We need serious policies for serious times

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

5 November 2012

I am aware that in our part of the world, when the season of politics is in full flow, truth not only becomes a scapegoat, it is often made to beat a hasty retreat. However, election is about the future – not the past, or the fracturing of the nation.

So sincerely speaking, by refusing to critically assess and choose those who lead us and dictate the pulse of our democracy, we, as a people and helped by our so-called politicians and media and social activists, are losing something more important than the political battle.

We are losing the argument for a fairer, saner and better society and future.

Obviously by the time politicians and fifth columnists finish bamboozling you with their torrid submissions, you’ll need a transfusion to get your blood straightened and a transplant to locate and put your brain back in position.

But we need serious policies for serious times and programmes implemented for the common good.

Unfortunately in our make-believe world, we have sadly buried our solid, lifelong democratic and social values under headlines created and massaged by those at the helm of affairs.

We’ve become victims of policies that concentrated on short-term gain and produced long-term pain. We have succeeded in building a divided nation with wealth amassed at the upper echelon and relative poverty on the lower rung for the masses.

We have allowed official secrecy to take power from the people and violate democracy. We have developed a fondness for melodrama and chosen to dance with the devil of idiocy, shrugging our shoulders in response; even in the midst of broken promises.

Today, in the world of the ordinary plebs, the purpose and the objective of aspiration are ignored by our leaders and political reactionaries who are more slippery than a shoal of eels and who give us ‘methadone substitutes’ for the real thing and then allow our society to lurch about like a clumsy monster; in what is clearly turning out to be a sham democracy.

The fillings have been taken out of the fangs of our democratic vibrancy by those with no emotional or ethical thoughts but selfish expediencies.

And those who with contemptuous disdain for any swivel-eyed opposition to acts of irresponsibility, are oblivious to other requisite attachments; as the sly foxes among them masquerade as teddy bears, doing back flips of hypocrisy.

With an ability to double-speak and confuse that borders on the hypnotic, threats are being bandied about that changing the current crop of leaders will lead to a downturn in national fortunes.

Sorry; but this is nothing but vain posturing for a gullible and politically naïve domestic audience; which not only takes on added implications but takes levity to a new height.

It is as if the pillars of our national existence will crumble were we to do the ‘unthinkable’ and repeat the feat of 2007. But believe me it wouldn’t. It is a lie from the pit of hell by those with naked ambition and personal agenda.

If it did not collapse five years ago, it WILL NOT give way now, as we search for the best. Rather, we should appreciate that our nation disintegrated, when we persisted in not only behaving, but doing the same thing as we are doing now – adopting the ostrich strategy.

Nevertheless, one clear truth of the past half a decade is that those in power believe in a hollow government that acts as an enabling service offering contracts to the highest bidder.

With apparent and open-disdain, those same people that we elected to lead us to the promise land are callously ignoring the life-wrecking cruelty that their socio-economic and political programmes are causing to countless gullible victims.

But let’s get something straight. Truth is bitter. Any good thing in Sierra Leone today, is not mostly by the grace of the present crop of leaders, but through the benevolence of brave and ‘dubious’ investors, the international community and foreign governments like China who have their own agenda, as well as Sierra Leonean diasporans who accord totemic significance to coming back home, rather than to the impotency of our society, as yonder shores become less and less attractive.

On its own, the last five years have been so much of tiger without tigritude; so much heat and no fire. It’s been like a rooster taking credit for the sunshine.

We have also failed to realise that there are several basic expectations of governments and that the purpose of electing leaders is to ensure that the dividends of democracy are not only in place, but are also regularly improved upon.

This is why in civilised societies, government is continuous, irrespective of which party is in power.

Anyway, no matter how much we’ve lost our independence of thought and choice, those who have been keeping a keen eye on our governance, will agree that there is not much substance to the current vaunted leadership.

This is so, especially when we assess them on the basis of selflessness, status, intellectual rigour and robustness of thought, comparable with the history, tradition and profile of some of our past leaders.

No matter the panoramic movie playing out on the political scene right now, the issues facing us remain the same: the state of our economy, the plight of our youths, judicious use of resources, basic personality politics, corruption, tribalism as well as the lack of political vision and identifiable ideology, and the absence of clear-cut indigenous  programmes for development.

Nevertheless, since every feast must have its end, it is imperative that our continued dabble with politics of prejudice, concerted blast of shrill posturing; demented and lurid political insults as well as incessant abuse have to give way; while the establishment of the integrity of governance and leadership qualities need to be the BIG CHOICE.

This is why, despite the parlous state of Sierra Leone and amidst its rich natural resources which are more than proportionate to its size and population, we should not persist in pretending that all is well and that we are making huge strides because of the destructive political rhetoric and the opaque cosmetic symbols dotting the landscape.

So, if we find that the current government has been a big let down and a disappointment, it is in the long-term interest of our nation and true and functioning democracy to put aside sentimental praise, religious bigotry, political skirmishes, ethnicity, and other forms of negative tendencies and put on our nationalistic disposition.

If not, then we give another stamp of authority to them to continue without bringing the roof down; but with the realisation that as a nation, we can do better than we are doing now.

When I started writing RANDOM MUSING in January 2008 after the President’s maiden visit to the UK, the first four articles were titled ‘EBK: Dare to be Different?’ It was a passionate appeal to the then newly elected President to ensure that his stay in power will show a marked difference from what had hitherto existed.

For clarification and for the avoidance of any doubt, it was not based on a head of steam then, nor is it now.

I have since emphasised on numerous occasions, that the mission is to steadfastly keep to being an overseer of errors in governance and not to moralise from a high horse or engage in hand-wringing.

It is not about being a cheerleader for those in power, but being a watchdog for those without a voice.

So, much as President Koroma’s objectives on assumption of office were well-intentioned, it is his lack of political will to take the tough decisions and kick-in-the-guts-clinchers; as well as the absence of the mental fortitude and drive to push through reforms that would improve transparency, and also advance the general lot of the majority instead of the few, that has turned out to be his Achilles heel.

Also counting against him, is his tacit endorsement of the style of politics that have bruised and wounded the very heart of our socio-political and tribal strata by not setting a bright example for change through a truly national leadership garb.

Strenuous efforts to decimate the political platforms through the encouragement of a counterforce in areas that are perceived as the underbellies of the machines of other parties, and via those that have accused their parties of gross ingratitude and betrayal, has also shown that his democratic credentials not only has a layer and gulf of falsehood but is also built on the foundation of sand.

And, what has further obscured what some see as an enigmatic all-round performance, is the deficiency of rigorous thought process at a time when the focus should be on building enduring social blocks within the realm of the new Sierra Leone which his Agenda for Change enunciated.

What is obvious to me is that President Koroma got sidetracked and was held ‘hostage’ by those who were more interested in their own survival and interests, than what happens to Sierra Leone. Sordid details abound.

There is the story of the Irish investor who came with a device that would have earned the nation some revenue and also monitor the activities of the phone companies. But who was sent packing by the demands and obstacles placed on his way by individuals in government, even though the installation of the device is said to be at no cost to the country?

As for kleptocracy in high places, that is now a creed, despite fleeting cases of image laundering.

We can go on and on about the failures of the government, just as we can, about the commendable efforts at rehabilitating the country’s infrastructure, which are well documented.

Now, amidst the firestorm of purported achievements, the predictable shriek of rage and the barrage of trite condemnations, the road to the general elections has suddenly been strewn with carrots.

Myth-peddlers harp on pathetic gesture-politics that is not only completely false, but empty and meaningless, such as claims that the present administration brought electricity to Sierra Leone. Haba; even though there was light when they (the parrots of spin and those in government) were young?

In the light of developments, let me ask you a question: Do you really think that this month’s election is going to be free and fair? Do you really believe that we can by some stretch of imagination, have a repeat of 2007?

If you do, then I pity your optimism. Let no one delude themselves. A free and fair election has the potential of being politically volatile, and will be resisted from all quarters. Reason? Too many people have a stake in the outcome.

Already, intense politicking and intrigues for the very soul of the country is currently playing out major roles in the strategies and organisations that will shape the outcome of the polls; alongside classic parameters for the flourishing of illegalities.

With one side armed to the teeth and the other planning defensive mechanism against what it perceives as bullish political cleansing, how do you think the election will pan out?

Apart from the eerie silence of the National Electoral Commission since it goofed; the overbearing and intimidating stance of the Political Parties’ Registration Commission is ominous; especially when the antecedent and present personal record of its leadership leaves much to be desired.

True the Commission has the Constitutional and Statutory mandate to monitor, supervise and regulate the conduct of political parties, but definitely intemperate language such as “Political parties are here warned that any repetition of such conduct or behaviour will be met with severe sanctions” casts doubts on its true independence and has the conviction of a getaway driver caught with the engine of his car revving; with a smirk on his face and the loot in his boot.

Similarly, the deck is certainly stacked against fairness; especially with the clustering of all the elections into a single day in a society with mostly illiterates.

To me this is indeed worrisome and a recipe for accusation and counter accusation; just like the excessive role of money (in some cases, reported to be dollars) which stinks like an unclean festering moat and to which the PPRC has obviously turned a blind eye.

So interests abound against a free and fair election. Don’t forget that some politicians seek public office not to serve but to have their share of the national cake; not as an avenue to serve the nation but primarily as a profitable business venture.

We should also not disregard the $100,000 club, or those hawk-eyed investors whose interests might be threatened if there is a change of administration and the details of their contracts are put under the scrutiny; as well as those in power who do not want to be a one term wonder.

Such strategies of delicate intricacy, woven around the poll, is another confirmation of the difficulty faced by the masses in the effort to influence the future direction of our country, where we tend to vote in the hope that things would be better, but end up having no say in the affairs of the nation after that; even though it is to our own detriment.

So, the issue is not about this government. It is about the people’s freedom to choose whom they feel comfortable to lead them. It is about Sierra Leone’s future. It is about the will of the people and not the dream of a few.

I dare our political class to allow that.

 

 

 

 

 

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