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.”