Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sierra Leone's Ebola outbreak and Nigeria's abducted girls - reminders that we need better governments

The kidnapping of the schoolgirls in Northern Nigeria is one of the many recent tragic world events that forced me to turn my Facebook account into a tool for advocacy. Another is the tragedy taking place in Gaza - the senseless killing of innocent civilians, children included. So with the outbreak of the deadly disease, Ebola - starting in Guinea and spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone - you would think that I'd be riled up and ready to take my position on the virtual soap box. Instead I feel powerless - as though there is not a thing I can say on Facebook that would change the present tragic situation in my country and its neighbours. 
With the loss yesterday in Sierra Leone of the leading doctor - a virologist who selflessly served his people and died doing so - that sense of powerlessness is even more pronounced. I am certainly not one for evangelical pronouncements on social media forums but I truly believe at this point that only God can save West Africa from this disease.
Yet in all my powerlessness, I am also filled with anger - anger at our governments. At the Nigerian government for waiting for weeks before looking for the Chibok girls. At the Sierra Leonean government for failing to take action early enough to stop the spread of Ebola, for not closing its borders. We only need look at our neighbours in Liberia to see how Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has dealt with the outbreak where there are considerably fewer cases and even fewer fatalities. Instead we are reminded that we have a government that is made up of "square pegs in round holes". One whose top ministers are simply not equipped, not experienced or not knowledgeable to do their jobs. These tragedies remind us of how wholly inadequate our governments are.

I recall going to Uganda a couple of years ago for a friend's wedding, this was a time when the land locked country was witnessing yet another outbreak of Ebola. There was certainly concern but overall the government did what it needed to do and the cases were few, and the fatalities even fewer. The effort was led by the Ugandan government - not its citizens.  Yet today citizens of Sierra Leone and Nigeria feel compelled to do their elected government's jobs. We are organizing ourselves to call for the return of the kidnapped schoolgirls; meeting with their parents; lobbying western governments to help. We are raising funds to help fight the Ebola outbreak; raising awareness about how to not catch the disease, and even more importantly, how to stop it from spreading. And while I recognize that concerned citizens of the world are all implicated and should all do our part, I feel compelled to point out that part of doing our part is holding our elected leaders accountable.

Shouldn't we be asking them about why they appoint people who are ill-equipped for certain key posts in their governments? Why are we not telling them, reminding them that they hold the primary responsibility for our well-being? Why are we accepting term after term their underperformance and over-rewarding? It's become commonplace for African ministers and senior officials - correction, even mid-level officials to get rich while in office, all the while doing very little to improve the countries they were elected to run or the lives of those who elected them.

I am angry but not at you, the ordinary citizen in Freetown or Lagos, London or New York, because you haven't posted something about Ebola or the Chibok girls or because you haven't donated to a fund you have no idea will make a difference to those tragic situations. I am angry at the leaders and their cohorts, the greedy, the corrupt, the lazy, the ones who think running a country is a job that can be done in between lining their pockets. I am sick and tired of us giving those fools a "get out of jail free" card so they can stick around for four or five more years to finish building that ridiculously huge mansion. Terrorism in the form Boko Haram and the outbreak of a deadly indiscriminate disease are not matters that should be taken lightly. So why are our governments not treating them with the sense of urgency they deserve? Why is the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health trying to put a positive spin on its daily updates on Ebola - when there is nothing positive about 225 confirmed deaths. More than 100 days since they were abducted, why is the Federal Government of Nigeria not doing everything within its power to find these girls? Why are both Governments acting like these catastrophes are not their's / their catastrophes, first and foremostly? When tragedies strike in parts of the Western world, we hold those government to very high, sometimes impossible standards. We expect nothing less than their absolute best and when they fail to deliver we call for their removal. When will African citizens in Africa and it's diaspora start holding their governments to the same standard? No amount of status updates, fundraising or peaceful marches will #bringbackourgirls or #kickebolaoutofsierraleone without a plan of action from those in power. We cannot do their jobs for them so let's stop trying and let's start telling them to pull their bloody fingers out!!!!

1 comment:

elsaloo said...