Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 May 2018:
Nourishing and tilling the flower beds you can, but picking the best scented rose is a different ball-game. Seriously, any two-bob gardener can tell you that. So, can we as a nation face the present and our envisaged future without excursing into the past?
Or are we in the land of perpetual night, where the brilliance of the day is nothing but substance of things perpetually hoped for, and the evidence of things never to be seen?
Should we assume that we are beyond redemption? No, but there is a hard way to travel. Where will redemption come from when the rot is deep rooted in our fabric? What are we doing about the prognosis? Should we continue to throw stones at each other?
Unbridled greed, hypocrisy and selfishness have all combined to ruin a once glorious, innocent and peaceful nation.
Most of us know the true picture, but we keep sealed lips because we are too enmeshed in the crushing failure of good governance.
The answer is simple: we must collectively step into this well of utopia that is being promised by the new administration, without fear of being drowned. We must stop wasting away and leaving the political class to dictate our realities without knowing where the pain is in our hearts.
Fair enough, since the new administration came into office the mood in the nation has once again become refreshingly hopeful. The pronouncements of the administration have ushered in a glimmer of a brighter future. The nation is breathing happier like a farmer, who after going through years of depressive productivity, unexpectedly witnesses rainfall in due season.
However, it is much easier to shout change as a strategy for winning elections than to actualise it in a fractured, fractious and economically shambolic geopolitical environment such as ours. It’s like our system and corruption are so interwoven and inseparable that removing one may kill the other. That is the conundrum facing the government.
While we must take a surgeon’s knife to the very heart of our society – for Sierra Leone as a patient to make progress from its affliction, it is utopia to expect the critical aspects of corruption, poverty and indiscipline to disappear overnight, when the selfishness of the handful of looters and leaders from the political class, has damaged the spirit and positivism of the vast majority of the people, and which a society requires to grow methodically.
As a result, attempts by the new administration to stop wastages and leakages should not be about money alone. It should also be about the restoration of meritocratic thinking and performance ethos into the society’s lexicon and mindset of a corroded and rather corrosive society.
Stopping the looting is a critical first step, but rebuilding the capacity to grow society is an even bigger battle, once de-looting is accomplished.
The real cost of the over fifty-year looting-fiesta, especially in the last decade, has been the capacity-impoverishment of the people, for whom the economy has been dysfunctional and depressed for years.
So, that starting point, coupled with poor quality of human capital in general is bound to affect the initial pace of repair.
President Bio does not have five years left. He has just a little over four and three quarters of a year to do whatever government-magic he’s got to offer. I sincerely hope that the back-slapping has ended; that the frolicking is over and the head scratching is already pulling some hair on to his table, even if he hasn’t got that much to fiddle with.
Sandwiched between a regrettable past and what appeared to be a hopeless future, the ‘mugus’ eyes are getting rescaled at a fast pace. No thanks to the embarrassing impunity and recklessness of the Koroma administration, and the social media which has ensured that the ostriches are finding the ground too hot to stick their necks into.
In our age-long immoral tendencies of playing the ostrich and running under the umbrella of our tribes, party and class, what many of us have failed to appreciate is that our continued recourse to God as our saving grace stems from the failure of policies.
The triple problems of religion, ethnicity and corruption have left us without our thinking caps and blotted our minds from critical and dispassionate look at our woes, so much so that things we should be demanding from our leaders, we take to God in prayer and then turn around to blame our enemies on the other side of our great divide for the cause of our excruciating backwardness.
Is it God that will solve our power crisis, build us good and lasting roads, or repair our broken education system which is no longer fit for purpose?
Is it just divine intervention that’ll give us good health because of our failing health care system, or save us from the increasingly worrying security situation as a result of hunger and desperation, as well as find jobs for our thousands of unemployed and unemployable youths milling round the streets of our cities?
Yes, I know God is still in the business of miracles, but even He is not meant to be the reservoir of the failures that have turned our civil and public servants into guzzling machines, because of the vestige of their poor salary.
God has taken away the ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign that HE – the one to whom power truly belongs – hung against Sierra Leone at the height of our descent to the demonic world of the previous administration.
The point is, we now need to collectively seat down and develop actionable solutions and implement them, without the usual corrupt ways. No doubt, corruption is endemic and organic in our system and a moral reset is deeply needed from those in governance as well as the governed.
But we all must stop the collective rape of the country. Voluntarily or not, everyone is involved in the unfolding drama.
Good people and a bad business plan often go very far. But bad people and the very best of plans, always fail. We need to fix the people first before we can have the luxury of fine-tuning plans and structures for optimal performance. Only a running engine can be fine-tuned. A poor engine usually needs repair or remake.
Yet this time around, the government must do more with less by stopping grand corruption and impunity. Running a society on unbridled optimism is like running your car on prayers and declarations. Optimism might be a good thing, but not when it runs in the face of history.
Sierra Leone is not going to change overnight. For one, it needs a drastic moral reset. However, combined with its intellectual and human capital, its better environment, its untapped varied mineral resources, its rich traditions in culture and rich history, our nation has the propensity to develop into a formidable and steady developing country in the hands of a leader with the right vision and the capacity to last the distance.
Governance outcomes are products of deliberate actions or inactions. Corruption has wrecked our nation; and the people that caused it, continue to play leaders – hell bent on pouring our honey into baskets. Similarly, one does not really have to be an expert to recognize the heavy grime and dirt fuelled by our politicians on the nation’s socio-political landscape. This is going to take a hell of a long time to wash away.
Anyway, history tells us that while change has been initiated, motivated and implemented by a few, it is the synergy of the wills of a few, the vision of a handful and the sweat of one or two that have always been the engine of change.
It is time for the Bio administration to get serious and get down to the detailed work that will recognise the difficult choices and priorities – all of which entail patience, maturity and tolerance on top of serious hard work.
Words spoken like mantra rather than a political reality will not suffice. Personal fantasy of potentials, which currently appear far above the grim reality and the self-indulgent egotism that the President and his party is unwittingly massaging, will not berth us at the dock of the change and desire to be free from the shackles of poverty.
I’m not sure if he can hear it or if it is a personal decision to ignore it, but the voices of hate are getting louder; cynics are sitting deeper with folded hands and a grin; while some aides are showing signs of not being in tune with the ‘New Direction’ being preached by the government.
A mad frenzy is set off in the heart and minds of rabble rousers and those who feel that their nuisance values must always be reckoned with, while shameless hyperventilating and amorous women from the shadowy past are lining the routes of emotional national sympathy.
Till date, party members drunk on the dying fumes of victory are goading opposing views with reckless abandon, and helping the national divide further apart. Narcissism and narcissists, running amok. This needs to stop.
I hope President Bio himself has shut down in his flush of victory. He must, because those who are putting personal, ethnic and political interests above our national aspirations are not only on the prowl, they have already swung into action.
He must realise that he was not elected to remind us of the failings of the Koroma hegemony, the dilemma of our youths or the zilch at the bottom of our national purse. He was elected to solve all the problems identified or still latent. No excuses.
The masses that picked him as the best to lead, repose a lot of confidence in him not only to be the defender of the interest of all, but also to be the provider of the solution to our problems, even if such goes against his natural instincts.
No matter how much he pushes numbers, he must realise that numbers are supposed to, and are a way of telling stories about, or illuminating reality. When they disconnect (i.e. numbers and reality), numbers are worthless.
It is now time to put rhyme and rhythm into his New Direction operations which he set out comprehensively in parliament, even though most of the promises were not SMART-bound and even though he seems to have assembled some of the best brains, to undertake this mammoth project that must be delivered in the next 4 years, come rain or shine.
Unlike the last regime, Sierra Leoneans’ reactions to everything, good and bad will this time not be, to lie supine, and take them as they come. Even the composition of the legislature has ensured that things will indeed have to change.
Yes. Rome was not built in a day, but there is a need to realise that those who do not mind to destroy Sierra Leone just to bring down his administration, are working harder than he thinks, and they neither sleep nor slumber. When the sweet breeze blows in the wind, flowers shake in jubilation.
Obviously, the people are capable of change when inspired by a righteous cause. As a result, while he fights his three-pronged war against corruption, poverty and indiscipline, the trend of our socio-economic and political indicators points to the fact that if we do not initiate a well-planned and organised change that takes cognisance of the down-trodden, we are setting the stage for a violent social whirlwind.
And this is why the government will be doing itself a favour, if it realises that with or without it, our society as an organic entity will correct itself in the long-run or implode.
By shifting the intractable wheel of change in government, the people have succeeded in uplifting their chances. Fair enough, the journey to democratic civility may be long and rough, but it’s time we began to speak out.
Our leaders now need to heed the call that both in the short, medium and long-term, things have not been working, and are not going to work with the same mentality and values. But that a stitch in time, could still save the situation.
Firstly, there is a need for a national moral reset, if we are to have the new beginning that we all crave. Our value systems in politics and society, have been so damaged pre-2018, that a firm hand is needed to reset our collective psyche, before we can set sail again.
We need to change our orientation. Bring back the values we knew and do away with a system that celebrates mediocrity, nepotism, greed, corrupt tendencies and virtual disregard for the collective
Political will is not enough. We need mass moral repairs and reorientation first. The leadership may have been crap, but the truth is that we, as the “followership”, are not much farther behind, truth be said.
I blame all of us for the rot. Selfish, corrupt, stupid citizens most of us have been. Majority of us folded our hands and even cursed our nation instead of fighting for the truth and justice as well as equity.
It is because of this systemic, inherent, embedded and genetic trait, that it will take more than a Maada Bio to remake the system. We need to change our orientation. Bring back the values we knew. We must go back to the basics to get rid of the malignant cancer that has eaten deep into the very soul of our society.
Without this step, everything else is on shaky firmament. They will fall, surely as the sun rises every morning. We cannot continue with the lukewarm and lackadaisical attitude to the challenge and problems we face.
One of the obvious ways to do this is to ensure that what belongs to all is not cornered by a few; and if they do so, to ensure that they are made to account and brought to justice.
Irrespective of who is in power, it is time that we as a people say to ourselves, enough is enough. We’ve all gained from this society and it is crying out for salvation. it is our moral obligation and duty to future generations to speak out against the farce that has been on offer for the past decade, and ensure that the new administration does not take us to the land of the make believe.
Collective meritocracy is about fairness, equity, and equal opportunities, based on a set of core values. That is what is meant by morality, at the very fundamental level. It is a group attribute and not an aggregation of individual attributes. The individuals get it from the group and not vice versa.
Poor resources and good people will go a long way, but abundant resources and a poor people component will ultimately fail at some point, depending on the level of abundance of the resources that they will inevitably waste. And it encapsulates our history aptly.
Yes, there is something called potential in this country – boundless I must say. But it remains what it is, and that is what the Chinese and lurking foreign investors are seeing. But can our own people see it and turn it into capability and capacity? We wait and see, and I pray that am wrong nonetheless.
Meanwhile, there’s a real paradox in the emergence of Maada Bio as president and the increasing clamour for Ernest Koroma and his cohorts to face the full wrath of the law, for the immense plunder of the national resources and the wanton greed and corruption perpetuated by them.
The once hunted is now the hunter. What will President Bio do? Will he relent to the voice of the people, or will one good turn deserve another? Let’s wait and see.