Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 January 2015
The beginning of a New Year is usually a period that most people let go of the unfulfilled dreams of the year just gone, and then take on the pregnancy of hope or give birth to new fantasies.
While those profiting from the status quo in Sierra Leone, insist on keeping our focus on the aborted dream and miscarriage of the past year, which has become a noose round our neck, I pray that in this New Year and with faith in the future, we can collectively build our tomorrow, beginning with today.
This is because 2014, with all its travails and challenges, was indeed a year that our beloved Sierra Leone will definitely never forget in a hurry.
It was a year that brought very little gains for us as a people and a nation. And it was without any shadow of doubt, one of the most challenging milestones of our over half a century history of independence.
Although gone, 2014 is the Year that basically shipwrecked our ‘state cruise liner’, which was already grappling with the same old song of large-scale economic peril, hugely contentious transformation, continued intra and inter personal/party geo-political crisis.
Amidst considerable efforts at change, unemployment, massive plundering of national resources in high and low places remained unmoved, as the problems of struggling social and public infrastructures, declining mining operations, as well as dwindling foreign revenue worsened.
Poor standards of education and health services, lack of housing, poor roads and lack of access to clean water and electricity, continued unabated.
How on earth can we forget that by the time Ebola, which is proving to be the proverbial thorn in the flesh, arrived for its unsolicited stay, the large-scale deprivation of the masses as well as the sinful orgy of a chosen few, was already adding to the burden of the populace, who could only sit idly by in fascination?
The absolute disconnect of government from the lives of the people on the lowest rung of the ladder, and the arrogant deportment of those in authority, in whom they had placed their absolute trust for a better future, made Ebola’s arrival a depressing inevitability.
Obviously, the level of poverty in the midst of plenty and the long history of failed politics, gave rise to a lot of snide remarks arising from the latent discontent amongst the masses.
People were getting tired of the unpredictability and the continued tendency of our leaders to suck the oxygen of life out of the masses and then go on to capture the imagination and becloud the opinion of those they lead, in order to fuel the opulent lifestyle of the elite.
To those ‘unfortunate’ down-and-out masses, not in the reigning circle of privilege, no matter how hard they looked into the binoculars of governance, the solutions to the nation’s woes did not appear visible in the horizon, and there appeared little or few options left for them – but to find solace in the promises of the unseen ruler of heaven and earth.
The ordinary man felt and still feels deeply alienated, dissatisfied and let down by their political leadership.
And to so many Sierra Leoneans, the bottom of the barrel has already fallen off and the slide down to the abyss seems endless, as the national voyage reached a crossroad.
Coupled with the ravaging Ebola, the massive rippling effect of the economic downturn was and is also creating palpable fear and severe pressures, not only on the government, but also the generality of the people.
But as 2015 makes its grand entry, the question is: Where do we go from here?
What do we do next to get our dignity back as a nation and as a people? Will this New Year brim with hope of a better life for the people, and ensure a fulfilment of collective national goals?
The foundation of the deceits that has exposed the underbelly of our lives is the social and political dynamics of a society that seeks solutions to economic and social challenges, without an enduring base.
Those who led us to believe that we were being taken on a jolly ride to the land of plenty have shown the depth of their helplessness and institutional failure.
2015 brings the present administration to the half-way mark of its tenure. Obviously, Ebola has come as a cast-iron alibi for any shortcomings.
But then that’s fair enough. It has always been the story of our life, which is probably why we are also being told in advance that the road of our future is going to be rougher than it is now.
In addition, divine intervention is now the only solution to defeating the impending austere times and the Ebola enemy, whose appearance far away from us did not ring enough bells to alert us to the need for any eventuality.
There lies one of the symptoms, but not the illness of our governance.
Anyway, the issue therefore as the New Year settles, is how the government, while tackling the current malaise, is preparing for life after Ebola; outside the usual rhetoric and the throwing up of its hands in convoluted submission.
What lessons in general have been learnt from its seven years in power to help shape its new focus and in the last year in particular, that will steer it away from some of the stubborn, partisan course, towards a more inclusive policy and collective drive?
Events might have beclouded our vision; sentiments might have spiced up our diet, but what cannot be denied is that, all said and done, there’s an urgent need to ensure that the rosy-cheek picture being presented to the people of Sierra Leone by their leaders becomes a reality.
Also, the picture of a helpless and failed nation, as well as the perceived inability to be the master of our own fate, which we have continually displayed to the rest of the world, has to become history, so as to give us back our dignity.
Post Ebola is indeed the time for the government to tap into the sublime spirit of hope that abides in the populace, to truly change those things which, over the years, have made the country lose face in the comity of nations.
It is not the time to rely on the stage-managed and well-choreographed open-government initiative.
There is an urgent necessity to inaugurate a conversation around the expectations of the people of this great country.
We also need to determine who is most to blame for the country’s woes – is it the leaders or the followers; bearing in mind that those in authority got their mandate from those being led.
It is common knowledge that those who lack a sense of history or refuse to be educated by it, invariably repeat the same mistakes.
Sierra Leoneans who have heard lots of promises from the government in recent years, will definitely want an end to the era of reliance on a-wing-and-a-prayer for survival, and will therefore like 2015 to be the beginning of the year of fulfillment of these promises. (Photo: Shopping mall in Nigeria)
But before we can make any meaningful progress, 2015 presents a golden opportunity for us as a nation, not only to redefine and reshape the destiny of our beloved country, but to ensure that the national expectations will constitute the bedrock of purposeful policies and actions by government.
If we want to truly look ahead to a new Sierra Leone and make 2015 a milestone of our turn around, we need to take a second look at our political leaders’ efforts, especially since the end of the civil war and x-ray the opportunities they have had to better our lots. (Photo: Developments in Nigeria).
It has become essential that collectively, we do a comparative analysis of the missed opportunities and then make a conscious attempt at correcting the wrongs of the past – devoid of ethnic and party politics
At the moment, the continual destruction of expectations – such as the right to a decent accommodation, access to quality education, healthcare and good road network, genuine rule of law and the upholding of human rights (which are not subjugated to the fancy of those in authority), have ensured that the social contract is in distress.
One cannot also forget that the apparent standstill of the economy has pushed the country into a strait jacket.
So, the government needs to realise that no matter how rough the terrain, it has some minimal obligations to the citizenry who have long been used to broken promises.
That we can become prosperous overnight, without going back to the basics and getting it right, instead of cosmetic transformation, is a big lie from the pit of hell and an illusion best left to magicians.
If we truly want a new nation, we need to put an end to the charade and shenanigans that creates the illusion that a better tomorrow is just round the corner and in its place, deepen our desire for a just and equitable future for our children.
Mere slogans and propaganda don’t fill stomachs, and are no insurance against adversities such as those which the people endured in 2014.
This is why the time for seriousness of purpose and a determination to leave a lasting and true legacy, must entail tearing up the populist agenda and rhetoric. Everything rises and falls on leadership. (Photo: Shopping in Nigeria).
This year, I implore the government to bring true message of hope to hapless Sierra Leoneans. Let 2015 be a new dawn in the lives of the people.
Let it be a year in which the trauma of the last three decade-plus is finally quarantined, and their age-long yearnings and aspirations emerge from the theater of doom.
We need to realise that truth cannot be caged, as it needs no management.
Once again – wishing a happy new year to every Sierra Leonean, directly and by proxy.
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