Sierra Leone – and the uncertainty continues

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 April 2015

Boy walks in the river in Kroo Bay slum looking for scrap metal to sell. Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.There is a saying: “If you want to sleep with me, please be nice enough to romantically sedate me first.” It is not enough that our democracy has turned into ‘government of the one percent by the one percent and for the one percent’.

What beats my imagination is that despite its grip, the one percent who shoot from every compass point of their mouths, don’t seem to give a damn about the ninety-nine per cent.

And so we are again, on the brink of another experience, outside the norms of democracy, by those who know the price of deception, vendetta, kleptocracy and partisanship, but not the value of a legacy.

Instead of politics as the ethical base, and honesty as the guiding light, their desire to convince and the urge to prevail is so overpowering, that normal limits of behaviour are ignored or forsaken in outlandish and sometimes bewildering comments and actions, driven by ignorance and outright misinformation from unexpected quarters.

Which is why, plunged into the depth of uncertainty by one of the most despicable manipulation and desperate political manoeuvres of its chequered democratic history, I wonder what the future holds for Sierra Leone.

When you realise that two weeks down the line, the highest court in the land has yet to assuage the feelings of every citizen, who simply want to know whether President Ernest Koroma, with a stroke of his ‘almighty’ pen, has the right to put an end to the existence of his deputy, who was endorsed by the people when presented to them by the same person and his party, and to replace him with a hand-picked plastic replica that has no electoral endorsement.

As though enough sediments had not risen to the surface of the muddy pool of the constitutional and political implication of this simple but contentious drama, the legal gurus on the bench seem to have decided that there is no rush to give the petition accelerated hearing or at least tell the world which is keenly watching, when it is likely to do so.

Instead, they are showing their inherently bestial mindset, which is not only a product of the absurd political machinations of the ruling party and the penchant for self-importance; but also an authentic reflection of a long-drawn battle, with the odds of the disreputable and contemptuous issue being independently adjudged, becoming less likely.

Constitution RIPFor some inexplicable reason, the powers that be, represented by faceless judicial civil servants, prefer to confirm through a blanket ban on social commentary on the issue, that Sierra Leone is one step from fascism and all that will be left of our democratic credentials, will be an empty banner and a hollow brand.

The illusion of free choice and the echo of the bell, confirming plenty of uncertainties and elephant’s traps equally distributed, in the days, weeks and months ahead.

With its reputation already in tatters, the judiciary believes that a jaundiced reasoning, which enforces the perception that it is tied to the apron string of the executive and therefore open to manipulation is a far more attractive role, even if the polity has been heated almost to a boiling point.

Judges Sierra LeoneWhat a paradise lost for redemption. It would have been glorious for the Supreme Court to do what is right and distant itself from the messiness of politics, so that when history writes its account of this period, it shall write that the judiciary lived up to its moral duties by doing what the moment required. That it did not allow the politics of self-interest to trump the politics of public interest.

Amid the cacophony that insists on the thinking  of each side being right in the circumstance, and prophets foretelling the end of our democratic credentials and nation as we know it, the judiciary, which has been so tainted by politics, does not see it expedient to smother any fireworks with a pile of wet blankets.

By dragging its feet and remaining conspicuously silent to the relief sought and which the nation eagerly awaits, sceptics are beginning to believe that every step of the drama, including the incendiary directive from the third tier of government, for the local media to zip its gob, has been carefully choreographed in a piece of cheek and twists.

This is a regression that not only confirms the absence of strong institutions and separation of power, but points to that of a democracy that has fallen rearward and is threatened by dictatorial tendencies and political corruption which undermines all known values and legitimacy.

president koroma sworn-in for second termAs the world watches us teeter on the brink of another self-inflicted malarkey, which has elicited crazy behaviours from the highest echelon of our political strata, most of us have lost hope or confidence in the various arms of our democratic dispensation that say one thing and do the opposite, and which have become so desperate that they throw decency to the winds.

There is no doubt at all in my mind that the growing political tension which has exhumed the ghost of hate speeches, accusations, counter accusations, slander and even crazy behaviour by the lead actors in this tragic episode, is a clarion call for us as a nation to take a second look at ourselves and realise the urgent need to put an end to chauvinism, partisan politics, vaulting ambition and the ever-ready environment that is always fuming with vendetta.

This is indicative of a national problem desirous of a strong collective aspiration to look beyond now and plan far, for a better democratic future.

We are always looking for someone else to get us out of the hole that we are in. That hole was created collectively, and it has taken so long to get this bad and no one but ourselves can do that and lift us out.

Now is the time to talk about the elephant that has remained in the room for too long, and has limited our vision and progress, which the political elite has capitalised upon.

We cannot continue to tolerate the building of a dysfunctional society, the cry of the people and the entrenchment of injustice, worsening impunity and brazen emasculation of the voice of reason, and the other system of governance which were designed to be a check for our society going down the slope.

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politics? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?

We are again on the verge of glossing through the activities of our leaders and adding them to national lamentations that are meant to remain unaddressed.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like a majority of us quite appreciate the fact that life as we all know it may never be the same, if we allow the machinations of a minority to destroy the very foundation of our society.

It is why we have become a country on the path to self-destruction, but which seems completely unaware of the damage it is doing to itself.

So many of our institutions, so many of the controls of the national vehicle, which are meant to guide our trip, have been tampered with. The unseemingly authentic tribune of the masses, destroyed. The sense of reality lost.

Monkey with a gun The absolute power which the constitution gives to whoever is President can sometimes, as we have seen from experience, be like giving a loaded handgun to a monkey.

Some of the actions of passionate convictions of our leaders are things that grow in the imagination, which is why our backwardness and problems emanate from the very top.

Despite the recent history of our civil war, today’s politicians buoyed by their emasculation of the other arms of our democracy, seem to have resuscitated their venom for opportunistic purposes.

rebels enter freetownIt is tragic that they have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing about satanic behaviours that led to the crisis that threatened the very foundations of our society.

Their utterances and actions which are often absolutely uncalled-for and devoid of any captivating resonance, indicate that there have hardly been any improvement or progress in our democratic journey.

Values in a democratic system such as reasonableness, respect for the rule of law and for basic human rights and freedom, tolerance, and uncompromising desire for peaceful coexistence appear strange to the operators.

Virtually all of these morals are conspicuous by their absence in our own clime today.

However, this is not enough reason for national interests to be subsumed by personal agenda that drowns the will of the people. It is no excuse for the shout of the oppressed and innocent citizens to be drowned in a measure of obscure individual and party predispositions which are purely of parochial interests.

The demeanour with which this is carried out is also nothing but flat-track-bullying and a stab at show-boating.

Zhao Yanbo, Ernest Bai Koroma, Samuel Sam-SumanaSo far in the latest whimsical political magic and the organised deception which has heightened the possibility of increased apathy, the game plan of the ruling party and President Koroma are harder to grasp than a lavishly greased piglet.

By their indolence and knuckle duster penchant, they have left the masses baffled, belittled and betrayed once again.

They trade in a kind of progressive politics that is often more about what the leader thinks ought to happen, than a practical engagement with what is really going on or what are the realities of the people. But history will stand up one day in the right corner.

If only the President governs or had governed the nation with the energy and determination he devotes to settling scores or entrenching his ways, what a fine and solvent country Sierra Leone would be today.

Let us be frank, in this day and age, how come we still find ourselves in situations where politicians invoke authoritarian mentality, and can go to any extent to impose themselves and their will on the people. Why this desperation for God’s sake? What a pity!

God, save us from those who want to inherit the world and cannot be bothered about losing eternity through temporal power.

And save us also, from those who are incidental players in the on-going democratic stage, but who unfortunately appear to have a false sense of their own calibre. Where are those before them today?

Fair enough, negative occurrences are the handiwork of a combination of the governed and their governors – none can be exonerated and both are blameworthy. But a nation in a hurry to develop, can never achieve this with the present crop of politicians and judiciary, with their warped idea of governance and democracy.

The tragedy is not the corruption of the politicians that’s truly sad, but it’s not really a catastrophe. The real heartbreak is the obvious fact that ethnicity, religion, bulimic greed and hyperbolic ambition among the political class remain the greatest obstacles to democratic consolidation in the country.

Obviously, there is leadership failure, suffocating corruption and political mendacity making the country a big oven, where almost everybody is frantically trying to escape from and a jungle where the most vicious survive. But this is not a justification for the widespread impunity.

The few greedy, misguided and self-serving political leaders across the three tiers of government, by their continued action, inaction and conspiratorial silence, have successfully exposed the gullibility of the people who believed that business as usual was a new national pledge under the Agenda for Change.

Bad JudgesNevertheless, when the battle for the democratic soul of our country is over, history will never forget the irredeemable miscalculations of those political, judicial and social chameleons, whose support for propaganda and who gave outlandish interpretations just to make themselves relevant;  and who at the expense of the collective interests of the nation, jeopardised their integrity and credibility.

Ditto, those who made the necessary sacrifice for the entrenchment of true democratic ideals and refused to exhibit the highest political blindness or shoot themselves in the foot, in the face of personal abuse, intimidation and political colouration.

My prayer is that when some of these shenanigans in our governance is over, we will never again have at the helm of affairs, across all the tiers of leadership and governance, those who look like they are troubled by the bad smell of fellow compatriots, even though they are the ones who excreted on them.

Malcolm ‘X’ it was, who said “You’re not to be so blinded with patriotism, that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it”.

Over to our learned masters. Over to those who care about the future of our polity.

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