Those who dance on ice – know how tricky it is

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.

14 Comments

  1. Mr. Abdul Thomas, thanks for admonishing Saidu Conteh. It is the likes of Saidu Conteh that make Northerners and Themnes, in particular, look bad in Salone communities. Look, I was born and raised in the North but I attended Bo School in Bo for seven years – Form 1 through Upper 6. I happened to be in Bo School when president Maada Bio was a student there. I was his senior. The Bio that I knew was a perfect gentleman and I believe that he still is.

    So, Saidu Conteh, you don’t have to lecture folks like me about Mendes. I have lived with them and I know them to be friendly and hospitable people. I have never hidden my political stripes. I am APC but I have no problem or issues with Mendes. They are a great people.

    A couple of months ago, I wrote on this platform that for the APC to be competitive again, it must be rigorously reformed. APC must get rid of the likes of Ernest Koroma, who has done nothing but to destroy the party with his rigid belief in tribalism and regionalism.

    • Point of questioning. Not only the MENDES are HOSPITABLE and GREAT PEOPLE in Sierra Leone Mr. David Bangura. Every tribe in Sierra Leone is HOSPITABLE and GREAT. Do you agree with me Mr. David Bangura? You should have just said, ‘I am an APC but I have no problems or issues with any tribe in Sierra Leone’. This phrase should have been far more better to support your argument in my view.

      What would you say to me if I ask you this question, ‘Are the KONOS not HOSPITABLE and GREAT’? Are you saying something similar as Mr. Saidu Conteh? DISCUSS. You said, and I quote: “The Bio that I knew was a perfect gentleman and I believe that he still is”. REALLY?

      I don’t believe that a soldier will ever be GENTLE or be a PERFECT GENTLEMAN. Do you agree with me Mr. David Bangura?
      Finally, I respect your views Mr. David Bangura. But as you might have known by now, this is a platform where people sometimes ask tough questions to keep heads scratching and keep the issues alive. Thank you very much Mr. David Bangura and may GOD BLESS YOU.

    • Ok guys – “Time Out” – cease fire please. No more personal attacks. Saidu has been magnanimous enough to apologise to the Mende people for his unfortunate comments. And it takes huge characters with huge hearts to do that. So lets move on and focus on the issues. I will not approve any further comment that seek to impugn Saidu’s personality, nor any other forumite for that matter. So please, let us move on. Thank you.

  2. Mr. Saidu Conteh hates this government because they defeated his political party in the last election for the presidency. He is on record insulting other minded citizens and calling for violence. His apology is not genuine and I wonder why some of his divisive and aggressive comments go through without editing.

  3. Thank you very much Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas for coming out and condemning what was seen as unacceptable by many. This platform is respected by not only Sierra Leoneans but, by citizens of countries all over the world. I have come across people who told me that they enjoy reading the comments on this forum.

    I met a lady who told me that, The Sierra Leone Telegraph is her only means of knowing exactly what is going on in the country. She further went on to say that she admires the way the forumites challenge each other and making their points.
    I believe that, all of us on this platform should treat each other with respect.

    We should avoid any situation that will warrant the MODERATOR to intervene. We should all understand that he already has a lot of editing work on our comments to do before publishing them. I understand how certain issues become emotional and personal sometimes. But that does not warrant anyone of us passing the MARK.

    Finally, I thank Mr. Saidu Conteh for his apologies which is a very good example. Thanks Mr. Saidu Conteh and may GOD BLESS all the FORUMITES.

  4. Mr Awoonor Gordon, please keep it simple and clear to effectively communicate to the masses. I admire your brilliant, poetic and colorful writing as an intellectual so to speak. However, your message or critic is difficult to discern for some of us with basic high school education.

    Sorry to say, understanding your thought process and rhythm is a big challenge. No offense. I got lost? Just a thought for your deep reflection. Break it down? Good day.

    • Mr Julaba, I disagree that our learned friend – Mr A. Gordon is too heavy with his vocabulary. I enjoyed every word written; and maybe we don’t put such words out frequently. If you have a problem with grasping his grammar may I recommend you get a dictionary?

      Education has died due to those who fear it for their masses. The ‘Athens’ has indeed fallen my friend. I bet you’re not alone in thinking that way, but I don’t blame you for believing so. If our people had been properly educated, Sierra Leoneans won’t be in the hell hole they find themselves. That’s my take. No hard feelings eh? The benefits of education will set us all free.

  5. Hmmmm, poor Sa.Lone. it’s always been the same old anti-develolpment tendencies on display: negative ethnicity, disunity, self-centernedness, lack of a sense of patriotism, greed, barefoot poverty, insidious corruption, an eye-for-an-eye disposition, and a know-it-all mentality–all of which continue to arrest the progress of an otherwise richly (resource) endowed country, blessed with an aesthetic natural landscape that many other countries can only dream of.

    Sierra Leone must cease being a mere landspace populated by individuals and groups constantly at each other’s throat, and instead strive to become a truly cohesive, united and progressive nation destined for greater heights than what she has thus far been able to attain since after the early years of the furling of the Union Jack, and it’s replacement with the green, white and blue flag.

    And all its citizens/tribal groupings must accept the reality that the accident of geography got them all in one boat in which they all must learn how to collectively row in peace to survive, or (God forbid) sink the boat and drown in perpetual poverty, despair and medieval-type underdevelopment. The leaders of the country (past and present) owe this much to their long-suffering and poverty-stricken masses.

  6. Monsieur Thomas – For problems to be analyzed,and solved they have to be highlighted,and confronted head on – fearlessly in sincerity,and in truth. The truth is sometimes a very bitter pill to swallow. No offence intended against the Mende people,at all.

    Now with your words of caution, I am fully aware of the margins,and extents of your ethical,and moral standards,and regulations by which you conduct your daily affairs. I will make it a priority to choose my words carefully when addressing sensible issues in the future.

    I know how it feels when someone violates your standards,because I also own a company that responsibly employs 20 plus people,that are held accountable for their actions, by the strictest set of rules.. If anyone is offended by my honest,sincere,and candid observations,I ask that you accept my sincerest apologies…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  7. “Criticism of others is thus an oblique form of self-commendation. We think we make the picture hang straight on our wall by telling our neighbors that all his pictures are crooked.” ― Fulton J. Sheen, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and Calvary

  8. I like this story telling; we are all Sierra Leoneans, but we are all not waiting JESUS. Sierra Leone is not a one party state. Let us respect our democracy; religions; cultures; social securities etc. so lets stop thinking negetive, think positive. lets respects each another. Let us chase those crazy bullheads out of our society. Let us build Sierra Leone; good education; good health care. God bless Sierra Leone.

  9. Well,well,well – it has already been settled,my darling sweetheart has enthusiastically cheered, and declared,that this is one of the most exceptional articles she has ever set her lovely eyes upon. Kudos to the writer for being able to have one of the most intelligent minds I have ever seen in my life,shower him with loud applauses and endless praises,for a job well done.

    Now its time,for the sun to dazzle,and shine – to bring out gloves made of iron,and put things in perspective,and in their rightful places. Firstly,my brethren,the truth cannot,and should never be compromised; if such a thing ever happens reality will always be stalking you like a predator,anxious to devour a prey.

    Many times,I have tempered and sugar coated my words for the purposes of being politically,and socially correct,and to be sincere, specifically,for enhancing,and promoting dialogue,and peace,instead of discord. Over and over,In my quiet moments,I’ve heard the words coming from the innermost depths of Conscience saying;” Wilt thou also Oh Beloved,Saidu refrain from speaking the truth,that strengthens the glorious light over darkness?” Well not any more!

    Today,all the skeletons hidden in our nations closet must begin to come out one by one,for the world to see. Prudent,and discerning minds will tell you that presently our nation is caught between an anvil,and a hammer – Tribalism,and Corruption,are now the distinctive qualities of our Sierra Leone.

    Many iron hammers,and anvils made of steel have been crushed,and broken to pieces trying to fix, remold,and reshape her fading identity,yet to no avail – the frightening end result,was destroying her fragile psyche,and causing harmful splinters to be deeply embedded inside her beautiful skin. Heads up,here comes the Bomb – Tribalism exists,and permeates the atmosphere in Sierra Leone because of the negative attitudes of the Mende people.

    Since Independence,the days of the late Sir Milton Margai,my Dad,uncles,and older relatives have related to me it has been so – today is no different. The Mendes believe they are the rightful owners of our nation because they were the Midwives that managed,and brought forth a peaceful,uncomplicated Independence – they strongly believed,that it was their thoughtfulness, that prevented any spontaneous miscarriages from occurring in the pregnant,infertile wombs of our tyrannical,Colonial “Downpressors” True?

    Its time to call a spade, a spade,they have been wrongfully pointing fingers for ages,now its time to show the same in sincerity,and truth. Every other Tribe in our nation is easy to get along with,except the Mendes. They are experts in holding grudges,and keeping,and settling scores. They are arrogant, and full of Pride,with thoughts of superiority over others impairing their senses and visions.

    Sierra Leone would have been just fine,and far ahead of most developed nations in progress,had the Mendes not been part of the tribal mixture,texture,and melting pot of our great nation. Word to the Motherland! Who wouldn’t want to trade such people like damaged,and battered goods to other neighboring countries in replacement for even the worst of their own?

    Old Stevens,did all he could – went to hell,and back to get the Mendes to embrace national Cohesiveness,progress,and brotherliness,but in the end became frustrated,flabbergasted – throwing in the towel. What a man,Stevens was! He brought their brightest minds into the innermost circles of Power – F.M. Minah,Salia Jusu Sherrif,and many others, but instead of working to improve our nation,they created cracks, strategized,maligned,and secretly connived to destroy it.

    Name me one one Minister that was a Mende, in the days of Stevens that accomplished something great,or of tangible value that can be seen today? Trust me you will be hard pressed to find any. All they did was plunder,and ransack a nation still in its infancy. Ever seen a Limba Man keeping scores? Nope!

    A Temne who thinks others are inferior,and less than him because of their level of education? Not possible at all. The Krios may be reserved because of their upbringing,but they are far from being tribalistic;and the Lokkohs,Fula’s,and Mandigoes are just peace loving,adorable people.

    Yep,we are caught directly between the anvil,and the hammer with nowhere to go. The resilient nature of tribalism has left countless leaders,resembling blacksmiths,anxious for change,dumbfounded, not knowing what to. do. Here’s another problem causing wear,and tear on the anvil,and the hammer – Corruption exists because of lack of fiscal discipline in governance,poor moral upbringing,and the unavailability of strong,dependable,effective institutions.

    In six months this nation can be sanitized, and made squeaky clean,and free from corruption if only the know-how, and will to do it is there. First,and foremost,the government, and public workforce has to be retrained,reorientated, and be made familiar with their responsibilities to the nation, while at the same time highlighting the downsides,and consequences of corruption.

    And next,government must ensure that. a strong,robust economy exists, that rewards,and compensates people for their creativity, time,and efforts. When people begin to earn incomes,and salaries sufficient enough to meet their needs,then corruption will be drastically reduced.

    A strong Economy,resting on the solid foundations of strong institutions,guided by the shining lights of genuine patriotic leadership is enough to change the course of our nation forever,away from impending catastrophe,to the domains of security,prosperity,and safety. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • Mr Conteh, such blanket tribal slur is not accepted here. I am sure you will agree that every tribe has its own bad apples, without exception. So please limit your criticisms to individual politicians – not an entire tribe, lest you will be accused of preaching the very tribalism of which you are finding others guilty. I trust you will apologise to the entire Mende tribe for your unfortunate and unacceptable tribalistic comments and move on. Thank you. And please let us not have a repeat.

      Please note that any further comment that seeks to add insult to injury, will be deleted and the IP address removed from this platform. Thank you.

  10. Well … Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon always like to challenge the minds of his readers. His articles portray a proverbial slant that entice the readers to figure it out for themselves. As he said: “Only the deep can understand”. True.

    In this article, he has craftily coiled together various issues – blatant hypocrisy, ‘bad belleh’, jealousy, greed, ego, power, tribalism, etc. – that have led to the profound mistrust between the populace and the political class, and the inherent effects of impeding development programmes that are put forward by any government in place.

    This is my pick from this article: “The continued introduction and sustenance of bigotry into our socio-politcal system, undoubtedly fuels a rise in a divisive society that has been infected by the virus of ethnic and political intolerance.”

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