Sierra Leone must now go back to the drawing board

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 November 2015

salone poverty1So Ebola has taken a bow. Thank God for that. I must however also thank the dreaded virus for bringing home to us, the sorry state of our nation and the true picture of our underdevelopment.

Ebola has exposed our need for improvement, vision, planning and continuity. The question is: How can this victory translate to something higher?

Already, our leaders, rather than express the inherent flaws in their focus hitherto, are beginning to brainwash us with mere slogans and empty promises. They want us to believe that we can form a 21st century nation by wishful thinking and political rascality.

They fail to appreciate that it is only in geometry that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.

As usual, they are not emphasising to themselves and to we as followers, that until we reinstitute those mechanisms for social justice and equity from top to bottom, we will continue spitting in the wind. Besides, if we all think the same way, then nobody thinks.

Which is why, every time Sierra Leone flashes through my mind, I weep. My heart bleeds for our motherland and I feel frustrated. My soul aches. I cry for the generations to come.

President koroma and chinese leaderFor example, often times in the life of this administration, we have heard or watched officials and segments of the media scream like an electric guitar in a crowd of drums, in gleeful celebration of President Koroma’s visits to some far-flung countries for a summit, or to sign bilateral agreements that will only end up costing us our resources and line the pockets of unscrupulous individuals. I shudder and shake my head in disbelief and pain.

For students of history and those old enough to remember, some of these countries were nations that we were far better than, or at worst, on the same level of development with, when we attained independence.

Yet, with breath-taking tripe, we are meant to embrace what should be an instrument of torture and bring out the drums when a nation like India invites our leaders to come for talk; or even when most of the Arab countries such as Dubai, that were nothing but deserts when we were flush with wealth, shower some left-overs of their fortune on us.

Worse still, our leaders steal our inheritance and go and lavish them in some of these emerging power houses. How sad.

As the socio-political and economic life of our beloved nation continues to fall fast into the abyss of corruption, impunity and hopelessness, I struggle to believe that we aren’t really going anywhere and it is all motion without locomotion.

You bet, the entire fabric of our society is affected. Custodians of morals have become morally bankrupt. Our society is in a state of moral weightlessness. The moral compass is going around in chaos as Sierra Leone freefalls to decadence.

Churches, mosques, the executive, judiciary, legislature as well as other social, cultural, political and economic institutions have become instruments of greed and mere houses of business transactions, where false promises of prosperity are the commodities – and graft, a badge of honour. It seems our gods are sleeping.

A boy walks through the river in Kroo Bay slum looking for scrap metal to sell. The river is effectively a giant sewage and everyday new garbage arrives in the water from the hills around. Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Parents are no longer parenting and their utmost wish is for their kids to make it anyhow and anyway by becoming bread winners at any costs. From the primary school through to the university level, civic responsibilities have become an alien subject and education overall, just a phase of life.

Our leaders have stopped leading morally, but encourage us to become criminals like them and even on their own terms.

This is the underlying reason why our people suffer so much poverty in the midst of great prosperity.

All because a clique of men will use the machinery of violence, power and other nefarious means to perpetuate themselves in power; or to unleash their brand of strangulating terror on the people, or on their parties and circles, as well as to make more and more money, which unfortunately has become the only language that our society understands.

When I exchange views with the young and the old, at home and abroad, I realise that the nation is sick, and the earlier we face that fact the better for us.

When I see the desperation of some of those aspiring to be leaders, my heart misses a beat. I am pained and I weep for my dear Sierra Leone. Where do we go from here? How long can we stand aside and look? Even, why?

What a shame that the country has become one of pain for the majority and a prized asset for some desperadoes. It hurts me to see bright minds continue to do crazy things because the country has betrayed their future. Some perish, in a bid to get away from it all.

The system has failed us, which is all I can say. It dawns on me that the time is ripe for a massive re-orientation of values and the comprehensive rehabilitation of the psyche of the people, old and young, Christian and Muslim, Pastor and Imam, women and even children.

That is the challenge we need to take up collectively or through patriotic social and pseudo-political groups.

As a matter of fact, it is my considered opinion that were it possible, breeding a new set of Sierra Leoneans whose DNA is not tainted by the several vices that are strangulating our society, would be much easier than our current merry-go-round at fuelling the depravities in our system in which our leaders pretend to set up the likes of the Anti-Corruption Commission or the moral tone for change.

Both would work to save the situation, but the former will have a more lasting effect on our polity. All of this shows deep seated structural and governance crisis as well as dysfunctional political education system.

Although the god of morality appears to have left Sierra Leone on the last bus, the god of hope it seems, still lives in the country. However, the followership, meaning you and me, must be ready to take the bitter pills that will cure our maladies. We need a new covenant with our maker.

Our priorities should be on a scale of preference. Today around the world, countries trudge ahead and look forward. But they take time to look back and see where they are coming from. They do not live in the present and sleep in the past, they do not suffer in the present and dream in the past as our leaders want us to be doing.

They do not long for a future whose sketch is a diagram in the realm of the imagination. You cannot hope to march in one direction and then face the very opposite direction. Backwardness is the result. The people need to be led in the right direction.

If we all think the same way and accept that this is a war that is unwinnable and that we are all doomed, then it means nobody is thinking. It means we have conceded to our Goliath and we sure need a David for deliverance.

Which is why, I feel frustrated and powerless in a system that does not truly care about anything. A system, that refuses to support creativity or innovation. I feel and muse on the national sense of hopelessness and helplessness on our collective problem and cultural loss as a nation.

Cotton Tree - FreetownMy heart aches and I have to take in deep breath to ease my discomfort and exhale curses on those who destroyed and continue to destroy collective history and commonwealth.

I have heard government officials, party supporters and some citizens say our nation is doing very well and that this government has transformed our society into a new ‘world’.

But when you ask them for evidence, they, like President Koroma and his orchestra members, talk of our much-improved cities, electricity, health facilities and better roads and schools, as well as the influx of the Chinese and other wheeler-dealers in the heartland of our inheritance.

Fair enough. Within the realm of their conception of development, micro-achievement is worth far more celebration than a long term commitment and steady progress ‘ to macro development, given the depth of our human and natural resources, even though these evidences also expose the depth of our backwardness.

Sometimes, I think our society has bred psychopaths by celebrating mediocrity and enthroning psychotic leadership. The consequences of this long term decadence in our society, is what is making it extremely difficult to rouse ourselves into the limitless world of development around us.

These devilish tendencies depicted by our lack of empathy and reckless disregard for other people’s emotional and physical wellbeing is replicated by our leaders’ lack of conscience in their daily dealings, which then inflicts serious damage on both the nation and its people, without those leaders caring about the consequences.

Theirs is of a hand to mouth thinking – a kind of subsistence living, with no sense of history to conceptualise the possibility of posterity.

The brazen declaration of joy and temporal fulfilment in fraudulent activities by the negatively sharp youths of today, have found their way into virtually every segment of our society, and currently influences a lot of our compatriots – both old and young, to seek solace in the world of crime.

Since the youths of yesterday are the leaders of today and those of today the leaders of tomorrow, the danger lies in the fact that these vices, which have been transferred into governance, will remain there in the years to come, unless urgent actions, including a massive reorientation of our society is carried out to curb this unwholesome belief and trend.

president koroma off to washington - April 2015The anti-social criminality pervading our daily lives depicts the permeating thought-pattern of the average Sierra Leonean today. They show a mentality which says “make it anyhow” and a culture that celebrates anyone with the most amount of money, irrespective of how such obscene wealth is acquired.

This is why our nation has continually been rated as one of the most corrupt countries on the face of the planet. The present desperate struggle for wealth at any cost which is the hallmark of today’s Sierra Leone was a thing of shame and reproach in days of yore.

Today, the theme of our national life has changed in line with the moral slip that characterises this generation. But really, who is to blame for this mess? Shall we blame the youths of today, or shall we lay the blame at the feet of the passing generation?

The fault clearly lies at the feet of the passing generation. A generation of socio-political, economic and religious leaders who crumbled a brilliant legacy laid down by the founding fathers of our nation.

Whether it is the political class or the military that incursed into our existence briefly, corruption became the lingua franca of our nation.

It has since weaved itself into the very moral fabric of our lives, so much so that a whole generation of Sierra Leoneans cannot really identify corruption anymore. And I am not talking of treasury looting alone.

VICTOR FOHFrom the open endorsement by Siaka Stevens, corruption and its entailing impunity have not only taken an upward swing, they have both become the norm of our society that subsequent leaders to this day have glorified and embellished. It has become a mantra and the oath of their office.

The society reeks of this thought pattern; the government executes it with ingenuity and our religious leaders who should be the last bastion of morality, celebrate it shamelessly.

This is the country that the present generation grew in. This is the nation they grew up to know. This is the culture that shaped their thought pattern. And as they grew up, the street wise among them embraced newly evolving crimes, and a generation continues to sink in the mire of moral decadence and national disaster.

Dear readers, I don’t wish to cavil, but the real truth is that Sierra Leone, which is our home, does not, and has never ever disappointed us. Rather it is US that have let the country down, time and time again.

Our inheritance is sure and constant. But we seem to do everything to show that we are not entirely worthy of it. Our Sierra Leone is blessed and will remain forever blessed.

To see the nature of our abundance and the glorious future that we have collectively helped to ruin, each of us need constantly to commit to the change we seek in others and which we are desirous of.

We need to strive and even lust for the realisation of that vision at all costs. We need to fight for the restoration of the type of bureaucracy that was broken by the political class about four decades ago, because of their selfishness.

It was then that our administrative systems went to pots. It was the beginning of cluelessness and the end to orderly thinking and any enduring sense of patriotism, decency, organisation and the wherewithal to make the nation great.

Enough buck passing. We need to go back to basics. How? The same way we entice family and friends to our current recklessness. The same way our churches evangelise and our mosques lure new converts. The same way our political parties lure the unsuspecting masses towards their idealistic fantasies.

The difference is: the message. We have to spread the message of the end of exploitation of one another, and let those down trodden members of our society realise the true power that they have.

4 Comments

  1. Mr. Gordon, this is an interesting piece. However, I am tempted to ask as to whom are you communicating? I take it that the blame for the decadents in our country Sierra Leone principally lies with the passing generation and Siaka P. Stevens in particular. This is rightly true! However, what about the current generation, what is or are their role(s) in abetting the continuous crimes that are still being perpetrated against our nation? Therefore, if this piece is directed at the current generation, I am afraid to say that you might be communicating with dead woods!

    Since 2007, when Ms Thorpe who rightly belonged to the passing generation decided to abrogate to herself powers that were not vested in her, to distort the national constitution in her bid to settle old scores and yet, that generation which showed a glimpse of self-consciousness during the latter part of the late President Kabba’s era decided to be maroon and be cowed by that day break insults, the inaction’s of this current generation in the face of lawless and corrupt leadership have been a downward spin.

    Therefore, it is not a surprise that the same current generation can come out to dance and sing praise for a man who in the midst of deaths and despairs, sat at State House to receive checks and gifts, monies and items he could not give full stewardship of even as the dread of the disease escalated into unimaginable proportions. Honestly, there is something is wrong somewhere with this current generation.

    Again to see the same current generation come out in droves to dance and support a lawless leader who without due care and consideration, lawlessly decides to use State Institutions principally, the judiciary and the police to usurp the principal entrenched rights of the people to elect their leaders, in this case, the president and his/her vice president and members of parliament, then you will fathom where the country is heading.

    Who could have thought that the present generation would allow the president to insult the intelligence of those who elected to that office, by appointing Victor Foh of all people as vice president of our nation? When did we start having non elected vice presidents and legislatures in our country? By all account, Victor Foh belongs to the passing generation that are responsible for bleeding Sierra Leone to what it is today?

    Even his supporters ask us to forget about what he did during the Stevens’ era, our attentions would be drawn to his activities and utterances during the AFRC Junta Era. He did not only corroborate with the murderous AFRC junta (joining them as Minister of Finance) to cause more harm and injury to this nation but he tried to drown democracy, no wonder democratic principles have been circumvented again in 2015 to elevate this same Victor Foh as the second gentleman in our country. What a pitiful country we are to front Victor Foh to the world as our leader.

    I am not a pessimist but when I see the lines on which we are trending, it will not take long for us to hear another mishap adding on what we have gone through Cholera and Ebola between 2010 and 2015).

  2. Mr Gordon, politicians have contributed to the ruination of Salone because you the people of Salone have let them; you have neglected your responsibilities of monitor and control of parliamentary activities, as individuals and as constituencies.

    let me just add here that the present decadent state of Salone is a direct result of default in the performance of the executive, and this in turn, is because Parliament is useless in performing its oversight function. As such the defaults and errors continue to multiply. The parliament, in turn, is useless because the constituencies (political and professional) are so disorganised that they cannot hold their respective MPs to ransom; a MASSIVE FAILURE in their responsibility to the nation.

    What is urgently needed is for the political constituencies to strive for the constitutional rights to be able to hire and fire their respective MPs as and when performance is in default. This is the power that political parties enjoy at the moment, that is why they do control the parliament. In turn that is why nothing gets done in the interest of the people but that of the parties.

    The polital parties have hijacked the rightful power of the people; that is a MAJOR ERROR in Salone’s power structure and MUST BE CORRECT so that the goverment would truely become servant of the people, otherwise we will continue to remain in the gutters.

    And what is more, each constituency must organise themselves into formidable democratic entities that are capable of carry out their democratic responsibilities of monitoring and controlling the activities of parliment; a responsibility that has been neglected for the past five decades. By the way, the REFLECT program of ActionAid and the Barefoot college democracy program are just the right programs to organise the constituencies.

  3. Gordon, I wish I have the talent, the patient and the ability to write such interesting articles like you do. I want to thank you for every article of yours that I have been fortunate and lucky to read. Because of its educative and intellectual importance I have stored a large collections of previous and current publications. I promise that as long as you continue to write I will never short of a job to do – will continue to do my collections as usual to stock my library. I love the stuff . Thank you.

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