Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
1 August 2012
If we are sincere, how can we carry out major reforms that will lift our nation out of the abyss it’s in, if those that parade themselves as politicians or those in the corridors of power have succeeded in making the society itself become hostage to petty interests, helped abundantly by a government which has become decadent and weak?
This is why our five yearly electoral jamborees is nothing, but a pitchfork to the heart of our society.
Apart from the acts of clever contortions that it unearths, it is a time when the bluster and self-deception so characteristic of politicians is evident once again.
Just look at the rate at which those who felt they were better than the incumbent, jumped ship to queue behind the same leader as soon as their ambitions were thwarted elsewhere, or the abject display of what is supposed to be a brand new party in the scheme of things..
But we need to realise that election is an event as pertinent and important to our future as any other in our history.
It demands from us the citizens and the true custodial of the future, more courage than the easy self-righteousness of the political class. It should be broached with the prescience of our cherished vision.
No matter how long we play the ostrich in the sand, our much-delayed confrontation with reality will force us to bite the bullet one day.
Some might glory in the smoke and mirrors of the present, by promoting cheap, parochial point-scoring; but the reality is that we need a glorious refutation of this crazy ideology in our socio-political environment. Otherwise we shall pay dearly for it in the future.
So, before we yield ourselves entirely to hysteria over the qualities or otherwise of the candidates on offer in the November poll, it is morally imperative that we first sift through the stupefying but mediocre confusion that is being deliberately created to separate perdition from heaven, by the score-settling political class.
Right now, even without the frenzied beat of the doom-mongers, who will want to manipulate our focus, liberty of thought and free speech, into believing that their candidate is far better than the other, the picture before us is a mixture of delusion and bravado.
Because it is pure fantasy to think that prosperity is round the corner, when the indices of a failed state still pervade most parts of our national existence.
By the same token, it is sheer audacity to expect that the majority of our jaded people, who have seen their faith undermined by the failure of the political class and the legacy of the opposition while in power, will simply roll over and swap their pessimism once again.
To some observers, leaving the current administration in place, looks like allowing a group of prisoners to take control of Pademba Road prison, after an inspection team has been there and found that the management has not been doing a terribly good job.
On the other hand, others see the arrival of the main opposition contender, like the coming of a monsoon at a barbecue. They believe that the lurch towards a new direction is a bridge that may result in cataclysmic upheavals for which they are least prepared. To them also, the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t.
But apparently, part of the current misgivings and apathy within the populace has to do with the instinctive distrust of the cosmetic world of the present government.
It has embarked on a disastrous wholesale of the nation’s resources, for a war-chest to prosecute its programmes and the lifestyle of some of the personnel, which leaves you with abdominal cramp.
It is also intensified by the post civil-war aspirations, which were perniciously torn to shreds by the feral beast of the last SLPP administration, and is now enveloped by the weary cynicism of the reputation of the new opposition flagbearer.
The corruption and hypocrisy which have come to characterise politics and politicians, and in particular the police and the media, also highlight the widening chasm between the political class and the electorate.
The disdain for civilized behaviour and the promotion of tribal ugliness, which disfigures our political landscape with its unsavory, odious scuffle has also not helped; along with the lack of a fodder for public debate.
Instead of our leaders commanding a prominent place on the national agenda for selfless service, they occupy a frivolous status on the fringe of national discourse.
Government’s regurgitation of state misinterpretations and the continuing futile effort at supposedly liberal and open-door policy; as well as its determined effort to use ‘transparency’ and well-oiled media briefings for political objectives, are key ingredients in allowing political extremism and mistrust as well as the promotion of personal ideological causes that should long have disappeared in a fit of the vapour, especially after 2007.
As the present administration continues to develop strategies to disguise and confuse the media to garner support for its policies, the opposition itself has failed to convincingly assure that it will never play pranks with the suffering masses of our country.
Sierra Leoneans now realise that rather than a feat of integrity, politicians feel compelled to go through the established sequence of promoting their supernatural invincibility by downplaying the national problems, blaming every other force – foreign and local detractors, opponents, speculators, without conceding that they might not actually be up to the job.
What they fail to appreciate is that people now understand that democracy for sale is bad enough, but deception for electoral gain, gives the feeling of nervousness.
And so, as the desire for change which came to the brim in 2007 continues to sweep through the nation, public confidence in the political class is obviously at its lowest ebb.
Speaking to a number of compatriots, it is clear that most Sierra Leoneans have come to realise that for the dreams of a better future to be realised, they, are the solution to their problems and that their destiny is in their hands.
All the pains that the masses have had to bear socially, politically and economically aren’t getting the country back on its feet as quickly and as expected; but have instead shaken their confidence.
Unfortunately though, because of our lack of political discourse and the desire to head-butt our way to the promised land, politicians seem to have been rewarded by being left alone to continue with what in this part of the world is the real business of politics – the accumulation of personal wealth.
The continued attempt to force us to keep our eyes on the ballroom dance and ensure that we stopped and persist in admiring the current view, is a confirmation of the fact that we are motionless.
It is totally irrelevant what the sight to behold actually is – electricity, Bumbuna, roads, diamond, anti-corruption, etc. The grandeur of the finished articles is not as romantic as we are being made to believe.
Those who seek to bask in glory at being given the opportunity to serve their nation, should always realise that their real legacies can never be judged by symbols to the glory of money that they parade, but by the future of the nation itself and the sphinx that rises a decade down the line and long after they have departed the scene, from the ashes of whatever they were bequeathed on assumption of office.
Yes, new roads, blinking lights and a resemblance of normalcy, might not seem the stuff of underdevelopment or a nation in crisis. But if the truth be told, the non-emergence of anything out of the ordinary, indicates being out of the depth in the fountain of ingenuity.
So now that we have a clear-cut (?) focus of national drive between the two major contending flag bearers, the question is, is it an option of last resort by both parties or is it the realisation of the need for genuine transformation of the fortunes of the nation?
Which article of faith, vision, programmes and aspiration can best meet the cardinal task of lifting the people out of the mental, psychological and socio-economic darkness, which has enveloped our country all these years?
Which of the political thoughts will sweep away the darkness of mental servitude, which has become a perennial torment for the masses?
We all know that the relationship between the electorate and political leaders, especially at election time, is similar to that in a film when the hero (the down trodden) falls for the heroine (the glib vote-seeking politician).
The hero needs her, even though she will lure him into danger.
Consequently, leaders need big ideas to woo the electorates and are never scared of propounding them, knowing fully well that they are just platitudes dressed in borrowed robes to be discarded the moment they pronounce: “… so help me God”.
What is striking is not the worthlessness of their ideas, which are made for the short-term; but the degree to which it shapes leadership from the beginning; little reflecting the longer-term interests of the nation or the belief and vision of the proponents.
Even though inequalities and social marginalisation, combined with corrupt practices by dodgy politicians, the rich and the greedy are the bane of our society, it is far easier for privileged members of our political class and the powerful minority in the media, which supports them, to vaunt their courage, character, and in fact their determination; without us realising that unless there is an inherent change in our own attitude to politics, the nagging voices of these apostles of deceit will remain little more than meaningless noise.
Expecting people who have been through their self-created, despicable and damnable system, and who are responsible for the breakdown in public trust to therefore champion a voluntary restructuring of the societal foundation, is akin to asking a professor of anatomy to campaign for the dignity of a dead body.
This is one of the reasons we discover that those who are deft at politics, often end up being poor at governance, and often resort to political marketing, spin and often times – outright abuse of democratic ideals as survival kits.
Of course the end result is mistakes and glaring failures to meet both socio-economic and political goals and then the blatant, instinctive not-my-fault attitude.
But a broken politics like ours makes for a broken nation. And as it is, a deeper structural and systemic problem within our political system, is wreaking havoc with our economy and society; no matter what statistics are presented to the contrary.
The benevolent conspiracy to trigger an illusion of progress and well-being is what we should resist, as we try to unravel the difference between six and half a dozen, in the run up to November.