Sierra Leone – a great nation eroded by backward ethnic social engineering

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 August 2015

Boy walks in the river in Kroo Bay slum looking for scrap metal to sell. Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

A society that places loyalty over objectivity will ultimately be swallowed up by the quicksand of mediocrity.

I’m taking a break from my letter to the President, as a result of a few responses and comments on the two I have written. I promise to continue later.

For the umpteenth time and the information of those who care to know, I am not a politician. I am a pissed off and defrauded citizen who is tired of being raped by political bullshit, blackmail and the propaganda of ‘official and unofficial faithful’.

I also find it disconcerting, when defenders of the current class of uninspiring politicians become apparently too dismissive of the people, especially the internet media generation, who will definitely have a big say in the next level of our political journey – which is changing the nature of political parties and the future of democracy.

Such megaphones fail to appreciate the fact that, the massive greed among those in the corridors of power and the abject misery among the lower class, does not resonate with what is the future, envisaged by this group of Sierra Leoneans.

They can see that the giant fraud that is our governance, strides ever onwards, messing up many lives and ruining our collective future further, in a vicious, selective illusion of transparency and amidst one great swathe of national depression.

Even though most are not privy to the values that made Sierra Leone a great nation in the past and which have now been totally eroded by the backward, ethnic social engineering that is the bedrock of our current march, they can see that the much-trumpeted agenda for a new nation has been enthusiastically strangled at birth.

Let’s ask ourselves the question: what symbol emanates from the highest authority and seat of governance today, to show that things have really changed? Can a healthy democracy – needed for true development – really function in what is effectively becoming a one-party state and a rule of impunity?

President koroma and victor foh at APC conference 30 april 2015

As it appears, some of the reactions indicate that a section of us have been so contaminated that, we personalise national issues because we tend to distinguish offices, individuals and positions.

This cyclical chicken and egg situation that will even look out of place in the Animal Farm, is why the political class sees the people as a weak queen on the chessboard; leaving us wondering why our ideologically bankrupt leaders often pounce on every opportunity to turn themselves into tin gods whose designer lifestyle choke the nation’s throat.

Our politicians continue to grab at our resources the way an hungry lioness grabs an unlucky antelope. And because they pretend to be humane in nature, fired by a desire for the national interest, we fall prey and believe that it was all for the sanctity of hunting.

Truth is, a society that places loyalty over objectivity is one that will ultimately be swallowed by the quicksand of mediocrity. The queue barriers will guide the queue in a bank hall to the teller, but does not prevent ‘shunting’; it’s the people that will prevent that.

One reason for our under-development is the failure to appreciate the fact that we must always focus on building institutions and not over-promote our leaders. We must also ensure that we do not destroy those institutions that have survived the political upheavals and machinations of past rulers, simply because we want to destroy a single individual or ensure the perpetuation of another.

This is 2015. Governance must rise above that. We must at all times do the right thing even if it’s against our individual interests. One of such is that the rule of law must at all times prevail. A society that doesn’t protect the rule of law jealously is bound to fail, hence the underdevelopment of a Sierra Leone that promised so much at independence.

As I said, a critical element in governance is building institutions. Institution is all about norms and fostering shared values and should not be about personality (ies). But institutions, structures and processes require good people.

Until there is common agreement as part of our social contract about what we consider the acceptable norms and the criteria for those elected to serve, then we will be experiencing the sort of situation in which we cannot tell our leaders the truth; or one in which we continue to cow before them to our own detriment.

sam sumana and president koroma at war

Many a time in history, it’s the fight that defines the process, structures and institutions. Perhaps we are approaching that pass. Let the fight happen so we can move on. The current lingering backwardness is doing more harm than good.

We are well into the 21st century and yet…….recent alignments, pronouncements and developments under the cloak of democracy, change, vision, determination, courage and dynamism, from the old brigade and the new breed of politicians, are indications of us being the same – a nation of pretenders and wishful thinkers!

Sadly, we can only pretend for so long in life, as one day we’ll have to wake up to reality – individually or collectively as a society. I believe we are approaching the runway of that flight.

However, the divisive politics that drowns out the voices of patriotic zealots, which makes those singing a different melody the victims of cruel circumstances, will kill us if we don’t stop our deception and hypocrisy as a nation.

Already, indications are the dregs are seeing the folly of their blind followership. And I believe that the unification of minds of ordinary people this time around, will certainly steer us away from this famished road, and put the country on the new road to change and recovery.

Even though we are being driven down a familiar road where a linkage between policy and the peoples’ interests tend to run parallel, a true change is inevitable as the siren of destruction gets louder.

Not even the Media Commission’s Dracula fangs, the legislative gags, judicial threats; ACC sword of Damocles or police rascality – combined, will stop the coming train.

Democracy doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to be held captive by the bad and the ugly. Forget about parties and politics! It is our society and the people that really matter, for the sake of yours and my tomorrow.

In the relative or comparative arena, the current administration might get some kudos. But in absolute terms, it cannot claim to have been a bastion of fairness, transparency and moral values for credibility, probity and accountability.

road construction - Moyamba 2014

Bricks and mortars, tar and sand, as well as symbols to the glory of money, are not true transformation of a society. It is more than that and therein lies the main issue.

To label the various functions of the government in the last eight years as enduring institutions to tackle head-on, the accumulated rot in our governance structure and society amounts to laughter in a bereaved compound.

Institutions are actually the flow of people passing through a function at any point in time. The institution reflects their shared goals and morality – especially morality, and I do not think anyone without blinkers will for example, subscribe to the new way of life in our governance, whereby the subversion of processes to offer advantage to individuals to fester personal interests, are the presiding principles.

With no apologies to power nodes, our destiny has been toyed with for so long and our rights to enforce a change in the expectations we desire in our leaders, abridged by impunity, inimical policies and actions as well as pure ignorance and fear on our own very part. This is what is responsible for our descent to perdition and the glaring national lamentations which we are being cajoled to turn a blind eye to.

There were processes in the past that kept systems functional and were able to assist in effective delivery of service to the people. This is no longer the case in our situation.

road construction in Grafton2Politicisation, cronyism, nepotism, graft and gross incompetence as well as maladministration, have ensured that mediocre and antiquated mode of governance and institutions are the rule rather than the exception.

Leadership strictly executes and adheres to all set of rules that govern the society. The buck of regulation of serenity and orderliness of a functional society rests squarely on the shoulders of leadership. This is not the case with our leadership, and is the cause of the battle between the government and those tired of the current status quo for the survival of our nation.

Our leaders have failed their followers. They have unbelievably failed to set the moral tone that will positively influence the followership towards the path of change. That is why our fifty-odd years of independence have not much translated to the people’s welfare and aspirations.

It appears that the post-independence disillusionment is still very much with us. Which is why, we still pray for shelter, water, light, food, health, roads, peace and security. If we want to set our country back on a path of restitution, then there must be true reformation.

Right now, there seems to be no touch of conscience, as the ordinary citizens are denied a chance to feel privileged in the opportunities the country offer. They know very well the havoc official criminality has wreaked on their lives, even if they can’t do much.

kroo bay1Health is wealth, but not for them. They live from hand to mouth – day in day out, and watch their leaders go abroad for routine checkups and official extravaganzas. They sit in darkness, while our commonwealth lights up the homes of those who are meant to show them the road to salvation.

Soldiers and other law enforcement agents are bribed with monthly sweeteners for propping up a ‘popular’ regime, while the rest of the underprivileged sweat to eat one proper meal in days. They get buses bought from their inheritance, but have to choose between food and transport. We can go on and on. They are well known to all of us, even though we turn our noses up and see not.

Education has collapsed totally. Parents, who used the pittance they scratched so hard to earn to pay for their children’s education with the dream of a better life in future, watch those same graduates sit around corner streets or hawk second hand goods in roadside markets in hopelessness, while their daughters ignore the dangers of health hazards to use what they have, simply to earn what they want.

Agreed that every era of governance is bound to throw up its own mass choir, while the masses wallow in abject poverty, want and deprivation, but is this why the gathering of the tortoise clan, should continue to harbour an indolent, unpatriotic and selfish ruling elite whose primary goal is to share our resources and retain the lion share for their private use? Haven’t they done enough damage?

One truth that cannot be airbrushed is that the political class has lost the respect of the people, for a number of reasons – chief of which is that too many of them are under the illusion that they are entitled to do whatever is necessary to get what they want. In a proper democratic setting, which is sadly in the realm of our imagination, the excesses and failure of government to fulfil its constitutional responsibility would have had the opposition snapping at its feet.

Unfortunately, with the almost total annihilation of every opposition group and dissent by government, this political expediency is being carried out by people of principles and patriotism, who cannot sit idly by and watch the destruction of our society by greedy power mongers, whose boasts, sound and fury, do not stand up to the cold light of the day.

We need to build a new human-centred society where the people count. This is why the constant reference to every contrary opinion as being those of the near-moribund opposition is infantile, witless and wilfully offensive.

Given that the events of the last two years, have acquired a significant milestone in the topsy-turvy socio-political history of Sierra Leone, then the sort of shrill and pointless outrage by the government to every strand of opposition, is the resultant metaphor of apathy, political indifference and fatalism that have emerged from the slaves of the drama of our governance.

David-Tam-BaryohAlso, the repeated mystifying claims and utterances, simply add to the incendiary political atmosphere that does nothing to create a beacon of progress. Why must everyone who refuses to be part of the penchant for fooling the gullible, be classified as enemies of progress? (Photo: David Tam Baryoh).

Even if those allegedly claiming to be concerned Sierra Leoneans are not who they really are, why does every reactionary instinct rile the President and his lieutenants, who meanwhile, believe in forcing their ‘achievements’ down our poverty ridden throat.

There is even a whiff of arrogance in that belief which fails to appreciate that their view is not necessarily those of the people below. Are those so-called concerned citizens, even if they are members of the opposition, not Sierra Leoneans who have the right to challenge the government when they have divergent views?

I don’t know what other Sierra Leoneans who are keeping silent see. But as far as I can see, what rules the waves in our society right now, is the failure of leadership in the critical area that makes the lives of the generality of the people and indeed the country, better.

I see a set of leaders that mouthed slogans but did nothing besides enriching themselves and their cronies through a transformation agenda that is lop-sided and reeks of a sleight of the hand as well as a cleansing of the rot that is selective. I see leaders whose veneer of service is tainted by mass deception. I see to a large degree, the product of greed and the disparities in leverage between rich and poor.

Those realists who believe that the current status quo is a great blessing for Sierra Leone, should therefore answer a simple question: Have we really invested in the future of Sierra Leone? Have we truly laid an enduring foundation that will really transform our desert into an oasis?

With the soap opera of the constitutional crisis, the fairy tale of the disconcerting one hundred buses’ sweetener and other peculiar socio-political and economic contraption by the government, when you strip away the much-trumpeted transformation and agenda for change and prosperity, what we are left with, is the reality that all that has happened in the last eight years is mostly folklores.

Let those who remember what Sierra Leone used to be, honestly look at the achievements’ of our past and present rulers—in education, energy, infrastructure and youth employment.

Idealists change society. Our leaders who strut around and regale us with their monumental sacrifice at improving our lot; who want us to grovel before them for projects that are veritable avenues for making millions for themselves, should tell us if this was what they were served as dividends of governance, when they were growing up? Enough is enough.

As sure as the day follows the night, no one holds his breath forever. Everyone will have to exhale, and when it comes, it will be a heavy whoosh! Then we will blow away the cobwebs that are blocking the path to a better tomorrow.

Believe it or not, a broken clock is always right twice a day.

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