Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 October 2015
I have passed the age of playing peacock for anybody or ideal. So I am going to simply say that every Sierra Leonean who reads this piece and does not get emotionally charged is of questionable fatherhood.
And, if you don’t or can’t bring yourself to accept there is a national problem which we can no longer just gloss over, then you surely are not ready for a solution that will uplift Sierra Leone. Because, that is the spot we are in.
Sometimes, when I just reflect on the collection of brains we have – both within and outside this country, our resources – most of which have not even yet been exploited, all juxtaposed against our current level of development and per capita income, the conclusion obviously is: an advanced case of arrested progress. Our problem is the dyad of poor governance and corruption.
The cunning and the dubiousness that permeate our current state is a macabre dance of pretence. The total lack of shame on both the part of the followership and leadership, breeds a “conscience-less” society where criminality and lack of feeling for one another become cardinal rules.
A society where everybody lives in fear, which is why those in town cannot enjoy their labour and those outside cannot go back; even where they are dying to do so. Of course, it is difficult to enjoy what you have worked for, if there is so much insecurity and poverty in the land.
We have compromised and continue to compromise ourselves into bottomless mediocrity. Individual interests and transactions are not only the driving force of the political game, time and context are now the key determinants of the vehicle of a stagnant political elite.
Patriotism remains in a perpetual but motionless process of construction, while national synergies are destroyed and the wisdom of a collective tribe is overturned.
You and I have been brainwashed by governments that do not appreciate their citizens, and a citizenry that does not appreciate its government. We live in a system that thrives by petition and complaints.
A group that works too hard for too little because of misplaced priorities – a people that expend too much energy for too little, and for insignificant government hand-outs.
Our people find it difficult to pay their rent, pay their debts, eat good food, and buy needed goods for children or siblings. Yet they are manipulated to defend those who steal our nation blind, because they are either from the same tribe or party.
And because they are given a stipend, they shout the most in defence of their kith and kin.
The truth is, we’ve got to stand up as followers to claim our rights. The ‘hooligans’ and marauding bunch in positions of power will not do anything to better our lot as a people. We’ve got to claim our property – our right. They “can’t give us our property”.
Amidst the murky political landscape where scurvy deals are struck and the deliberate sub-optimisation of the system, is the beginning of the end of the natural performance model. (Photo: President Koroma and key ministers of state, chanting the old APC communist party song).
We can keep on complaining and doing the same thing over and over again and expect change, but we must realise that we are not any special to the extent that natural laws don’t apply to us.
So at this point, we need to stop applying anti-virus and do a low-level total reformat of our hard disk as individuals and as a nation.
Our democracy is being rolled back by descendants of the old elites, which is why even in this day and age, all we see is activities like that of a cripple trying to jump the gutter. I think we need to find a way to reset the morality of this nation’s people, from head to toe. Without a moral base, all and any laws will be gamed.
We are at ground zero and until we make a committed and genuine effort to rise, we will remain so.
Right now, our disposition to the socio-economic and political development of the nation makes us all united in corruption. And the cleanest dirty shirts in the laundry have somehow found their way to the top of the pile of badly stained clothes that litter our political basket.
We need the empowerment of a value system. With the array of great minds that exists in this nation, we should be able to ignite lights that will shine, to further develop the dark areas of our political, social and economic presence.
We should not be in this abyss after all the foreign aid that came our way after the war, and the abundant resources at our disposal.
I know the truth is bitter. But after eight years of this administration, in the verbosity of its language, lurk chunks of untruths – the same lies and unwholesome sentiments that our leaders in the past fed us with, until we ended up killing each other while they escaped to the safety of their loot and loved ones.
Suddenly, normalcy standards in other lands which used to be part and parcel of us, have become an unreachable utopia in our case. My hope and prayer is that the parochial orientation and anomalies that have kept us behind development, will soon vanish
While other nations like Ghana and Nigeria are busy sanitising their polity and judiciary, what are we doing about the rot in our own system? Cheering to high heavens and encouraging the further institutionalisation of mediocrity, rascality and impunity, as well as greed.
We choose to sit down and watch the drama continue. How can we champion a different dynamic for the nation, if we continue to endorse the rehash of the same highfalutin of our leaders?
We need to mobilise the grassroots. They have to feel the anger I’m feeling. People who want something so bad, never make excuses even if it is justified.
Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. Poverty is an excuse but not a good one. The followership also must stop indirect looting. They must stop expecting governance as means to riches. They must stop celebrating mediocrity. Their demand for their leaders to perform their duties must be sustained and strong.
Let’s remember the simple fact that nepotism, sectionalism and so on, are the tap root of corruption. Money is just a tiny bit of corruption. So, enough of that “our leaders are corrupt and we can’t do anything about it” nonsense.
If you don’t do anything, you are also corrupt – pure and simple. The artists, doctors, academics and religious leaders all have responsibility to chase the marauding thieves in our system out of town. It is only in unity of purpose that our strength lies.
There is absolutely no doubt that Sierra Leone pre-and post-independence and up until the civil war was a much more interesting country to live in and raise kids. I argue that the quality of life of the average Sierra Leonean then and even up till the late 80’s was far better than what it is today.
We are a ticking sociological and political time bomb. But our leadership is not smart enough to see it, given that they don’t think beyond the next zero in their bank balances.
Therefore, our beloved country is our collective failure because some of us have continued to stick to ideals; are too lax; or too scared to take and stick to positions against impunity and brazenness.
On my part, from being a patriot I became a cynic. The transformation was gradual. I wanted to believe in the land that I love, but every time I started to believe, another leader sinks my hope.
For years I lived in denial, self-exile was sweet. At least I’m away from it all.
But the fact is, I’m still that teenage patriot at heart; who is desperate to cheer for the realm of the free but has no reason to. The enabling environment of my youth has now become the suffocating, debilitating immorality cesspit of today.
When will I have a reason to believe? Who will give me a reason to believe? Please pardon me if am asking for too much.
As a result, I will continue to rail against this mediocrity and immorality at every turn. Our political class can rape our land but they can’t exile all of us. We are there as mirrors for them.
Few can participate in governance in the country today without being consumed by the sea of corruption. So I will join in the demand for a more equitable nation.
For one, the government’s political antennae has continued to fail to indicate to the personnel within it, that the enthusiasm for foreign Greek gifts – especially Chinese-backed freebies, as important as they may be for the prestige of the government and the country.
This amounts to nothing but the virtual mortgage of our nation to a country whose antecedent is getting a stranglehold on the resources of nations that can be used as buffers for its own declining economic fortunes – a country, which can never play straight even if it tried; a nation with corruption as the main strand of its DNA.
It is for this reason that our rulers (not leaders) make sure that national institutions are scuttled; which makes it possible for some people to do whatever they wish. It is why they continue to refuse to even take a second look at their policies and actions, especially those involving the resources of the country.
How and why will the people not inundate the elected, or is it, the selected? When allocated resources are misappropriated and mismanaged; when the people live from hand to mouth at subsistence level in spite of owning massive wealth; when there is virtually no health, education, medical facilities.
So, they revert to the best of our extended family culture and bastardise it, by expecting the gobblers to cough up what they see as their share of the loot – until it’s their own turn.
It is only a sadist that will not agree that overall, we are still groping in the dark. We seem to have continued to use foreign lenses especially as dictated by the likes of IMF and Western economies and individual unscrupulous financial backers, whose so-called superior intelligence did not prevent them driving their own economy into the ditch; to what are basically African/Sierra Leonean problems.
They have worked for us in some instances, but where they have not worked, may be the lenses are not good for our fonts, we can change them. Sorry we need to change them. Nothing should be cast in stone. It’s a dynamic world and so change is the only thing that is constant.
A government should not be ashamed to dump its symbols of corruption, to cater for the welfare of the majority of its people. Why must it take Ebola for us to have decent health facilities, thanks again to foreigners?
Why must it be a return to the days of Noah that will make those who lead, to realise that pigs and humans are sleeping on the same bed in some of our slums? Why should our kids still be crammed into what is akin to a goat-shed to study, when ministers are building two or three houses at a go?
While it might be argued that it is definitely not the fault of this government alone, it must be admitted that one of the reasons for it being on the firing line is the fact that nothing has truly changed.
We are still in the 21st century version of Animal Farm. We are just perpetuating it – led by valueless people, who just think about themselves alone like animals in the jungle. No care for the collective, simply because they have no morals to be able to appreciate values and adhere to them.
The fact is that there is no responsible public opinion to check corruption in our society. Corruption has gone beyond the few, to nearly the entire citizenry. It has hit critical mass and reversing that is not easy.
Corruption could be economic, social, moral, religious or political (not exhaustive), and it’s obviously evident in our day to day life; engineered and fuelled by the lack of morals and discipline from above.
I do not subscribe to the sentiment that it is now our responsibility to be making suggestions for the way forward; if those in power have been deaf and dumb to honest opinions and criticisms which they found unpalatable when they thought they were riding the high crest of popularity. I wrote on this before.
The Singaporean example (or magic), if you recall, had a lot to do with the exemplary and visionary leadership of one man, amongst others. Georgia transformed in 10 years. Rwanda, after its genocide is another classic example; not to talk of Burundi.
The good news from happenings in the last eight years is that the death throes of the old and present order we live in, are the birth pains of a new and glorious Sierra Leone.
In that, we need to give a big thanks to the government for its actions and inactions, because it has roused the spirit of awareness and thirst for a new order, in those who have all the while stood akimbo.
The educated elite is a tiny minority, as 99.9% of the people don’t know the time of day. It’s therefore incumbent on this tiny group to look out for and help the majority to help themselves, so that the creative work of shepherding the masses can be ‘glorified’.
They never consider the future of Sierra Leone, for they are fixated at the oral stage of their own personal development.
The hormone raging, careless and carefree brigade, weaned from their mothers’ breasts of greed, is selfish and inconsiderate and throw temper tantrums at any attempt to force them to be truthful and put the people and our nation at the centre of discussions of national issues.
They rape and abuse this country, and take advantage of the poorly educated or illiterate majority. They are rapists with no conscience.
Sadly, our human resources will no longer mean anything, if we think it’s not possible to balance and unite ethnic and political interests’ against our national pride as Sierra Leoneans in the struggle for a new nation.