Maada Bio – the hard road ahead – part 2

Abayomi Tejan: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 August 2019:

As no new nation is built on virgin ground, so it is with governments. All new governments must contend with the legacies of its predecessor, whatever they may be.

President Julius Maada Bio’s ‘New Direction’ is the same old Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) adopted by successive governments, following the restoration of democracy, after eleven years of armed civic conflict in Sierra Leone. A democracy that is still evolving and morphing, acquiring varying degrees of new attributes.

Bio’s New Direction is the fifth edition of the PRSP, supposedly the recipe for poverty reduction, economic stability and growth, food security, agriculture, education, employment, and all the other do’s and don’ts of achieving economic prosperity.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve to complement and streamline national development with the international benchmarks in the SDGs manifesto. Hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, Civil Society groups, UN Agencies, Bilateral Cooperation outfits, also offer, or purport to render, deliverables to lighten the burden on the Central Government.

In addition, a vast repository of paperwork offering innumerable solutions to what would appear infinite strangleholds on the economy, provides more than enough intellectual resource to a government ready and willing to avail itself.

Still, no government, since the turn of this millennium, has been able to deal with an economy that seems to defy all the laws of public finance, going at a tangent from it’s intended trajectory, over and over.

Something must be wrong somewhere. Otherwise, Sierra Leone would rank higher than Rwanda in the Human Development Index. And the people of this nation would never have lacked the most basic of all life’s necessities – food.

There is so much more lacking though, but the uncertainty that one would eat and not starve for the day, is the most degrading human condition one could possibly find oneself.

Therefore, President Bio’s primary responsibility now is making sure that there is enough food available in the market, and affordable to every household in Sierra Leone. This is one thing that can’t wait.

He must do it now, otherwise the opposition would be seen to be justified in its criticism and condemnation of the kind of leadership President Bio has ushered in, no matter how good his intentions might be.

But how?

Price control is out of the question; it is against the law for the government to tell a trader how much to sell goods in the open market. Neither could the government simply lift all port charges on imported rice. Or could it?

Growing what we eat is easier said than done. Provincial land tenure continues to militate against private investment in agriculture.

Those who have access to abundant arable lands in the provinces prefer to live in urban centres and cities, drawn to the distractions of popular culture. While those in cities consider farming as too menial an enterprise to their self-esteem.

Critics often overlook these negative notions in the psyche of the masses when holding government responsible for their hunger. Sometimes, it’s the fault of the citizens for their own predicament.

If Sierra Leoneans were the ‘crickets,’ then the Chinese were the ‘ants.’ We play and sing during summer, while the Chinese gather food.

Now it’s raining. When you talk about the president, you must also talk about the people. However, if the opposition thinks that the mere existence of privation is enough to topple a government, they are on the wrong page.

If that was the case, no government since Siaka Stevens would have lasted twelve months in office. There has never been a time when everything was fine, ever. But things could’ve been much better if the right leadership was in place.

When Siaka Stevens (Photo: Stevens with China’s Chairman Mao) made the disastrous blunder of hosting the OAU Summit in 1980, the economy of Sierra Leone found itself in a rather desperate situation.

It was then that the habit of stealing government money with impunity, by politicians and public servants, replaced honesty as a virtue.

The entire government infrastructure, its laws and constitution, it’s institutions and personnel – from the president to the mendicant in the streets, degenerated into a travesty of a failing nation, headed for anarchy and the dissolution of the state.

Anarchy came, there was a coup, then a war, and democracy fled. Only to return again in the year 2000.

It has a name – this poison of society. It’s called Corruption. And President Julius Maada Bio has chosen to pick a fight with this powerful, grotesque monster. What a fight this is going to be, on his hard journey to a ‘prosperous’ 2023.

Next, and in conclusion of this series, we will take a hard, dispassionate look at how the president is faring so far in his fight against corruption.

4 Comments

  1. Political Will, or Lack of. First, it was the rains, followed by mudslides. Then more rains, again followed by more mudslides. It’s like clockwork of vicious cycle, with no end in sight. It’s also like a nightmare that you want to wake up from. Or a dream so heinous that you are desperate to wake up but can’t.

    And so it continues, the rains and mudslides, that is. Year in, year out. It’s not like the heavens is about to change its pattern of doing things. Or is it because of the sudden advent of “Climate Change” that Sierra Leone is incapable of dealing with this natural yearly occurrence.

    Sierra Leone is known to have more “rainfall than any other country in West Africa”, thanks to meteorological underpinnings, which has been mentioned in an earlier, well-researched opinion piece. The rains, minus the more destructive mudslides are actually a blessing (in disguise?), rather than a curse; I beg to differ from the aforementioned piece.

    For one thing, as the saying goes, “Water if Life.” Some countries in Africa, like Uganda, Somalia, Kenya and Morocco to name a few as well as most countries in the Middle East, would rather trade geographical locations with Sierra Leone in spite of it’s myriad of manmade, natural and lack of political will to confront these problems.

    But I would argue that Sierra Leone’s location has little or no bearing, whatsoever as to why there is constant destruction of life and limb almost, exactly the same time each and every single year, incidentally, by the same natural phenomenon (the rains). Would you trade rain for a desert (no rain, for months?) Who would do that?

    Here is the gist of the matter: “Political Will” or there lack of, is the ultimate reason we have always and will continue to experience this natural destruction in Sierra Leone every single year. It was happening before, during and after colonial days and it continues to this day.

    For Heaven’s sake, there are only two seasons in Sierra Leone, it is either rain or it’s the very hot sun. Sierra Leone should have devised ways to deal with the aftermath of these natural occurrences by now, with the right mix of political will, indeed.

    And Sierra Leoneans must stop this nonsense, henceforth of blaming the age-old colonial masters. Granted they founded Freetown between a mountain and a river, so what. They, (The Queen) left the shores of Sierra Leone long time ago, (She didn’t even like us, anyway) and it’s about time we shoulder our own responsibilities, regardless of its origins.

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines political will as “the firm intention or commitment of a government to carry through a policy, especially one that is not immediately successful or popular.” Political will is not some kind of immutable and innate personal quality. It is not the same as political courage or conviction. Political Will is a deliberate social construct, and every positive advance of public policy rests upon its successful creation”.

    I added my own interpretation thus: the mental, psychological, and most will say, psychiatric disposition of a leader(s) of a country to call or pull leavers or fearlessly employ mechanisms to achieve large-scale results with clearly defined conclusions with specificity in enhancing the human condition.

    Hence the concomitant display of political courage or conviction devoid from any and all considerations of the next election is what is sorely missing in our governance dispensation. It’s complicated. Consider this: The leader of one of the opposition parties has even indicated that if President Bio does not build the bridge as promised, he should not be re-elected in the forthcoming next election, which is some years away.

    This is a tacit way of actually inspiring corruption and inaction. If some agenda is likely not to be successful because of it’s political implications, vis a vis the next electoral considerations, then it should not be tried at all. This is hilarious, only not funny. It has dare consequences for national development.

    A reminder is in order for purposes of clarity: The Oxford English Dictionary defines political will as “the firm intention or commitment of a government to carry through a policy, especially one that is not immediately successful or popular.”
    Successive governments are all guilty of malfeasance when it comes to their national responsibilities. Coupled with rampant corruption, unpatriotic behavior, selfishness and get rich quick schemes by people in government and or governance.

    Ever since Independence, none of these successive governments have devoted credible reputation on the line to tackle the same problem over the years. Afraid of failure, and as a result, probably be defeated at the next election as already menacingly displayed over the head of the incumbent president. So they are afraid to try bold policies.

    The construction of mud or “pan body” dwellings in prone areas, unplanned and undesignated building of houses anywhere, devoid of building codifications, land grabbing, bribery, overstaying of retired government employees, and a myriad of others, all have contributed to the current state of affairs in Sierra Leone.

    Until recently, the unrelenting travels by the president and his government officials, must have taught them a lesson or two. Some countries have forcibly removed occupants of mudslide prone areas, market woman (men) from CBD (Central Business Districts), to make way for the creation and implementation of sensible environmental application for the larger good. I can guaranty you, government officials have visited some of these countries. It takes “Political Will”, remember.

    Here is the thing: A narrative by a former Prime Minister of an East African country who was visiting an East Asian country, which is now developed. The Prime Minister stayed at the Vice president’s private residence. After breakfast one morning, he asked his host how he came about building such a nice, albeit expensive dwelling. To which the Vice President asked the visiting Prime Minster to walk with him to the porch. Once there, the Vice President pointed to the highway “over there”. And said, you see that highway; some of the money is in this house.

    At another time, in due course, the Vice President was visiting the East African country in question, and the same scenario played out itself. This time, the Prime Minister said to his visitor; you see that highway over there, to which the Vice President responded, I don’t see any highway.

    The Prime Minister responded by saying, that’s because all the funds went to this house. See, thats the difference between corruption in Africa and other countries. Africa and Africans must change.

  2. Did you make the Mr. 10 percent OFFER Mike? That is the only language they understand. If not, they will ever remain in STAND-BY MODE. Good luck and GOD BLESS YOU.

  3. I believe a change of view specially in the economic area had to take place. The import of food had to be reduced like nigeria try to do it now. The neoliberalism with this “free markets ideology” had to be fought for it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. You can see it all over the world and the government had the means to stop it.

    • 1 year ago we proposed to invest in 10,000 houses with solar energy, and create 4000 jobs. To this day, no one moved from the politics; thus after 3 meetings with the minister, the politicians are not serious and the president is sleeping.

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