The cobwebs of the New Direction

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 July 2018:

From Africa Confidential snippets to leaked government transition committee report; from Ernest Koroma’s alleged clandestine visit to presidential public assets declaration; from parliamentary shenanigans to controversial removals; from the increasing economic hardship to growing ethnic divide; from plain truth on one side to damn outright lies on the other side; from clique governance to bewildered masses.

Is Alie Kabba sacked along with his deputy? Why was Charles Margai jettisoned even before he had barely sat down? Will there be a probe of the last administration and how far will it go? What do you expect from an anti-corruption commissioner who was a bit too profoundly reverent at his first official assignment?

The list is endless in this short roller coaster of a reign for the Bio administration which has made secrecy, a national policy.

As a matter of fact, the more you get entangled in the national discourse, the likelihood, that you may lose your objectivity, becomes real.

If you are not prone to dispassionate outlook and possess a strong capacity to dissociate from the typical Sierra Leonean system, the sentiments of it all overwhelm you completely.

So, as I survey the innards of our nation, all I can see is that the number of knots, needing disentanglement, is rising by the day and the gap in the capacity to disentangle them is rising in tandem. Scary.

As I realise that the new regime is already three long months in office, I feel an unusual mixed bag. Believe me, it’s not that I just want to focus on the defects rather than project their competencies and capabilities, but something in me tells me that where the government is, right now, is not a good place to be, in the people’s reckoning.

It appears to be all aesthetics and optical rather than substance and content, especially with the carefully choreographed and managed information releases by the State house press team and the government policy that the people shall be ruled only on a need-to-know-basis. By the way, Is there an information minister and a ministry?

Suddenly and not-too-unexpected, the Sierra Leonean collective sense of cynicism and anomie is gradually sipping into the land and indeed our world; as the same people who shouted hosanna yesterday are now busy whispering about innuendoes in the tapestry of our governance, no thanks to a weird display of the social contract between the governed and the governors, under what is supposed to be a new direction.

Added to a collection of blunders and the trend of political comments across social media and in conversations, as well as the activities of saboteurs in and outside of government, some issues are emerging that needs the rapid response crisis management apparatus of the new administration if those in power, are to learn from the lessons of our history and not crash the train of goodwill and expectations.

Nobody, except die-hard opposition and those with personal grudges, wants Sierra Leone to fail. We just cannot afford it. However, there is a need to realise that the real knot is the individual level, if the long-suffering down-trodden masses are to believe again. It is only hope that keeps the masses going.

It will be disastrous for our aspirations and dreams as well as our governance and society, if the Bio administration ignores apparent lessons and fail the people.

But my problem with our governors is the feeling that most times, governance is all about them and their tendencies, not those of the people.

I am aware that quite a number of people are already doing their best to dissuade despondency, by focussing on the fit-for-purpose conversations and changing the narratives of our reality, in a bid to help shift the wheel of our progressive train, towards the meritocratic society that we desire.

Sadly, following the initial strong positives that heralded the new administration, like me, they are now being filled with twinges of fear, which is sapping their adrenaline. They are approaching and drifting towards the other side of the fork, in the road meant to be the new direction. Happenings are becoming stranger than fiction.

The problem is, while some claim we should be having a clear indication of whether the government is still learning to fly away from the past; or if the leadership has already found its wings, suddenly the deafening silence and the realisation that governance is reverting to the dictate of a minute clique, makes one wonder what is the true colour of the New Direction Standard? Looks no different than the one that was lowered.

It is this conundrum that stimulates the fear arising in them. Should they be encouraged or discouraged? Motivated or demotivated? Inspired or retire? Energized or tranquilized? Activated or deactivated? They are at the edge of uncertainty. They are in the ‘siddon’ look posture but uneasy.

What has been most saddening is that, we have either been so jaded, or as a people, we’ve crossed the lines so many times, we don’t even know where they exist anymore.

We don’t even seem to know what we want anymore. Some expected the administration to hit the ground running faster than it has done.

This is why as the euphoria of the change of leadership fades and reality sets in, some are seeing that while we need to push the performance part more than the celebratory part; yes; it is the most important part; some of the baby steps of the new administration give room for concern.

Apart from the cobweb of secrecy that has enveloped the actions of the government so far and left people in the realm of conjectures and imaginations as well as fuel conspiracy theories; there is the fact that we are again approaching the era of the-more-you-look, the-less-you-see and understand, in this age of freedom of information and a promise by the administration to be transparent.

So, if the rumour mill goes into overdrive, what will be the response? Would the government go into crisis management to dispel the reports or will it just turn it into water off the back of a duck? Whichever, it is not an ideal situation, so early in the life of a new direction.

Economic hardship has slightly taken a turn for the worse. Yet, there is apparent silence on immediate palliative measures. The people are still being fed with the milk of the horrendous management of the last administration.

How does this fill the stomach of a hungry man? How does it solve the exorbitant price increases or assuage the pains of an exhausted citizenry which has been promised so much, time and time again, only to end up with the same dummy in its mouth.

Is the government clueless or waiting for a miracle that will cover the catalogue of mess it found on its doorstep, which even though was created by its predecessor must be cleaned up?

What are the short, medium and long-term policies and action to stem the immediate economic burden of those who need an answer now and not when they are gone to the great beyond?

Yes, we heard the mumbo-jumbo in parliament (because it is meaningless to the ordinary man); but where is the walk to match the talk?

Free education. Will this end up a populist claptrap or will it be a bold attempt at confronting what is undoubtedly a pivot of our socio-political and economic turn-around?

Now wait a minute, many questions are popping up; where are the infrastructures for a meaningful implementation, what about sustainability, what about this, what about that?

What is the cost of this ambitious project? What is being put in place to improve the quality of the teachers who are to implement this new direction in just a little over two months?

Why was it not introduced in phases; for example, the first year being used to implement it in primary schools and then deal with the inherent and unseen problems during the period of embedding it, while the second year could take in the junior secondary schools and the third year the senior secondary school?

Where is the funding coming from and at what cost to our overall development process and debt profile? Remember the BBC debacle?

Is the government building a bonfire that has fireworks on the top and just smoulders at the bottom? Time will tell but for the sake of our nation, I hope the dream of the egg heads who are keeping everything close to their chests does not destroy the hopes of the masses.

The role of religion in governance or what I call CHRISLAM (half Christian – half Islam). This is a divisive virus that our leaders often nurture unwittingly. The monster within our very existence and national relationship. This is touching the tiger by the tail.

Life is simple, we humans complicate it. And that’s exactly what happens when our leaders introduce chrislam into governance. Truth is that, one of our greatest problems is the role of religion in our socio-political and economic pathway to development.

The mix of religion and politics is a Frankenstein that our leaders have created and nursed and have been unable to divorce. It is an instrument that hides their failure. It is a source of corruption as evidenced in the recent hajj gate. It is why government is spending huge sums on what is purely an individual affair by paying for private citizens to go on pilgrimages. It is how our politicians have continued to take an ethnic and religious coconut and crack it on the head of those who do not belong to their parties or spiritual persuasion.

This brings me to the President’s recent attendance at the praying ground at the end of Ramadan. When leaders pander, stoking the fire of ethnicity and religion in a society whose DNA is so virulently powerful, that even the cassocks and the Imam’s turban, get stained, such leadership trait of trying to be what one is not, is nothing but political and moral corruption.

Pandering to the deceptive and erroneous belief that by identifying with everyone in every situation makes one an all-inclusive leader, is a cobweb that often leaves one reeling in limbo. President Bio and indeed our leaders’ tendencies to always play the Janus when it comes to religion is a significant cause of our problems. It is deceitful and amounts to playing to the gallery and is political bankruptcy.

The President risks becoming a hostage in pacifist uniform, being held by default, to the dark forces of organised tradi-socio-political underhand.  He needs to replace chrislam with policies and actions. Our leaders should stop playing innocent and gilded rats.

Ironically, this our religiosity does not reflect in the virtuous and moral fabric of a nation that is laden with hypocrisy and shameless show of personal and political rascality.

The dreams of a non-sectarian society articulated by our forefathers have been replaced by the divisive rhetoric of those who now use religion and ethnicity to further divide our society. No wonder the Koroma administration went devilish.

How long will our leaders and indeed our society continue to be embroiled in Lie-ability?

We tend to use the synthetic fig-leaf of religion and piety to cover the degree and context of the change that we truly desire. It is why God is burdened by our prayers for development, good health, protection etc at every gathering.

Even government unwittingly encourage religious leaders to pray for the nation’s prosperity when they have done nothing for the Almighty to bless.

Rather, money is expended on government sponsored pilgrimages which can be better put to use in solving some of our educational, health, housing and unemployment problems. What wisdom. God only blesses the works of our hands, not the emotions of our hearts.

Why the satirical drama of despondency? Well, I am persuaded that the station of our nation right now is a time and place where and when we need moralists at the head; and us, the followers, supporting that very head.

To me, the integrity and wherewithal to confront the times we are in and shape the future we desire can only be found in persons with unimpeachable records of integrity and morality. Only then, can they be the compass that guides and demands their own values and standards from those who follow, work for, and align with them.

When proper support systems are put in place, we would have moved out of this zero level we subconsciously put ourselves. Sounds more objective and realistic to me, than making God and religion a national policy to take care of everything from the generation of uneducated and unemployed, to the place of poverty, as a national identity.

Now is the time for us to correct our past errors. Collectively, we must break the yokes of the past and not continue on the same limited ways that could bring setbacks.

It is time to violently safeguard our democracy, governance, heritage and cultural balance whose renaissance we believe has been unleashed and freed from the cobweb of the past.


  1. What is corruption?! In an African context corruption is a disease that affects a person’s mindset and transform him/her into a selfish and ethno-thinkig individual.

    Corruption is, as in Africa, as racism is as in the Western World. The only difference is, in Western Democracies, governments have recognised the need to legislate against racism.

    Corruption is a very contagious disease, and it has affected about 75% of the people of Sierra Leone. It is a chronic situation in this country as people see it as a way of life.

    Tribalism, ethnicism and greed are all elements of corruption that materialise in the distribution of ‘scarce’ resources. In Sierra Leone, this situation is polarised by the north-south regional and ethnic divide. This trend has existed for decades, and the only way to combat this evil practice is for the government to legislate against it.

    And, in an effort to eradicate corporate and institutional corruption, the government should establish a nationwide audit system – whereby some (or all) of the auditors may not come from Sierra Leone, but from different countries abroad; with the blend of auditors changing at all times.

    This auditing program should be performed at least twice a year, and to include corporate and political institutions, and all medium and small businesses. All business must be registered (with a viable address) and no business should operate on the streets.

    In this case, the government should sponsor and support business partnerships to maintain or boost business activities. The aim of such an undertaking is to create an easy and transparent means of accountability. This in turn, will increase and develop the local accounting profession – as all individual business accounts must be certified by a qualified accountant.

    The benefits of this arrangement, intended to tackle corruption in the first instance, will also filter through the labour market. Since, people who were engaged on petty businesses that no longer have the right to operate, would seek employment in partnership’s and other legitimate businesses.

    The monthly cleaning exercise of the country is a very good initiative. A further ban on street business activities, will not only improve accountability and curb corruption, but it will also help to shape business and social culture in a ‘new direction’.

    “Don’t wait to catch the culprit; make it difficult for him/her in the first place.”

    What are the functions of the Anti corruption commission (ACC), if there’s no sound mechanism to deter corruption? Distractions, propagandas …

    Sierra Leone is only a small country with a population of about 6.5 million people; with abundant natural wealth, and a relatively large fertile land that can more than accommodate various projects that are adapted initially to just have the capacity to feed the nation.

    So why does this vast wealth fail to benefit the people of Sierra Leone? Is it because of greed? Lack of accountability? The absence of a progressive agenda? Or, is it due to corruption?

  2. This is my take on the religious issue – the writer has a point. In governance, I want to believe state and religion are separated, but here in Sierra Leone it is a means of scoring political points.

    Be it Christianity or Islam, their business should be exclusive of state or governance in the country. When it comes to religious scholarship accredited to the state they should be directed to those religious heads of which religion it is accredited to.

    However we must also discourage past and present politicians for using religion as a political tool and also being a religious cheat in society.

  3. The problems facing Sierra Leone have nothing to do with what the present government is doing or not doing. Given the current circumstances, the Julius Bio government is doing quite well. Our problems should be put squarely on the shoulders of cynical Sierra Leoneans who are expecting a miracle maker to be the occupant of State House.

    In barely three months, the cynics expect president Bio to miraculously transform Sierra Leone into the paradise of West Africa. Yet they are the same folks who scream at the president for using his executive powers to fire corrupt public officials who are responsible for the predicaments facing Sierra Leone today. How can they have it both ways?

  4. Nice piece but most of the comments on religion is based on criticising the government for its spending on Islam and the pilgrims; which in my opinion, makes your write up an unperfect one as it is more or less focused on criticising a religion -specifically Islam.

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