RANDOM MUSING: A POINT OF VIEW
“A Cobweb: Our Youths, Our Dilemma, Our Future”
Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
4 July 2010
Those of us who peeped into the future with a
permanent frown on our foreheads, cautious,
reticent, concerned and hoping for a new
inspiration at the advent of the Ernest Koroma
administration, have since been labelled as
opposition sympathisers and even some
unprintable names, for not giving a guttural
roar filled to the brim with emotion and for
going on about what needs to be done or has been
But if we appreciate the first thing about
honesty, then we all know that some leaders turn
up in government and are greater than the sum of
their parts; others, realise that their ilk are
part of the problem and therefore strive to be
part of the solution.
Having been taken for a ride for too long by
past administrations, some of us realise that
the only way forward for the country and its
future is to refuse to be cheerleaders for
politicians who no sooner are they in power than
they forget the promises made to turn our lives
around when they applied for the job. Time will
tell if they deserve it and serious ones do know
that history is the ultimate judge.
On the 25th of February 2008, in a piece:
‘Ernest Bai Koroma: Dare to be Different part
3’, I wrote the following extract:
“The Dilemma of Youths: One of the most
saddening, shameful but also painful thing in
Sierra Leone today, is to see the army of youths
parading the streets of our major cities,
especially Freetown. Some of them have lost hope
and confidence in themselves as a result of the
frustration, discrimination and abyss that
envelope them, courtesy of our leaders.
Generations of forgotten children who have been
incubated in sub-human conditions in densely
populated communities and slums have now come of
age. Years of dehumanising existence have shaped
minds and conditioned them.…
We all know that the youths are the live wire of
any society. The virile age bracket of 18-55
especially, is the centre on which the present
and future of this nation is anchored. If a man
with a vision rules Sierra Leone, there will be
full and gainful employment for a large
percentage of at least this group of citizens.
They are the desired manpower.
A good leader of any nation should be a leader
that knows how to exploit and tap the strength
of its youths to enrich the nation and at the
same time, make its youths fulfilled. Unless
Koroma takes how to utilise the human resources
at his disposal as a first priority, the country
will lack a tomorrow. But it is for the tomorrow
of the youths, that those who shed blood and
limbs gave their yesterday….
Going by the widening gap between the poor and
the rich in Sierra Leone and the growing
awareness by the large army of impoverished and
disadvantaged young men and women, our beloved
country could witness a revolution against the
rich and super rich.
Sounds and flashes of this are being heard and
seen from the distance, like the signs of a
heavy downpour. It includes the widespread
social unrest characterised by the rising crime
wave. It is the party youths refusing to be
short-changed, used and dumped by politicians.
It is the mistrust and distrust of anything
remotely connected with power. It is our youths
crying out for justice and change through their
music, actions, words and deeds…”
That was about four months into the life of this
government. That is almost three years since
power changed hands; thanks to the same
generation of youths who have carried the burden
of the nation’s future.
Tragically, today, still strewn across the
landscape of Sierra Leone, are the ashes of the
nation’s innocence – the same youths. They are
lost in a fetid pool of dismay, disillusion and
myth. Their future lost in the morass of
politics and graft. It is becoming harder for
them to see the wood from the trees.
If we look at the history of most of the nations
like ours where there have been uprisings, we’ll
discover that most of the circumstances that led
to the frustration, anger as well as the
resultant delinquent dissent, can often be
traced to the failure of leaders to confront the
desperation of these generation and to implement
policies in the areas of education and the
delivery of services that will take care of
their inherent frustration..
In our country today, out of a youth population
of about three million or 75% of the total
population, more than 80% are unemployed, with
another 10-15% under-employed.
Yet, as we hawk the nation’s economic and social
heritage around the global bazaars like a sullen
slave, our youths see the exaggerated emotional
allegiance to their plight while greedy
investors are shielded and shown the highway to
The failure of the system is seen in the
frightening drug-induced hell of our young men
and women who have been driven to near
delinquent crime-prone existence. They spiral
out of control because the future repeatedly
promised them much but is yet to deliver.
At the state opening of parliament last October
(2009) President Koroma for the umpteenth time
since his election stated “In the next twelve
months, we will make the National Youth
Commission operational; ensuring that it becomes
the hub for designing, implementing and
co-ordinating programmes that promote skills
acquisition, employment and political inclusion
I am sorry but it is virtually impossible for me
to reconcile this expression with the reality.
With able-bodied men and women eking out a
living from scavenging dumps of refuse, selling
sweets on the streets or condescendingly, junks
at ‘Belgium’ and riding Okada or doing other
menial and unsustainable jobs, what we have
today, virtually three years into his tenure, is
a far-cry from the President’s vision.
The government might refuse to appreciate the
devastating all-round consequences of the
dilemma of our youths and it might continue to
use statistics and platitudes in an attempt to
get us to disbelieve the evidence of our own
eyes; but stark analysis shatters any notion
being bandied about.
The facade of diligent planning that is being
presented also suggests that the government is
planning to fail diligently in coming up with
genuine reforms for the transformation of
current social deficiencies and the exploitation
of our youths.
Yes, it didn’t create the problem. Yes, it’s not
this government’s fault. Yes, most of the young
men and women just want an easy life. Yes, the
youths are not ingenious. Yes, there are many
excuses for the sorry state of affairs. Yes.
Yes. Yes, yes …to a lot of things.
But if people are going to be beaming with
smiles and ready to take the accolades when it
finally goes right, they should appreciate that
the buck also stops at their desks when things
are not moving in the right direction or are not
what they should be.
What has the government done since assumption of
office to remedy the situation which it
acknowledged and recognised at its inception?
What strategy has it put in place to even ensure
that the long, much-touted Youth Commission,
when it finally leaves the realm of the
imagination, will be able to apply a soothing
balm to the epicentre of the festering sore?
How far have our leaders gone to implement, for
example, the 2004 continental Ouagadougou Plan
of Action which called on member states to
diversify their economies into labour intensive
industries and create opportunities for young
people? What multi-sectoral approach is in
How is the government planning to ensure that
the flood of dreams of these youths is being
properly channelled and consolidated for the
desired societal rejuvenation? - Because the
issue, is like the bull in a china shop.
It’s not the despair that’s killing these
youths. It’s the forlorn hope. It’s the lack of
enabling environment for those of them who are
willing, to thrive. It is the lack of
leadership. It is the disparaging neglect. It is
their exploitation. It is their neglect after
being tools in the hands of those in whom they
have placed their trust and confidence. It is
the steady destruction of their dreams.
What you see, are brutally bleak and depressing
pictures of lives half-lived and utterly bereft
of hope as well as ‘raggedly-arsed’, pasty-faced
kids reared on a diet of palm oil and rice and
yet we wonder why the youths now develop
We wonder why they fail at school; suffer mental
issues; turn to drinks, drugs and crime as well
as perpetuate AIDS. Is it any wonder then that
graduates of our schools and universities are
the chief political thugs, con artists and fake
How can we seriously progress as a nation or
think that peace will reign forever when
millions of unemployed youths watch, as mindless
leaders gorge on our scarce resources; and an
uncaring system that further enhances their
deepening frustration, by preaching the sermon
of austerity from the throne of opulence.
We are yet halfway into another year and if left
as we are, will end up repeating the mistakes of
the past and continue with the indiscretion of
past administrations’ whose neglect of this
vital organ brought us to where we are now.
Unless the government takes urgent, concrete and
practical steps to deal with the issue of those
who have passed school age and whose lives have
been blighted by our senseless war and greed as
well as those churned out yearly into the labour
market without corresponding opportunities our
new ‘smooth’ roads that is taking all our
attention will become highways to hell.
If we don’t deal with those who have watched
life pass them by through no faults of theirs,
our designer homes will become fortresses. Our
streets littered with checkpoints and our lives
a misery. Mentally, this neglected segment of
our nation see society as indebted to them and
since it won’t pay back by improving their lot
and giving them comfort, their only orientation
is to grab and loot by force if necessary.
When they join the police, rather than serve,
they oppress and extort. When they join the
ministries they pollute them by creating
obstacles to diligence. When they join the
financial sector, they risk your future and when
they go into politics…… God help us all.
The half-baked graduates of our institutions
realise their inadequacies and take their pound
of flesh while also becoming a clog in the wheel
of progress resulting in our search for
foreigners for our salvation. Those who see
themselves as sidelined from mainstream society
become resentful and ‘saboteurs’ with a ‘them’
versus ‘us’ mentality and even overseas educated
Sierra Leoneans are seen as usurpers.
The government can continue to trumpet roads,
Bumbuna etc but the millions of youths caught in
subservient existence are not impressed. They
want food. They want cheaper cost of living.
They need help to ‘free’ their minds and souls.
They want to leave the status of second class
citizens. They want to stop being sex slaves and
drug couriers, cultists and thugs.
If all their lands are given to foreigners and
political jobbers, no amount of money pumped
into agriculture without them will engineer the
kind of agrarian society of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s
nor will it attract them back to the soil.
If the vital ethos is missing from those at the
top, forget the Sermon on the Mount as they can
discern reality even if they have no voice for
their feelings. Give them their dignity back and
watch them flourish. Help shape their belief in
the possibility of improving their lives and see
Experience has shown that direct government
intervention in employment creation always ends
up enriching a few. So what the government can
do among other things is to create the
environment for the private sector to thrive;
encourage and give incentives to work as well as
create wealth through hard work and not
The so called growth performance has not met the
self-actualisation aspirations of the youths and
it is an explosive device. It is a cobweb in our
system. It is a reflection of an indolent and
insensitive political class. It is tragic
because it is also one of the key developmental
signposts of a new Sierra Leone.
We need something strategic and fast. The
government appears to be struggling with
direction and what is most important for
progress. Is this because it is not a show-off
like roads, etc? I wonder.
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