Nailing things…


Honest reflections on episodes of national embarrassment and tragedies in Sierra Leone point fingers at failures to value logistics and accept it as a science.

For the current administration, the farce of a desperate “Ministerial Order” to rescue a struggling effort to clean Freetown was followed by tragedy at the inauguration of the new President a week later in the same city.

In the case of the previous government, initial denial of the Ebola outbreak was followed by a dog’s breakfast of a response plan. Get into the detail of these incidents with the eye of a logistician and you will find some simple and not difficult actions were not taken.

Worryingly, listen to the response of those who support the nation’s leaders and you’ll find little willingness to ask why things go wrong and we are therefore left with the strong likelihood of repeats.

I have already bored some of you with Sun Tzu's simple thinking that "the line between disorder and order lies in logistics". Experience tells me this is true and I know it wasn't by accident that the British Military's contribution to the fight against Ebola was led by and centred on the headquarters of the UK's 104 Logistic Support Brigade.

Like me, many of the officers and soldiers deployed directly into the effort were from the Royal Logistic Corps. In my case, 25 years of drilling into me that it's all about "getting the right item to the right customer at the right time at the right place in the right condition". has created an instinctive and absolute respect for detail with nothing seen as not important.

Over two decades after the event, I remember the simple poem that kicked off my first course at the Defence School of Logistics.

The words of 'For Want of a Nail' enabled understanding of “the line” Sun Tzu mentioned and constantly remind me of the importance of detail.

The poem might even get some to understand how the impressive show at Windsor on 19th May 2018 was so far removed from the debacle at Sierra Leone’s National Stadium a week earlier.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Hey, even talent show judges are known for ending their comments on flawless performances with: “YOU NAILED IT”.

Othame Kabia was the British Military Commander of the Bo District Ebola Response Centre from December 2014 to March 2015 - where a primary function of his role was organising the logistics support to the various elements of the Ebola Response, in addition to coordinating collaboration between the agencies.


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