Politics in Sierra Leone today: The elephant we ignore at our own peril

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 June 2022:

As the rumblings of evolving instabilities continue to dance to the frenzied beat of the drummers, now is the time to take a hard look at the country and speak straight to all those who have given the impression that they could fix the country while ignoring the basic reason why the load on the head of a man with crooked legs, remains permanently unbalanced.

Six decades after independence and despite a rather unnecessary civil war whose scars are still very visible all over the innards of our nation, our society is latent with myopia induced selfishness; ethnic groups are still threatening to fall out in the struggle for supremacy, political insecurity still lingers in an atmosphere of benign tension, corruption floats in the land in resplendent regalia and our leaders across all strata are far away from being paragons of virtue. The reality is that they are players of a game, on a field in which the rest of us are nothing but spectators.

Put a bit of blood in the water as some of the social media postings sometimes do; or scratch the surface of our wound as often happens with some unbelievable events; and our ethnic and political lions get even hungrier exposing the truth that the future of our dear nation is swimming in a destructive ocean with ultimately, a disastrous terminus inherently laden with avoidable waterfalls.

Someone said, “when you have captured a man’s brain and put it in jail, you do not need the body”.

As the sublime gets on its marks, pronto, the ridiculous is readying to stay in pursuit. The unseen faces pulling the strings have charmed us out of our minds and captured it by suppressing our ability to think of the implications of the sentiments and colouration we attach to happenings, which often blur the lines. We have been taught to be selfish and to sacrifice the nation for the insular ethnic and political emblem. We have become a society and a people on crutches.

Unfortunately, you can’t get to where you not heading. For you to get to a destination you must be going there first.

Right now, there is no indication that we are all on board the same vehicle towards the ultimate objective of delivering the common good and achieving peace and unity in our country.

Looking at our current national trend, I mean, on a scale of one to ten – one being hyperbole on steroids and ten, an objective analysis – are our collective actions embodied in trust and a unifying desire to adopt the courageous course of facing the plethora of fundamental challenges, especially the twin evil of corruption and tribalism that have plagued this country since independence?

Is a fair picture of present-day Sierra Leone being presented in the local press and social media, to propel this desire for unity of purpose? (There is a fair share of the deluded in the diaspora too, who, just like some at home, are merchants of cheap propaganda concocted to distort reality that not only continues to endanger our society but has led to many accepting deliberate errors and lies for truth.)

The answer of course is NO. What we say is good, is not so good and what we say is right, is often, plain wrong. Too much evil is called good.  Too much good is seen as evil.  But when you compromise the truth, you lose the ability to discern it. Which is why it is extremely difficult in our clime to go against the grains and say there is lifting up when everyone else seems to be saying there is casting down. It is a sign of the failure of our system and dysfunctional society. It needs concerted effort to correct this old and current order or else we will be forced to pay dearly for it, by coming generations whose future we are busy squandering on the altar of our greed and corrupt tendencies.

Our fingers are still not dry of ‘blood’ and the modern day elephant is not just reincarnating but its voracious eating and destructive habits reflect ethno-regional bias which is an anathema to bridging national differences but which opens up new socio-cultural and political battle fronts. It is amusing that our new direction of getting rid of a brain tumour is by having a haircut.

Nevertheless, it’s the hate that worries me most. It’s the vehemence of our hatred for truth, justice, equity, and mistrust of one another as well as our provocative outbursts against the very soul of our nation, irrespective of its value that worries me most. We have sacrificed logic and critical thinking at the altar of self-seeking adulation that comes from/with popular viewpoints. Our memory hole has become rather fascinating.

Are you in disagreement? Forget the past issues for a while and just follow the hysterics around the recent uproar about a musician and a fellow citizen which led to the intervention of the police, and you’ll get my drift. It’s not worth the aggro of becoming a national discourse as evident by the one-sided outcry but it shows our penchant for gross hypocrisy and ignorance from the official to the civil society, among others.

Like everything else that defines our reality, it resonates blatant traces of nepotism, duplicity of standards in law enforcement, the undisguised policy of superiority complex repugnant to growth and development, rule of law and good governance.

Whether under the agenda for change or the new direction, the basis of moral conduct and core defining attributes of integrity appears to have been replaced by hypocrisy, toxic ambitions, unfettered individualism and twisted postulations by those in and out of the corridors of power.

Cry my beloved country

The organism is afflicted, which means the fever is in every cell and every organ. It confirms my fears that someone has left the truth out in the rain and our current attempts at ‘sainthood’ from the top to the bottom, are as convincing as a man trying to pile sand during a storm. It is all Kabaslot and no underwear. Forget it.

More importantly, as I see it, if analytical post-mortem is not conducted with a high level of honesty, then we are not ready for the change we all agree that our country needs. We should not pretend not to know where the rain started beating us, so to speak.

Only your enemy can tell you that you have mouth odour. And they don’t mind telling you in public, whereas your friends, even in private, would tell you that your mouth smells like roses.

The important question is whether our socio-political failures are the result of leadership or whether they are deeper systemic problems?

The sensationalised, overhyped, exaggerated, and grotesquely dramatized hero-worshipping of our social, political, economic and religious leaders is one reason that has distorted the social contract and values as well as inherent virtues emboldened and emblazoned in the Sierra Leone of the immediate post-independence.

Collectively, we have allowed our political class to leave such a sour taste in the mouth that we are likely to be in the dark place for years. Evidently, the bitter ethnic and political power struggle will still dominate proceedings and unwelcome distraction for years to come since the exhausting nastiness of corruptive tendencies suits those whose weapon of choice is the continued ignorance and disillusion of the generality of the people.

But the old order must pass away even though it appears the current political establishment of the Siamese twins- APC & SLPP are doing everything to make it imperceptible for the majority; no thanks to their interwoven block that is taking long to fade away amidst their gloating chorus and sticking two fingers up at our values, virtues and aspirations.

The shrill sagacity of their manipulative slogans coupled with the suggestive pomposity and indecent struggle for power as well as glittering firecracker of form and emptiness continues to be an impediment to the magnetic changing of the landscape and discourse, on the nation of our collective dreams

We just must rebuild the infrastructure of our minds, light a candle in the darkness and shine the light to serve as a compass for the present and coming generations. Otherwise, we are engaged in a time-wasting exercise.

While there are indications that the road to salvation is now assuming a level of resonation in the consciousness of the people and despite the creeping return of discriminatory, ethnic-based, socio-political statism, masquerading as progressivism and the crushed hopes of the generality of the people, the real issue of our future which is being warped in such mystifying ways as to tear us apart and prevent the unity of purpose, has to be resolved sooner than later.

We can’t expect to have better leaders until we have better people. You can’t create great companies without great employees. It doesn’t matter how great the CEO is, crap employees will lead to a crap company. That is the case of our nation.

I’m not quite sure how the new direction intends to game the continued volatility and un-necessary razzmatazz that is becoming a permanent feature dogging its every move. Given some deep myopia, I’m also at a loss how it expects the generality of the public to perceive the knicker-twisting that colours every of its manoeuvres and the political and social instability that its actions unwittingly cause.

Against the fact that one of its selling point was the banishment of our “bad” historical past, it becomes a worrying signal when just as we thought that some of the mistakes that were made by the APC are finally sorting themselves out like a termagant wife leaving your life and family, then like a paradox, the new direction with its mastery of the art of subterfuge is now behaving like the witch who refused to heed the labourers’ yearnings in the plantation.

Some of its comedic displays, not only break the world record for humour and have all the sensuality of untangling two crabs, they also epitomise in microcosm, much of what is wrong in our politics and shine a hydroponic light on the worst of us. Instead of imbuing the citizenry with probing minds to question anomalies by their political leaders, the new direction is putting up a bold face every time it is caught pants down. To me, this is simply political and moral vandalism.

For I know that just like the guy who gets drunk under the illusion that he will obliterate the painful reality that his girlfriend dumped him, the noise and hollow chest thumping of the new direction following flashes of brilliance within its short lifespan, even though the economy is literarily comatose and insecurity is being crowned, is a genetic embodiment of a myth steeped in self-preservation battle.

Those who are serving as ‘lookouts’ on the Titanic of the New Direction are meant to ensure that the digital ship sailing in the analogue sea, listens to the shout of ‘icebergs, dead ahead’ so that it is not sunk by a perfect storm of political, social and economic torrent.

While the first term epitaph of the new direction is nearing completion and unless there is a catastrophe of socio-political and economic proportion, some would say 2023, is in the bag for the administration. Fair enough. But somehow the well of a new direction to the unity of the society is being affected by the toxicity and atmosphere of reflexive judgement by the unequivocal binaries of its personnel in the promised meaningful intervention philosophy.

Amidst the moral dilemma and sensitivity of criticising the queasy skimpy buffet with a few trimmings and some spicy pledges and achievements on offer, those that are trying to wrestle power from the table are only showing us that the culture of building from the scratch is dead in Sierra Leone.

What was billed as a veritable seismic development in the polity following the initial tremors from the tsunamic pronouncements of the new direction, has somehow been allowed to degenerate into a numbing dilemma and a deep reflection of the pursuit of an ethical imperative.

I am certain that when it set out, the New Direction was determined to change the narrative of our society and like many of us, carried the ideas in its head while the ideals burnt brightly in its heart. However, it appears much of the desire to effect a change appears to have been lost in the labyrinth of their actualization and while there was a desire to effect a change and have the will to do so, there is no completion of the process.

Fair enough, while the fine sentiments about the ‘good’ work being done to reposition Sierra Leone are to be welcomed and appreciated, it is cynical and absurd to pretend that the honeymoon, whose effervescence is gradually fizzling out, can be the solid foundation for a successful transition of the nation from the one that had stared and is still looking down the barrel of being ethnically and politically fragmented and that, whose soul is still being ripped out by some square-eyed overlords who feel estranged by their loss of influence or new found aura.

You cannot purport to be striving to set free an oppressed people and at the same time show an indication of dislike for a part of the same people you are ostensibly doing it with and for, at the same time. You can be the best driver and a ray of light in a dark disaster story, but I mean it simply becomes just like a hit and run driver putting a pillow under the victim’s head.

Good campaigns and sloganeering can never give us a new Sierra Leone. It can assist; yes; but we need unity for the type of future we dream of. We need a roadmap built on patriotism and nationalism, values, standards and discipline, not deceit, lies, hypocrisy and tribalism, which is why we are in a mess despite our resources that have made us a perfect picture of abject poverty in the midst of unspeakable wealth.

This is a sad and bitter truth that we find difficult to handle and which has become the elephant in the room that most would rather not hear or confront head on. Those who are benefitting from the cracks and crumbs are still living in self-denial while this precipitous period glowers above a nation tearing itself apart slowly and melting like a chocolate left out in the sun.

One thing that the political class has learnt over the years and which it continues to use to devastating effect is the fact that as a people we are not only cheap and gullible; but we are also blinded by our sentiments which they capitalise on; to toy with our future. We just have to rebuild the infrastructure of our minds instead of the odyssey of near malediction and overdose of the politics and governance that is our lot; otherwise, we are engaged in a time-wasting exercise.

We don’t love each other and where that is lacking, we continue to struggle and suffer in the hands of those that pretend to love us. We are approaching a tipping point. What kind of a society do we really want?

The answer to this question is fundamental.

3 Comments

  1. What exactly is the point being made by this Blyden fellow? We are one of the least developed countries in the sub-region. There is rampant tribalism and nepotism which have contributed to our downfall, yet he says we should not mention the appalling and dire straits in which we have found ourselves.
    Does the gentleman think this is a fairy tale. We are one of the worst people in the world. Does it offend you, Mr Blyden?
    Let me reiterate; we are one of the worst people in the world.
    How else can you describe poverty in the midst of so much resources, marine resources, yet the average man does not have access to protein.

  2. Unfortunately, tribalism and corruption are the very two words that have dominated our politics in the last sixty or pulse years .Maybe there are some people in Sierra leone that haven’t experienced it.But for some of us and many of our fellow countrymen and women have lived it, breaths it and experienced it both professionally and as private citizens .Kicking the problems of tribalism, regionalism, party political affiliations, APC /SLPP or just expressing ones beliefs on the ongoing political debates in our country , without being tagged, and make the assumption all is well and there is nothing to worry about , or bury our heads in the sands like an ostriches ,that none of this problems exist in our country , is rather seen at best disingenuous or one is brainwashed enough and have fallen in the trap of our corrupt politicians that have sought to keep our nation divided along those lines for their own benefit at the detriment of all Sierra Leoneans that want to see genuine changes in our country. So the author of the article is right to point out the negative effects these divisions are having in our country’s strategic national development goals. The cancer of corruption in Sierra leone , which Bio our president was braved enough to accept on foreign national television, like CNN ,that is the main reason why our country is struggling to finds it feet , sixty years after independence .Is not a made up story but a fact of everyday life for struggling families up and down the country .

    Well one can argue that Bio has one of the most inclusive cabinet, but here again that story is debunked by the very Bio ,again in his Sofa interview on Sierra leonean national television that he only employ people he personally knows ,not for what they know. If in doubt look at the percentage of his Cabinet or political advisers, you will be hard pressed to come with a different statistic number that the current state of the tribes that make up the country , other than majority of his top level appointees are from the South of the country and his own kinsmen and women . That’s called tribalism and a good dose of nepotism. We all want our country to develop, but hiding away from the facts and closing our eyes and sticking our fingers in our ears, as the acronym goes ,see no evil and hear no evil , is not only self defeating , but it will only embolden the promoters of tribalism and regionailsm in our country .The goodnews we are now debating this issues and so it should be .African Americans have been complaining about racism and police brutality for decades. Some of their fellow white Americans have been ignoring their pleas for all those years until the arrival of the smartphone .Suddenly everyone in America and around the world is waking up to the fact there is a deep seated divide in American society along colour lines .Same with Sierra Leone, it doesn’t matter if one express their opinions about ones country , the good thing everyone is talking about it.And change will only happen in societies when the flame of change and those advocates for change managed to keep it alive.

    I wonder what Nelson Mandela and other African liberation heroes have decided to tow the line of maintaining Apartheid and say the Black majority are happy to live as they are told by the white minority regime. That white people are better than black people ?Our country needs more men like Mr Awoono -Gordon who say things as they see it not the way they are told to see things happening in their neck of the woods.We don’t need any apologist of this corrupt and inept Bio government telling us Sierra Leone is a land of honey and milk.Yes there are changes taking place .But unfortunately, we were only made aware it during and after Foday Sankoh launched his RUF wars .And his original reason was to fight corruption and the Momoh government that promised in the1985 ,he will do things differently, only for him to turned out a massive failure .And to cover his failures ordered the execution of former first vice president Francis Minah and others .There are lot of families like that in our country. So let’s talk about our country’s problem .Those in power needs to be reminded the country belongs to all of us .

  3. When are we Sierra Leones going to stop writing articles like this? For sure I can commend you on an excellently written article with many well known points– actually an exhaustive catalog of all the toxic things that could possibly be written about our country. Let’s say every single thing in this article is true (and I do not believe that is the case) what is your article going to achieve other than continue a negative, depressing national narcissism? I challenge you to write an article about Salone without using any of these familiar words like tribalism, corruption, etc. You may even be able to recount the same story if you feel you must focus on the negatives, but my children and grandchildren would be more inspired to be Sierra Leoneans if we stop all this self-agrandisement about being the worst people in the world– we are not.

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