Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 July 2015
Dear Mr President,
You may not know or remember me. But that is of no consequence, as I would not like you to think that I am also looking for a job (God forbid) like some of those ‘Concerned Sierra Leoneans’ you lambasted and ridiculed in the USA.
It would also be a moral apostasy for me to engage in politics or be found strutting around the corridors of power, when the overall picture of our governance at this point is money, money, money, for those in the conclave of the ruling elite and penny lane, for the people whom the political class continues to use as cannon fodders for whatever takes its fancy.
However, Sierra Leone can only move forward when the best liberal values of democracy, freedom, equality, openness and pluralism, replace the self-delusion that dirty-works at the crossroads, will be antidotes to the saga and fears of the oppressed.
To me, that is a fundamental contempt for democratic ethos, which rightly, is failing to control popular sentiments. I’m not quite convinced that you have noticed the increasing agitation outside the purview of selected hearing and identification.
I am sure however, that despite your best effort at transformation, you will acknowledge that the situation of our beloved Sierra Leone right now, is not rosy. Given the country’s heritage, you must agree with me that Sierra Leone ought to be doing far better than we are doing at present- Ebola or no Ebola.
Presumably this explains why the grossly-emaciated people are screaming for justice and a better life as well as an end to the cancer of neglect.
The government is having a mountain to climb to keep doubters and cynics quiet, simply because of years of calculated deceit and incredulity.
Judging by the huge natural resources of our beloved nation and the amount of external aid and loans of the last eight years, side by side with the dividends of transformation on offer and the overall prosperity of the large percentage of those in poverty, it is fair to say that your government could easily be accused of giving false evidence on its impact in the lives of the masses. I’m not here to do that.
Not content with the minstrelsy way you have plied our natural resources for a hatful of Chinese Yuan, English pounds, American dollars and other foreign currencies; your administration appears even ready to let socio-political and ethnic differences, wrench the people apart on the chopping seas of outrageous political and personal smear and satisfaction.
Cloaked in the offensive language of counteracting conspiracy theorists and to settle all sorts of scores, there’s a pattern of surreptitious behaviour which shows no respect for democracy, decency and the rule of law.
It is why, rather than be a new country, we are still stuck on the shores of the past; as is evident on the faces of the majority, whose only prayer is that the demons of their poverty-ridden existence would be truly slain.
In their view, the economic success story you are selling, needs a little more flesh for them to feel the ‘world-acclaimed’ growth. Some long for the days of old when the power sector was far better than now.
Unless we want to continue the dance of deceit, our education sector has been bastardised and the rear of our dilapidated health sector has been exposed. Yet, it is those that cannot make it to foreign lands who bear the brunt of this unfortunate state of our underdevelopment.
Corruption has an unfettered reign simply because of the ‘magic toga’ with which it has been dressed by the government.
As ‘pen robbers’ get away with a slap on the wrists, amidst fanfare, little fries are made scapegoats by the Anti-Corruption Commission which supports the lunatic position, whereby a searchlight is used to flush out a fox, with a pack of hounds.
I acknowledge the fact that the vindictive nature of politics in our part of the world, as well as the fear of being called names, or tagged as enemies, have continued to prevent us from telling our leaders the truth, even when we know that due to ignorance or over-bearing political considerations, what they are doing or saying, is wrong, totally unacceptable; or definitely doing more damage to the social fabric of our nation.
But, given that in the past year we have been building our nation on a bed of body bags of fellow citizens and the vials of foreign health workers; as well as the sweat and labour of benefactors, the hard truth is that the socio-political and economic jackboot grinding people into the dirt, while your administration insists on its enthralling and amazing ‘tales by the moonlight’, will only cause problems for the future and trigger a very serious social discontent.
So with due respect to you as a person and to your office, (sadly the buck stops at your desk) I shall be failing as a citizen if I ignore the increasing disconcerting grimace in our intricate socio-political tapestry, fuelled by the same potent, fatalistic indifference of the past, which brought Sierra Leone to where it is now and shattered its innocence – leaving us with a legacy with which we are still grappling today.
I must confess that some of the prodigal acts and utterances of your government and sympathetic media, is beginning to border on political schizophrenia. Your government has sailed very close to policies and actions which echo your party’s past contentious and inglorious reign.
It has failed to imbibe the valuable lesson of not building legacies with shadow puppets and airbrushing from history, the contortion of hatred that picked away at the strand of our nation and left us, like a stupor after lunch.
The fashionable pretence that the current APC-led government is squeaky clean is a brutal perversion of the truth and a misguided belief that such a deceit, encouraged by your Excellency, preserves the unity of our country.
Apart from the derision it has brought, it is also nothing but a denial of reality and a restriction on the ability of well-meaning Sierra Leoneans to join in the much-needed national cohesive transformation.
This is where the continued demonization of any other opinion, which is fast becoming a symbol of class warfare by your administration, has virtually made the restoration of our past glory a rather herculean task.
If those outside your conclave can’t even talk about another view of the eugenics, then we are definitely on a voyage of the damned.
It is morally outrageous to keep demeaning any contrasting view with the bristle of a broken opposition brush; while playing the parlour game and screaming at the electorate like a petulant child, for being ungrateful to your wonderful efforts at dragging Sierra Leone out of the abyss.
The government can’t keep bleating about its ‘achievements’ and the prima donnas in government demand reverential treatment, while the majority of the people are weakened by disappointments and fearful of the future that awaits them. It definitely does not work that way, and I expect you to be very much aware of that.
I believe that redressing the disconnect between the vast majority, especially those outside your party, should be a paramount issue that burns a hole in your heart rather than what you perceive as the whinging of your opponents.
As a matter of fact, more times than not, and in spite of being so dominant, it is the government’s huffing and puffing in response to legitimate inquisitions, that turns every issue into a major political talking point, in what is fast being described in some quarters, as political pantomime designed to shift focus from the shallow delivery of genuine anti-poverty initiatives.
For too long, your government has been in a state of denial about and disengagement from the deep division, which has left our nation, especially the down-trodden masses, totally alienated from the political space which you seem to have colonised.
But there is no bigger challenge facing us as a society than how we unite, especially post-Ebola, so that everyone is engaged in the true transformation of the country and not left isolated. There is an urgent need for you and your government to stop turning the page backwards to the infamous era of the Shaki-Momoh reign.
Sir, your power is held in trust for the nation. The virtue of getting on with it, is a valuable lesson worth learning; especially when it is obvious that the next two years are your final opportunity to shape and define your legacy, unless you truly plan to go down the unknown and contentious road of amending the constitution for extension of your tenure.
Nevertheless, the disturbing cacophony of your government’s majesty; as well as the irrelevant agitations for compulsory national acceptance by all, in the face of what some believe as gross failure, amounts to selfishness rather than a holistic articulation of your administration’s much-acclaimed programme of change and dividends of democracy, as a new lease of our national life.
It is an attitude that has been promoted, not only by your utterances, but also by the actions and the tub-thumping ovation of members of your administration and top party officials, aided of course, by a segment of the nation’s polarised media.
Rather than setting a new political standard, a new leadership benchmark and a new attitude to the management of the transformation of Sierra Leone’s socio-political thoughts and public life, it is a pity that we’re once again seeing a hysteria that sees our despicable low point, simply as a dead load that by itself, time will bury in oblivion.
Sierra Leone’s very future is being ripped apart by the current blood-is-thicker-than-water politics, in a government we all felt will bring about the desired change. And the result is savage. (Photo: Vice president Foh).
But the truth is that politicians are nothing without Santigi Public or Ramatu Voter and frankly speaking, the brutal reality is that despite your several attempts, the majority of the people still couldn’t really care less about what you are selling to them since it does not in any way, reflect truthfully in their existence.
It is a great shame that despite your continued effort at buying class for the government, the collective image of your administration is murkier than ever. This is probably due to the fact that there is precious little common sense in some of the actions and utterances of our collective leadership and too much rhetoric of government’s much-acclaimed achievements. How about the increasing level of graft?
Amidst a primitive authoritarian doctrine from the dark days of the past, in which only the voices of the powerful are heard, all this does, is stir up anger, cynicism and intricacies which the rent-a-crowd will not expose.
The whole charade is now just full of gallows humour in a cabaret and quiet despair from the audience (the ordinary Sierra Leonean).
Which brings me to your insistence that you owe nobody any apology – meaning you are not accountable to the six million odd Sierra Leoneans for whom you are not only the image, but who expect you to hoist a new banner without stain, in the rallying battle to reposition Sierra Leone at least to its glorious past.
Harsh words, one might think; especially when your government, despite some of its plodding performances and bizarre litany of disconcerting activities, is the one that is deliberately risking fracturing the country through its petty, underhand and unprincipled recourse to gagging every single dissenting voice while allowing its own conclave of self-serving drivels, to run riot.
Actually Sir, you do owe a lot of people answers and a listening ear, whether you like it or not.
You do owe Sierra Leoneans an apology. You did not get to where you are by dint of hard work and the antics of your party alone; but by the mercy and belief of ordinary Sierra Leoneans who found you, in the unholy choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, the safest pair of hands to entrust the ship of state.
Sir, you owe us an explanation; if in the midst of the flotilla of Ebola bodies and the innards of a once boisterous nation, exposed by circumstances which your government could not manipulate, and which is slithering to such a low level, there are languid Sierra Leoneans spending their time trading in bar room gossips about the state of the nation.
The Second Schedule of the 1991 Constitution entitled “President’s Oath” which you swore to, explicitly states that: “I will preserve, support, uphold, maintain and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone as by law established, and that I will do right to all manner of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. So help me God.”
The constitution also makes it clear that the President shall be the Fountain of Honour and Justice and the symbol of national unity and sovereignty. In other words, you have to be the glue that holds that battered ruins of our divided society, together.
Mr. President Sir, I am afraid that the fountain of wisdom appears ‘dry’ if now; you are beginning to take power for granted and treat some segment of the society with malicious intent. What kind of message are you sending out to counteract the impression that power, like sweet wine, intoxicates and corrupts absolutely, with time?
By displaying such a dismissive attitude towards the silent majority whose unexpressed views are projected by people with cojones and those who are able to raise eyebrows rightly or wrongly, I believe that you have crossed the line and breached the oath of office to which you swore.
Practically every crisis we’ve been engulfed since independence has its roots in this attitude.
You are the Chief Executive of the Country for crying out loud. Leaders should be seen as role models in the pursuit of a new society and the effort to transform our society into modern times.
Everything, from their speech to body language and decisions should be weighed in the light of this. Nothing should be done, or seen to be done, to the detriment of any group.
Instead of leading a path of reconciliation and strong appreciation, your government has embarked on short-sighted triumphalism, threatening those who are unwilling to toe the line. But, there is no need to descend to the level of having the ‘Mob Mentality’.
Rather, our Institutions and processes must be strengthened to appreciate and value every human life and view.
One of leadership’s greatest tests is in building systems and structures of growth that promote the interests of every group as equal. Which is why, your elections and pledges were initially seen by some of us as the vista to a fresh lease of our national life.
Whilst appreciating the tenterhooks of political ventriloquists who have continued to batter your government and made you irritable, it will be a total aberration to continue to do anything – in words or deeds – that will be politically, socially and economically divisive.
To my mind, the greatest problem to nation-building is the partisanship of leadership and until leaders like you, change this attitude, we will continue to tear ourselves apart. We cannot move forward if the leadership continues to operate, not like statesmen, but with total impunity.
It is absurd to say the least, that a party and government whose defining purpose is agenda for change cannot resist the lure of posturing, against those who in the light of the emasculation of anything true and the vuvuzela of chest-beating pronouncements, claim to be acting as a moral guardian for the forgotten, helpless and disenfranchised masses.
Sir, you should pursue what makes for unity and peace and thereby build a country we can be proud of. Every group within our body polity has something to offer. Everyone should be given a chance to contribute.
Everyone’s interest matters. Everyone is necessary. Complete disrespect for the intelligence and liberties of others is therefore a dishonour to your constitutionally enamelled title of fountain of wisdom.
Apologies; but I have to stop at this point, as I can hear the cry of some of those you are failing to take adequate care of. They are asking me for help to buy foodstuff. They need money to buy candles and kerosene to light their ways, as well as buy drugs to save their lives. They just want help.
Their belief is that this other side of the world is paved with gold and wonder why Sierra Leone is different.
I must go now but I shall continue in a short while. Thank you for reading my epistle, if it ever gets to you.
If not, then the action of your lieutenants who have blocked your receiving the letter further goes to show exactly what I’m trying to point out to you.
Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon