Sierra Leone is in the grip of serious economic hardship and social discontent

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 May 2016

children lined up for water in Freetown April 2016

Those defending and maintaining the present and the past, are not the best minds for creating the future. (Photo: School children queuing for water before going to school – if at all).

I read someone referring to president Koroma, who, in a thinly disguised indignation, called agitators that are against the growing socio-economic plight of the people – irritants, as the great footballer Pele.

How sad, because in the desperate scramble for image laundering, political praise-singers often fail to appreciate the semantics of their imagery.

The great Brazilian footballer Pele was acknowledged for his dribbling skills, which appears to be exactly what the present administration is doing to Sierra Leoneans – playing them like football and taking them as gullible mugs.

It is a strong indictment of our leadership that, almost eight years after we voted for change, thousands of disillusioned, hopeless and desperate youths are trying hard every day to get out of the country.

Families and despairing elders are doing just about anything to survive, even though the nation is not poor.

The mismanagement of our rich human and natural resources, bad governance, corruption and the vicious cycle of social strife, poverty and unemployment, have left us perilously at the bottom of the global ladder.

salone poverty2Saying otherwise and making jest of the pains and heartaches of millions of people under the yoke of poverty and total neglect is not only insensitive, but grossly disrespectful.

This is a cheap, propaganda-jamboree stunt, under what is now essentially a tarnished golden arch.

It is an indication of how power has warped the last iota of decency and empathy in the country’s leadership.

What an irony for a bunch of odious opportunists, most of whom were being supported by friends and the generous welfare system of foreign lands, before they stumbled on the commonwealth of Sierra Leone, which they are now devouring with extreme gluttony.

president koroma off to washington - April 2015What the hell? Don’t they know there is an open sore on the minds and dignity of many Sierra Leoneans?

It is unfair and inhumane for anyone, no matter how privileged, to dismiss general concerns as something worth ignoring.

Yet, every day we are being dished the same stale stew, warmed up and served in new plates, as the much trumpeted elephant goes into labour, but ends up delivering a mouse. And we are meant to take it or lump it.

The brazen bravado and steaming pile of manure from the controllers of our wheezing democracy, is the confirmation that the minds, thinking, desires and aspirations of our leaders are not on the same plane with the yearnings and aspirations of the generality of Sierra Leoneans, at a time like this.

Whether it is Emerson, who is bold enough to put into music what many are saying in whispers, or others who are silently groaning, a sensible administration with the utmost respect for the people it governs, will realise when such rumblings begin to emerge, that a social system of almost seven million independent agents will sooner or later, get to boiling point.

youths in sierra leoneThings are getting desperate out there and the anger level is rising.

Those pawns of foreign business interests, laden with power, may disagree with the postulation of people like Emerson and other crusaders. But to tag their concerns as an aberration is to be impolite and judgmental, yet unwilling to submit to the same forensics.

‘Fault the logic, but don’t tag the argument’, is a basic brain storming tenet. And God knows we need one.

I am aware that the official line to the true state of affairs in Sierra Leone today is denial. But for how long shall we continue with such deception, just because those at the helm of affairs can entice – a-la rent-a-crowd, support to mask reality.

Reciting the old hits is one thing, but those ‘moronic caricatures’ on our streets are crying out for new materials.

The fact that our system and processes are corrupt and closed to honesty, is not a licence for those leading us and who are tempted to do wrong by indecorous means, to continue to be blind to the fact that the genie has now left the bottle.

Internet cafe and social mediaSierra Leoneans can’t take much bashing. They are now more informed and more unified in their focus and expectations.

The average Sierra Leonean, groaning under the yoke of economic hardship, knows that our devious leaders’ only plan for the future of our country centres on enriching their pockets; that their focus is plainly on how to strangulate the nation for political leverage; that they are full of heartless comportment towards developing the country, and are tainted by an impairment of integrity, virtue, morals and principles.

“What evidence?” Did I hear you ask? Go round the choicest parts of the country, and you will be confronted by the evidence of fraud and criminality by those in the corridors of power.

Ask the plebs around. Go to the ports, the building materials shops and the forecourts of car showrooms and ask.

Our system, which is full of social ills that those riling against are demonised for, just seems to be plodding along.

sierra leone youths and election violenceIt is only a matter of time until one more innocuous raindrop lands on the mound, and the whole mountain of dunghill on offer collapses with great energy.

Let’s not forget that popular uprising is like an avalanche. Interesting times we live in.

Whose country is it anyway, that we have no right to complain? What would we tell our children yet unborn, about the lives we lived? That we sold our democracy down the line of compromise?

That our entrenched liberties were thrown out of the window, simply for not belonging to the ruling party?

I’m sorry, but this is about our collective future and we need to hold our leaders to account, irrespective of party affiliation or personal affinity.

It will not be easy. But we need to consolidate the things that work and fix the things that are broken. We also need to fix us – THE PEOPLE.

Our thinking now, has to be about negating the past that hasn’t worked, and fashion a future that may work.

President koroma and victor foh at APC conference 30 april 2015However, until we make our leaders realise that it is the people that make things work, then I am afraid that we will remain in the clutches of the tyranny of mediocrity.  We will be locked in this grip for a while . . . . A long while.

Unfortunately, we do not have the time to reset generations of rot. Any more years of no material progress is not something to contemplate.

We not only need a moral reset, we just have to ensure that we re-develop our knowledge and competency base, otherwise we will only attain short term gains that are, by definition, unsustainable – which is what the last eight years have shown.

We can strive over time. But, the immediate requirement is to recover our commonwealth and move the economy forward, as much as we can.

There is an urgent need to strengthen the relevant institutions that will be required to do this.

And corruption, in every facet of our system, is an obligatory starting point. The habit of scouring the world for a saviour doesn’t wash. And we’ve been on this same path for aye, without success.

Sierra Leone junta leader Major Johnny PVisionary leaders do not apportion blame. Sadly, we have always been under the toxic influence of massive overdose of bad governance, right from the days of our independence to the contemporary era, which is why we continue to look unto the hills to ask: where will our help come from? (Photo: Junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma – cousin of president Koroma is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses).

Given our current circumstances, we have to appreciate that a totally different thinking model is required for innovation, change, etc. You cannot effect innovation by tethering it to the past.

An exploration thinking model is usually called for in the circumstances in which we find ourselves and where everything else seems to have failed.

The only solution to our collective dilemma as a nation is a multi-pronged approach that will stop the rot of going round and round in the current circle of delusion.

The dominant narrative out there, believe it or not, is the state of our murky world. We desperately need values in the leadership of the nation.

I have to be very careful here not to rile emotions. But for God’s sake, until we as a people, take one decision: to grab the destiny of this country in our hands and sweat it out, we are just being hypocritical when we expect the nation to rise again.

There are two ways to reset a system – evolutionary over-time, incremental changes to key variables. Or the faster, usually more successful revolutionary external shocks to the system.

Like it is said, yesterday was our experience; today our experiment, while tomorrow is the expectation. So, we need to use our experience in the experiment to achieve our expectations. No more, no less.

We should stop putting loyalty before objectivity. Because, in the long run, it neither helps us nor the object of our loyalty. Moral reset does not need time, just a psyche-based fear of high consequences for wrong actions. That, can be instituted rather quickly, with the right catalysts.

Can’t we, or are we not able to be original and optimise our own situation for our own progress? Today’s norms are yesterday’s un-practices and will also be obsolete in favour of future norms.

For national rebirth and innovation, all those who wish Sierra Leone well, should please start the process of forcing our leaders to use those sacrificial practices that have built countries, with similar experiences like ours.

Nations, whose leaders have models steeped in dynamics that create a new society, where every project is technically a rebirth from the attendant insights and useful experiences garnered over time.

Freetown street traders2It makes sense in the context of changing our society for the better and giving a greater majority of our people the opportunity to maximise their potential. Those should be our assessment criteria – not roads, not praise singing, not emotions; and definitely, not by tearing ourselves apart for selfish reasons.

Our country stands the chance of better expanding its sphere outside its current self-imposed restriction and the better management of its economy, if and only if, we could gear up to tolerate the difficult short to medium term economic and social sacrifices.

The adherence to good conduct must and should not be limited to the misuse of public funds.

My message to those who have become sensitive to criticisms, or who are impervious to the reality of the people of Sierra Leone, is that if you want to be a crusader, your equity must be unyoked.

If you claim to be an advocate of chivalry, like our leaders posture, you should modulate your lifestyle, utterances and ego.

To us, the followers, it’s been fifty five years of hurt and pain. We need to wake up from party, regional and ethnic affiliations and join the revolutionary crusade for true change and a better future, if we don’t want vampires to continue to suck the blood that flows through all of us, since gaining independence.

Alpha kanu and Logus KoromaWe have been in the “what is the problem with Sierra Leone and its leaders” mode, for over five and a half decades? (Photo: Corrupt government fat-cats). 

Let’s stop the beer-parlour debates over the issue, which are often devoid of real patriotism, will-power, and gritty emotion.

Let us realise that we cannot continue to pick a collection of people on evil mission, and expect they would build the nation, talk less of making progress.

However, we must never lose sight of the fact that it is our tacit collusion in the nation’s problems, as well as the creation of a shameless, selfish and unserious political class which believes service is entitlement, along with the fallen educational standards, youth unemployment, lack of a collective vision and sometimes wrong orientation, that have brought us to where we are today.

The Sierra Leone We Want? We are getting very close – to that last raindrop. But before that day arrives, it would be expeditious for the leadership to endeavour to turn things around for the better, build a general consensus for progress, or be swept away in the torrent of social discontent that may arise.

That’s the truth of the matter.

1 Comment

  1. Awoonor-Gordon, I can’t agree more. You sighted out in the best possible light, the ills and perennial effects of bad governance in the country; reasons why Sierra Leone has remained backward – far below the standard it was before our independence. The political dominion of the APC and SLPP parties following our independence brought with it a bad omen to the nation.

    Sierra Leone will do better without these two parties and the class of politicians that sustain them. We have seen time and time again no difference in ideology, no difference in their operatives. Their governance method is equally the same.

    They have formed a ruling oligarchy in the country, and are prepared and ready to fend off anybody of a different mind set from their midst.

    Sierra Leoneans, we shouldn’t be complacent or be conformed to the state of affairs in our nation. Those Sierra Leoneans who have awakened to consciousness as regard the disastrous governance perpetrated by APC leadership, upheld by a class of corrupt and heartless politicians, do deserve to be contested by the masses with assertiveness, confidence and enthusiasm.

    There is the pressing need to implement action on the ground to free the nation from the grip of power of a few incompetent political hustlers that are void of the acumen to drive the country to progress, in order to direct our own destiny, together with the right mindset of Sierra Leoneans who abound in and out of the country.

    We should be assertive, confident and enthusiastic in carrying out this crusade. We are to engage every Sierra Leonean who would listen, to discuss Sierra Leone issues on a broad base. Awaken the minds of those brothers and sisters who have lost all hope in the ruling class. We must encourage them to participate in this crusade.

    It is our responsibility to dispense the right information to the masses and educate them on the power of their votes in time of elections; help them cast their vote with right judgment and thinking about the general wellbeing of society.

    Today, most people have lost confidence in their politicians. They very often express their unwillingness to vote in elections. This is what politicians exploit – to buy their votes with money robbed from the taxes they paid and the resources of the land.

    The enthusiastic voters are those close to the governing class, who benefit from their ill-gotten wealth from the country. Sierra Leoneans both at home and abroad, who want a change in the status quo, should engage the people in sensitizing them for better governance by competent politicians of the right mindset.

    We shouldn’t forget either, other political parties in the country who haven’t been given the opportunity to govern the country yet. They too should be considered as government in waiting, if they come up with the right leadership and governance policy that addresses our social problems adequately, and come with the right solutions, convinces the electorates that they are different from the traditional politicians. They stand a better chance in 2018.

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