Those of you who have read the Harry Potter series (I wrote “read” because watching the movies, there are many details one would miss) are, definitely, knowledgeable about the “Dementors” who are employed as guards of Azkaban Prison and who purportedly steer the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort (the Dark Lord) into the Ministry of Magic.
In the world of JK Rowlings, and according to Wikipedia, “Dementors … drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you…." But though there are no Dementors in present day Sierra Leone, the Ebola epidemic has done exactly what the Dementors in JK Rowlings’s pop-novel would have done to President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Before the un-welcomed coming of the Ebola virus, President Ernest Bai Koroma was a sort of pop star with iconic “firsts” in the history of Sierra Leone. His Adonis face was always aglow; his gaits always practised and epitomized assurance; his smiles were fatherly and disarming, while the aura he effused was a combination of whirling haloes and Churchillian metaphors. In those days, there was always sophistication in his simplicity which he coated with munificence.
But, at present, all that have gone. Gone and drained by the challenges which the Ebola epidemic has presented the country like a Trojan horse. Now, just like the Dementors would have done to any prisoner at Azkaban, the Ebola troubles have drained the President of internal peace and happiness. His gaits seem faltering; his Adonis looks seem to be fading, while the stress of obliterating the Ebola menace has transformed his hair into the wig of a month’s old practising lawyer.
And of his pop-iconic status? That too seems to be fading. This is because the Ebola plague has plagued his common touch with common folks. He no longer stroll the streets of Freetown on Saturdays and Sundays as he used to do because the Ebola scourge has robbed him of his iconic handshakes with common people. Though he might be constantly having the itch to see first-hand the sufferings and calamities which the seemingly hydra-headed Ebola has wreaked on his people, and sympathize with them in person, yet the circumstances at the moment have entrapped him in his State House or State Lodge office.
Such is the current lot of “my President, your President, and our President” (with all copyrights reserved for Professor Septimus Moiwo Kaikai) that even when he now speaks, his voice crackles with deep pain and suppressed grief. President Koroma is now going through the throes of a father who has done his very best and yet members of his extended family keep dying of a strange disease with each tick of the clock.
Like the Dementors in JK Rowlings’s Harry Potter, the Ebola scourge seems to have sucked out every happy memory out of President Ernest Bai Koroma to the extent that even when he now smiles one traces melancholy in them. When he occasionally coerces some amount of laughter to lively-up some situations around him; those laughter are mirthfully mirthless! The President’s pop-iconic stature of a “World’s Best” seems to have taken the metaphorical situation of a “World’s Best” who has to watch vital matches from the bench because of hamstring injury.
To say—sorry, write—that President Koroma is, at present, an unhappy man would be a hyper-understatement. For a President like Ernest Koroma who loves his people so much, seeing them dying of the Ebola virus every day is one of the most tortuous things that have ever happened to him. And when he first complained that the International Community was being clay-footed in their response to Sierra Leone’s plight; his complaint had the same effect at the world stage like that of Harry Potter’s when he first announces to the Wizardry world that the Dark Lord (Voldemort) has risen again. Surely, though the President has not yet broken down in sprit; he is definitely an unhappy man.
But like the last line in David Diop’s poem, The Vulture, “hope will be reborn” in Sierra Leone under the indefatigable efforts of President Ernest Bai Koroma. As I always write: the Ebola epidemic, too, shall surely come to pass! And like the mythical phoenix; Sierra Leone will be reborn from the current smouldering Ebola ashes.
By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)