Make no mistake – our political landscape has not changed

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon: 17 September 2019:

It is slightly difficult to disentangle the signal from the cacophony on the socio-economic hardship and the guerrilla warfare of Sierra Leone’s politics.

However, the predatory form of politics which stimulates its own spin and sound-bites is gradually taking over an entirely complex story that leaves the very people who are central to it as mere ‘bystanders’ in an elaborate, polite but irresistible masquerade-dance – currently serving as a smokescreen, for the dreary steeples of an economic stranglehold and ethno-political division.

Some readers might object to my outlook about the state of affairs, and believe that it is always negative and pessimistic, and to a certain extent they might have a point. But the fact remains that I have never set out to join the Boys Brigade when it comes to our contradictory political environment and the cherished dream of a new Sierra Leone, or at least to a semblance of normalcy that exists in sane climes.

If the ability to speak truth to power is the strength we desire, then the way to harness this great asset is by realising that we must not forget that those in power or in opposition, are still essentially politicians, in a very crooked and unbalanced society where when they decide to swing the pendulum, like we are seeing now, the hungry masses follow like the sheep they are.

By the same token, truth is not always palatable or comforting; and its absence has been a major factor in our society, where it sends out the wrong colour of illumination to our leaders because we shy away from telling them what they actually need to hear, out of fear for the negative repercussions.

The resultant consequence of this is that, not only has our sense of reasoning been affected in several ways, the lack of objective assessment of our situation has continued to be shaped by starry-eyed propaganda-induced optimism, that has prevented us from truly fashioning out a collective destination and the way to it.

The most painful part of the lunacy we like to pretend is some kind of normalcy, is the resort to blaming Governor Clarkson’s prayer, our historical past, colonisation and the excess of the political class, as well as the underdevelopment path our leaders forced us to take. A path that has destroyed our industries, discouraged initiative, encouraged corruption, and employed ethnicity, religion and political colourations to rationalise our tragedy. Who put them there in the first instance?

But, watching the kaleidoscope of emotions, the furore and drama by a wily political elite which exploits a gullible populace as well as the general hypocrisy of what is essentially a dysfunctional society, I have come to the conclusion that from our long running socio-political spectacle, it is neither the so-called Governor Clarkson’s curse (or the prayer) that is holding or stopping Sierra Leone’s progress, growth and national development.

Truth is, there is a fundamental flaw in our societal equation. The foundation is faulty from scratch, and we are still collectively and largely in the denial stage as we try to short circuit our true crisis-cycle under the intrinsic assumption that our plethora of belligerent leaders and snake-oil salesmen of a political elite, are the answers.

The whole world right now is undergoing a process of REALITY. Our mooching around without letting this sobering realisation dawn on us, is a true picture of who we are, refusing to believe we are and accounts for why the very soul of the nation is being ripped apart, like the entrails of a ram during the Moslem festival of EID.

Aside corruption, hypocrisy and tribalism — the three-piece attire of shame adorning our society and the new elephants of insecurity, increasing poverty, unemployment, crime, religiosity and animosity, our sheer penchant to try and game everything as well as the dystopian vision that is politically blind, ethnically washed and which fails to move away from the denial stage, are the key to our stagnation and inability to evolve a unified protocol for all round recovery.

As the current state of affairs blindingly shows, how on earth do we really expect something different if we also fail to put Sierra Leone first, either as leaders, squawking peasants or brawling opposition?

And that brings me briefly, to the recent visit of the mendaciously compelling, puffed up and pompous former President, Ernest Koroma, holding out for a ‘halo’ when he decided to belatedly reach out beyond the confines of his goldfish bowl and attempt a sort of retreat from the APC’s reaction to the loss of power, that has left us, a bitterly divided nation – and has been an impediment to progress.

This political psychodrama of the leaders, whose parties are not only as divisive as you can be, but are also partially responsible for the parlous state of the nation, playing the people like a symphony orchestra, does not in any way really show much in the way of contrition for theirs and their parties’ roles in Sierra Leone’s fate today.

All of a sudden and between them, these parties with an undertone of complicity, have decided to pathetically engage in pyrotechnics that only amounts to asking a eunuch if he prefers a slim girl to a fatso. It is not only an exercise in self-deceit, it also raises the question of whether this is the beginning of a panic on our Titanic and as well as whether the new direction is a smelling salt or chloroform?

Watching a clip of the meeting and the farcical body language of some of the APC members, including one who was seen gesticulating while the President was giving his welcome speech, it was clear that our leaders think they’ve got the gift of alchemy and the rest of us are all unknowledgeable impotent.

But attempting to restore trust and confidence doesn’t give our leaders carte blanche to have serial difficulty with the truth in their actions or words. It was obvious that both of them had trust issues and only time will tell as each attempt to take control of the political trajectory by jumping on any old virtue.

Who does not know that when your clothes are made of cassava leaves, you don’t take a goat as a friend?

The underlying and inherent degree of psychological tension and cognitive dissonance between both sides was confirmed in an audio interview by the APC Secretary General, who clearly revealed that the meeting was for the satisfaction of the international community whose insatiable desires were beginning to put the blame of the impasse and the inability of the current administration to harvest the low hanging fruits, squarely in the court of the recalcitrant opposition.

As the interview progressed, the APC scribe who could hardly recognise the fact that we did not have two presidents in the country, continued to emphasise the fact that what will garner the greatest short term pacification of the restless natives and the baying foreign mob was more important than the unity and progress of the nation.

Since it is too early to conclude what the true role of the egregious APC will be in the ‘new’ and envisioned participatory democracy, the new direction of President Bio must remember that time doesn’t heal anything; it’s how we deal with time that determines the speed at which we heal.

Whatever may be the outcome, the hunter who sits on the tree watching when God will appear will die someday. It is obvious that some of our political leaders are passionate and comfortable with stripping in front of the mirror of hypocrisy, deceit and lies. They must always sneak and trudge around the reality of truth and resort to the ethical transport of another basic, bitch-strategy, which borders on the obscene as they drive our train towards wherever they perceive the clue to be.

Right now, amidst a cocktail of champagne and cyanide, important issues are getting shoved to the side-lines as we get distracted by the sleight of hand from these sleazy, self-entitled political elite across the spectrum, utterly convinced of their own invulnerability. This is what is causing a corrosive effect on every citizen, when its rhetoric meet the thin red lines of reality.

Anyway, the thought of trying to decipher what is exactly behind the sudden change of heart was still very much in my consciousness when the emotional colour that disrupts all the visions – and is a metaphor of who we truly are, came to the fore more vividly, at the opening of a Sierra Leonean restaurant in London which is a grade higher than its old place.

Yep. That’s not news. What is, however, is the moral revulsion, misguided tribal loyalty and myopic political vision, as well as the length and depth of the rumour mongering that accompanied what should have been seen as a step forward for the Sierra Leone community in London.

The inadequacies and fragile temperament of our love, unity and patriotism was driven home by the unbelievable shambolic rationalisation, envy, mental laziness, moral degeneracy and illogical display of perceptions that lend credence to neither reason nor logic in innuendoes that the new ‘joint’ belonged to President Bio, or as others alleged, that the owners were sponsored and funded by the SLPP administration as a thank you present.

That the restaurant has been in existence for a while, albeit in a smaller place, as well as the fact that the new place was an answered prayer to the clamour for a more befitting and convenient place for Sierra Leoneans to relax instead of the current overcrowded and cramped ones, was lost in the unconvincing ‘bad belleh’ of even some of those who have traditionally claimed the high ground of principle, and from whom much would have been expected in this day and age.

That whole universe of notion that we cannot do anything progressive without the colour of a party attached to it, is one of the reasons why instead of achievements stemming from our dedication to truly turning our nation and its global image around, what we have is a veritable bugbear and a loathsome disdain for one another; which is sometimes weighed down by a depreciable descent from the sublime to the ridiculous, in a tunnel-vision political silo.

Now, if that mirrors the instinctive pedigree of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora, imagine then the psyche of the hoi polloi. It points to a rather frightening conclusion that as of now, there is no vision of a way ahead; simply a forlorn hope that Sierra Leoneans and the country itself, would experience a “Road to Damascus” conversion.

Are such hopes in vain? Is our future embedded in the past, when we built strong pillars of patriotism, a culture of tolerance and a productive and dedicated socio-political environment, before the advent of political and leadership robbery?

Those were some of the nagging questions that occupied my mind, in a chat with those whom, given the opportunity, could be considered as materials for leadership, as we discussed our social conscience that continues to wallow in nostalgic haze and emotional overload between fantasy and a cruel hoax.

As some agreed that our reality is a far cry from what Rwandans embraced to achieve their enviable height of today, we concluded that those in position of authority – socially and politically, often forget that they are there because of the people, not in spite of them. And the followers fail to appreciate their standing, as long as they have a demi-god that doles out crumbs and spew platitudes while lording it over them.

But any leader does not intrinsically have more value than the follower. It is only the impact of the action of the leader that is greater than that of the follower. This is why most of those in leadership positions often bring a submachine gun to a knife fight, the moment they reach the top, especially in politics.

Likewise, our continued attempt to make our leaders believe, feel and act as if they are more special, more important and of better value than the people who put them there, instead of appreciating that they are opportune to be in authority by divine intervention and to leverage on the collective resources on behalf of the citizens, is what was painfully evident in the last dispensation and is gradually creeping into the present.

While there is such an immense push, especially in the world of social development by the current administration, there is something so much deeper that needs to be imbedded into the very foundation of the nation’s life, if our efforts are to be truly successful.

Sierra Leone’s problems are too complex and complicated. Not grasping this fact as well as the need for our leaders to display a life of immense value, integrity and moral uprightness, will simply ensure that every effort amounts to dry rot or woodworm in a woodwork.

Rather than the new direction’s antennae being permanently tuned to transmit instead of receiving, it is my view that it should realise that it is in danger of fighting a traditional war, when the battle ground has changed.

The dividing line is no longer a monopoly of morals or optimistic policy alignment being slalomed and manoeuvred with a joystick. It is complex and illustrates some of the snags currently being overlooked beneath the gloss of the government’s ‘enumerated achievements’ and beyond the deafening and bumbling charm.

I have come to realize that, we have a long way to go. And until we not only get this clarity, but ensure it is inherent in our every activity, we shall continue to form and Sierra Leone will continue to be a nation of dependence as we collectively work at cross-purposes. We’ll continue, every time a new administration is voted in, to feel more like having bad sex – something you thought you wanted at the time but which swiftly congeals to regret and self-loathing.

But, if the goal is to have a new equitable society, it’s only with true acceptance that practical and effective solutions to our problems and what divides us, can truly evolve. Identifying the problem also means accepting the negativity of the problem which the court of public opinion will decide.

Any agenda to silence the people and push the burden of the economic malaise and political trajectory of the murky water of politics, to the ‘stupidity and irresponsibility’ of the last administration alone, is a dangerous one.

President Bio mustn’t relent in his efforts to be a transformational leader who will print his name in gold in the political history. However, he must use wisdom.

Right now, our society is at sixes and sevens as an almost certain political and economic ‘rift’ is tearing apart our usually placid society. The scale of the task before the new direction is breath-taking, when one considers the political rancour, economic upheavals and social schisms.

While the government brings a formidable range of skills to its mission, the ethic of responsibility is all about pragmatism. And, it should therefore be under no illusion about how difficult the terrain it has to operate under, especially with the unhappy recipients of its perceived lateral intent but whose voices have been drowned out for too long.

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