Sierra Leone in desperate need of imaginative and dedicated leadership – not driven by ego and greed

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 October 2015

apathyIt is not for God to help our country, but for us as Sierra Leoneans to resolve to have a new society.

One of the worst problems facing the nation in the socio-political and economic re-engineering project to produce a new society, is disbelief and resignation.

We are only today’s people. And therein lies one of our predicaments. We have been so battered and bruised by a slick and ruthless political class for so long, that we no longer believe in ourselves; neither do we believe in the future of our country.

Our psyche has been traumatised and turned from just being docile, passive and gullible, to that of sheer wickedness, psychotic fringes and inhumane behavioural tendencies.

Since we became independent, our shameless, rabidly insane, unethical, unprincipled and irresponsible, clueless political class, lacking insight, foresight and VISION, and with infantile greed, have continued to fool us that our nation is a paradise they have created.

But then they go on to consistently keep the people deliberately impoverished, ruthlessly subjugated and morally corrupted.

Their empty promises and the dashed hopes of our children who were always told they were leaders of tomorrow but who were never given a chance, have created a totally collapsed system, a failed nation as well as a dispirited populace.

Today, several of us deny our country and prefer to take on the false toga of adopted countries. Others, stuck in the rut, openly curse the place of their birth or rain invectives at those in governance.

Poverty and grovelling have put the poor and the unprincipled in the unsavoury position of compromise and vulnerability. Most painful to me is the total value deficit we have been compelled to endure for decades.

Poverty in saloneAnd my biggest pain: Can our children, let alone grandchildren, ever find a moment to say this is a land that socially re-enforces the kind of values that makes for progress?

A frustrated youth once said that this is a country that sacrifices its future and its young ones. How true. When a country stops investing in its youths for almost three decades, what kind of leaders of tomorrow do you think it will end up with?

You guessed it right – the kind who have been leading us. Definitely you can’t pay for cookery and get a plate of steak, salad and chips, along with other afters.

Similarly, we need to realise that the youths can only learn from their elders. With the devious ways of our political class, and the continuous reign of sycophancy and impunity from days of yore, it is no surprise that those who grab power and who by the way, are our children and brothers, have perfected what they were taught and seem to know nothing better.

Outside the current display by the charlatans strutting around as politicians today, just see the chaos in the polity right now. How about the malfeasance going on now?

Look across the political landscape, and what you see are people who have no principled approach to issues – turncoats, carpetbaggers.

parliamentary history - siaka stevensListen to some of the front runners for the 2018 elections and you’ll see traces of the same politics of the past in their action and utterance – the antecedents of both groups, an indication of the soulless game that is called politics in our part of the world. (Photo: Former APC dictator Siaka Stevens).

Our readiness to compromise is also mind boggling, and that’s what is keeping us in this Mediocrity Highway. With that kind of pervasive thinking, the surprise is that we keep on wondering why we are in such a mess.

But any human endeavour is dynamic and subject to change. I believe it is time for us to begin anew.

Let us begin to lead our lives as normal human beings; and not in self-delusion and self-deceit. This is the real transformation that is needed. This is the revolution we yearn for at this point in time in our national life.

Learning is easier than UNLEARNING. Unlearning is the key route to change. We have to unlearn tribalism, support for corruption by kith and kin as well as other socio-political misdeeds that we have glorified.

So many things we enjoyed in Sierra Leone have been killed. It is sad. Rather than living-quality improving, it keeps declining and political leprosy continues to spread.

Fair enough, every political culture and society, was at one time, barbaric, crude and disorderly. They became sanitised only because they were in the open. Ours have remained infantilised because we have and continue to keep it in the closet and refused to talk about it.

And you know something, nothing changes in the pits of mediocrity and depravity. Never.

Which is why, when you look at our political carousel, what you find, especially now that politicking seems to have assumed a frenetic speed, is that so far, some of the same people who have stayed on the horses for years and refused to get off are jostling for the ringside again, using the ministry of good deeds.

Others are savvier as they use the fanfare of foreign image to spread the gospel of their credentials, while the third group bide their time and strategise on what to use as their selling point.

The thrust of the group of presidential wannabes is largely to pretend to have solutions and to use our political and cultural push, which are full of unfounded fears – to maintain control of those entranced by their ‘credentials’.

Bio meets president Koroma at state House - 12 October 2015Left to me, given that Sierra Leone as a nation has not worked in the last three decades-plus, nobody connected with its governance, previously; and nobody who’s been within it during that period, should aspire to govern, since it is most likely that such persons may have been ‘devalued’ by the system that did not work.

Therefore we need a completely new thinking, new values and a completely new approach to governance that will compete with best global practices. A complete revolution in our orientation, driven by personalities not previously connected with our sad state of affairs.

Sierra Leone is ripe; indeed, over-ripe for a non-violent revolution which will shake us all up like a volcanic eruption, from our present national stupor.

The question is: who will sweep out the quacks and charlatans in our midst? Who will guarantee us enduring values? Who will cleanse the cobwebs from our national home?

The contrary view also is that good may not give birth to good without vision; as seen currently in Malaysia after the visionary work done by Mahathir Mohammed.

We have to accept one thing though, we can form and pose for ourselves, but we cannot form reality. It’s an everyday socio-economic World Cup out there between nations; and until we reinstitute processes for discovering, nurturing and fielding our bests, we shall continue to slide down the ladder of national performance and wallow in collective mediocrity.

Truth is, we have no system. There is no way forward and we have been going round in circles.  We have to create a system first. I would honestly like to hypothesise on how we can create a transparent and universally acceptable process regarding how we can produce leaders that will take us to the “promised land”.

Corruption cannot be defeated without some structured thinking and execution. Otherwise an opportunity such as that thrown up by the current social intuition for a new life, will probably be compromised again; with great negative impact for true agents of change.

You and I can individually and collectively be the agents of change that we desire.

We have been a failing state for far too long. Where everything fails to work, chaos reigns. Impunity has been made to thrive without scrutiny.

We have bandits for public office and pay lip service to them while they rob us dry.  We take their brand of Robin Hood as act of selflessness, while they rob the nation and give us crumbs. They beat their chests in self-adulation and we clap.

I agree there were, and still are, unspeakable acts and practices, but unless we have an honest discussion about these, it will continue to pervert our culture and society.

Unless we abandon our penchant for ethnic, political and religious sentiments, we will continue to be saddled with leaders who flatter to deceive. We are already seeing the signs from current events leading to 2018.

TyrannyThe mafia of privilege are the true enemies of the open society, because of their disdain for the Rule of Law as well as true democratic tenets, basic human rights and freedom, tolerance, and uncompromising desire for peaceful coexistence.

This is principally why we have essentially a chaotic society, louts and brigands as policemen, cowboys masquerading as politicians, the unprincipled manoeuvring as businesses that are considered Kosha.

It’s no news that government has abdicated its responsibilities. Since nature abhors void, what we see is that the failure of our governance has opened the door for various segments of society and charlatans from far and wide, including drug barons, robbers, bankers, big businesses to take over and regulate our lives

This frightening twist in our value system points to a very bleak future. Foreign businesses and governments, as well as our leaders, would prefer to use their Greek gifts to us and our little resources which they have not looted, to support less than relevant aspects of our lives.

In their myopic disposition for example, they prefer to underfund education and spend on other glorified projects.

The fact that local and foreign investors don’t need the people to survive, since they rely simply on over-inflated contracts, import and export waivers, as well as special tax favours, has turned them and our leaders into lazy and corrupt breed of Homo sapiens.

It leads to a failure to appreciate that, for growth, our society needs an enlightened and empowered populace for their continued existence, which is why we are still lacking any appreciative development till date.

Instead of reinforcing our society through investing in education to populate our workforce and enlarge the middle class, they grease palms and use tokens to confuse the underprivileged.

What you then have is an army of uneducated, uninformed and unemployed masses who resort to violent activities to eke out a living; use the gains of crime to buy drugs and seek their kind of entertainment before going on to decimate what used to be a very decent society, with the help of their lords and masters.

Likewise, those who see themselves as people of status, throw their weight around in the blind confidence that the law is an ass, and so can be manipulated in their favour.

Whether it is in the corridors of power or in their political party and business conclaves, they turn themselves into the only ‘cotton tree’ in the forests of the region, and go berserk when not recognised as such; or if they fail to have their ways.

Our future is being hampered by government’s distorted priorities and irrelevant vanity projects, which currently neglects the urgent needs of the down-trodden.

As a nation, we need to stop our obsession with luxury, iconic trophy projects with foreign money for the few, and instead focus on creating a better life for the majority.

It is about time we had some imaginative and dedicated leadership not driven by ego, greed and narcissism, but one that reaches out to the people as well as businesses that can help transform our nation into a country for all; rather than the current exclusive club of soulless hawks whose priorities are profit and resources only.

road construction in Grafton freetownIt is not just the question of the number of kilometres of roads you build that elevates a nation. It is not a matter of the megawatts of power you generate, nor the number of buildings you erect for the populace. Not even the airports or hospitals you build or the volume of agricultural products and mineral resources produced and exported.

These are important. However, any leader surrounded by brilliant experts, excellent technocrats and loyal advisers can achieve the basic and essential needs.

Leadership calls for much greater attributes than the performance of those feats. A leader must have a strong, solid, moral and disciplined background, the inspirational ability to galvanise his people to higher, lofty and common purpose.

These are not ordinary attributes available to every man. They are uncommon gifts and talents dispensed and bestowed only to a few. Leadership is others-centred behaviour.

It has long been known that sycophancy is an established norm in our neck of the woods. It’s usually been an open secret also, that a lot of our anointed “eminent personalities” can’t bear the muster of close scrutiny, sadly because, they are frankly not fragrant.

So we come to the issue of who will bell the cat? Who will draw the lofty, sartorial emperor’s attention to his birthday suit? The way to our heaven is, clearly paved with perdition.

In a discussion with a friend who tried to promote the candidature and credentials of one of those who have so far emerged front-runners in the yet-to-be-launched race, I listened to all the arguments and I could often hear comments driven by ignorance and outright misinformation.

It became obvious that the masses who hold the power to demand change are really not willing to do so, as they are quite content to eat the scraps thrown at them at election times and cause mayhem.

To them, risking life and limbs for the few greedy, misguided and self-serving political leaders ensures survival, albeit, temporarily. Better the devil you know.

It not only dawned on me, that our problems are even deeper than what some of us perceive, but I became increasingly exasperated by the sheer gullibility or stupidity of the down-trodden who are willing to be manipulated by a minority political and morally bankrupt class of fat cats, who don’t care who lives or dies – but can feign compassion to get what they want.

We’ve had know-it-all leaders. Where have they gotten us? Nowhere. So we need to recognise and embrace the fact that what we need now, is a care-for-all leader. A leader helps people achieve their dreams and aspirations, while a ruler forces his dreams on others.

Sierra Leone needs leaders not rulers.

Eight years is more than enough for a serious and determined government to set a new tone and tempo. The poverty of ideas is what has brought Sierra Leone to this present sorry state.

If just a handful of our political leaders could have compassion, honesty and uncomplicated lifestyle, our country would really change in a very short time.

All said, let no one forget that there is no better country than our good old Sierra Leone in the whole world.

I feel happiest when I am in Sierra Leone, despite the agonising frustrations; despite the infuriating hardship; and even when I am being driven daily to the brink of desperation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

  1. You are a gifted wordsmith and one of the few journalists who writes the truth. While many of your colleagues have sold their souls for a morsel of bread by turning a blind eye to injustice, you Raymond have been steadfast in your stance by what is right.

    Would love to meet you in person when I come to Freetown

  2. Raymond, I salute you for your steadfastness. You are a drum major for truth, uprightness and justice.

    It is a real shame that of 6 million Sierra Leoneans, less than a handful would publicly identify with this article and the issues raised.

  3. Your ingenuity is remarkable, and who else but you could have filed late Olu’s big shoe, Raymond. Man, your pen is golden, and your writings just hit the G-spot of everything I would want written about salone, and we as a people who continue to celebrate our horrible governance with pageantry.

    We’ve been conditioned to extol thieving, thuggery and selfishness as tried and trusted virtues of our society. We embellish nothing but corruption, backwardness, distortion, falsity and helplessness. We’ve grown to over rely on hope, and, sedated by our usual political nonsense, our overblown self-importance, we’ve become a nation of perpetual liars and excellent managers of retrogression.

    Ray, you may need to compile your articles into a book to be read by every progressive Leonean. Yours have been my early morning warm-ups and evening good nights since I bumped into it a year ago.

    I mean you write with such candour, dexterity, temerity, ensconced in an arcade of intellectual arrogance that eloquently manifests your entitlement as not only a man of his own, but that of an unadulterated torchbearer that continue to lighten up the unending dark alleys of our society.

    Man, you’re in a special class, and you alone can fit that laurel. I’ve no doubt that late R. Awoonor is smiling, if not giggling in his eternal home at the degree to which you continue to fly the flag of the lone Elephant in the room, the unequaled, the undisputed golden pen, and the man who leads whilst others follow.

    You’ve assured me that there’re still some men of spine and integrity in our motherland.

    Dakei Ray, you nar me man. Keep this noble flag flying.

  4. This issue affecting our country has nothing to do with names of political parties. Most people allow themselves to be moved by social influences without cross checking the advantages and disadvantages of the situation they are facing. As psychologist (Cooley 1902) describe SELF CONCEPT as looking glass self, what that means is, we see ourselves as if we were reflected in the eyes of other people; and we are profoundly affected by what we think, without proper information and knowledge of the issues that are confronting us.

    Most people are not playing a nationalistic role, instead they opt to accept the conformity to fulfill their self ego, GET YOU MAN EN BETTEH U SEF.

    Ask Sierra Leoneans who are living overseas about their experiences when carry out projects in the country. Families and friends mismanage their funds and at the end of the day the project is not completed. These are some of the people who are criticising government and non-government officials for corruption in the country.

    To my level of understanding we must blame ourselves for our problems, and accept full responsibility for our mistakes. Instead, we stand to cast blame on politicians and other officers in important offices.

    In my conclusion, political parties have nothing to do with our problems. We the people of Sierra Leone are the problem. If we are not determined to stop all our bad habits, things will never change.

  5. Except for for the transitive painful frustration of the author which kept my stomach churning, this piece is an award winning MASTERPIECE for Sierra Leone.

    I have copied it for future GENERATIONS. The basic lesson I have learnt is simple: You cannot put new wine in old containers; or expect heirs of parents to perform miracles.

    APC and SLPP must GO and Go they must, if Sierra Leone is to become a country worthy of being called HOME AGAIN.

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