By Abu Bakarr Kargbo
Former President Koroma…subjected to embarrassment by Bio’s regime
It was at the last minute on Saturday 2nd July 2022 that the Bio-led SLPP Government decided to open the Presidential Lounge at the Freetown International Airport for former ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma, Airport sources say. This came after four years of embarrassment for the former President who has been treated with embarrassments not even as an ordinary citizen. Although some quarters at the airport had suggested to him that it is too late in the day and he should not accept it due to the ill-treatment he had been subjected to for the past years, the former ex-President saw the decision as his entitlement and that he was tired at the moment he received the green-light.
It could be recalled that on 26th July 2019 when the government staff working at the international airport brought shame on the country’s democracy when they subjected the former president to unprecedented molestation and humiliation.
Koroma landed at the airport on that fateful afternoon from a private jet after a successful visit to0 few African Heads of State.
Under normal circumstances, the ADC to the former president would first disembark from the plane to go and arrange for the VIP protocol vehicle to collect the former president from the plane and take him to the Presidential Lounge.
The ADC was surprised to hear from the airport authorities that they have received instructions ‘from above' to move the plane away from the direction of the presidential lounge – contrary to the previous instructions, to the dismay of the foreign pilot.
The pilot got off the plane to inform the airport authorities that he had received permission from the control tower to land in the direction of the presidential lounge.
But the authorities were adamant. “Yes, you have to move this plane off from that area immediately,” they instructed the pilot.
The former president was left with no other alternative but to calmly handed his passport over to his ADC and then walked outside of the airport to where his private jeep was parked, where he waited patiently for his passport to be stamped and was driven off afterward.
As if that was not enough, The Bio’s government in September 2020 imposed a travel ban on the former President and several officials who served during his term over allegations of corruption. The ban was lifted after the intervention of some West African heads of state, according to sources.
He has endured the humiliation and embarrassment all this while until last weekend orders came that he should start using the Presidential Lounge again barely eleven months to the next elections.
“The SLPP government has finally come to the reality that EBK's entitlements as a former president are an obligation of the state,” an Airport Official remarked and added that after four years, the SLPP has finally raised itself to the dignity of honoring the former president by making the Presidential Lounge at the Lungi airport accessible to him.
“He is very much so, but these gestures are exposing President Bio’s government after four years, why only now, that means they know all this while that he (Koroma) should be given access to that Lounge but they have denied him that honor each time he travels, his Personal Assistant would write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and copy the Secretary to the President, requesting protocol and courtesies,” the source said.
“Ordinarily, the former President would refuse such last-minute realization on the part of the government but being the peaceful statesman he is, he always bends over backward to accommodate the excesses of the regime,” a retired Public Servant said.