What hope for a better Sierra Leone?

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 January 2014

Sierra Leone ParliamentThere seems to be a rare outbreak of sanity rearing its head in Sierra Leone, where years of gorging on a diet of cheap ethno-religious politics, has clogged all the arteries of our society.

But by chance, the most significant political stories of recent have come, bearing an equally significant sociological garnish which reflects a great track of opinion and sets the stage for kitchen-sink realism.

Deep-seated, but semi-rooted questions are being asked as lofty commentators, social scientists, leaders across the strata and even some spin doctors, as well as the erstwhile docile local media, clamour for a new era.

They proclaim the imperatives of a change towards genuine social project, that will iron out the imperfections in the structure and organisational rubrics of our national fabric.

No doubt, most of mankind’s self-inflicted misery has been caused by leaders who presume to know the future after gazing into their crystal ball of deceit and fantasy.

grand corruption in africaSierra Leone has not been any different especially as several of our leaders have often ensured that the punitive populist wind continued to howl through the country, until it is whipped up into a terminal and unequivocal storm which leaves us drenched in stagnation.

That storm almost consumed us and may still do so, unless we grasp with both hands, the opportunities that are presenting themselves for us to make a u-turn from the destructive tendencies in our DNA.

Really the issue is very simple. How do we get the framework as well as the sense of structure we need to be able to move our world effectively forward, from the present where everything that we thought we had nailed down are now coming apart.

Now, the essential principles that our nation has continued to ignore, is that if you cannot measure a problem, you cannot manage it.

So, we need to examine our attitudes as a starting point in unknotting the problem of how our society deals with the profound transgression of not only the past, but also the boiling present which is simmering in the background.

It is a matter of fact that there are many poor citizens, young and old, simplistic enough to believe that questions about the direction of governance naturally translates into pervasive reprehension of those in power.

SL rebel war victims6Indeed and worryingly enough, there are even more who lack the slightest grasp of the hideous section of our political history whose aggregation and the role of the political class culminated in the unspeakable atrocity called the civil war. This was a symbolic receptacle for the socio-economic and political anxieties of the then oppressive former leader of the current ruling party, Siaka Stevens.

Today, Sierra Leone continues to imprison itself in the mental habit of hero-worshipping its leaders; most of whose delusion of foreknowledge and utopian and totalitarian thinking, puts any hope of a truly democratic state and indeed a new nation, in formaldehyde.

This transcendental yoga is what is keeping us stuck on the mat of backwardness.

The most critical factors that have made it impossible for Sierra Leone to actualise its potentials, also include the fact that we have created an illusion that a seemingly fertile oasis of rhetoric and cosmetics, are magic wand to be waved at our many dysfunctions.

For years, we have been collectively complicit in the violent massage and fiddling of national statistics that say we are what we are not.

Even when our leaders and the world outside follow the fashion of restlessness, which haunts modern life and embark on the fad of meaningless and mysterious mumbo-jumbos that bear no relations to reality, we simply shrug and get on with life.

When normal patriots living in the real world complain that this is not reflected on our streets, some of us join our leaders in sneering at, and describing them as deluded.

The endless tactical manoeuvres of those who led us, have been amusing for so long, that we as a society forgot that matinee shows are meant only for breathers and not a way of life or everyday relaxation.

President Koroma with mining Billionaire - Frank Timis
President Koroma with mining Billionaire – Frank Timis

Even right now, as we sell every Le6,000,000 (six million Leones) of our national resources for a hundred dollar bill, we call it success and espouse it as landmarks on the prosperity tarmac.

Yet inequality, that toxic and corrosive creator of social unrest, widens in our society.

I am not sure what it was, other than the conceit of the political class that made us believe after the war and especially in the last six years, that we could borrow our way to prosperity without convincing restructuring of not only our economy and simmering injustice, but also the complete re-engineering of our socio-political society.

Whether the current government will ever be sincerely courageous or foolhardy enough to push such a drastic remedy is frankly quite unlikely.

But one thing is clear. The integrity of those who are able to impugn the honesty of our present cohesion, should be beyond question and without a whiff of political calculation in the moral fervour of such advocates.

One factor why – much as it is needed, the compelling agenda for change keeps hitting the buffers, is that the proponents want us to see critics as the fat cats of stereotype, made plush by the tantalising baits of an opposition party, which does not even have its house in order.

No doubt there are some who belong to that group but they are a tiny minority.

On the other hand, cynicism prevails because the people can see that our leaders have simply ignored the reality of our nation and taken refuge in spin that is not far from deliberate lying.

When faced with the multiple disasters inherent in our lives, but which are hidden in the face of visible evidence, government uses information and data – often inaccurate, to support its own agendas.

The continued paranoia of our leaders to pump up the volume of their spin machine on achievements, suggests to discerning minds – be they illiterates in some far flung village or the jobless-educated milling around aimlessly on our streets, that although politicians cannot fool all of the people all of the time, the recent crop can easily fool itself.

president koroma meeting opposition parties jan 2013 4Anyway, suddenly the air is filled with the cry for peace and unity.

Olive branches are strewn across the fields and the net of deliverance is being dangled over the land, for those joining the congregation of the initiated or in a bid to turn inside out, the reality of our national cloak.

Alas, no one is crying out for political, economic and social justice, whose absence, unfortunately remains the bane of our society.

Rather, we prefer to continue licking the bowl of deception, because it is covered in milk and honey, as well as wallowing in the knowledge that as long as we are busy doing that, there will be no need to wash the plates.

However and sadly to say, justice is talking about the division in our midst. About ways of ensuring equal or proportionate representation in government.

It is about the legacy of transparency that will ensure that those who will serve in consonant with the oath of their office and without fear or favour, emerge anytime we throng the polling booths at election rituals.

Justice, is changing the hypocrisy of not wanting to talk about ethnic marginalisation and the political consequences of its existence.

Let us unmask the elephant in the room which has exposed Salone’s deep racial fault lines that has become the fundamental knot in the wheel of our progress – if we truly want to move forward.

For example, can the Krios – hand on heart, feel they are a part of the country, with equal rights?

Why must the Konos remain the determining factor in our presidential calculations at all times?

Would a Limba-Temne ticket be a winning combination for any of the parties?

What about a Mende leader of the APC? Or, a Sierra Leonean-Lebanese mayor of Freetown?

There are legions of such questions. But thank God for inter-tribal marriages that are now becoming a fad and helping to move us on.

In the eyes of many of our compatriots, Freetown is the bastion of the Creoles rather than a cherished capital of a beloved nation and they therefore have no stake in its growth or survival.

Whilst many people find the level of ethnic fury startling, many in the Krio population find this incomprehension, which their ancestors helped create anyway, still more infuriating.

But they will only whisper it amongst themselves as they continue to condescend to their second class role and harbour intense hatred for their perceived oppressors.

Where there is no love, unity, peace, justice, equality and faith, sustainable progress can never exist.

We are beginning to sing the rallying song now because hatred and deceit, as well as a predominance of unresolved issues are threatening our dream, our goals and our very future.

Our political class continues to define itself not by rigid ideology, but by eclectic values and the grimness of a puritan sect with spiritual caste marks that linger in the air like river fog, above the heads of the people who benefit from them.

The aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of politics that our leaders have been practicing is an easy sell in the heartlands of a country like ours, where illiteracy makes hero-worshipping a religion; and predictably enough, has nothing to do with intangibles, like justice and honesty of purpose.

There are plenty who steer clear when successive governments contemplate ways of political or social bloodshed, in bringing down standards of living or the stagnation in our socio-economic life by its policies and actions.

But if the media or opponents raise eyebrows when the bodies begin to pile up on the killing fields, you’ll hear a deafening shrill; claiming it is all bad belleh and hear the age-old myths, that such opposition, is the key sabotage factor.

Why is there currently an increase in punitive rhetoric and harsher poverty, and what is the ideology that drives it?

Why is common sense often misconstrued as being nothing more than a hurdle to be overcome by successive governments?

Why must any incoming administration spend more time in undoing the legacy of its predecessor and taking the nation one step back by that singular behaviour, only to now begin afresh from a deficit position?

Freetown Market Traders
Freetown Market Traders

Freetown is congested. But for without fear of reprisals, which brave member of parliament will rise up and move a motion for the relocation of the nation’s capital or at worst, for the decentralisation of government ministries?

The headquarters of the agriculture ministry for example could be somewhere in the provinces, with only a satellite office in the capital.

Ditto – other ministries such as aviation to Lungi?

Dare any government to take bold steps to clear – and I mean a total ban- on the streets of Lumley, East End and even PZ of illegal street traders, who constitute nothing but an eyesore in these heavily-congested areas of a once beautiful city?

If indeed we are looking for a new Sierra Leone, we need justice that will put an end to the oppression of one another; the lack of love for the country and for fellow Sierra Leoneans.

If we truly have even a modicum of the courage required to do the morally decent thing for once, we should be sorting out the inequities in our democracy and taking the axe to the root of the broader questions of our existence that demand further scrutiny.

Sincerely speaking, has it not occurred to us as a society or to the moral guardians of our societal conscience, that the incessant manoeuvrings to avoid these scrutiny is a large part of the reason that confidence in the political class and indeed the corporate existence of the nation, as one united country, has all but collapsed?

Many in our society, especially the youths with potential leadership qualities, do not engage in and with politics. They they see thugs as the main drivers of the national wheel and insanity as the code of ethics in a theatre in which mediocrity has a pride of place ahead of meritocracy.

While not apathetic, too many of them feel disengaged from a political process which they reject as irrelevant to their lives, in a society that thrives only on the inequality that perpetually keeps the people in subjugation.

Therefore, let us all begin a common sense and fair discussion about our future, based on proper facts and necessities, not the hunches, prejudices and political sparring that dominates debates. Not the tongue-in-cheek rhetoric that indicates we are heading for the top of a mirage-pyramid or that any contrary view deserves petulant denunciation.

No one single group or person, holds a monopoly of wisdom and bringing equity to the table might just about clear the suspicions that have plagued us but which we refuse to recognise.

A less hysterical media and party legionnaires need to appreciate that the threshold of a new era needs leadership and followership that are uncontaminated by the prejudices of the past and committed to reinventing the nation and governance.

That will not only be a small triumph for democracy, but will also oil the promise of a new people and ensure that we just don’t go on limping through our present adulation of mediocrity.

Without such an honest search for justice, we shall continue to go round in circles like a demented Rottweiler.

Honestly, there needs to be a review of how every passing day depletes the hope left for a better Sierra Leone.