2012 – Mindset of mediocrity or battle of ideas?

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

11 September 2012

For many years now, Sierra Leone has been like a boxer, coming round after a sniff of smelling salt, with half-remembered taste, smell and sound of the day before yesterday.

But apart from the adulation of mediocrity, clannishness, ethnocentricity and other retrogressive tendencies that served as the knock-out blow, it is the collective cowardice, spinelessness, weakness, and the deformation in our societal gene, that have helped to keep the nation prostrate on the canvas.

Agreed that we have often been let down by those not even fit to be called leaders, but the zombie mentality and anatomy of melancholy, which have seen us sitting down and watching helplessly often times, as the cat ate the fish in the basket.

We often do not have the moral latitude and determination to wrestle power from those elected to serve, but who have since continued to turn themselves into playtime bullies.

Our uncritical and blanket endorsement of populist, non-stop personal achievements and frequent bellows of benevolence, framed and filmed in majestic undertones of power over principles, has obviously been devoid of the one language that can really push us forward – HONESTY.

Instead, we have allowed the moral political compass to spin off the table and politics devoid of ideas to fester, rather than stripping away the sentimental decorations and the lingering reminders of the lost past.

Even while we are very much aware of the fact that for a long while now, we have not been governed nor managed; but simply continued to be patronised by groups of vain individuals who toss our future up and down like in a game of ping pong, still we continue to rely on the cruel trick of the over-emotional, which although appears calming, has become as unsatisfying and addictive as cigarettes.

But in trying to pick the cherries from our political tree of treachery, as we approach another opportunity to assess our move towards a new Shangri-La, we need to appreciate that the gaping contradiction between calling our past into question and the thirst for a savoury future for the restless natives, following several previous and present travesties by those elected to lead them, is unlikely to be sated at the end of this election; no matter the victor.

Consequently, we should realise that November polls should not be about Ernest Koroma or Julius Maada Bio, but about a battle of ideas and what we as a people believe is good for the contraption we call a nation, to push it forward.

Because, long after these mere mortals have departed, Sierra Leone as an entity will still remain, no matter the contributions of these individuals.

Just as we are doing now and bearing the brunt of the selfishness and short-sightedness of some of our leaders past, especially Siaka Stevens, the errors or inactions of these leaders will unfortunately live long after them, placing the future burden squarely on the shoulders of the vulnerable members of the society.

We should never forget that after this year’s elections and irrespective of whoever wins, we will still be underdeveloped, broke, under the yoke of modern-day economic colonialists and mean-spirited investors and busybodies – who force-feed us and rob our noses in their supposedly scrummy chips (handouts) from crappy restaurants (investments).

We shall still be badly educated, gravely troubled by the high-level kleptomania in our midst and our health sector will still continue to churn out cholera, typhoid and high mortality rate as dividends of our democracy.

Half-baked graduates will be recycled to teach emaciated school kids on a conveyor belt that ensures we lack the requisite indigenous manpower locally to drive the wheel of our progress.

Social calamities and economic strangulations will still be at the dining table of our society and our agriculture will still be moribund and choking from the strangle-hold of wheeler-dealers; while the natural resources will find a cozy place on the mantelpiece of foreign collectors and industries remain virtually non-existent.

Post November, when the present idiocy in our socio-political environment subsides, reality will again reassert itself in our lives and we’ll still be left with no legacy from the weasel fight that is being engineered by the talentless and self-promoting political and media elites, who are incapable of sorting out the crooks who flourish in the moral vacuum, that their incompetence over time has created for the rest of us.

Obviously in five years time, when it is time to go to the polls again, should we get it wrong and refuse to start the process of changing the ethics around governance and leadership, nobody will be talking about our years of sterility; instead we’ll be talking about how the hell we can survive in the midst of the mess we’ve created.

By then, maybe even the media will be devoting space to the anguish of the masses and the need for succor and strong, clear-sighted leadership-gladiators with effective socio-economic strategies, to lead the line.

This is why I think – and strongly believe – that genuine patriots should come out gun blazing to let the people of Sierra Leone and the political class, know that it is time to sit up and begin a strategic rethink of the future, as we cannot continue to exist in this endless cycle of meaninglessness.

Looking back over the course of the past fifty odd months , it’s as if the romance with change is now just another case of a spurned lover (the people) wanting to tie the knot with the then latest celebrity in town (the APC) in 2007; without thinking long and hard about the implications of such a union.

It was one of those socio-political-arranged marriages, in which I personally at first thought that love, given half a chance, might blossom; until it became bleeding obvious that the celebrity, while not entirely a eunuch, has turned out to be as much use as a one-armed goalkeeper.

So, today, bamboozled by a lunatic arrogance into misreading the truly hideous, as a ringing mandate, a segment of the political class has failed to appreciate that the stock of our politicians in general and the government in particular, is so low that the prospect of yet another blunder, underhand play or naked political bribery or manipulation, has almost lost the power to appeal or even disappoint.

That is why people are seeing the crescendo of scare-mongering created by the arms importation and gun-licensing laws at such a crucial and sensitive period; and the desperate attempt at dragging the nation back to errors of the past, not as a salve for the inherent fundamental issues that hinder our progress, but as part and parcel of what can best be described as the classic scapegoat tactic of a divide and rule desperation, obviously wedded to a rather suspicious plan.

If this unliberating turmoil floats your boat as it appears to be doing for a lot of people, then maybe, just maybe, our collective handcart has indeed burst into flames and we have arrived in hell.

Right now, both the ruling party and the opposition, (which is finding it difficult to be heard), are a fleeting, shifting mass of influences, changes, and cross-currents that are equally historical and contemporary.

Both are about hopes and fears as much as facts; and both feature widely contradictory poles that are hard to reconcile.

While the APC is transfixed and captivated by its perceived achievements, the SLPP has to punch home what it stands for.

Meanwhile, a segment of the ruling party and the society is apparently conscious of the danger of pretending that it would be business as usual in November, and it is not taking the threat by the opposition with levity. (Going by its reaction recently, it intends to counter any move by the opposition parties and remain in power in 2012 and beyond.)

What first struck me after digesting the import of the current scenario, was to ask myself the rather harmless question that: since the size of a man is not dependent on the length of his legs and the width of his mouth but the content of his head, is it possible to imagine any party or leader to have the courage and indeed the character, to fight for true change?

The answer I believe, is why commentators from all shades of opinion, not swayed by the current choreographed media frenzy and who have dreamt of a nation that goes straight to the heart of the envisaged revolution for a new Sierra Leone need to reach out to the unenlightened about choosing unpolluted or uncorrupted leaders with integrity and capabilities; with a strong vision and determination like Thomas Sankara, who will be humane and ready to serve rather than be a Colossus in our midst.

A leader who will proudly lead us to the path of functioning democracy, good governance and accountability.

A leader who will be able to interpret the present realities of the country and offer credible strategies to resolve the compelling necessity for the re-evaluation of the challenges before us; to avoid long term damage akin to post 1980 OAU conference held for the sole glory and political pride of Siaka Stevens.

With over half a century of self-rule and with the abundant resources at our disposal, abject poverty, darkness, cholera, lack of potable water, hunger, insecurity of lives and property as well as the other myriad of problems that plague us still, should not continue to be our portion.

There is a compelling reason that things have got to truly change and to vote out any ineffective politician as well as make all political office holders accountable and committed to their electoral promises.

We have to allow merit to subdue mediocrity. We need to change from obscurity to reality and from disappointments to opportunities.

We have to return power back to the people. We have to leave our barn of hypocrisy. It is an illusion to think we are moving forward, if we are going the wrong way.

I am not saying that this is the case, but how do we know, when we’ve never had a full and impartial national debate about what is being done in our name or, when we do not even have the opportunity to disagree with some of the atrocities committed on our behalf

But, against the backdrop of a rather precarious socio-political development, close scrutiny of the masters of the superficial who are in, or aspire to positions of leadership in the tiny, cluttered stage of our uncertain national existence, will make the nation a better place.

Such scrutiny will retain the chaste aura of hope that still burns dearly in the minds of the people, as they endure years of disillusion with the political class, which remains out of tune with the rest of us.

We need to realize and make our politicians, their self-appointed thought-police who want everyone to be humble, uncritical and unchallenging of the status-quo, to also appreciate that electoral promises are covenants with the electorate.

Therefore the continued breach of these agreements, means that those holding the mandate of the people are not worthy to be there and that it makes them puppets of hyper political hypocrisy.

But the more I look, the more alarmed I am that our leaders and those building up a head of steam that blurs the general vision, make us look a dysfunctional laughing stock by making no-appeal-to-the-heartstrings-stuff, outlining the policies and mindset essential for the nation’s long-term health and revival.

Politics can produce genuine heroes and dynamic leaders, whose honesty of purpose is not only uplifting but whose almost demonic intense commitment, invigorating performance and influence, reaches far beyond their bank accounts and their eyes, further than the next contract or next election.

We need the precise rhythm that will suggest a new purpose and direction from the sick joke that we have been victims of.

As the calculated attempt to hoodwink continues, we need to remember that reliance on a misleading majority report was one of the reasons why the Israelites spent forty years wandering the desert, which could be likened to the current lot of our nation of broken dreams.


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