Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 July 2019:
It was, and is not our colonial master that set us against each other. It is not just the political class that has disrobed us of the courage and the honesty to tackle the weightier matter of whether we are where we are supposed to be; neither is it the potpourri of our existence that has left us a confused.com society.
It is our hypocrisy, ‘bad belleh’, our greed, lack of intuition, ego, power tussle, ethnicity, jealousy, etc., which fly in the face of rational thought and behaviour, that have caused our grotesque and dysfunctional society, as well as the pointless self-inflicted acts of self-harm and other problems which have their peculiar traits.
As epitomised by recent socio-political and economic realities and events, as well as the superficiality of social media trends and the brazen partisanship of mainstream commentaries and publications, the myriad of problems confronting us today could be traced to one single cause – our continued denial of the underlying ‘nastiness’ that is inherent in our society and our expressed unity which we pretend do not exist, in a collective show of crass insincerity.
Since there is no synergy within our society in which tribalism, mistrust and hypocrisy permeate every sinew, this is for the invisible lives speaking unheard, amidst a scenario where it appears we have all been tagged with the euphoria of what is available and the delusion that it is the ultimate progress against the fundamental cry for a gradual reorientation and reintegration of our common interests.
Yes, the New Direction might be beaming with pride at the good work it believes it is doing now, especially in curbing wastage and reducing open corruption, as well as the grandstanding populist assault at some of the age-long and vital issues that have bedevilled the nation.
But what matters are not just the intentions, self-belief and knowledge as well as the determination and discipline to fulfil electoral promises and do what is best. (Photo: President Julius Maada Bio).
There is also the need to be sensitive to the sensibilities of the ruled who have been screwed and left hapless by their leaders whose mutual misreading persists and compound a national mood of disengagement, frustration and utter cynicism.
Somehow, the New Direction seems to think that the sheer weight of charismatic demagoguery of its leaders is sufficient to deal with pesky challenges from opponents, far beyond the haystack-sized bluster that frames politics, as a battle between the will of the ordinary people and corrupt self-serving elites.
However, a glimpse into the minds of the generality of the people will unearth a surprising depth of bottled-up anger against the political class, radiating everywhere and making everybody volatile and suspicious, unforgiving and clannish. It is the horrors of our collective humanity – a societal decadence that has eaten deep into our souls and which we all have learnt to live with, till Jesus comes.
It is so damaging that our psyche cannot function otherwise, and its effect conditions our social interaction; and most importantly, underpins the power play and governance of the country, much to the detriment of our developmental efforts.
The continued introduction and sustenance of bigotry into our socio-political system, undoubtedly fuels a rise in a divisive society that has been infected by the virus of ethnic and political intolerance.
Some of us want to believe otherwise, but ghosts of our past and the fudge picture of our present, do bid us pause. Some want to rise above emotional sentiments and call a spade by its name….. But oh! My God.
Yet, some see efforts at redress as a euphemism for the blatant cannibalism of the corpse of the nation or what is left of their party, tribe, religion. They are then so blinded by ethnicity, dulled by greed and riddled with graft that they’ve become so totally out of touch with the reality of most people’s lives which has continued to fall through the development cracks because we focussed more on the intangibles.
Yet, despite almost going to hell in a steered handcart, somehow, we have glaringly positioned ourselves in an alternative universe, devoid of critical thinking. A tad dispiriting fragmentation of a nation at a time which provides the most unifying signal for a better political landscape.
With the economy packed at the hard shoulder and some bizarre socio-political decisions from our leaders, the wheels and cogs and nuts and bolts of our story are becoming the collateral casualties of the bruising, meaningless and mysterious ambitions of prejudiced-fuelled mob from across the political spectrum, who casually spit out bile.
There is no doubt that the horrible and unpalatable menu of ‘tribalism’ served up by some actions of the New Direction and the irresponsible and stench-identification action of the opposition – led by a leader who refused to be ashamed of where he’s dragged us, is an indication that we all need to hold a mirror to ourselves, and not only question our inherent prejudices but also ask and reflect on the issue of national unity and cohesion as well as the underlying elephant in the room. (Photo: Former president Ernest Bai Koroma).
Which brings me to the question: While it is true that there are deep-seated issues that need confronting, under the current political climate and at this point in time, are those in power so ignorant, belligerent and tactically uncunning as not to appreciate how sharp our ethno-political divisions are at this period? Come off it.
Are they so carried away that they cannot appreciate the fact that the ecstasy of a euphoric arrival of the New Direction is gradually waning and is clearly not as powerful as it was barely over a year ago?
It would take pages to itemise the full charge sheets of the policy flaws and the government’s failure to scan the horizon to pre-empt problems coming down the track, future-proof decision-making processes, create trust and transparency, simply because of ineffectual communication and connection with the generality of the people, to whom much is being done in their name as well as the inability to break out of the inertia that is stifling a truly new approach to programme dissemination.
Judging by its scattergun approach to issues and blatant political naivety, some actions of the New Direction, such as the attempt at getting us to jaw-jaw in the midst of a still-volatile climate is nothing but a partisan moral testimonial that further unravelled the cruel and crooked components of the sickening symptoms of our socio-political deformities, as well as the shenanigans and convoluted mendacity of the inconvenient truth that envelopes us.
The timing and handling of Bintumani three which was meant to be a thought-provoking examination of our society, as good as it looks on paper and in the scheme of things, was such a disaster even if the government wants us to believe otherwise, since its fallout will not address the fundamentals of our dysfunctional society simply because of its non-consensus. Anyway let’s describe this as sheer coincidence and a victim of our politics.
By the same token, the messy ‘who owns Papa’s land’ following the Regent Village tussle that was generated by those with a whiff of arrogance and who hymn their prowess amidst psychodrama, can be forgiven and classed as another happenstance.
Now, the terrible handling of such a national expediency as the Lungi Bridge, underpins a fundamental flaw in character and is an indication that the sanctimonious New Direction simply believes in preaching at the gut values of the rest of us.
Allowing an image of practically looking and talking down at the world with the sullen air of arrogance and sadistic contempt, as well as a maverick spirit of geniuses that have no passion to want to understand the lives of others, is a recipe for a tainted legacy.
Beyond the histrionics and prism of acting for tomorrow, President Bio and the New Direction will therefore be doing himself and the nation a favour by being more discerning of the changing mood of our society.
He needs to not only start listening more and reaching out farther than the so-called eggheads, hawks and doves in and out of his kitchen cabinet, inner circle of confidantes and his chums – some of who from indications, are not truly his friends.
If they were, they would be able to look him squarely in the face and tell him the whole truth and nothing but the truth: The New Direction of national consultation. If they truly share his vision and passion and are probably not even jealous of him, judging by some of the blunders that the government has committed since coming into power, they will stop making him look like a political catnip, whose charm and chutzpah is irresistible to the public and should be a carte-blanche ticket against asking difficult questions.
Rightly or wrongly, they need to appreciate the fact that the evil veil of deception has fallen from the eyes of the people – no thanks to the social media with all its flaws which highlights our leaders’ acts of defiance and plays on the people’s emotions.
It is true that you can kill those who have a vision but nobody can kill the vision itself, especially if it is an idea whose time has come.
Theresa May’s demise as U.K.’s Prime Minister is a reminder to reticent leaders who believe that with a pathologically inflexible wave of the magic wand, their best-laid plans and beliefs can never flounder in a political arena which is dead-set against compromise and which is full of vested interests, intrigues and bitter socio-political and ideological schism.
This sort of belligerence, which sometimes stems from a political totemic calculation, ends up with truly no spicy symmetry to heal the open wounds of past conflicts, nor ensure social cohesion.
The heat of politics as we still have now, is not the perfect vehicle to make an emotionally sensitive and resonant case without first winning the minds and hearts of the people. Don’t forget that unlike Rwanda, we are a different breed of Homo sapiens, simply because of most of what I’ve highlighted as our character flaws.
This is why the farcical, over-politicised extravaganza of Bintumani three, felt like we were writing an epitaph to a society haunted by its past, and then another one to a nation which has learnt to forgive but morphing into a caricature of a fetid people whose shared beliefs, mindset and values have been constructed in such a way that regardless of who is in power, the efforts for reform shall always produce substandard or contentious results.
Yes, it might be an electoral promise. Yes, it might be a much-desired and bold step towards achieving a more cohesive, sparkling and functional society. But our problems and dreams can’t be settled by nostalgia; no matter the stoic stance of the power behind the throne.
With the opposition still up in arms, the perceived ethnic cleansing and annihilation of a segment of the same society expected to sit down and engage each other in discussion as well as the strangulating economic life.
Under these realities, the protagonist is doomed by a fatal flaw – an error or defect that makes failure inevitable, no matter how much the hero struggles to make a success of such a doomed venture.
Remember, when the soil pH is tending towards zero (that is acidic), the pedigree of the seedlings is irrelevant.
Recent events as well as the toxic political atmosphere, aided by some of the blunders of the New Direction, makes it a work of beautifully-blurred reality and a flight of fantasy. It is what they call chasing a mirage or imagining some utopia. Unfortunately utopias are never realized in life.
With the continued introduction and sustenance of bigotry into our socio-political system which has been infected by the virus of ethnic and political intolerance, and the most vulnerable being failed by corporate political culture and governance, how much faith do we truly expect the majority to have in any exercise?
How does the government expect to unlock the HOLY GRAIL of our highly tribalistic and politically dysfunctional society, without first proving itself a shade different from the rest? Pulling rabbits from the hat?
We are an inward-looking nation, staring endlessly at our navel with a bitter-sweet symphony playing at the background of what is an irredeemably flawed society. Our leaders always seem to forget that there’s a reason shallow waters or coastal fish are different from those of the deep ocean.
Unless the New Direction gets its political acts together and realise that the system is still configured to do things the old way that led us to where we are right now, the blunders and brouhaha – like in the case of the Lungi Bridge, will continue to be a feature of its efforts.
This is because the fact that majority are undergoing the humiliation of life on a scrapheap, leading to a lot of frustration, anger, bitterness and resentment in the land, the government’s lack of genuine effort at national cohesion and its poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are existing catalysts that will continue to dog its efforts.
Whatever the President and his team intends to do, they should never forget the fact that those who dance on ice, know how tricky it is. Pride often goes before a fall. Ask Anthony Joshua. Only the deep can understand.