Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 December 2014
James Garfield once said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable”.
My belief is that Sierra Leone is gradually approaching the other side of midnight, when the farce and tomfooleries that have been our diet, under the façade that we have a divine right – at the behest of our leaders, for our tomorrow to be alright, must completely fade away, so that we can create a future that will not continue to impoverish and emasculate us.
Sincerely speaking, I don’t know about you reading this, but for me, after five decades of freedom and with the abundant comparative human and natural resources available to us, what I find excruciatingly painful is that we continue to sing the same old song.
The generality of our people teeter along without any real sense of purpose. And the nation itself, lacks a coherent vision in a world where some other smaller countries, such as Rwanda, Burundi, etc., have taken flight into the higher realm of human development.
What is most painful, is that day-in day-out in our bullet-ridden nation, which seems to be clinging on to dear life, we see the negative outcomes of the enduring problems of corruption and violence, of gut-wrenching poverty and grotesque political incompetence, as well as the mess that is Sierra Leone.
And yet, we still keep a straight face and pretend we can’t grasp what is happening.
Most of our societal institutions – at virtually all levels, have been compromised, while those who head them have lost their souls and moral authority.
Yet, we still cannot comprehend the long term consequences of the socio-political and economic deficits all around, which have elicited emotive cries from the majority of those languishing in abject poverty and widespread inequality.
Ours is a country that used to – and to some extent, still brims with immense talent and potential.
Sadly, today, it is a shell of the land of milk and honey some of us knew, and is now nothing but a synonym for everything dirty; corruption at all levels; human right abuses; drug peddling – especially among power brokers; fraudulent practices across all strata of our society; environmental degradation of cherished heritage sites – such as Sugar Loaf Mountain; electoral sham with the so-called political party registration commission becoming a parallel government; massive unemployment, especially among youths; lack of power and water provisions as well as widespread hunger and homelessness.
Instead of economic buoyancy, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel, as others eat the good of our land.
We are told of exponential growth, but I ask our leaders: how possible is it that we have recorded such economic gains and are on the way to prosperity and yet the country is in decline and widespread poverty (Ebola notwithstanding)?
Every day, like right now, our brothers and sisters die needlessly because we lack the simple necessities that life demands; children cannot go to school, and when they do, the outcomes are nothing much to write home about.
President Koroma spoke about more girls in school and the population of those in education rising. But what quality of education are they receiving?
Thousands pass through the motion of leaving school, only to join the countless others roaming the streets without a glimmer of hope, as unemployment becomes their diet and they are forced to live in ‘pan ose’ because of lack of housing.
As we channel our God-given resources into the hands of foreigners and some of our compatriots plunder the remainder of our commonwealth, our health systems suffer. There are water sources everywhere, but none to drink for the majority.
Corruption is a badge of honour for our leaders; the police, judiciary, and lawmakers pitch their tents in the pockets of our egoistic leaders, who have entrenched bad leadership and corrupt systems, while living in streets that are far apart from those who chose them to lead.
We can go on and on, but no matter what, our present cup of woes will pass away and Sierra Leone will be liberated from the choking grip of its current debilitating socio-political and economic cancers. The country will definitely rise from the ashes of our past madness.
But firstly, and I believe it is now rather than later, there is a need for us to collectively ask ourselves the fundamental question of the destination that we want for Sierra Leone, and how best to get there.
If we are to rebound from the fringes and give meaning to our lives and leave a banner without stain for future generations, then the question of our collective complicity in the derailment of meaningful progress needs to be sorted out.
As a dynamic society, it is imperative that if we are desirous of changing our destiny from the current yoke-laden fantasy and move to the next level, there is the urgent need to blast off our future transformational needs.
This must be done by collectively taking stock of our historical past and allowing all stakeholders in the Sierra Leone project to have a say in the developmental process. And I’m not talking about those stage-managed town meetings.
But what do we say to the coming generations? Where do we stand on the side of history?
Should we all be tarred with the same odious brush of not doing enough to secure the foundation of a new nation, after the tears and blood of those whose lives have been brutally sacrificed; first, because of our greed and selfishness; and then as a result of our inaction?
Right now, from the past generation to the present generation and the story is still the same. Promises after promises while the unexpected, like Ebola, opens our eyes to the fact that we are still very much in the woods and the loftiness of hope seems to dim every day.
No sooner is our emotional gizzards fed and nurtured back to life, than another nest of vipers begin to poison not just the blood stream of governance, but also the very sinew of the country itself.
Now, indications are that the next generation is primed to inherit the same socio-political and economic mess – stifled hope and crushed dreams.
And all we’ll do is blame the civil war and Ebola.
Due to the gross incompetence of our leaders, past and present, our beloved country has become a backward entity of backward people, who cringe before backward leaders.
Our dignity and pride gradually eludes us, and we have been made to cower before our rulers and put up false loyalty, because it guarantees our sustenance.
Joyce Meyers says; “when we think wrong, then everything else goes wrong. We talk wrong, we live wrong, we make wrong decisions, and we look at ourselves in a wrong way.” The progress for us as a people will depend on our thinking, because the ways of politicians are unclear – even to themselves.
Our aspirations fizzle out right before our very eyes, leaving darkness all around.
Sierra Leone has become a country whose hopes have not only been wounded, but one in which the collective aspirations of the majority have been appallingly submerged in the whelming flood of blind pursuits, egocentric ambitions and plain mismanagement, as well as poor and timid followership.
Equally but not surprisingly, is the erosion of the anticipation of a national rebirth, greatness and unity; now seemingly defeated on the altar of sectional ego and interests, as well as the political and ideological decline in the body polity.
What you see in the society is a degeneration of values across the social strata, particularly in the orientation of those who lead us and the political elite.
The paranoid fantasy, that we were immune to the siren calls of poverty and deaf to our failure to construct effective state institutions – championed by blabbermouths, have continued to be exposed as all the crumbling components of nationhood continue to tug and tear at the heartstrings of the country, and cause carnage of unimaginable proportion.
With our mortgaged democracy, pointers are that the generality of the suffering masses will forever remain in slavery and servitude because of the corrupt political culture that has descended on our land.
This is why, even as we battle Ebola, those in power want to silence negative discourse and instead champion egocentric tendencies.
As the light of hope becomes tainted and the longings and desires of the majority diminish, we are forced to submit everything else to the dictates of Ebola and the roadshow of the self-appointed actors, who have seized the initiative in what has become an undertone of political glorification, rather than national imperatives.
Every day the light of hope is tainted and our longings and desires for Eldorado diminish. We exist with the hope that the future will enable us to live.
Every day we sink into the mire of hopelessness, because right before our eyes we see are dreams stifled.
But when shall we awake and find the courage to fight for that which we believe in, and change forever the culture of servitude, hero-worshiping of our leaders and the apathy that enables political hawks to seize the initiative and ram their beliefs down our throats.
Joy, it is said, has a slender body that breaks too soon. Historically, this is a truism in the case of our beloved Sierra Leone, whose account has contained too much agony and precious little ecstasy
This is why from now on, we all need to speak out so that those who might be knowingly or unknowingly leading us to disaster, will not claim they did not know.
Fortunately enough, with each knockout blow, the half-life of naivety that a hitherto unknown spell seemed to have cast on our traumatised nation grows shorter.
Our country’s development calculus portrays an economy full of potentials – an economy with the potential to leap-frog into sustained growth and development, if the nation’s available human and material resources are optimised for its citizens’ benefits.
So, post-Ebola is the period of big preparations for tremendous happenings. Given the trail of events it has left in its wake and exposed in its trail, it is a sign that this is the opportunity that we have been waiting for – the opportunity that should decide many issues for us as a nation, more than several epoch-making periods have ever done.
Sierra Leone might currently be a street of broken institutions in a field of discord; however, the handbags that fate throws at us every dawn are fast becoming assets on our doorstep.
But, only if we can look into the seeds of time and pick out those that will grow, can we slowly give birth to a brave new world.
Yes, Ebola, which has dragged the nation to a crossroad, is the play at the theatre of our lives at this point in time.
But all things considered, something needs to give way, if the scar is to heal properly. And the time to start thinking about that, is in parallel with whatever occupies our thoughts – NOW.
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