Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
22 January 2012
The central fact of our lives today in Sierra Leone is the absolute conviction that we are a society of hypocrites, who run through the hurricane and believe that we cannot get wet. It is the epitome of our selfish social and political mindset.
Since the peaceful transition of 2007 we have watched with anxious apathy, several tumultuous political skirmishes, but it is our collective guilt in allowing those wilful damage to the country’s political fabric that is now coming back to haunt us, as the kettle for national elections come to the boil and our political titanic heads for the iceberg.
Blinded by the bling-bling of the then new administration’s largesse and the disdain for the Kabbah’s government, we allowed political muscle-flexing, hostilities and divisive measures by those revelling in their new status, to overshadow the positive step of a peaceful change of regime.
When arsenals of hatred and consequent use of weapons, were becoming a hallmark, we isolated them without making it clear that this was not what we bargained for.
We failed to realise that the unintended consequence of our hypocrisy would be to expose the hollowed-out weakness of our politics as a pork-barrel machine with no engine.
The panic and pretence afterwards became as unsatisfying as cigarettes – calming, but addictive. Just like the delusion of politicians who had become drunk from the fumes of their greed and treachery, we elevated deception to under our skin like a bad case of scabies.
We kept on fooling ourselves that our democracy is mature enough to accommodate anything, especially when the world cried foul and our leaders waved their usual magic wand. But like all fairytales, it had no connection with reality.
However, unlike the smoke-screen and make-believe world of our political elites, some of us were never caught ball watching, or believed that political and ethnic violence was now a relic of the SLPP’s past or a stain that has been wiped clean from the APC’s reputation.
So, the dizzying consequences of the recent mayhem in the bye-election in Freetown, is like starting a fire that may prove difficult to quench. Even by our Versace-style standard, the anarchy is indeed a belter, although I did caution that the various skirmishes of the past four years was a warning that there is no stopping the raging soul train when the die is cast.
And so, like a boil that never heals, the issue of political polarisation has erupted predictably, while accusations are spreading like a plague. Looming in the horizon is political paralysis and gridlock that need to be averted.
But I guess it is near impossible to have a run-up that is so good, it would be preceded by a drum roll and not bloodbath.
I had initially thought, as the years went by, that there was a degree of violence fatigue creeping in around the country under the watch of the present administration.
But now I can sense a renewed enthusiasm and appetite for trouble and even though it is rearing its ugly head in isolated cases for now, I am hoping that we would somehow escape mayhem in the run up to the main battle for the soul of the nation and its purse strings, later on in the year.
Electoral violence is not simply a political problem. It is a national issue whose poison will spill over into our compounds as revolting chants of desperadoes increasingly raise the temperature of those sickened by naked use of power and by the sickening arrogance of nit wits.
The desperate desire for supremacy, which has bequeathed to our society one hell of a problem, has long and venerable traditions. It stems from the apparent reversal of our values and the enthronement of a shameless culture of thievery and mediocrity in our national lives.
Since we find it far easier to wear and applaud the Emperor’s clothes than to expose profound inadequacies, our politics has become a veritable ground for those who do not know where their next meal will come from.
Those whose definition of immorality is a cruel trick on the sentimental and a commitment to depravity that is almost demonic in its intensity.
Our politics continues to flatter to deceive because it is one aspect of our lives where character does not play any significant role in the choice of those that are often selected to represent public interest in our present political set-up.
Instead, it has become a sure place where beggars not only become kings but attain financial status of unimaginable height, overnight. Hence the do or die attitude.
Instead of being a contest of ideas in which the most persuasive will get the endorsement of the majority of the people, it has become a tussle which radiates desperation by characters that have no back-story, no context and few aspirations aside the lust for power, position and wealth at all costs.
People with their own agenda rather than a fight for the common good, and who could not do anything as mundane as fight the good fight of faith without looking as if they were about to have a fit.
Notice that there is no mention of policies, because in modern African politics they are not that important when it comes to winning elections and our leaders know this.
There’s very little difference between the parties.
Political expediency has forced the social mafias to become strange bed-fellows and the others are all too indebted to the special interests that funded their elections/selections or acceptance into a new set-up, while their cohorts in and outside the media continue to fuel the culture of vulgarity.
Hostile rival party men as well as those not averse to a moment in the spotlight are scrambling for relevance and doing everything to please their new mates. Carpet crossers and political harlots are acquiring increasing amounts of power as they scurry to pick up crumbs and show they are a force to reckon with.
In the midst of the national incivility and wrangling, political strategists are effectively sewing up the direction of this year’s poll before the rest of us have enough energy to catch fire and truly assess the present administration and the aspiring candidates of the other parties.
Politics in its real form is a very challenging and noble profession, meant for men and women with impeccable character, vision and concern for the society. Not common criminals, potential squanderers of public funds or dubious proponents of change, whose cynical political calculations and volte face often leaves us feeling as if we’ve been scalped and mugged.
Obviously in our beloved country today, politics has totally lost its challenges and glamour. Instead, it has become a profession or is it a vocation for men and women bereft of conscience, ideas and visions of statesmanship. Character has ceased to play any significant role and the lack of brains is compensated for by brawns.
In almost all the wards in Sierra Leone today, the nature of our politics has indeed given the political class, undue relevance and licence to continue to feast on our commonwealth and turn the rest of the very people they pretend to represent, into slaves, paupers, widows, widowers and orphans, eating out of their hands.
Politics can produce genuine heroes whose honesty of purpose is not only uplifting but whose invigorating performance and influence reaches far beyond their bank accounts – and their eyes, further than the next contract.
Serious countries like Rwanda, which had a civil war like ours, are marching towards a better life for their citizens.
But Sierra Leone is still at the bus stop of under-development, carrying out mass burials and stitching up the emaciated wounded in hospitals that are not better than consulting clinics, simply because we have failed to rewrite the mantra of decorum for those who aspire to become leaders.
Surely, we cannot be approaching political developments every time with trepidation forever. Something has got to give. And soon too – if we are to evolve a society of order where justice, love and dignity of man will be protected and preserved.
I think – and strongly believe – that the recent political incident should serve as a reminder as well as buttress the point that it is time for us as a nation to sit up and begin a strategic rethink of the future. We need agents of economic, social and cultural regeneration – and fast too.
We need to begin to take some leaps. The rest of the world is moving on and we cannot continue to exist like this.
We have to move forward and to achieve that; we need to break this endless cycle of meaninglessness and haul our politicians over the coals, if we have to, for them to get the message.
The molten fury being spewed out by the combined machinery of a desperate clique; fuelled by a burning desire for revenge and desperation, rather than the national interest or the promotion of a new political behaviour and the cleansing of the system, has to be doused once and for all. If not, it could become the sound of a coming train.
We must all fight against the institution of immoral implication with its attendant corruption which is fast divorcing the interest of the people from the realities of time.
In the absence of trust, governance does not work. In the approaching violent whirlpool, we might end up being caught between change and uproar.
It is high time the President, security agencies and all the leaders of the opposition parties stop being masters of the superficial, hiding behind bland speeches, jaded promises and political posturing.
They would have to grasp the thistle at some point, and it would be better to do it early, and at a time of their choosing than to be forced into it later.
Some of those who have a limited grasp of the issues at stake in our evolving system may continue to look like startled trouts and act with typical bravado but I tell you something, the situation has turned into a sick joke. The excuses are as threadbare as a cheap wig.
As we approach the national polls, there is a need for the voice of sanity in the current hysteria and insanity and the central themes to consider are; peace, security and democracy.
While I can understand the rage within the ruling party as expressed by its Secretary-General, I am actually surprised that the present administration after its initial declaration of commitment to change is willing to destroy the credibility of its worthy and avowed claim, in a spasm of silly extremism and nervousness.
It is for this very reason that I had warned, especially after the emergence of the SLPP flagbearer, that heating up the polity by actions and utterances, did the nation no good.
For the ruling party (which is also culpable in the current political atmosphere) to now remind us that it has the machinery of state at its disposal to create a further scene of horror and ugly spectacle, is akin to handcuffing the nation to lightning.
We need advocates of politics of decency and decorum at this time, not those fuelling the embers of flame and the well-spring of poison that one day may erupt again.