Criminalisation of critical thinking in Sierra Leone

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 October 2016

president-koroma-and-logus-koroma

“Development is a tough process and prosperity does not come on a silver platter. These two things require effective collaboration and perseverance, not layback theoretical prescriptions and half-hearted political grandstanding.” That was President Ernest Koroma speaking at the official launching of the Freetown Containers Terminal Extension Project last week – 14 October 2016.

This was the same President Koroma who said in the course of his nine years in office, that “power is the authority given to you by the people, to improve their lives and develop the country with beneficial expectations.”

The real tragedy of our situation in Sierra Leone today, is the fact that truth has been clobbered into coma; which is why the reality of those who lead us, scam and hustle their way to the top, would have been redefined along the way.

In the light of both contrasting statements above, I guess that we must understand the preacher’s language before decoding his message. I mean, when perceptions become more important than actuality, strange behavioural anomalies usually arise. It causes ‘mistaking the woods for the trees’.

It is difficult to actualise a moral reset via dialogue or structures – or what have you, when the critical agent of the system, in this case the President, is behaviourally flawed.

A country that cannot feed itself can only be dependent on other people. For us to emerge from the ills threatening to drown us as a nation, we need to be truthful to ourselves and honestly examine our roles.

I keep on telling people that the truth, the most basic metric of morality, needs no consensus.

Why our leaders refuse to sing from the same morality hymn book we were all raised on, but which a majority have abandoned in the name of adapting the principles embodied in the concept, is a clear indication of the 100% flip in morals in this land.

president-koroma-at-sea-port-jpg2The political class cannot continue to rape us and expect us to clap for them. If as citizens of Sierra Leone, we believe from our excruciating experience, that competence and performance are on exile, we all should have a say and demand a response from those we have put in authority to manage our collective welfare. It’s all about public service.

Those who see things differently from those in power are part of those who gave their glorious leaders the authority to improve their lives. Not doing so, is why they are seeing things differently.This should not be a finger-pointing exercise. I believe that the powers that be should have realised that this is the way things are likely to pan out as a result of the law of unintended consequences.

However, I am not quite sure that the writers were aware of this particular aspect of the President’s speech quoted above, in the desperate bid to rev up the siege engine. By taking potshots at those perceived as critics, which is obviously reflective of the true nature of our society and governance, the government reduced the masses, already bludgeoned by mass poverty and austerity into morons.

I am aware of our penchant to deify the mundane in order to achieve balance. It becomes a moral transformation of the worst and dangerous kind however, when occupiers of the high table of the shrine to our societal fabric and existence and who cannot add to the respect of the position through stellar performance, but detract from it by weakness, choose to point accusing fingers at others as the cause of our woes.

It is always other people’s fault – Never theirs. That is our prevalent attitude from top to bottom. But recent events should teach us that the roots are deeper than that. And we need to appreciate that, for any progress to take place.

Sierra Leone State HouseSo, among several begging questions, it is imperative to examine the following salient points:

If development is a tough process, why has the government been beating the drum of how much growth it has brought to Sierra Leone; but now wants sympathy and is offended when the truth of our reality is brazenly exposed?

Most of those complaining, if the government cares to listen, are the small, medium-sized businesses, petty traders, individuals, etc. who are not privy to the gravy train leading to and from the corridors of power. Hasn’t it occurred to the government that finding a way to get money towards them is a really important part of getting out of the challenges that we currently face and is the key to our development, rather than white elephant projects?

So, prosperity does not come on a silver plate? I thought the present administration’s anthem is agenda for prosperity? If prosperity has strings attached, why were the people not told this truth from the onset? Why is it that now that the key of knowledge has been found, the government is changing the padlock?

If both development and prosperity require effective collaboration and perseverance, why are those who point out flaws in the process of attaining the much-desired end result, chastised for doing so? The world is changed by the example and honest contribution, no matter how little, of each of us and not just the opinions of those who lead or want to be worshipped.

Plato said: “the word should be a cousin to the deed”. Who is exactly enmeshed in political grandstanding? Is it the government that wants to claim the plaudits when things are going well; or those who have been patriotic enough to reject the kaleidoscope of deception being sold by the government?

By letting the issue degenerate to the level whereby the number one citizen is seen engaging in finger pointing and abrasive reaction, instead of leading from the front, especially when things are rough, is the government indirectly saying that critics should simply fold their hands and watch people with no principles beyond the love of lucre, bring the house down, at the first sign of pain?

If the economy has gone off the boil, I believe that those who strutted and glowed when the swan was blossoming should be man enough to accept the realities, when it turns ugly duckling.

My advice for all that it is worth, is that the government should take another look – one that will tell the whole truth every step of the way; and not whitewash the past, or put a lid on the present – because that is nothing but cheap propaganda, which often comes back to haunt those who indulge in the unwholesome practice for undeserved glory.

One can say it is all inevitable where we are, in the light of the populism that enveloped the provision of services from the onset. Illusion has no shelf lifespan.

French psychologists, Gustav Le Bon, in his book ‘The Crowd’, said that the masses have never thirsted after truth. According to him, whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; and whoever attempts to destroy their illusions, is always the victim.

No doubt, truth is bitter, but we must tell ourselves the unpleasant fact.

Fair enough. Neither our leaders nor we, the followers, can be absolved of the falsehood that defines us as a people. It is quite apparent that in some ways, everyone is contributing to the pervasive rot in our country.

But, the country needs to be brought back to the path of sanity. We need to come back to moral rectitude. And this is why it is very sad when leaders resort to manipulative tendencies and siege mentality as a weapon of choice.

Without a shadow of doubt, in a robust democracy, there is bound to be a plurality of opinions on any given issue. As its image takes a battering, the government needs to realise that no matter what it wants us to focus on, the issue of our present realities is the poor economy and hunger in the land. There is also a convergence of views that the country has a corruption problem that needs to be corrected.

grand corruption in africaMr. President, the buck stops at your desk. Change should begin from the top.

Critics voicing opposition to government’s actions and plans is a feature of democracy, except in a despotic disposition.

Such defined reaction as contained in the paragraph of that speech, is undignified under the current economic and socio-political realities of a battered, bruised and emaciated populace who are looking up for robust leadership and succour.

If you game the system long enough, it stops being fit for purpose. Right now, that is what the murky water of recession has glaringly exposed. It is also revealing the fact that in every pore and in every sinew of our every fibre as a society, there’s some corruption going on – corruption of thought, action, words and language.

The misplaced, selfish, undemocratic and sometimes completely unprogressive actions and utterances show the tendency of a defective leadership, which throws out everything, each time a particular concern does not go its way.

It is also sad that the very unintelligent clique, whose antics is what has kept Sierra Leone in perpetual poverty as a result of their mastery of the dark art of nepotism, continue to utilise their closeness to the president to feed him with the diet of political intolerance, and ensuring that he makes such utterances that confirm that they, not him, actually are the string pullers.

corruption3It is their stupidity which makes those in authority to shun individuals with even nationalistic fervours, to turn them to outcasts – simply because they are not adorning anything with the colour red or carrying the membership card of the ruling party. Failure to agree that black is white, is tantamount to ‘treason’.

Meanwhile, the economy continues to slide into recession, every responsible prospective investor keeps its distance from us and only those ready to do shady business come forth; our GDP struggles as our currency embarks on a spiral crash; while greed and impunity grow in stature into unbelievable height.

Yet, a blistering fact is that we will not have any meaningful development except if we make a change and take the knife of reality to the very heart of the combination of factors that have conspired to suppress the growth of a Sierra Leone, so rich in resources, but steeped in poverty, bad governance and endemic corruption.

This is the reason why, while wiser nations are digging deep into their recess and ransacking their resource capital for internal mechanism that will drive their future, our continuous celebration of mediocrity and incompetence has simply seen us promoting people to their level of incompetence.

In turn, the continued obsession with seeking money from any source and throwing it aimlessly at our problems has led to our downfall and ensured the absence of productivity in the discourse of how to weave seemingly disparate political and economic ideas together and into a coherent pattern of thoughts and actions.

The matter is made worse because we don’t practice what we preach. We, including our leaders, preach and talk love; but love is far away from our heart and we fool ourselves and those around us, pretending chronically to be what we are not…what a pity. Whither Sierra Leone?

How do you reset a society’s moral index? How do you prevent a masses revolution when the hungry lot go savage as a result of starvation? How long is a piece of string?

There is no doubt that we urgently need inspired and visionary leadership, especially during this period of turbulence to mitigate the impact of the approaching storm. That is the caustic truth.

That, is striking the nail squarely on its head. It needs to be expressly stated by those who care, if those who should know refuse to open their eyes to the truth.

But you know what I think – all of a sudden the elite are scared. The centre of the illusion that has been on the screen for so long, it appears, can no longer hold. (To be continued).

Editor’s Note:

Take a look at this video – does it sound familiar? What happened to Sierra Rutile, sold by president Koroma for a bag of silver? Does president Koroma understands how things work? Does he know what excellence looks like? Does he know what good governance looks like?

2 Comments

  1. Thanks Dr Raymond for your inspirational article. As you stated in your previous article my appeal to the Ernest Bai Koroma and his comrades in crime, is for them to be patriotic and return their looted kick-backs, commissions, die-man contracts, misappropriations and stolen moneys back to the people, in the form of job creation, investments opportunities, setting up factories, etc., so that the 3/4 of the populace who are unemployed can have some hope for tomorrow.

    Please Mr President, I want you and your comrades in crime to be as patriotic like Dr C.T.H. Bell a West Germany trained medical doctor who is non political, but a humble private citizen who from humble beginnings as a private Obstetrician and Gynecologist using his parent’s first floor apartment at Edward Lane (as I was their neighbor whilst growing up), to set up his clinic and later had greater vision of building and establishing an ultra-modern hospital in Brookfields, Freetown.

    Through hard work, drive and vision his dream of establishing a private modern hospital became a reality; and at the grand opening of his hospital he was appealing to his fellow colleagues in the medical field to come back home.

    Do you know from that giant leap of faith by Dr Bell, other private entrepreneurs like the Choithram family of the famous Choithram supermarket used their enormous financial resources to establish a mega hosptital at Wilberforce.

    My uncle – the late Dr Henry Johnson (I am son of the late Betsy Johnson at Owen Street and Senesie Boima – normally called Braima)) the youngest brother of my mother, who was a USA educated and trained senior surgeon, after his assessment of the medical facilities in the Choithram Hospital, stated that the complex was second to none in West Africa at that time.

    And what we saw later on, were second generation of middle eastern and Indian / Pakistani Asian born Sierra Leoneans started to diversify, opening up and investing in modern infrastructures for the socio-economic development of Sierra Leone.

    But because of the looting by the previous APC government, comrades in crime like Jamil Sahid Mohamed during the Siaka Steven era, the late President Tejan-Kabbah went to England to coax Jamil to return to Sierra Leone and invest some of his looted money back to Sierra Leone, which he did.

    Later, Pa Tejan-Kabbah also persuaded former president Joseph Saidu Momoh from his base in Guinea to return home and reinvest the money he embezzled from Sierra Leone.

    Mr President Koroma, your combined asset is worth over $200 million. If you can invest just 1/10 of that amount you have in your account at Liechtenstein to establish job creation opportunities; investing in adult education to develop numeracy and literacy skills of the adult population who are unemployed and illiterate.

    People need to be competent in plumbing, carpentry, technicians, modern agricultural techniques, etc., skills that investors are looking for, as we can see in Ghana for instance.

    Do this and you will be greatly remembered after you left office.

  2. http://www.globaltimes-sl.com/where-investors-fear-to-tread

    In response to this article, although the Sierra Leone economy and government may have their issues, they should never bow down to pressure from unscrupulous mining companies which, being too incompetent to make the economics of their projects work, insist that government must surrender its right to tax them and effectively underwrite their projects.

    Sierra Leone must resist the siren song of these unscrupulous companies. African Minerals, London Mining, ADDAX and others were granted extremely competitive fiscal concessions which were ultimately of no benefit whatsoever to Sierra Leone.

    In fact those concessions enabled fiscally weak companies with incompetent management to build and operate projects in Sierra Leone. Frank Timis’ of African Minerals has long been barred from listing on the senior board of the LSE and other stock exchanges around the World, and yet he was welcomed with open arms in Sierra Leone. What did he do for the people of Sierra Leone? Are they any better off for African Minerals having operated in the country?

    Our mineral resources are finite and must be harnessed for the good of all of our people. Government must not bow down to pressure to grant this company a significant fiscal package.

    How many highly skilled jobs will actually be created by the proposed mine and how many of those jobs will be held by Sierra Leoneans? Contrary to the lies that the people of Kono are being sold, the modern mining industry is not a big job creator and the few jobs created – if the mine is ever built – will be low-paying, low-skilled jobs. The highly skilled jobs will as usual be held by South Africans and Europeans.

    Moreover, the company in question does not have a track record of building producing mines anywhere in the world. Its parent is in fact known more for “flipping” mining and oil and gas assets whenever the opportunity allows.

    As sure as night follows day, it will turn around and sell the Kono concession in question as soon as possible, after the agreement with government is finalized. The pursuit of this agreement by the company is no more than an exercise in improving the company’s valuation in preparation for sale.

    It is rumoured that the company has not even paid its mining licence and other fees for several years now. If this company cannot raise the funds to pay its annual fees to government, how is it going to raise the $130 Million it claims it needs to build the mine – especially with the current commodity price environment?

    Why is the government negotiating with such a company in the first place? Most serious mining jurisdictions do not allow negotiation of special arrangements outside the law. South Africa,the most important mining country in Africa is a case in point. You either abide by the laws of the land or exit.

    Why do these companies come into Sierra Leone demanding that they pay no taxes, no royalties, are granted fuel subsidies etc. Demands they would not dare make elsewhere? Why?

    Sierra Leone has been taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous individuals and companies for far too long. It is time for the President and the Mines Minister to stand up for the people of Sierra Leone and the people of Kono and squeeze the maximum economic and social benefit it can from the licence area in question or tell this company to go to hell. Turn the concession area into an agricultural project which will actually feed our people.

    The so-called British company is no more British than Mickey Mouse. Multi-national companies forum shop for tax treaty and investment treaty protections that enable them to pay the least amount of tax possible while enjoying other protections.

    In fact, if you look behind the company, you may find that the majority of its shareholders are Asian, south African or some non-British nationalities. The company may also be using offshore tax havens as intermediaries in its structure to shield itself from paying taxes.

    The company is likely no more British than it is a Cayman Islands or Mauritius or Virgin Islands company (all offshore tax havens). It is only claiming to be British to put pressure on the Sierra Leone government which receives significant aid from Britain.

    The British government and British NGOs have condemned the Sierra Leone government in the past for giving away too much revenue to multinational companies in the form of fiscal concessions.

    The company should moreover not be allowed to dictate to government about who the government negotiators should be. This smacks of RACIST disrespect for government procedures and processes.

    And we wait for the proof of the claim that all other mining companies which have been granted MDA contracts in Sierra Leone paid bribes for those contracts.

    Mr. President and Mr. Mines Minister, if the government cannot come to terms with this company, they should be told to leave.

    Lets save our precious mineral assets for reputable and competent companies which are actually going to build producing mines which will provide meaningful revenue to government and long term employment and other social and economic benefits for our people.

    Lonta!

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