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Fatima Bio is an Easy and Convenient Target

By Abdul Suhood Komeh,

London, UK.

The outrage, provoked by pictures and what is childish nonsense, posted by the First Lady of Sierra Leone (pictured), on her Facebook page is justified. But, the bulk of that anger is misdirected.


In fact, the response is exactly what the government hoped for, in building a blameless President. Instead of keeping the focus on her husband for a lack of sensitivity and humility, they’d rather the public rage is diverted to the wife for bad behaviour. For example, ‘Bio could have been great, but for Fatima’s noise,’ and blah, blah, blah. Please, don’t fall for the propaganda. It’s a ruse, a game.


Fatima Bio has been expressing controversial stuff from almost the first day her husband became president (and constantly since). And this is important: If Bio was neither bothered, nor too busy or discouraged to re-marry her while President, he can divorce her as President too, if she becomes a problem for his job. After all, his supporters argued that being president is no reason to not have a private life. And most people, apart from disagreeing with timing, accept the fact. The guess is, Bio will not. Maybe, Fatima has something on him, or her outbursts are consistent with his political strategy. Either way or more, it’s entirely on Maada Bio.


The whole world, including the most robust economies, are paralysed by Covid-19. Bang in the middle of its severest strain, one of the gravest economic turbulences ever known. The President of the poorest country in the world, chose to depart for a ‘touristic’ escapade. Adding unnecessary pressure on the country’s purse. And this, from the man working to be taken seriously by influential business and political leaders. Surely, the ‘honeymoon’ cannot be too serious a priority to not wait. But, let’s be easily distracted, get wound-up, enrage ourselves at his wife, for forcing him against his brittle will.


Sorry, Fatima Bio this, Fatima Bio that. No, absolutely not anymore, please! Wise up, think clearer, squint the eyes if you have to.


Fatima Bio is not the president, and has no official say on how the country is governed and seen by the world. It is not Fatima Bio who’s degrading the country, it is her husband’s carelessness. The decision to post the infamous pictures was not Fatima Bio’s; the decision to leave the country was not Fatima’s, but Maada Bio’s - the president of Sierra Leone.


It is Bio’s refusal to rein his wife back that emboldens her, perhaps for a reason; it is Bio’s disregard for executive protocol that is the problem. Why didn’t his office briefed the country with honesty and professionalism?


Isn’t it amazing? News of the departure to Lebanon, was revealed at the very last minute. To avoid censure, minimise accountability if any.


The official statement before departure, clearly stated a one week private visit. Which is now a day short of three weeks. Sophistry and disrespect in equal dose. Knowing fully-well that the timing was wrong but insisting on being above constraints -  constitutional, executive or personal responsibility.


Since arrival in Lebanon, Bio and his entourage melted to silence. Cue, all sorts of speculations. All of course, avoidable.


If the administration thought appropriate for the president to leave the country during a pandemic - for pleasure or otherwise - they should have said so without ambiguity. And as a matter of accountability and transparency. They didn’t. Where circumstances meant the visit was to be extended, they should have updated the public. They chose not to because let’s face it,  apart from his supporters, Bio has no respect for the people or opposition rivals.


Suddenly, on Monday (14/9/2020), riled by persistent questions about his whereabouts, Bio took the convenient, and perhaps most thoughtless response. Allowing his wife to release photos suggesting a honeymoon in Lebanon.


Basically, rather than come clean,  with justifiable reasons on why he is out of the country at this time, for this long, the president chose to be a marketing prop for a tourism sector in a country with a far bigger, and more organised economy.


Terrible, optics. But he wouldn’t know. He’s been told, the fans are drooling over the pictures. And as his government expected, the gullible commentariat are spitting fire at Fatima Bio. The government?: High-fives all the way, the trick worked!


The point is this. Whether the photos are a subterfuge to shift attention from far more serious issues, i.e., the length of the visit, the Lungi Bridge,  persistent gossip around Bio’s health, etc., is irrelevant. That a president with enough intellectual resources at his disposal, can  believe that honeymooning at a time of a global health crisis and economic anxieties, is valid reason to leave the country is all you need to know about Bio’s and his administration’s lack of imagination and foresight; a failure to grasp the seriousness of the current moment and its potential for derailing his and their agenda.


The truth is, it’s becoming hard to see how Bio can be anything other than what his half term has shown: another terrible president of Sierra Leone. The difference is, he is successfully transforming himself to a Trump-like figure: to support him is to live in an alternative reality, constantly making excuses for his palpably reckless decisions.


No, Fatima Bio is the least of Sierra Leone’s issues. Her husband is the more serious problem. Total anger on her is wasted and suits government propaganda.