Newest Couple in Town!
On Friday 21st February 2020, businesses at all government offices in the country came to a standstill, as ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries and others abandoned their offices to attend the wedding. This, in effect, deprived the country of any economic benefit.
Many Sierra Leoneans are of the view that as a President, his wedding can in no way be described as a private wedding, especially as the very invitation stated that it is a State Wedding with the ‘Coat of Arms’ fully imbedded on the said invitation. In this regard, they envisaged a situation where some funding most have come from the CRF, though they recognise that people will give gifts to the President as their own contribution to his wedding. This further begs the question as to where one draws the line between gift and inducement for favour.
Taking the latter first, it is clear that the wedding by President Bio may have been sponsored by many people (business), corporate institutions and the state. It is the common practice for business people to take advantage of such situations to offer gifts, though at that initial stage it will not be made clear that ‘one good turn deserves another’, but the implications are clear. Business people are known in Sierra Leone for bribing their way to get contracts or special favours. Such occasions are perfect moments to make such donations to curry favour, especially when it has to do with the first gentleman of the state, who, in the final analysis, has the final say on any and all contracts awarded to business houses. It is hard at this time to convince the ordinary man that some of those gifts given to the President do not have strings attached.
On the states’ contribution to the wedding, many Sierra Leoneans are questioning the President’s commitment to improve their lot, when at such a time when things are tough: with the prices of commodities rising by the day, the cost of living is unbearable, frequent power cuts, lack of adequate water supply and an alarming increase in the inflation rate in the country resulting in the cliché ‘de gron dry’, he saw it fit to have a wedding of such splendour. Most appalling is the fact that while the President and his cohorts are busy celebrating till the morning, the masses are struggling to put food on the table.
Whilst it is not known what the State contributed in financial terms, the fact remains that it is a State function and a good amount of money may have been spent. Some analysts say that had the interest of the people been the priority of the President, the amount of money spent on his wedding could have been ploughed into alleviating the sufferings of the people. After all, His Excellency had contracted a marriage with this same wife some seven years ago and had he wanted to renew their vows, why had he not done so before he took office, when he would have spent his own money, but had to wait till he is in power to do so and incur financial losses on the nation. It should be noted that whatever money is spent is tax payers’ money. Even gifts given to him by corporate bodies and business people are recouped from the public in one way or the other.
To further add salt to injury is the disruption of vehicular traffic in that part of the city, known to an easy access for businesses people into the city, via Grafton. During the period of the wedding people commuting from Grafton to the city were prevented from doing so by security forces until the event was over and the President and wife left the church. This may have prevented some people from transacting business on that day.