Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 November 2016
As more and more programmes for the agenda for austerity, oops; sorry, I mean prosperity, are rolled out by the government and my mind wonders to the goings-on in Sierra Leone, I offer my silent prayer to the God that designed us with a thinking box -not the One that deactivates it.
The panic and painful mixing of the proverbial oil and water, after the government had for long disconnected from concrete reality and had instead doubled as the very depth of societal corruption and human corrosion, unveils the hitherto toga of hypocritical and shallow shadow of progress that had been used for so long to create the illusion of dynamism.
The inferiority complex and desperate commitment to any inept and outmoded systems as well as investment, have revealed the failure over the past nine years to inspire and combine the productivity of our people and resources into a potent economic and social force, that will serve as a solid foundation for the future. We kept calling our malnourished puppy – ‘Tiger’.
Yes, we were told that the economy was booming, but not that it was reliant on corruption and prescription that were meant to sedate rather than cure.
Figures, statistics and foreign commendation were thrown about to create more of that no-thinking magical and mythical discerning that seems to pass for greatness, but which betrayed an iconoclastic mindset, tearing down everything that is held sacrosanct and which coincidentally are now translating in contemporary political and economic developments.
The result was that this corrupt system with no contextual relevance to the dream we cherished, enriched some but left the cupboard bare.
Our concept of growth contained innumerable coincidence. It was random and contained streaks which were sometimes sustained for long enough to fool us into perceiving correlations where mere noise exists.
When some of us kept harping on the deception, the statistics and damn falsehood in our governance, we were denounced. When we tried to point out that with the nation’s foreign reserves and a huge chunk of its revenue and international donations and assistance going into the pockets of those in power – and that something will give someday, except we changed our ways – it was seen as political bad blood.
When our leaders signed away our resources in ridiculously cheap and unreasonable contracts that had no enduring value to the nation, our shouting was seen as simply negativity. When we condemned the pussyfooting about corruption by those in power, who were targeting our commonwealth as payment for their ‘labour of love’ for the nation, we were condemned.
When the government made issues such as the Sam Sumana case, third term agenda, and the need for national kudos for a job well done, the priority of our governance – and real issues were left on the burner, we were labelled as opposition magnates for condemning this diversionary tactic and selfish interests that failed to tackle the interests of the generality of the people and the future of the country.
On and on we kept shouting about the smokescreen that was used to cover the burning national issues, whose neglect will lead us to mortgaging the future, even as the government could not justify the pathetic and monstrous negation of domestic templates for long term development; but continued to rely on foreign dictates that ignored the socio-cultural, political and economic realities of our environment.
Sadly, every now and then, we are so eager to lose focus and direct our attention away from the real issues facing Sierra Leone and the majority of its people. The colours of our rainbow have been so muddled that many Sierra Leoneans, especially those at the bottom of the economic pile, now live in a bewildering world.
Today, as the affluent rather provokingly display their wealth to the plebs, the masses cannot make sense of their circumstances, which has seen poverty bestride the country like a conquering giant; and hunger battling millions of peasants who are afraid to awaken the fears of their future to submission.
Our economy is broke. And from indications, no one truly knows how to fix it. Our mediocrity has ensured that we have hustled ourselves to the ground; and until we clearly take a holistic direction, we shall continue to squander resources in the name of trickle down and national prosperity. We truly need to sneeze and scatter the table.
Whether we like it or not, we have to take a mainstream approach to getting out of our current mist. If we continue to defer to those we chose to lead us, rather than stand up to challenge whatever is wrong with our entire system, Salone will be better only in our dreams, while touts will continue to take turns at being billionaires.
Not only are we paying a heavy price for creating a carte blanche for the dismal exploitation of our resources by our leaders and their foreign and local cohorts, the danger of our pervasive ignorance has led to the very survival of our nation now hanging in the balance. Right now, all we are doing is twitching in the valley, while the fire approaches from the mountain.
Almost everything about the way we do business with those who claim to love us better than we love ourselves; the way we enact policies to run red carpets for anyone who claims to be economic wizard or wealthy investor; the way we live our lives, which has created a chasm between the powerless and the powerful, has been wrong from the very beginning.
Our socio-economic and political imbalance, the abdication of genuine reflection, as well as the lack of political will, has led to the failure to think, project or spend beyond the immediate needs and greed. This has subsequently left us with nothing to fall back on, at this time when revenue has dwindled, business is esoteric and generally corrupt and our purse is empty.
The naivety, avarice, autocratic tendencies, as well as thoughtlessness and non-resistance of our inept leaders to the conflict in the terms of foreign investments, aid and assistance from the onset, has seen them rolling over like obedient puppies and bottom-dragging stragglers, in front of tax avoiding, covetous financiers and external organisations – supposedly ‘oozing’ with extravagances and ruthless efficiency.
They dictated the very steps we’ve been taking and encouraged us out of close scrutiny of the effects of their actions and ‘gifts’.
Even though the resources are ours, they decree what they want to give us, when, how and even what they do not want us to do, so much so that we are on the path of selling everything we own to raise foreign reserves and cash flow as well as take on more debt burden, without a thought of what happens tomorrow, and the fact that we are turning ourselves into slaves in our very own country. Still we find ourselves on our knees.
Sadly, the perpetuation of the dangerous myth that our corrupt leaders are all-knowing, as well as the complicity of the media in the destructive flight to drive the country to the abyss, has seen us going to the extremes in the implementation of and submission to the foreign scripts and models we strive to emulate or are forced to implement.
We must retrace our steps and we must start now. We have to start dancing to our own drumbeat and realise that if we can see a bandwagon, it is already too late to join it. Noise is different from music and education is more than passing degree exams. We need to solve the problem we have, with obvious common sense rather than forming with models that are contextually lacking in this environment.
The fact is that sprinklers may work in the opulent gardens of our elite leaders, where corruption and ignorance, impunity and vested interests seep through every listed pore, and supersedes national aspirations. Unfortunately, they won’t work in the East End of Freetown or our dusty villages on a hot Saturday afternoon.
One pertinent question that bothers me is that: how come Ebola and global crunch were allowed to blow down the entire stack of our economy, when we were meant to be in a blissful bubble of happiness?
How much of a foresight was put into focus when (a) the economy was allegedly thriving; (b) Ebola started showing its devastating effect and cracks started appearing in our house of glass; (c) the wobble in our finances, foreign investment yields from our resources and global economic tupsy turvy, began to rock the very foundation of our prosperity?
What’s gone wrong with, or is going on with the much-trumpeted post-Ebola recovery programme?
Sierra Leone belongs to us all. Thankfully, Government, after several years of denial has partially admitted and confessed to the truth of the alleged ‘hysteria’ of rabble-rousers, that the nation is in a recession, which is a euphemism for the reality that the economy is not only in tatters, it lies in the doldrums.
Consequently, the idle mega-phones of the over-fed political elites, as well as the gluttonous hangers-on in the organized strong-arm-group of power, that have been fighting imaginary battles against perceived enemies, should at least bury their head in shame.
The real issue here is that nobody on an empty stomach wants to listen any longer to the excuses being spewed out by the government as the main cause of our perdition. This is because the 24/7 soundtrack of screaming by those who have seen themselves as invincible, is now so transparent, that you can see it coming like a dog cocking its hind leg next to a favourite lamppost.
The basic points, or the reality of our existence is characterised by hunger, corruption, unemployment, insecurity of lives and property; the ludicrous greed of our leaders, as well as the soaring prices of goods.
A country whose economy finds it difficult being weaned away from the stimulus of corruption and which merely consumes and is without structures that can really command investors’ confidence, cannot but be in crisis. Period.
Along this, is the scandalous and increasingly worrying gap between the haves and the have-nots; the state of the economy, the deplorable conditions of some of our roads, including the newly built ones, and the realisation of the appalling record of eight years of talking big on two precious agendas and delivering very little; as well as the lopsided or total absence of internal framework for formidable transformation and development.
I’m sorry, but it is the synthetic bleeding-heart of our leaders, their lack of compassion, the deep malaise in our governance, the increasing propensity to denounce others and make light of our problems, as well as the collusion and connivance with foreign institutions and callous investors, wooed through sweet-heart deals, that are the reasons why those who could not do much in kitchen-sink time, are now being buffeted by a perfect storm of problems, that is choking us all.
So, while the government has developed the habit of looking away from the real issues, we do not have to jump on the fatuous train that they have laid out in velvet, to take us into the land of illusion where they had alleged that our pain and penury will turn into gain and plenty.
Even if we are to assume that this is a minor bump and another disaster of historical milestone, we cannot ask Dracula to continue to babysit for us in a dialysis theatre at this our midnight hour.
In other words, the great and yawning absence of moral values, high standards of accountability and performance, as well as assemblage of tested hands to put the wind behind the sails of our socio-economic development, have come back to haunt us. This is the fundamental root cause of our underdevelopment and socio-political and economic challenges.
So, let’s do what we can by at least talking or writing about the real issues and the unwillingness or inability to deal with them now, as well as set the people’s agenda for those coming behind. An African proverb says: ‘if you do not know where you are going, you should know where you are coming from.’
Anybody who attempts to justify our present predicament is either wicked, depraved or both. True development should have focussed more on people as the core of the metamorphosis of the agenda for change and prosperity, rather than growth in the volume of goods and services.
It is clear that if we have the understanding of the times we are in, further deception in our governance and our perception of the reality of our existence would have united us in the search for solutions to our hardship.
As a people, we need to become streetwise to the antics of our leaders. Bad economic management such as the choice of an airport over critical social indices that need attention is the bane of our economy.
If it means going out in protest, the wholesale handing over of our resources and pathway to development to foreigners must stop. I am aware that the government is so fragile, that it is at the mercy of knife-wielding ‘helpers’ who have taken its drivers hostage through corrupt enrichment. This is a cancer we must address.
What has been the benefit of all those waivers and tax reliefs we’ve given out in the last nine years?
Why are the Chinese committed to an airport after allegedly being given a free run of Lungi area and the rich resources of our land; but not interested in our agriculture or returning us to the enviable days of exporting produce that brought in revenue for us? The devil is in the details.
Impunity can make the dumbest look smart and the smartest to shrink into obscurity. So, in times like this when life is so harsh, what do we do to alleviate poverty or rectify the imbalance and myriad of anomie that have made the road to eternal life so rough? What do we do, I ask?
Leadership or collective sanity? We do not need a crystal ball or Einstein’s brain to appreciate that the greatest challenge of the government today is the economy. Yes, we are aware of how we got to where we are today and the fact that the genesis of our present situation can be traced to post-war syndrome.
Nevertheless, without fixing the troubled economy which affects every aspects of our entire existence, the government which is in dire straight at the moment, will discover that its legacy will be that of bedroom deals and resource-swaps, beyond the cesspool of corruption it finds itself.
It can never claim to have been an agent of change when all that it has bandied about has not translated positively in the lives of the generality of the people.
Beyond the impulse to resort to populist and fire-brigade actions, it is essential that we draw up a clear-cut road-map to recovery and concrete plans to find reasonable solutions to the problem we face and to revamp the economy.
So, let’s face the real issues. We are losing focus. We are concentrating on the side issues, and many other things have become more important than the seriousness to inspire a national reorientation that will galvanise us all as a nation.
Now, what is President Koroma going to do about our bad year? What will he do about the gratuitous cruelty of the galloping inflation that is bearing down like a horror film on the people the government has deceived for so long – now that the succession of lies and snigger-dominance of those in power have failed us woefully?
This should be our focus. Our focus should be on the real issue. We have tried sentimentalism, ethnicity, political leanings, religion and whatever, to no avail. Let’s wake up. Let’s face the real issues now – once and for all.