Andrew Keili: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 July 2021:
Many thanks to President Julius Maada Bio as God’s mercies have enticed him to provide a house for Capt. Valentine Strasser, former Head of State (Photo above). This act of kindness to a brother in need will surely be rewarded by the Almighty. He has paid heed to the good book which says – “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17”
Capt. Strasser has had a chequered life since descending from the altar of Head of state, somewhat unceremoniously, undressed and handcuffed. A scary helicopter flight in which he was nearly thrown overboard, hard times in the UK at Warwick University and in Gambia, health challenges, an uneven emotional state, abandonment by friends and impoverishment have all been his portion over these past twenty-five years.
He has seemed a forlorn figure living a life not befitting of a former Head of State. Attempts have been made to use him to make unflattering statements about his former colleagues, especially President Bio, but these have not been quite successful, as his narration of events has been incoherent at best.
Whilst there are many who pity him as a glamorous “liberator” who has now fallen on hard times, there are others who have never forgiven him and his colleagues for extra judiciary killings and other actions that may have affected friends and acquaintances.
It is surprising that President Bio, with whom he had a strained relationship spearheaded his medical treatment overseas and has now capped it all by giving him a house of his own. In the absence of any explanation, I assume that President has used his own funds to rehabilitate a colleague who has fallen on hard times.
Comments however in the media, especially social media have compelled me to be more guarded in my initial assessment of the situation. There are those who say President Bio has used State funds to provide this house for his colleague.
I rather like the following questions asked by Kutubu Koroma, anchor of Salon Tok Forum who asks the following salient questions: “Is captain Strasser the owner of the house till eternity? Should in case another administration emerges after Bio’s, will Captain Strasser’s house be exempt from seizure? Is President Bio now prepared to submit for parliamentary action legislation that will grant Captain Strasser all benefits as a former Head of State just about the same ways Presidents Kabbah and Ernest Bai Koroma benefitted? Who has the necessary papers relative to the house, and are such documents in his name registered with the Lands Ministry and the Administrator General’s Office?”
As one would expect, speculation has been rife as to who provided the house – a certain donor, a Lebanese businessman and an investor have variously been mentioned.
Assuming I am wrong in my initial thinking and Kutubu Koroma’s assertions have merit, there are many questions that come to mind like this one asked by a keen observer: “What makes him deserving of a pension and a house at the expense of the State but others are not so deserving?”
Others have also asked if it is within the gift of the President to make such decisions on a personal basis.
In the light of the uncertainties and possible misconceptions about the bailing out of the President’s colleague, his Office should clarify the situation regarding Captain Strasser and put the rumour mill to rest.
There is one aspect of the giving that bothers me and a few others that have commented on this issue. This is the placing of pictures of the President, First Lady and Vice President in the sitting room of what is now Captain Strasser’s private dwelling house (Photo above).
It seems ridiculous to hang the picture of your benefactors in your sitting room just to be reminded every day that you owe your existence to them! It would also seem that the hard drinks on display on the table and clothes in the wardrobe were to give the impression that this “down and out” would now be living in opulence.
These acts are clearly distasteful, and I can bet my bottom dollar that they were taken by overzealous people without the President’s knowledge. After all the “good old Catholic boy from Tihun” is well aware of the admonishment he has received over his lifetime by Catholic Priests in Matthew 6:1-4-
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Anyway, whatever the case, we all wish Captain Strasser well as he moves into his new abode. I hope he will be able to say every day- “This house is my home.”
Did Strasser (and indeed does anyone else in Sierra Leone for that matter) have a constitutional right to shoot his way to and occupy State House? Assuming the answer to this question is no, is it moral and ethical for such a person to lay claim to state benefits after forcibly or otherwise leaving office? However, if the answer to both questions is yes, then the constitution to my mind, must be the handiwork of a madman and needs revisiting.
Gentlemen – Shrewd men speak in Parables; There was once a vulture that had a crooked beak that couldn’t hunt,seize and subdue the frantic wild prey by itself so it devised a plan to hide quietly at the top of trees and wait for the boars and deer’s to be killed by the hyenas and only then out of the blue it would descend with frightening speed and carry the dead boar away; And then it will feed to its heart content, after which he would throw down the scraps and leftovers to the helpless, bemused hyenas waiting below. Answer – Is it a magnanimous act to give back unwanted pieces, scraps and meatless bones to those that you cheated and brazenly stole treasures and bounties from in broad daylight? What kind of generosity is it that pays homage to itself,that demeans and humiliates the hungry beggar by blowing loud trumpets from rooftops to announce that it is bestowing a gift to a tired,weary and famished beggar? Oh well! Some men say if wishes were horses beggars will ride.
Answer – Is this the African horse saddled with scorn, disgrace and utter contempt that Valentine Strasser wished for from the depths of his tortured soul? And why must we applaud a cruel thief that returns a paltry sum back to their rightful owners after squandering the lions share on their pathetic, miserable soul? Don’t ask me to applaud petty minded men, silly and greedy men who would hang images of themselves arrogantly in the homes of beggars in need of tender and loving care.
To Captain Strasser – You overthrew a loving gentle soul; Is this the end result you hoped for? What happened to the bags of gold coins and jars full of our diamonds that were in you and Bio’s possession? Was it worth it? Spilling the blood of the innocent? Have you asked forgiveness from their families? Save thyself before the noose of Eternity comes to drag you away by asking our Omnipotent God for mercy; A fellow Coup plotter like Maada Bio with tainted hands cannot become a savior to you or anyone in Sierra Leone – he is another disciple of Lucifer who once tried to overthrow the powers of the Majestic Eternal Heavens.
I do not think that any Sierra Leonean patriot worth that name would for a second target Captain Valentine Strasser for being a Krio. Some of us posting comments on this forum have an utmost aversion to tribalism and are prepared to fight to the death to rid our country of that malignant tumour. Indeed when it comes to issues concerning our nation, we react and speak always as Sierra Leoneans, not as Limbas, Themnes, Krios or Mendes So let it be understood that no tribalism whatsoever is at play when we make the point that the spending of public funds (assuming that this has been the case) to provide a house for Strasser could be at the expense of providing basic health or educational services to some of our country’s most deprived and remote locations.
For sure, Strasser has suffered a drastic reversal of fortune. However, compatriots of his in their millions and in every corner of our country have never suffered and perhaps will never suffer such reversal of circumstance in the first place. For unlike Strasser, they have never had the privilege, honour and pleasure of being occpants of State House. On the contrary, theirs have always been lives of unrelenting and unchanging deprivation. What is more, they have never had and perhaps will never have colleagues or friends who will take pity on them and build them decent dwellings, never mind posh ‘little houses’ comparable to the one Bio has magnanimously, or so it seems, provided for Strasser. Do they then have to shoot their way to power so that when things go pear-shaped for them in the future some fellow coupists having somehow returned to power by donning civilian clothes, will wave a magic wand and come to their rescue? That will surely be a recipe for national disaster.
To dismiss as tribalistic criticidm levelled at Bio for the possible use of public funds to lift Strasser out of the doldrums itself smacks and ironically so of tribalism. This is because Strasser’s plight and the attempts made to relieve him of it are being viewed through the prism of his ethnicity. No question is raised as to the provenance of those funds and what else has been sacrificed to build Strasser a house. Those funds might not have solved the myriad of challenges our poor, struggling nation faces but their unexplained use to meet the needs of a single citizen does complicate further, not to say worsen, those challenges. A thick layer of opacity shrouds the whole business. Only God knows for what other magnanimous ventures our nation’s purse is being surreptitiously depleted.
The comments section illustrate the rampant tribalism and hatred towards Creoles in Sierra Leone. Siaka Stevens has Kabasa Lodge, President Momoh,Ben Kanu had massive houses. How many civil servants have built houses right next to their government quarters? President Bio builds a small house for an ex-president and look at all the vitriol. Yes, I guess the house would have solved Sierra Leone’s problems. I think what the posters are trying to say, why should a Creole get a house? We prefer to drive them into the sea.
The fact that Strasser does not have a house and money amplifies his lack of corruption. Show me one Creole who has being charged and convicted for corruption in Sierra Leone, so please let the ex-president have his house. Every government has killed. Bash-Taqi, Gabriel Kai Kai, FM Minah, Kula Samba. Why hold only the N.P.R.C to account?
Mr Leo Aficanus, not many people might be aware of it, but this was a constitutional right, that any other former head of states denied his perks, regardless of how he left office, the consution of Sierra Leone guaranteed him or her the right to look after his welfare and security. All countries around the world does it, so what was special about Captain Straser that he was denied those right? He could have chosen to take the government of Sierra-leone to court for denying him those rights, but as we all know, Captain Straser preferred to suffer in silence, of course with family and friends around him with out taking that route. So the state of Sierra Leone is just giving Straser what rightly belongs to strasser. If a fomer Nigerian Governor can be given perks after his retirement, I don’t why we should be praising Bio. If any one deserves a praise the way he has handled himself since leaving office its Captain Valentin Straser.
Whichever way we look at it, Valentine Strasser’s life has vastly improved and hopefully he will continue to be with us for a long time.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, one might say, praising Bio for coming in a big way to the aid of a colleague and former head of state suffering from an exceptional reversal of fortune. However, given that such demonstration of compassion, generosity and goodwill has as its backdrop a country beset with chronic underdevelopment and widespread poverty, one cannot help but wonder whether the funds gone into building and furnishing the luxurious house or home – whatever you choose to call it – should not have been spread out to also build much needed schools or health centres in some of our country’s most deprived and remote locations.
For me, it is not difficult to determine what comes first if asked to choose between coming to the aid of one prominent compatriot fallen on hard times and countless ordinary compatriots living in our rural backwaters, away from the centres of national decision making. Bio may be Strasser’s colleague and friend but when it comes to deciding how the resources of the state are utilised, he is first and foremost the father of the nation with a duty of care for all, irrespective of status, past and present.
I’m very disappointed in some of the comments I have read from some of our brothers. The condition of Strasser was a national embarrassment to Sierra Leone as a nation. I know people have the right to express their opinions on every national issues, but we must do this in consideration of national dignity. A house and a little pucket change for Strasser’s upkeep is nothing that we cannot afford as a nation. It cannot even cost tax payers a thousand Leone per person. That’s not a lot to save our image as nation.
I hope everyone let the past be put to rest and put the image and moral integrity of Sierra Leone first. We all know that our country have had tragic political history since independent just like any other Africa countries. So what we need now is unity of purpose back by national integrity. May God Bless Sierra Leone.
Now everyone will be heaping praise on Bio for his act of generosity, or so it seemed to many towards his former comrade in arms, and head of state Captain Valentine Strasser. It was rather unfortunate he was cut loose, and fell on hard times. Nevertheless this act of kindness by Bio, is nothing sort of a public relationship exercise to redeem himself in the eyes of a wary public that is growing hostile for his failure to deliver on some of his manifesto promises. Especially the avalanche of corruption allegation cases against some of his ministers we are treated to every day. Of course the reality of how we treat our former heads of States after serving for more than twelve months, entitled them to this sort of perks. Its in our constitution. According to the pensions and retiring Benefits of Presidents and Vic-presidents Act, 1986, signed into law the 7th day of April 1986 and by former president J. S. Momoh.
The Act states clearly: Being an Act to make provision for grant of pension and retiring benefits to a retired president in pursuance of subsection (5)of section 27 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1978 (Act or. 12 of 1978):and also make provision for the grant of pension and other retiring benefits to retired Vice-president and for other purposes incidental. Much as some will like to commend Bio for his act of kindness, we should also remember, it is the constitutional right of Captain Strasser, or any other former head of state Bio included in the future, that have occupied the hot seat of the presidency to enjoy his retirement befit a former head of state. So we should not buy into Bio’s father Christmas gifts. We are still months away before Christmas.