By Sorie Fofana.
In a late night Press Release issued by State House on 19th August, 2017 President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma informed the General Public that he had relieved three senior members of the Hajj Committee of their duties “with immediate effect”.
The three named officials are:
- Alhaji M.A. Bah, Minister of State, Office of the Vice President
- Alhaji Sheka Kamara, Special Assistant (Social Affairs) Office of the President
- Alhaji Hon. Nuru Deen Sankoh, Special Assistant (Political Affairs) Office of the President
The President has ordered the three officials to return home (from Saudi Arabia) and cooperate fully with an inquiry into the organization of this year’s Pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Hajj Committee
According to Dr. Sylvia Blyden, the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, “I have been sidelined and undermined in matters to do with religious affairs…so so undermine…I am systematically subjected to regular molestation with no protection”.
The Honorable Vice President, Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh is in charge of Hajj affairs and according to the Social Welfare Minister, “VP Foh is the de facto religious affairs point man”.
Clearly, Dr. Sylvia Blyden is a very angry woman. It is very unusual for a sitting Cabinet Minister to vent their fury in the way Dr. Sylvia Blyden did in her newspaper, the Awareness Times yesterday. She is a woman of class!
Dr. Blyden’s anger stemmed from the fact that, she has been totally marginalized and some of her key responsibilities handed over to the Honorable Vice President, whom she described yesterday as the “de facto religious affairs point man” in the government.
Delegation Of Tasks
As head of state, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma can delegate authority to anybody in the Cabinet to perform any role on his behalf.
There is no harm in the President’s decision to appoint his Principal Assistant, VP Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh to oversee the affairs of Hajj this year.
The Vice President also has a Minister of State in his office, appointed by the President. In other words, the Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office is supposed to be the Vice President’s Principal Assistant.
The Vice President can also delegate authority to his Principal Assistant (Minister of State) to perform any function on his behalf.
Unlike the former VP, this VP is a very busy man. He has a lot of supervisory roles he performs on behalf of the President.
VP Foh is not a Muslim. His Principal Assistant, Mohamed Alie Bah is not only a Muslim, he is an Alhaji. He is well suited to supervise the affairs of Hajj on behalf of the Vice President.
Why Blame VP Foh?
Since State House issued that Press Release on Saturday, VP Foh has come under the spotlight of adverse criticisms for allegedly failing to provide adequate supervision over the Hajj Committee. Such criticisms are totally misplaced! The VP is overwhelmed by the tragedy that struck the nation on Monday 14th August, 2017.
The VP has been given an additional responsibility to coordinate the relief efforts on behalf of the government in the aftermath of the devastating flood and landslide that occurred in some communities in and around Freetown. He cannot afford a divided attention now. This is a stupendous responsibility!
Alie Bah Is Alie Bah
Mohamed Alie Bah and the two other Hajj Committee members have been accused of impropriety in the handing of this year’s Hajj. The allegations against them will have to be put to the test. So, it is too early to jump to any unsubstantiated conclusion.
The Vice President cannot be held responsible for the action of his Principal Assistant. After all, he did not appoint Mr. Mohamed Alie Bah to serve in his office as Minister of State. The President did!
Don’t Politicize Hajj Issue
VP Victor Foh is, undoubtedly, interested in succeeding President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. And he is seen as a strong contender for the top job.
Some of his opponents are now using this Hajj issue to not only discredit him but to tarnish his character. That is unfair to the man!
It has to be stated that, there is no evidence to suggest that VP Foh presided over the alleged corrupt handling of this year’s Hajj which has become a national scandal.
We call on the President to dissolve the Hajj Committee after the planned inquiry and hand the affairs of Hajj back to some credible and respected Muslim leaders. That will, to a large extent, save the government from such uncomfortable embarrassment.
We return to the question: Why blame VP Victor Foh?