Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 November 2017
Amid the confetti of eulogies and the blizzards of rhetoric, if we turn off the lights and refuse to dance to the music of our politicians, we might just see the outline of the showmen delighting the crowd with their circus act. I was reading President Koroma’s address to the Bar Association, in which he called on the members to play a critical role in the clarification of electoral laws and processes before the next elections.
Of course he knows there are issues because he is the architect of some of them and is therefore stealing a march on the opposition who are too busy busking complex issues, with their hype machine rumbling into life; which may turn out to be another cruel mirage. (Photo: President Koroma meeting with executives of the Bar Association).
To be frank this is one of the reasons why I find it difficult to believe any of the flag bearers and their disparate qualities, to be true agents of change. For example, there is controversy over whether Samura Kamara should have resigned under the explicit provisions of section 41(d) and section 76(1)(b).
I believe it is this area that the President is giving a hint on clarification and is one that becomes an inevitability waiting to happen. However, no interested candidate or even so-called activist is ready to challenge illegalities until they have been committed and then we start shouting foul, or willing to, for the sake of our future, seek an explicit interpretation of the constitutional clause. How about delimitation? Or the botched voters’ registration exercise, etc.
I have been asking myself a lot of questions: What exactly is our problem? Are we so poor or we just can’t think? Isn’t it astonishing that we love nothing better than politicians who lead us to the darkest depth of deception and far away from the paradise we aim for?
Can’t we see that we have lost control of our emotions because we have simply lost control of our lives?
Tell me exactly why we are at this sorry pass. Why, in this crucial period has circumspection and compromise, which formed part of the ways through which Sierra Leone got to where it is today, still pervading the landscape? We may loathe the current clique of political leaders but have we drained the swamp of those, who are truly detached from our realities?
It’s not just about leadership anymore. It’s about all of us. We’ve become jaundiced morally. But there can be no true society without a vibrant and positively dynamic morality framework. You cannot get into a mud bath and claim cleanliness.
As the various candidates vie for our attention, I realise that most people are focussing on the technicalities while losing sight of the plot or entire storyline of our national aspiration; which is an early indicator of derailed morality. And lest you ask, morality means the shared values of a society.
No doubt, virtually everyone agrees that there is a need for fundamental change and systemic reforms of our entire socio-political and economic set-up. But growth or progress, when you think about it, is all about creating the new, while consensus is about agreeing on something.
My worry though is this. We might relish the annihilation of the two major parties which are left with no shred of credibility on the pitch of governance and which are instrumental to our decay, for all sorts of reasons; but at this stage, that relish should be tempered by a nagging anxiety about what comes next.
Even if we rage against the dunderheads who drove our bus towards the cliff edge, we should be aware that we are still passengers on that same bus and should be careful about who we choose, to avoid stepping into a minefield and calibrate whatever vision we have in the next segment of the journey.
We all want heroes. The ones taking on the panting monster. But let us beware of those who play the goody and wear a mask while uttering platitudes against the realm of our poverty. Some of our idols often turn out to be ogres. Remember Ernest Koroma and his Colgate-smile?
Contrary to some beliefs, this is not about the suitability of any particular candidate but about the genuine fight for propriety and a vision devoid of the intriguing web of deception, self-centredness, selfishness and other vices that lurk in the innards of what passes for governance and politics in our country.
Unfortunately, “we” still won’t get it in a land where the measuring tool of value has become more important than value itself. We pride ourselves on our “sulphur index”, but tell me which of the flag bearers has genuinely been a product of robust democratic process.
Which makes me believe that thinking that we all know what the issues are, is one huge assumption, given the strong emotional and utterly antagonistic reactions it engenders across the land. (Photo: Ruling APC presidential and vice presidential candidates for 2018 elections).
Even as our inadequacy morph into incandescence about the arrogance and crass disregard for the truth in our governance and politics, which are ruining lives, we have been bored into indifference and are now even catastrophically worse in our sentimental attachment to people and issues.
A new dawn cannot be wished in, it starts to be created by negating the bad old ways. Our situation is like being in a nightmare from which you are unable to wake up. What we are seeing, is mass brainwashing and counter propaganda in the face of covert political warfare.
In a nation trapped in self-harm and whose cumulative effect of the past ten years is somewhere between uncomprehending and pitying, the general malaise is of course connected to the relentless stream of bad governance and poor leadership that has not only rocked the nation in the last five decades but which has made attention deficit the basis of our choice of such leaders.
Therefore, if securing the future of coming generations is the most important service that we owe the present, then frothing supporters of the bunch of egomaniac candidates bent on planting their duplicitous rear up Tower Hill, need to keep their pants on and realise the stench of death coming from the larger part of the country.
At this pivotal time in our national history and after another false dawn under the out-going regime, we need thoughtful leaders, whose enormous task will be to guide the present and inspire the future with true selflessness and enterprising spirit.
Leaders who will not only dare to align with the great vision of a better Sierra Leone but turn it into the reality that will restore the greatness of the past and nurture the seed of the future.
The hype generated by the faces that look out at us from the billboards, newspapers, television sets and on social media has made it almost impossible to truly decipher and absorb the vital message of the missing silver lining that we crave.
Right now we have the most capricious set of political leaders with the rhetorical bluster and scant regard for the impact of the immediate aftermath of the forthcoming polls, on social cohesion and the living standards of those who will throng, come rain or shine, to entrust their future into their hands.
The most tedious aspect of this electoral process has been having to read and listen to endless windbags going on about how wonderful even the most boring of the selected aspirants so far are, conflated with the demeaning of the true change that we seek. I see the whole stunt as just one more tactic to ensure that our political discourse ends up ensuring the existing status quo under a different garb.
It is not all just about personalities you know – I mean our search for a better nation. All we want is a leader who is ready to pull up the trees, not one who will simply rake a diseased soil.
As if in a trance, as soon as politicians ladle out some word-soup which may have the aroma of change and the sweet melody of utopia, but lacks the basic ingredient of truth and the pitch of reality, we get heady without seeing that, voila – another tinderbox waiting for a matchstick.
On it goes, a carousel of unforced foolishness, which was how Ernest Bai Koroma took us to the cleaners and wreaked havoc on a hapless nation and people, with the agenda for change and prosperity which ultimately referred to only him and his kith and kin.
Political leaders who were once our heroes have since become our albatross. It is true that every political party and leader has taken a reputational hit as a result of the mess that some of them have made of our governance, especially when many crocodile tears are often shed as to where the nation and the people find themselves and about Sierra Leone being on the verge of a total annihilation.
But maybe it is our own fault. Maybe we’re looking for heroes in the wrong places.
Fair enough, we can only choose from what we have before us, but in doing so, we must never forget that politicians do what is politically expedient instead of what is morally right.
They are not necessarily on a political pedestal that embodies the precious idea that resonates around the nation; or the idea of hope driven by a longing for something different from the ubiquitous and looming challenge to the values and aspirations of Sierra Leone.
To build a new nation such that we cry for, we need individuals who are committed to high values of integrity and devoid of popular and populist rhetoric, sectionalism, nepotism and selective parochial political tendencies, including tribalism, religion and other warped ideologies.
Sierra Leone’s greatest battle is the one to bring integrity and accountability into our governance. This requires a new way of thinking, a new leadership corps from those who have taken us down the unforgiven path while using the promise of change to mask our pain.
It is obvious you can’t stop the sound of a bell by hitting it with a stick. We all cannot be suffering and smiling. The situation of this blessed nation is caused by us – the citizens. And it’s your’s and my responsibility to put it right – whether we like it or not.
The crude often brutal populism that has made some of the flag bearers the orange-pole around which our dysfunctional politics now dances, as well as the principal point of reference in a radically-disrupted geopolitical landscape, where they play the religious or ethnic card when necessary, so as to get the masses in line, is a cynical default tactic.
It is why we are stuck in quick sand; without thinkers and more focused leaders with enough balls to leave a legacy. All that has been happening is flippant busking championing a new order. Hopefully the future will be much better for our children and coming generations. For now however, I’ll implore genuine patriots looking for a root canal in our governance, to put their party hats back in the cupboard.
I can gush over and decorate with purple roses, some of those we are faced with. But I’m sorry it’s all a case of six and half a dozen. Let the beat go on. Let us dance but with our eyes and ears as well as mind open to the sound and music of what is the best.