Returning to Sierra Leone that we take for granted: my experience
September 2, 2019
By Sulaiman Momodu
In the first part of this piece, I told you about how some people think it is very scary to decide to return to Sierra Leone at this time when “de gron dry” is almost like unwanted music hitting the country’s airwaves. The “artistes”? Hard-pressed compatriots who struggle daily to eke out a living.
In the final part of this article, I will continue with my experience of trying to settle down and how the family is finding the new environment and the new way of living.
Arriving during seasonal rains, we were hopeful that there was accommodation waiting for us and we will have a roof over our heads. The rent had been paid in full on our behalf by a family member for which we remain grateful. We were all looking forward to seeing the new home for the first time and to get down to the business of making it a lovely home. All was set until a few days before our arrival when we got word that the landlord was bereaved and was left with no alternative but to accommodate some people in the house. Well, we were deeply sorry about the landlord’s bereavement. A new date was set for us to get the keys, unfailingly.
Upon arrival in Freetown, some family members accommodated us and gladly shared the little they had. Superb African generosity. Two days after, we went to the provinces, where we spent a few days. As the landlord had promised, we returned to Freetown expecting to receive the keys to our accommodation. But wait a minute, was there another story to be told? You guessed right. The landlord had a new excuse, and then another story and then another. My patience ran out. Thanks to Alusine Sesay, Concord Times editor, we managed to locate people who helped us in finding a place where there will be no come tomorrow, come tomorrow, come tomorrow.
Having lived in Freetown for some years before travelling beyond borders, I am familiar with the sufferings most tenants usually contend with from some unscrupulous house owners. Some years ago, a so-called chief ( I call him thief) in one of the areas in Lumley collected my hard-earned cash with a promise to rent an apartment. He said the occupant was moving out the next day so let me pay quickly before other interested people take it up. I was a student and rather naïve in that I trusted people too soon until they proved otherwise. Poor student that I was, I parted with the little I had. What happened next? Come tomorrow, come tomorrow, come next week, come next week. This went on for several months until one unknown boy called me one day to inquire why I was always going to that compound. Initially, I wondered what his interest was but thought – ok let me tell him. Next? The boy dropped a bombshell. “The man you gave your money to is my father,” said the youngster. “I thought I should let you that he has no place to rent. That is what he does to people”. Expressing deepest gratitude to the boy, I went over to the apartment to cross-check for myself what the boy had just revealed. It was early in the morning and I knocked on the door of the apartment probably waking up the occupants. A heavily built man came out and asked what the issue was. Rather boldly I asked him why he had not left the apartment. Surprised by my enquiry, he said whosoever had told me that he was leaving the apartment had deceived me. My next action? Straight to Lumley police station to report the thief (not chief).
Returning to Freetown brings back memories of old realities. Kroo Bay and other places continue to be flooded as Freetown residents habitually blame government after government for the effects of their actions.
Good, bad or ugly, the question is – is Sierra Leone not our home? Are we going to disown our mouth because it stinks? Of course not. In the first part of this piece, I asked: What in your life are you taking for granted? Food ? Water? The toilet? Your spouse? Your children? The air you breathe? Your health? Or are you taking life itself for granted thinking you will never lose it?
To many people deciding to return home seems a very courageous decision but the question I always ask them is – when will it ever be the most appropriate time? Regardless of who is in power or our circumstances at home, one thing will remain constant. We cannot run away from our nationality. In my travels to many places, the first question most people usually ask me is – where are you from?
In previous articles, I had categorically stated that if you really want to be a journalist and maintain your integrity, stay away from partisan politics and you will see clearly and speak freeing on issues that easily make our country an embarrassment.
The truth is that the previous government was full of kleptomaniacs. Their motivation? Loot. Opinions are usually divided on how to deal with corrupt individuals. Tell people to cough up what they have illegally swallowed, it is immediately called witch-hunting. My take? A clear conscience should not fear any commission that is in the interest of the land that we love.
The good thing about the ongoing commission is that it is serving as a check to stealing with impunity. If the SLPP government is excited to investigate those who were in power, they must ensure that their officials maintain clean hands. Simple.
As we settle down back home, the experience has been shocking to the kids who do not understand why we should have no power at home from time to time or why we have abundant rainfall but our taps are sometimes dry.
The point is -if we admire efficient services and good infrastructure in other countries, we must understand that it takes a lot of effort, sacrifice, and discipline to have even a happy home let alone govern a country where corruption is systemic. Sierra Leone is no doubt a beautiful country. We have unfortunately made her look ugly. Let us change the narrative, please.
My views and perceptions on issues from years of international service, and above all putting God first in all things I do, sometimes brings me into conflict the views of most people who do not respect principles and values. What is wrong is wrong and what is right is right.
It is said that education is not the learning of facts but rather the training of the mind to think. My encouragement to all is – let us think positively about how we will create a new generation, first in our homes, and let us be committed to change and stop taking our country for granted. Best wishes!
About the author: Sulaiman Momodu is a former editor of Concord Times newspaper. He has also worked for United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.