Andrew Keili: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2020:
It is always good for someone to know when he or she is being disrespected, especially for his/her intellect or poor perception. But let us take a step back and learn what a “coconut head” is. Urbandictionary.com defines it as “Someone who is zany, silly, kooky” or “a round shaped cranium resembling a hairy dome, void of contents”.
But I like the definition in Naija dictionary, the Nigerian pidgin English dictionary – “Empty head, of low intelligence, a fool, an academic failure”, which also lists synonyms as “mumu, fool”. Aye Emmerson!
So when Emerson calls us “Coconut heads”, stop dancing to the music and reflect on why you are called by that derogatory term. “Coconut head” is one of the tracks in Emmerson’s new album called “9 Lives”. He has for a long time aired out his views on the national political situation.
One thing is for certain however, he has never been pigeon-holed as belonging to one party or another; hence the respect he has gained from many quarters as a fairly impartial commentator on the national political scene.
The song contains a litany of complaints about the performance of the current government. He complains about poor medical facilities, poor quality of education, partisanship, lack of productivity, economic hardship, land problems and a host of other issues. He claims things have not changed much and the government is likely to blame the COVID crisis for its failings.
President Bio, he says wants us to be patient and judge him at the end of his term but it is already getting too late.
In the midst of all this, there is inter party and intra party warfare. Meanwhile the government is trying very hard to “divide and conquer”. Things have stayed the same. “You can’t do what you criticised others about”, he advises.
Despite all this, us “coconut heads” unwittingly join the fight – “Coconut head, we nor day frade for mix pan fool man fet”, he quips. It is a “mental hustle to survive”.
But let us simplify what Emmerson seems to be insinuating:
1. Our Problems have been with us a long time and change is difficult
All political parties that have governed us since independence 59 years ago have failed us – “Any wan way cam day turn we lek say we na coconut ade”. And he accuses us of acquiescing to their whims- “Sharp sharp bobor den day dance to the coconut hade”.
2. Translating ideas into success has been a pie in the sky
Many good ideas were floated during the election campaign and the SLPP claimed to have an inordinate capacity to govern this country. This has not been borne out by its performance in government. “What happened to all these ideas?”, he asks. “What about the claim that the economy could be turned around in six months?”. “Whatever happened to the commitment that we would be food self-sufficient?”. “It would seem the rice seeds did not sprout up”, he quips.
3. “Connectocracy” trumps meritocracy
“How do you get jobs?” he asks. You would have to be a “party pikin or D Pa in paddy”, he claims. The claim of the absence of meritocracy and of jobs being dished out to party supporters and close associates of the President is one he makes repeatedly. “All tin na politics”, he asserts.
4. Indiscipline and lawlessness are still rampant
Emmerson makes mention of top people who have become “gun toting governors” and the general indiscipline among the “new governors” and in the country generally. “Whatever happened to the punctuality drive that was initiated when this government got into power?”, he asks. “Whatever happened to plan to rationalise the use of government vehicles?”.
5. We are still a divided country along tribal lines
You can read between the lines when he makes mention of “Mua lay lay mia”, “Nya vote a Ngewo va” and “Gbinka Kurumasaba”. Tribal associations and considerations are at the core of most decisions.
6. Corruption has not gone away – the “bigger fish” still get off unscathed
He talks about “sophisticated corruption” being rife and says “they only catch ‘Dem small small cockroach dem””.
7.Youth problems abound
Youths still bear the brunt of our problems and are exploited. Emmerson says- “A hungry man is an angry man”. He also says “Hangry man go bumbu d fet because of bread and butter”. Youths face what he terms “a mental hustle” and are “brutal for survival”.
8. The Local private sector is not thriving
Though he does not mention the private sector, he claims foreigners are the ones doing well in busines s- “Salone bizness don dry”, he claims.
9. This current generation offers little hope for the future
He claims – “We don boku na facebook” and calls them “the play station generation”. They wallow in confusion and he refers to them as “confuse.com”. They are full of excuses – he also refers to them as “excuse.com”.
10. Avariciousness is rife among our new political masters
He says “munku den boss” and calls some of our political masters “munku by packet”. Many lack sophistication; and he claims they are avaricious. But he warns – “You can’t give what you don’t have”. He makes light of the purchase of “30 SUVs” when medical workers were being denied their allowances as an example of a decision that reeks of vanity and lack of sensitivity. “Lef gbagbati – lego mi pan mi yopoti”, he advises.
11.Economic difficulties are rife
Emerson says times are hard and the economy is “shitty”. Well, anyone familiar with Emmerson’s modus operandi would know he is a critic, not a praise singer. As would be expected, some government supporters have retorted on what they claim are the successes of this government to which Emmerson has turned a blind eye. These include the launching of Sierra Leone’s first Sexual Offences Model Court, repealing the Criminal and Seditious Libel Laws, the introduction of Free Quality Education, recruitment of health care workers and commissioning of hospitals, increases in pensions, rehabilitation of electricity service in provincial towns and many other projects.
Not surprisingly, some opposition critics, mindful of the fact that Emmerson’s criticisms also rope them in as being complicit in the country’s mess, claim he has treated this government with “kid’s gloves”. “Why did he not mention the recent killings, the violence at elections, the incarceration of opposition members, the usurpation of powers in Parliament etc.?”, they ask.
It would seem that Emmerson has succeeded in ruffling the feathers of both major parties, whom he claims are responsible for our current predicament as a nation.
Many government supporters however caution against attacking Emmerson headlong. One writes:
“One thing I know for sure is the fact that we have an honest and genuine President determined to improve the lives of everyone in this country. Emmerson’s new song is an eye opener for our President. It’s now time for HE to step in and make things right. Too many mistakes that require quick corrections in order for him to deliver safe and sound. Trust the process.”
But a few words of advice may be in place for government. Criticism can be a God-given instrument of needed correction! There will be times when negative judgments about how you handle some situations are entirely appropriate. It does not necessarily have to be 100 percent correct.
Listening to criticism is a leadership quality that does not appear in the job description, but it can make you a more effective and trustworthy leader if you handle it constructively.
But let’s get back to Emmerson. What does he think is the solution? He says that past generations had the forlorn hope it would be their great grandchildren who would fare better, but this generation is also making the same claim.
Though this government comes in for a large share of his ire, past governments have also not got off lightly. And as for the rest of us the populace who Emmerson calls “Coconut heads”, it is up to us to prove we are not “coconut heads” and that we indeed have high IQs and are perceptive.
Holding the hands of any government to the fire to address our myriad of problems and making them pay dearly if they fail, should be seriously considered if we are to move this nation forward.
Emmerson has thrown down the gauntlet to us. If we do not do this and become excuse.com and wallow in confuse.com, we will have nobody to blame but ourselves. Let us put Emerson to shame and show that we are not a nation of “coconut heads”. Arise, ye “coconut heads” repent and change your ways. For the day of reckoning is nigh! Ponder my thoughts.