Sierra Leone – we must develop a culture of contempt for mediocrity

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 October 2015

kroo bay4I have passed the age of playing peacock for anybody or ideal. So I am going to simply say that every Sierra Leonean who reads this piece and does not get emotionally charged is of questionable fatherhood.

And, if you don’t or can’t bring yourself to accept there is a national problem which we can no longer just gloss over, then you surely are not ready for a solution that will uplift Sierra Leone. Because, that is the spot we are in.

Sometimes, when I just reflect on the collection of brains we have – both within and outside this country, our resources – most of which have not even yet been exploited, all juxtaposed against our current level of development and per capita income, the conclusion obviously is: an advanced case of arrested progress. Our problem is the dyad of poor governance and corruption.

The cunning and the dubiousness that permeate our current state is a macabre dance of pretence. The total lack of shame on both the part of the followership and leadership, breeds a “conscience-less” society where criminality and lack of feeling for one another become cardinal rules.

A society where everybody lives in fear, which is why those in town cannot enjoy their labour and those outside cannot go back; even where they are dying to do so. Of course, it is difficult to enjoy what you have worked for, if there is so much insecurity and poverty in the land.

We have compromised and continue to compromise ourselves into bottomless mediocrity. Individual interests and transactions are not only the driving force of the political game, time and context are now the key determinants of the vehicle of a stagnant political elite.

Patriotism remains in a perpetual but motionless process of construction, while national synergies are destroyed and the wisdom of a collective tribe is overturned.

President koroma 2013 1They talk about rebasing, so what? Have we rebased the level of poverty? Have we rebased prosperity? Have we rebased unemployment? Have we rebased homelessness? Have we rebased hunger?

You and I have been brainwashed by governments that do not appreciate their citizens, and a citizenry that does not appreciate its government. We live in a system that thrives by petition and complaints.

A group that works too hard for too little because of misplaced priorities – a people that expend too much energy for too little, and for insignificant government hand-outs.

Our people find it difficult to pay their rent, pay their debts, eat good food, and buy needed goods for children or siblings. Yet they are manipulated to defend those who steal our nation blind, because they are either from the same tribe or party.

And because they are given a stipend, they shout the most in defence of their kith and kin.

The truth is, we’ve got to stand up as followers to claim our rights. The ‘hooligans’ and marauding bunch in positions of power will not do anything to better our lot as a people. We’ve got to claim our property – our right. They “can’t give us our property”.

President koroma and victor foh at APC conference 30 april 2015

Amidst the murky political landscape where scurvy deals are struck and the deliberate sub-optimisation of the system, is the beginning of the end of the natural performance model. (Photo: President Koroma and key ministers of state, chanting the old APC communist party song).

We can keep on complaining and doing the same thing over and over again and expect change, but we must realise that we are not any special to the extent that natural laws don’t apply to us.

So at this point, we need to stop applying anti-virus and do a low-level total reformat of our hard disk as individuals and as a nation.

Our democracy is being rolled back by descendants of the old elites, which is why even in this day and age, all we see is activities like that of a cripple trying to jump the gutter. I think we need to find a way to reset the morality of this nation’s people, from head to toe. Without a moral base, all and any laws will be gamed.

We are at ground zero and until we make a committed and genuine effort to rise, we will remain so.

Right now, our disposition to the socio-economic and political development of the nation makes us all united in corruption. And the cleanest dirty shirts in the laundry have somehow found their way to the top of the pile of badly stained clothes that litter our political basket.

We need the empowerment of a value system. With the array of great minds that exists in this nation, we should be able to ignite lights that will shine, to further develop the dark areas of our political, social and economic presence.

We should not be in this abyss after all the foreign aid that came our way after the war, and the abundant resources at our disposal.

I know the truth is bitter.  But after eight years of this administration, in the verbosity of its language, lurk chunks of untruths – the same lies and unwholesome sentiments that our leaders in the past fed us with, until we ended up killing each other while they escaped to the safety of their loot and loved ones.

Suddenly, normalcy standards in other lands which used to be part and parcel of us, have become an unreachable utopia in our case. My hope and prayer is that the parochial orientation and anomalies that have kept us behind development, will soon vanish

While other nations like Ghana and Nigeria are busy sanitising their polity and judiciary, what are we doing about the rot in our own system? Cheering to high heavens and encouraging the further institutionalisation of mediocrity, rascality and impunity, as well as greed.

Maada Bio visits president koroma at State House - 12 october 2015

We choose to sit down and watch the drama continue. How can we champion a different dynamic for the nation, if we continue to endorse the rehash of the same highfalutin of our leaders?

We need to mobilise the grassroots. They have to feel the anger I’m feeling. People who want something so bad, never make excuses even if it is justified.

Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. Poverty is an excuse but not a good one. The followership also must stop indirect looting. They must stop expecting governance as means to riches. They must stop celebrating mediocrity. Their demand for their leaders to perform their duties must be sustained and strong.

Let’s remember the simple fact that nepotism, sectionalism and so on, are the tap root of corruption. Money is just a tiny bit of corruption. So, enough of that “our leaders are corrupt and we can’t do anything about it” nonsense.

If you don’t do anything, you are also corrupt – pure and simple. The artists, doctors, academics and religious leaders all have responsibility to chase the marauding thieves in our system out of town. It is only in unity of purpose that our strength lies.

There is absolutely no doubt that Sierra Leone pre-and post-independence and up until the civil war was a much more interesting country to live in and raise kids. I argue that the quality of life of the average Sierra Leonean then and even up till the late 80’s was far better than what it is today.

We are a ticking sociological and political time bomb. But our leadership is not smart enough to see it, given that they don’t think beyond the next zero in their bank balances.

Therefore, our beloved country is our collective failure because some of us have continued to stick to ideals; are too lax; or too scared to take and stick to positions against impunity and brazenness.

On my part, from being a patriot I became a cynic. The transformation was gradual. I wanted to believe in the land that I love, but every time I started to believe, another leader sinks my hope.

For years I lived in denial, self-exile was sweet. At least I’m away from it all.

But the fact is, I’m still that teenage patriot at heart; who is desperate to cheer for the realm of the free but has no reason to. The enabling environment of my youth has now become the suffocating, debilitating immorality cesspit of today.

When will I have a reason to believe? Who will give me a reason to believe? Please pardon me if am asking for too much.

As a result, I will continue to rail against this mediocrity and immorality at every turn. Our political class can rape our land but they can’t exile all of us. We are there as mirrors for them.

Few can participate in governance in the country today without being consumed by the sea of corruption. So I will join in the demand for a more equitable nation.

president koroma off to washington - April 2015Several times in the life of the present administration which came with the agenda for change, the breeze has blown and exposed the rump of the fowl.

For one, the government’s political antennae has continued to fail to indicate to the personnel within it, that the enthusiasm for foreign Greek gifts – especially Chinese-backed freebies, as important as they may be for the prestige of the government and the country.

This amounts to nothing but the virtual mortgage of our nation to a country whose antecedent is getting a stranglehold on the resources of nations that can be used as buffers for its own declining economic fortunes –  a country, which can never play straight even if it tried; a nation with corruption as the main strand of its DNA.

It is for this reason that our rulers (not leaders) make sure that national institutions are scuttled; which makes it possible for some people to do whatever they wish. It is why they continue to refuse to even take a second look at their policies and actions, especially those involving the resources of the country.

How and why will the people not inundate the elected, or is it, the selected? When allocated resources are misappropriated and mismanaged; when the people live from hand to mouth at subsistence level in spite of owning massive wealth; when there is virtually no health, education, medical facilities.

So, they revert to the best of our extended family culture and bastardise it, by expecting the gobblers to cough up what they see as their share of the loot – until it’s their own turn.

It is only a sadist that will not agree that overall, we are still groping in the dark. We seem to have continued to use foreign lenses especially as dictated by the likes of IMF and Western economies and individual unscrupulous financial backers, whose so-called superior intelligence did not prevent them driving their own economy into the ditch; to what are basically African/Sierra Leonean problems.

They have worked for us in some instances, but where they have not worked, may be the lenses are not good for our fonts, we can change them. Sorry we need to change them. Nothing should be cast in stone. It’s a dynamic world and so change is the only thing that is constant.

A government should not be ashamed to dump its symbols of corruption, to cater for the welfare of the majority of its people. Why must it take Ebola for us to have decent health facilities, thanks again to foreigners?

Why must it be a return to the days of Noah that will make those who lead, to realise that pigs and humans are sleeping on the same bed in some of our slums? Why should our kids still be crammed into what is akin to a goat-shed to study, when ministers are building two or three houses at a go?

While it might be argued that it is definitely not the fault of this government alone, it must be admitted that one of the reasons for it being on the firing line is the fact that nothing has truly changed.

We are still in the 21st century version of Animal Farm. We are just perpetuating it – led by valueless people, who just think about themselves alone like animals in the jungle.  No care for the collective, simply because they have no morals to be able to appreciate values and adhere to them.

The fact is that there is no responsible public opinion to check corruption in our society. Corruption has gone beyond the few, to nearly the entire citizenry. It has hit critical mass and reversing that is not easy.

Corruption could be economic, social, moral, religious or political (not exhaustive), and it’s obviously evident in our day to day life; engineered and fuelled by the lack of morals and discipline from above.

I do not subscribe to the sentiment that it is now our responsibility to be making suggestions for the way forward; if those in power have been deaf and dumb to honest opinions and criticisms which they found unpalatable when they thought they were riding the high crest of popularity. I wrote on this before.

The Singaporean example (or magic), if you recall, had a lot to do with the exemplary and visionary leadership of one man, amongst others. Georgia transformed in 10 years. Rwanda, after its genocide is another classic example; not to talk of Burundi.

The good news from happenings in the last eight years is that the death throes of the old and present order we live in, are the birth pains of a new and glorious Sierra Leone.

In that, we need to give a big thanks to the government for its actions and inactions, because it has roused the spirit of awareness and thirst for a new order, in those who have all the while stood akimbo.

The educated elite is a tiny minority, as 99.9% of the people don’t know the time of day. It’s therefore incumbent on this tiny group to look out for and help the majority to help themselves, so that the creative work of shepherding the masses can be ‘glorified’.

Bio meets president Koroma at state House - 12 October 2015The effects of mismanagement by those steeped in reactionary and revanchist politics, remain palpable up till today, and will continue for many generations to come.

They never consider the future of Sierra Leone, for they are fixated at the oral stage of their own personal development.

The hormone raging, careless and carefree brigade, weaned from their mothers’ breasts of greed, is selfish and inconsiderate and throw temper tantrums at any attempt to force them to be truthful and put the people and our nation at the centre of discussions of national issues.

They rape and abuse this country, and take advantage of the poorly educated or illiterate majority. They are rapists with no conscience.

Sadly, our human resources will no longer mean anything, if we think it’s not possible to balance and unite ethnic and political interests’ against our national pride as Sierra Leoneans in the struggle for a new nation.

 

4 Comments

  1. Indeed when I hear words coming out from some people who contributed to the suffering of our people, by planning the destruction of mama salone, I asked my self if I am dreaming or if the world is coming to an end.

    These people never consider the future of Sierra Leone when they were planning those evil acts. They staged themselves for their own personal development, but do they think the spirits of Sierra Leone will accept them?

    I want them to know that the Sierra Leone they were trying to demolish is the same Sierra Leone they now expect to receive them in good faith. But time will tell.

    Let us hope to see 2018. Each and everyone will have to give full account of their past deeds and for the future of Salone. May God help us.

  2. A masterpiece thought, reflecting the reality of the pitfalls in the governance of our mother land, which every right minded Sierra Leonean must consider seriously and to join with others to turn things around for a better Sierra Leone.

  3. You have written well Mr Dele Awoonor -Gordon. I always look at Singapore as a better example to follow even though they are currently a developed state, as compared to us – a low income developing country.

    I have read the Wits and Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew, the lat visionary Singaporean leader. He said that most countries have made little or no progress after gaining independence in the 1960’s because the leaders lack self discipline, and meritocracy is at its lowest in these countries.

    He also said that in a developing country you need leadership qualities to build a system that can work and can be sustained for generations to come, unlike a developed country where they can embrace mediocrity but the system can move along because a good system has already been built.

    He also said that for government to be popular you don’t need to do the things that makes you popular to the ordinary people; but take unpopular decisions that gives good results at the end of the day.

  4. When I read about Sierra Leonean rulers, I often think back to my college days. When I was 20 years old, I pledged a sorority. Our big sisters were only 21 or 22 at the very most. They would comb through many applications, but they only selected the very best.

    Even though it was our university’s policy that students needed a 2. 7 grade point average, the sorority wouldn’t consider you with less than a 3.0. You couldn’t have a poor reputation either. If you were known for drinking and partying too much you would never be accepted. Young ladies who had lots of male friends need not apply.

    We went through weeks of the pledge process. We did everything together as a group, as pledgees. We wore identical clothes and walked in one line together and chanted our songs the whole time. This firmly cemented our belief in being the best. Not just in word, but in deed as well.

    It amazes when I read all this talk about not electing someone because he’s not from the right tribe or region of the country. Those should not be qualifiers or disqualifiers for leadership. What our 21 year old big sisters knew is that you have to look at the actions and behaviors of an individual. You must have standards.

    Where would-be leaders are from, or who their people are is irrelevant. You can be from the ‘right tribe’ and the ‘right region’, but will that make you a good leader?

    I hope people will stop giving in to tribal sentiment and learn to evaluate character, to scrutinize a person’s background, and to think outside the limits that have been placed on them.

    Do not blindly follow people who are doing you no good.

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