claim to it. With the matter yet to be resolved, a visit to any one and not the other by an important personality like the First Mother is viewed as an endorsement and with suspicion.
The president’s mother, like his wife, can play a very crucial role to make him succeed or fail. The wife of the former Nigerian head of state, General Salami Abubakarr was reputed to have played a significant role that made the former military strongman not extend his stay in power but rather to agree to hold democratic elections on time that brought President Olusegun Obasanjo to power. A lawyer by profession she reportedly warned him against any extension of his caretaker role and postponing elections.
Some watchers of former president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah blame some of the mistakes of his second term on the death of his first wife Patricia Kabbah. She was such a dynamic woman, whose level of education and exposure, and apparent honesty endeared her to many. Even the problems the Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is facing today, many have attributed to the death of his first wife. It is believed that had she been alive, the current situation in the southern African country would never have occurred.
But there have been First Ladies whose longevity was a problem to their husbands: Imelda Marcus in Phillipinnes, Mrs Milosevic in former Yugoslavia and Mrs Biya in Cameroon. They were all deemed to have negatively influenced the presidency of their husbands. No prize for guessing that Mrs Sia Koroma would rather she fell in the first category. And she has the proclivity for that. She is profoundly educated and looks down to earth. Not flamboyant, not vain. All she needs is to watch those who come to her with all sorts of gifts and for all kinds of gossip. They are most times aimed at reaching the president through her.
Talking about reaching the president through the First Lady, it is said that if you hold a child by the arm, you have held the mum by the heart. But when that child has grown to become powerful then the reverse is true. This probably accounts for the huge crowds that I am told visit the First Mother in Makeni.
Testifying at the Special Court recently, former president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah spoke about the significant role played by the mother of the former interim leader of the RUF rebels, Issa Sesay, which persuaded him to eschew violence and cooperate with the peace process. Mrs Alice Koroma has perhaps a much bigger task to perform.
Those who know her say she is stern and that her long years as a school teacher have had an impact on her discipline and sternness. For all the good reasons. This should be brought to bear on her son in the interest of the nation. Those who know her say she feels hard done by what she views as the pressure her son is under by certain individuals seeking to influence him for concessions. The sources say she has on many occasions advised her son against falling into such a trap. Invariably, the mum should also guard against such pressure and temptations. She is very attractive to wheeler-dealers who want to reach the president using her as a conduit. Hold the president’s mother by the heart, hold the president by the hand, it would seem. You can take him anywhere.
There is hardly any one the president listens to like his wife and his mum. There is hardly anyone that can be as frank to him and these two. There is hardly anyone that can mislead him as easily as these two. So the First Lady and the First Mother must watch their backs, and the back of the man who is so close to their heart, but to whose heart who should be very, very close. By Umaru Fofana