Where is the political carriage charging this time around?

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

4 January 2013
Poverty in Sierra Leone “We should never forget that after this year’s elections, and irrespective of whoever wins, we will still be underdeveloped, broke, under the yoke of modern-day economic colonialists and mean-spirited investors and busybodies; who force-feed us and rob our noses in their supposedly scrummy chips (handouts) from crappy restaurants (investments).

“We shall still be badly educated, gravely troubled by the high-level kleptomania in our midst and our health sector will still continue to churn out cholera, typhoid and high mortality rate as dividends of our democracy.

“Half-baked graduates will be recycled to teach emaciated school kids in a conveyor belt that ensures we lack the requisite indigenous labour locally to drive the wheel of our progress.

“Social calamities and economic strangulations will still be at the dining table of our society and our agriculture will still be moribund and choking from the strangle-hold of wheeler-dealers; while our natural resources will find a cozy place on the mantelpiece of foreign collectors and our industries will still remain virtually non-existent.” (RANDOM MUSING: BATTLE OF IDEAS 10/9/12)

Someone once said that; ‘elections are designed to enable people find out what politicians stand for and in turn, politicians find out what the people will fall for.’

Now, that scenario is over for another five years in the case of Sierra Leone, but our realities as enunciated in the extract above and several others un-mentioned, remain the same.

So, what has happened in the last five years that ensured the return of President Koroma? The truth is that it is not the fond memory of yesterday, but the excitement of what might happen tomorrow, that matters now.

APC SUPPORTERS - VOTE 2012Definitely, returning the President to power is the people’s way of saying that they are not looking for jam tomorrow, while they have egg on their faces today.

And I am sure readers will agree, without a shadow of doubt and following the incomparable nightmare of the past two decades, that the people of Sierra Leone, a court still waiting for its King; deserve so much better than their current lot.

In reality, our lives are fractured. Our existence lack the communality which used to be the hallmark of our society in days of yore.

And as the gap between the rich and the poor widens, the cult of the individual holds sway more and more, in an increasingly tumultuous, selfish and greedy rat race environment.

Therefore, the depth of our depravity, the cynicism of the people and the riveting spectacle of complicity of our political leaders in the entrenchment of mediocrity and poverty, are all so reprehensible.

Hence, as a fresh executive takes off in this new year, something far more than ordinary appeasement is surely required.

As a matter of fact, today, the essential issue in our democracy and society is what to do to chart a course that will be irreversible.

No doubt, the pathetic weaknesses in our political and economic spheres, as well as the inherent unwillingness to act on the flaws that have often flooded our governance with banal mediocrity are begging for true transformation.

school children in sierra leoneHowever, in looking to leave the past behind, to be buried with 2012, we need to establish a nation that helps the generality of its citizens to develop, rather than the lucky few.

We have got to learn to make the nation work from the inside out. It is a cardinal task that must never be relegated to the background or dressed up in neon lights.

So my question is: What is the President going to do with the power given to him this time around?

Because what the tectonic significance of his victory means, is that amidst the whipped up firestorm of our season of futile politics, the yearnings of the people is simply to see an end to the emptiness and decline concealed behind the current grandeur and splendour on offer.

Amidst the realities of their world, the words of Oscar Wilde, that illusion is the first of all pleasures, keeps nagging at the back of their minds.

However, will the next five years be the moment for a fresh, catchy sound bite that is actually worth its weight in gold?

Will our President be guided by principles formed in the hallowed factory of his conscience?

Behind the rainbow of his real priorities, will he tame his rhetoric of imagining that Utopia was in the process of becoming reality, even when our bleeding cut festers?

Will a born-again President Koroma, red in tooth and claw, acknowledge that our economy is, in every respect, a low-wage, low-productivity market requiring emergency local surgery?

Poverty in Sierra Leone2Is the new administration going to appreciate that our acclaimed higher growth rates, relative to other economies in the region, tended to conceal the awkward fact that we are a long way from Jerusalem?

In addition, will past mistakes in the way our resources have been handled, help guide the immediate emergence of the new, petroleum-based national economy that is being eagerly awaited in 2015?

In this repeat of our immediate past, will a new national governance team appreciate that continuing with the gala sale to foreigners is a recipe for future heartache, akin to our Lebanese experience, if the current errors in the utilisation and exploitation of our resources continue?

Meanwhile yes, roads are vitally important, but what is imperative is the hunger in the bellies of the people.

Yes, there’s need for attitudinal change, but the message can only filter to the poor if there is hope.

president koroma in parlaimentYes, 58% of the electorate endorsed the President’s return, but equally significant is the fact that 42% do not believe he had done enough or anything to improve their lot. Yet, they’re Sierra Leoneans also, whom he is duty bound to take care of.

Therefore in reality, Mr. President has to truly realise that the journey isn’t over; the battle is just beginning. The true foundation of his legacy is about to be laid this time around.

Will his sequel be better than his original coming? Will history record his name in letters of gold or will it go with the recollections of Pa Shaki and Momoh?

Will his second advent be the light-beacons on the surrounding hills, fostering a genuine sense of civic pride and national unity? Will he be a flicker of real hope amid the morbid paradox that is our existence?

If he will, now is the moment to start making the reality of a legacy, by overhauling the bubbles in our socio-political and economic system.

Government’s immediate palliatives and interventions, like electricity in 2007, may airbrush the inherent flaws in our realities, but no amount of fiddling round the edges will be good enough.

The real future of a country – bruised and battered for so long, is not only at stake, but is being truly assessed.

If there is indeed hope, part of achieving this will lie with those the President chooses to assist him in the arduous task of suppressing the vicious circle of poverty and turning it into the virtuous circle of prosperity.

As he basks in the glow of the warm affection of his new democratic legitimacy, I would like him to remember the fact that he emerged victorious, on the basis of the agenda for prosperity- whatever it might mean to him and his administration.

However, we cannot continue to have a situation whereby we celebrate pronouncements and ideas such as the Agenda, before they are even put into action, not to talk of being achieved.

Which is why the argument regarding the feasibility or otherwise of achieving prosperity will further continue to raise more questions than answers, if the vision is not based on a serious blue-print of social, political and economic foundations.

So, no matter how loudly the cheers ring around the nation; some perspective and reflections are essential in the current compelling scenario of national restoration.

Election is over. The broader questions of our existence that demand further scrutiny are coming to the fore and need to be confronted headlong and with utmost truth and sincerity.

It is no longer time for handpicked audiences to applaud manically on cue or for vague promises that are rarely remembered, let alone kept. Governance remains an intrinsic issue in our existence. It must receive all the seriousness it deserves, if our dream is not to crystalise into bleakness.

We desperately need to realise that the human scrapheap dotting our society is a direct result of the lack of ideological drive to tackle the immense tragedy that seems to define us, since we strayed from the path of decent politics.

I am however aware, like so many others, that we are yet to disentangle ourselves fully from the immorality of the past. It is why for so long, we as a society metaphorically prefer drinking ‘Rosé’, simply because we cannot decide whether we like ‘White’ or ‘Red’ wine.

Our barn of hypocrisy and amphitheatre of contradictions have ensured that we are stuck on the road to nowhere, even while our nation is being used as an empty womb.

Nevertheless, the future does not wait for those who are hesitant; and just like at the approach of a rocket, we have another opportunity for our 15-second race for life, to start afresh now.

Obviously, a sizeable number of the population is of the roll-over-and-die type, willing to undergo a kicking, provided those putting the jackboot in, administer it with a smile.

But, leaders cannot just plaster a grin on their faces and make everyone else feel happy; unless they are really trying to share hope; despite all there may be, to feel gloomy about.

Consequently, in the feisty conundrum of the post-election, the avowed agenda for prosperity appears a lofty ambition indeed.

Because as we all know, there is no way this can be achieved and realised without everyone buying into this vision through concrete and far-reaching steps that will not only overhaul our economic and governance systems in general, but which will also mean dismantling the present status quo in all facets of our society.

To this end, there is a compelling need to clean out the last Augean stable of has-beens, not-yets and never-weres political hangers-on, who were more than a millstone round the President’s neck.

He won the election for his party and not the other way round. They relied on him and his ratings.

Amidst the shattered ruins of the Sierra Leonean dream and, in the surreal levels of recent years, there is a compelling need to jackboot the forces of electoral exploitation.

Apart from gathering strength, they have continued to ensure the reflection of a political culture that insists on power being reserved for tiny, privileged, self-interested elite, rather than the true custodian – the people.

Politics is in deeper disrepute and the grotesque farce that trailed the recent campaign for the just concluded elections, speaks volume about the corrosion of popular interests in politics.

Many ordinary souls, feel no stake in political process because of the outlandish behaviour of some of the immediate past executive, who behaved as if dedicated service has fallen out of fashion; as well as an opposition riven by bickering and without guts and soul.

We need to ensure the reform of the political and democratic set up to allow for independent candidates.

The current system forces down the people’s throat, a choice between the devil and the deep-blue sea. This is why brilliant brains, who do not want to be identified with any of the two parties, are left on the sidelines.

As a bulwark for democracy and as a means of holding our masters and their foot soldiers in the corridors of power to scrutiny, we also urgently need the passing of the Freedom of Information Act, if we do not intend to wish our nation into the knackers’ yard.

unemployed youthIn addition, one critical issue that the government cannot continue to toy with, if the agenda for prosperity is not to become yet another platitude, is unemployment, especially among the youths.

In this day and age, the world is on a frenetic speed towards globalization and it demands a labour-force that is more mobile and versatile.

Above all, however, there is a pressing need to appreciate that of all the social and economic plagues that badly affect and cripple our body politic, corruption has become the most harmful.

If superstitions are remnants of ancient religion, this pathetic phenomenon has become the creative weapon for the exploitation and marginalisation of the poor on one hand and the destruction of every other class, except the rich, on the other.

Today’s most lucrative industry – corruption, is all over the land. You can feel it, smell it, hear it, read it, watch it, and embrace it.

It has effectively truncated the pursuit of national happiness and has wiped away life’s lasting satisfaction in the people, while ensuring that the expansion of socio-political and economic liberties, are stunted if not completely halted.

All we see is that the half-hearted efforts at reversal have instead transformed corruption into a legalised and respectable profession, especially in the corridors of power.

Like the drawn out joy of tantric sex, this monster has not only created a humiliating and primitive stagnation of our social life, it has torn families apart; created a lost generation in our youths; and consigned our moral and societal values to the dustbin of history.

True, the crab has no business in a discussion about fish. However, those chosen to serve in the new administration, must not re-emphasise the clarion call of the last executive that; ‘cheques are not written by the overclass to raise the living standards of the underclass.’

Although the unforgiving business of politics makes it the nastiest combat sport on earth, we must not forget that it is unfortunately, also the issue of all our very existence. Irrespective of what is said to the contrary, politics matters; whoever wins an election.

This is why all those who practice politics, not only get a political thrill out of ruining lives by their actions or inactions, they often get carried away by the absolute rule of the short term, even where the rest of the world of plebs, suffers from the spasm of their terrible politics.

So as I extend congratulations to Mr. President on his electoral victory, can he please take as a mantra, the salient truth that in this five-year term, things should and must be carried out from now to make our democracy and governance yield positive values, instead of raging poverty, unemployment and the utter decadence that envelopes the majority of the people.

Dipsticks that make a mockery of government and governance must be uprooted and the tar of true and lasting prosperity be laid on the current rough roads of our national life.

Let us remember that; the sole antidote to the phenomenon of leadership failures and loss of nerves, which has afflicted our governance and leadership so far, but which certainly is no indicator of the future that lies ahead, is history.

It is probably why the hand of that history appears firmly placed on the President’s shoulders.

Happy New Year to all and to our beloved nation


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