Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 December 2013
Last Friday – 20th December 2013, president Koroma asked these questions in parliament: “How come with so many of our people excelling all over the world, from medicine to languages, to computer science, to engineering, and international administration, that our country got stuck for so long at the bottom rungs of human achievements?
“How come that a people so tolerant and peaceful, a people famed for their hospitality and their will to happiness could have a war that shocked the world; a war waged by less than one percent amongst us; and yet so devastating for over 99% of the people of this country?
“How come we had a military junta that carried out extra-judicial killings? How come that a nation blessed with such rich natural resources have so many poor people?”
Simple sir. Our nation has been raped by successive leaders who dress up as Father Christmas, but all they bring to the inn at every yuletide, is a bale of hay for the donkey alone, before disappearing into the mist of history.
When the rain of hardship falls and the tide that brings such leaders to power rises, it is only their yachts that are lifted – never the dingy boats of the poor.
It is because our democracy is rotten and has continued to yield only decadence and leadership deficit.
Let’s not forget the thickening stench of falsehood and evasion by the political class, that are deliberately used to keep the thermometer of our society low; nor the fact that as a people, we do not love ourselves or the nation sufficiently enough and thus allowing egocentric and lily-livered politicians and their cohorts to perpetually hold us to ransom.
A plausible explanation is because of our changing demography, goldfish memory, ethnic disparities, religious and political bigotry, as well as dysfunctional society, which have been so succinctly utilised as weapons by our leaders to define the imperatives of our existence and to create instabilities in our social system, that will continue to perpetuate their reign and colour our history.
I am positive that it is the debilitating conflict in nationalism and perceptions that has been, and is allowed to fester in us, by those who should not only be preaching unity of purpose, but who should be leading by example; but who indirectly as leaders, continue to destroy the tenets of democracy and deliberately create pitfalls in our socio-political system for their selfish end.
I mean how can we ever find the redeeming options for our socio-economic and political anomalies, if our leaders who get to play God when they are in power, have just a vague idea of our problems and are themselves puzzled?
Indeed, some of the questions raised by Mr. President, are what those who really love Sierra Leone and are in support of welfare politics have been asking, but which are then used by every government including the present administration, to label such individuals as unpatriotic and anti-government every time there is a stinging rebuke against the power politics preferred by our leaders.
But if Mr. President is not battered by his helplessness and would really like to know, the answers are not blowing in the wind. They are simple and very obvious too. An adage says if you point one finger at a person, remember that the four other fingers on that hand, are pointing towards you.
Our nation is where it is, because of the absence of visionary leadership in the management of our society.
Successive governments have flattered to deceive, but at the end have no plans, no strategy, no vision and not even the slightest idea of how to leave the past behind and seek a new direction – except on paper.
I dare say that we look no farther than the insincerity of all our leaders to date who continue to widen the inequality gap and then examine ourselves as a people, who like robots, continue to worship the golden calf.
It is because of the pervasive power of our leaders who in actual fact should be servants, but have turned the table against us.
Every episode of our history reveal that most of our leaders have never truly derived their legitimacy from the people; which is why they stifle opposition in whatever perceived shape and engage in constitutional manipulations.
As a result, rather than spend their time and energy on fighting a good cause, they choose instead to pursue the annihilation of opponents and perceived enemies.
Also, the future is never part of our calculation, as fantasy often takes care of that, while the true state of our nation is often made just another item on the barbecue of a tragic pantomime, conducted by self-interested, self-aggrandising and ethnic chauvinists masquerading as leaders.
It is because we are a society infamous for leaders that gleefully flaunt their stolen wealth while the people languish in abject poverty and nothing is ever done to improve their lot.
Because of this, the masses have a despondent, cynical and detached attitude towards the emergence of a new Sierra Leone which in their mindset, belongs to the ruling class and their supporters’ club only.
Oh! Yes it is because Salone has been unfortunate to be governed by a succession of usually corrupt and sometimes unimaginative leaders who ensured that political survival trumped principle, while they are busy pulling up the drawbridge behind them and making sure that their actions or inactions become a fear that dare not speak its name.
If you don’t mind me saying so, it is because the country is imperialised, as its citizens have been converted into subjects, resources into private ownership and instead of public service, it is always a gala of wealth, fame and adulation.
Definitely, it is because of the huge failure of successive governments to prevent the nation drifting into a needless conundrum as well as their willingness to send millions to their deaths through hunger, while there was / is no corresponding match between promises and action thus leaving a great number of unfinished reforms when they depart.
The saga sums up the crass stupidity of authoritarian regimes whose fear of even mild challenges led them and continues to lead those in power, to endlessly create chaos and collapse in living standards.
Let’s not forget that it is because we as a nation have often voted in haste and repented at leisure, while those in power who prefer megaphone governance, often become grandiose and politically deaf as they make us hitch our wagon to their deficiencies which are couched in dynamic rhetoric.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, it is because our leaders continue to focus only on tangibles that are visible and attract applause, without appreciating the fact that intangibles, like societal values, human capital development, etc, are equally essential.
What of the basic attributes of development? Jobs, quality health care, industries, etc?
How about the basic fabric of nation building? Bricks and mortars, dual carriageways which we cannot manage, are definitely not the main measurable indices of development, neither are the several paper exercise that eulogises dreams rather than true progress and growth.
Yet, go through history and you’ll discover that is how populist politicians and our leaders fire up their poor constituents with rhetoric about ‘development’, only to plunder the public purse savagely and use the rest of the available resources to enslave the people and clap the yoke of poverty on them.
Small changes get big hurrahs, pumping up their significance through spin, which our leaders then continue to promote in the hearts and minds of a people that have been deliberately left ignorant and who do not even know that they have a right to certain necessities of life.
Even where the country’s political and economic circumstances continue to nose-dive, and our governments have continued to persist in their bizarre approaches, what you’ll discover is that years of intimidation and slant have turned us into a timid society, where like a mesmerised people sleep-walking, nobody seems to have the courage to challenge the ruling elite.
Unperturbed by their actions, our leaders who prefer external trappings of power symbolised by the wailing and blaring of sirens that forces the masses off the road, then lead us into misery and often embark on a reckless rape of our well-being and national resources.
We once laid the blame of all our woes on the colonialists and when they left and there was no change, we pointed the fingers at the politicians and still, we were stuck at the bus stop of under-development.
Then, like the president did in his address also, we saw the military and the war as scapegoats. But alas, the landscape did not change and despite the return of politics, stability and peace, lo and behold our woes are worse than ever.
Yet collectively, we continue the untruthfulness and selfishness, unwilling to critically analyse ourselves and our leaders, in a determined bid to face the realities of our future.
But as a people, we could do worse than to look to our past as a nation, for a clue to our future.
For example, the emergence of President Koroma was the future we craved. He was the supposed antidote to years of stagnation. He emboldened the rare chink of light in the bleakness of the then Sierra Leone of darkness.
He was thought to be the one, who knew the way, would go the way and show us the way. He seemed to have a knack for doing the right thing to endear himself to the public.
Backed by international goodwill, there was the courage to take on some of our national malaise, even if the steps lacked depth and conviction. Through him, some were convinced that most of our high promises would never again wither for the want of a magic wand and breathe of fresh air.
Yet in reality, we are six years into his expected ten years term of office and the nation is still defined by the same old song that has made him ask the pertinent questions that continue to haunt Sierra Leone.
There appears to be no determined willingness to confront unequivocally, the major anxieties of the many rather than the few; to redress the assault on our sensibilities; to lead us in holding up our hands and say together: ‘we all have a share of the blame’
Yes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. But my God, to put it mildly, we are not even on the road to where we ought to be because of our lack of perspective, vision and clear-cut roadmaps.
Youth unemployment is still horribly and scandalously high. And it is painful to see so many young men and women roaming the streets of our towns and villages, aimlessly – their despair etched on their faces and on the minds of those who continue to swell the coffers of foreign embassies, as they seek succour outside the country.
The promised agenda of change has only brought out the worst in us and our system, and only a fool will believe that prosperity for Sierra Leone is just round the corner.
The bastardised nature of our democracy cannot and will never deliver prosperity. This is why the manner, in which some of the president’s men and praise-singers fall over themselves, to turn black into white, reveals the full extent of their idiocy and odiousness.
And by the way, we should never forget the despicable role of our media, especially now.
Their inability to always stand on the platform of truth and perform their duty as the conscience of society has seen them often dining with the devils of successive leadership and helping to promote the feelings of superiority by selfish leaders engendered by the history of our past, since independence.
What a banality to believe that the road to socio-economic and political sanity is being re-tarred when policies have always been less about the feeling and welfare of the generality of the people but more about chasing shadows and painting in glowing terms, the token dividends of democracy that trickle out of the mill of governance.
Sierra Leone has had a formidable list of problems which have tested the very fabric of our society. The acknowledgement of these by Mr. President so late into his administration is indeed a reminder of our national circus of bewilderment.
Actually, if the present administration was indeed bullish and honest about truly restructuring Sierra Leone, then it would do well to take off its blinkered spectacles and realise that nobody, except itself, has been standing on the highway of a new nation.
Leadership relevant to societal needs and future never takes a backward glance, but instead weighs the challenges of tomorrow on their merits and make this a unifying vision with the people.
A new year beckons
As the number one citizen has suddenly realised that there are underlying questions in our very existence, will he then make 2014 the year of our crossover?
Will he dare to be different and unlike several others before him leave the dull thud of spin falling flat and hobble down the dangerous and less glamorous path of living for the cause of poverty alleviation and not the applause and the siren voices of praise?
Will there be a deliberate and conscious implementation by government to end the weight of tyranny that has brewed the vinegar of distress and pain in our society for years?
Will 2014 be the year that a beleaguered Sierra Leone sweeps up the fallen masonry from the aftershock of its past? Has the hour of deliverance finally come?