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58TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY – REFLECTIONS.

May 23, 2019

By: Winstanley.R. Bankole. Johnson

Independence Anniversaries have of recent been heralded by a few nostalgic video clips and pictures in the social media depicting days of yore, which most of us now ruefully reflect upon. Those days will never come again. The two of such clips which caught my attention for our 58th Independence Anniversary were:

  • The one that opens up with the then West African Frontier Force in honour guard formation in readiness for inspection by Queen Elizabeth 11 on her first and only visit to this country at the Quay in 1961, after which she was enthusiastically cheered throughout the routes leading to Fort Thornton (Government House). At the Government House Civic Ceremony later that afternoon, the then Mayor of Freetown, Alderman Abdul Fattah Rahman who by his natural disposition was always aglow, radiating infectious smiles and in full Mayoral regalia was in his elements – his very presence epitomizing socio-political stability as it should be. Among other notables seen in that video clip were Hon. Kandeh Bureh, Hon. P.C Raymond Brima Sesse Koker and Hon. Doyle Leonard Sumner – all having been translated since.
  • The other clip I found interesting played out the usual Independence Day March Past at the then Brookfields Recreational Grounds (Recree). The highlight of this clip was the address by Prime Minister Siaka Probyn Stevens which he delivered seated under a canopy.

Inferno

Both clips incidentally were by courtesy of “Pathe News”, definitely a group of Foreign-Archivists, because as you can rightly guess, Sierra Leoneans generally do not treasure their history, lest in the course of time the narratives do not reflect positively on a government and political party in power.   So the implication here is that without “Pathe News”, we will have serious challenges re-tracing sketches of our civic heritage. And I can’t help thanking God for them for that, because barely two weeks ago the entire main building of our Social Welfare Ministry was razed to the ground in a still unexplained daylight inferno that destroyed in its wake all valuable records of pertaining to the adoption of children for the last thirty (30) years in this country, and all traces of other ongoing projects within that Ministry since January 2018 estimated at over US$18million (Eighteen million United States Dollars). News reports on the Social Welfare Ministry incident tried to assuage citizens’ concerns that (as usual) the Police and the National Fire Force “are investigating” –  just like they have been doing for all fire, theft and malicious damage to government assets for the past thirty (30) years. Those who are answering to Court indictments for child trafficking may now be having hilarious laughter and sleeping like logs. Does anyone remember the fire disaster at the Sherriff’s office within our Law Courts buildings which as was alleged, selectively consumed only the Foreign Currencies inside the same fireproof safe that Local Currencies were also kept?

Archives

Our National Archives are also a drab, with valuable documents perennially exposed to the elements, despite huge donor inflows occasionally received to digitalize that sector. Documents in the offices of the Administrator and Registrar General, and the Offices of the Registrar of Births and Deaths, are faring no better either. It’s as if the civil service just loathe innovations that would fast-track improvements in the storage and easy retrievals of (historical) documents. The only institution I can vouch that is struggling to live up to its responsibilities notwithstanding the challenging environment they operate within and the paucity of their remuneration, is the Sierra Leone Library Board.  And I will recommend their resource base to anyone desperate for access to copies of old legislations and other historical volumes.

But it isn’t only our distaste for proper archiving of historical documents that only suffer dereliction, citizens too who had sacrificed much for this country also easily become lost in the haze of too soon, on account of political naivety engendered by sheer tribal or inter-political hatred. The converse holds good in the civilized and well organized environments, where the media would occasionally run enquiries or documentaries of sorts on those who added luster to their communities and countries to sustain their civic relevance under the caption: “Where Are They Now??” . It is by such means they are able to monitor for examples, children who had presented bouquets to various past visiting dignitaries; surviving soldiers amongst  those that formed the honour guard for the Queen in 1961; the man who netted the very first goal at the opening of the National Stadium or even the oldest surviving Cabinet Minister etc…

Last week, former Zambian President who is still being revered was serenaded on his 95th birthday – a clear 28 years after he left the Presidency of that country in 1991.  As could be expected he wasn’t as fleet footed as in days past, but he took a few graceful steps before receding into his privacy. Here it is an offense for any of our former politicians whose party is now in opposition to even attempt to answer to calls of nature without probably first obtaining Special Clearance Certificates from the Police Inspector General, applied for not less than seven clear days before their bowels begin to rumble – which is all the more reason why we will have to be relying of Foreign Archivists for accurate narratives on our civic heritage.

Aura

As thing are panning out there are some within the APC or under opposition Party sponsorship who are so incensed at former President Koroma’s post retirement aura – as if it is tranquilizing anyone’s resourcefulness – that they keep agitating for his exit as APC Party Chairman and Leader, which agitation is making him to now appear more popular both locally and globally than he ever was immediately post the 2018 elections. Well I have news for all – both good and bad news. But first the good news-:  Neither our National Constitution, nor that of the APC endorses any individual to hold Life Leadership of any Political Party. So Ernest Bai Korma is not, and was never endorsed the Life Leader and Chairman of the APC Party; nor can he run for the office of President in this county – Again!! So as the Scripture says the Gospel of St. John 14:1-: “Let not your hearts be troubled”.

The bad news? No one inside or outside the APC Party can stampede any of the present office bearers to exit their elected positions until time and circumstances restores their successors through a Regular or Emergency Delegates Conference convened under the Party Constitution, which can’t be far away now. The earlier that sinks in, the better. So comfort ye one another with those words, but under this New Direction we cannot continue transgressing to correct old transgressions.

 

“Bintumani V (??)”

In our contemporary politics, no one who has served this country in whatever capacity and either quit or retired from office is of repute, unless it is their political party that is in power. Otherwise all are deemed criminals with skeletons in their cupboards. And you can easily discern that from the Annual Presidential Insignia and Awards Lists. It is in this warped psyche that we are insisting on yet another National and Cohesion Conference. We have been convening them since the very first dubbed “The Justice Cross Commission for National Unity and Reconciliation” even before the Rebel War, which if also taken into account should actually make what this government is proposing a “Bintumani V (??)

Stagnate

But let’s revert to that clip of the late Prime Minister Siaka Stevens on 10th Independence Anniversary celebrations at the National Stadium. What in hindsight I find intriguingly irksome is that the development promises embedded in that address, to wit: regular electricity supplies, good roads, better medical facilities; quality education and food self-sufficiency through improved agricultural techniques encompasses the same ones we have been hearing from each and every leader this country since our independence in 1961 by Presidents Mommoh; Capt. Valentine Stressed cum Brig. Bio; Dr. Tejan Kabbah (Parts 1 and 2); President Ernest Bai Koroma and now President Maada Bio (again).  What basically our leaders keep touting to us as favours are actually civic rights to which we are entitled. And the main reason why we stagnate in our development priorities is because instead of championing ideologies with greater emphasis on sustainable development paradigms, they rather prefer championing their individual visions and priorities-: “Siakanomics”; “Momonomics”; “Kabbahnomics”; “Koromanomics” and now “Bionomics”. And with our pervasive divisiveness, we all know what happens to the ideas and visions of their precursors.

Ours would appear to be the only country where it is a capital offense for the opposition to appoint a Shadow Cabinet, to be working astride or with the government to move the country forward. I believe this country could have progressed much more if our approach to development had been more consensual and reflective of various shades of political opinions and perspectives, because political parties assuming the reins of government will be less vindictive and more likely to continue on the greater part of the previous government’s agenda, as they will know that they had a hand in its crafting, instead of overhauling the entire frameworks. President Koroma’s Agenda for Change/Prosperity was trashed by President Bio with the same zeal that he (Koroma) also trashed President Kabbah’s own development agenda. And by all means in due time President Bio’s National Medium Term Development Framework will also be trashed with the same alacrity by his successor, because all of them were crafted within their parties’ narrow ideologies.

 

Solo

So the way forward to me is an institutionalized National Development Framework spanning say 25 – 30 years with inputs from across the political divides and ratified by Parliament into Law which should be subjected to triennial periodic reviews to engender National Ownership and sustainability and also to preclude alterations based on the whims of incumbent Presidents. Unless this approach is imbibed and inculcated in our heart of hearts, nothing in terms of structured and sustainable development agenda with countrywide ownership can be designed for this county, and we will continue to see projects either ending up as white elephant or incomplete as development carcasses strewing the country landscape because every incumbent leader believes he must design and start his own development agenda solo and afresh, with his own region of origin being prioritized.

 

Misuses

There are two more things before I close this Post Mortem on our 58th Independence Anniversary celebrations -: The continued desecration of our National Tricolor – The Green, White and Blue   (irreverently splashed on kerbs, culverts, pylons, poles etc) AND misuses of the lyrics of our National Anthem via its conversion into full dance songs by local artists. I believe our demeanour should reflect much reverence, solemnity and respect in the application or uses of both our National Flag and National Anthem, and would expect the appropriate authority to guide citizens on that in future.