So much respect for political leaders in Sierra Leone: Do they deserve it?
By Alusine Sesay
Sierra Leone is a beautiful country with beautiful people. It is a country endowed with all it takes to be one of the best destinations on planet earth. As a typical African setting, the country is endowed with the culture of respectability. Children are trained not to look parents in their faces whenever they are being addressed.
Sierra Leoneans in general are characterised with some kind of humility to the extent that they cannot fight for something they deserve. They would rather prefer begging and leave the rest to God for divine intervention. Our religious leaders would always cow us with their usual preaching-respect leaders because they are chosen by God. Even they themselves, blessed with divine authority, cannot look our political leaders in the faces and remind them of their obligations. This, to me, has been one of the barriers to the development of the country since we attained democratic governance from 1996 to date.
After standing in long queues to cast our ballots for our political leaders in exchange for the betterment of the country, we still hail them even when they fail us. With psychophacy embedded deep in our DNA, we keep on crowning our political leaders and transforming them into demi-gods at the detriment of the country. To me, some of the Biblical preaching that we should respect authorities only applies to those days when leaders were not elected, but solely chosen by God. By then, leaders received severe punishment from God immediately they reneged on their responsibilities. For now, everybody is waiting for his quota of punishment in hell after death.
Prior to the 2018 multitier elections, Concord Times ran a story in which religious leaders called on former President Ernest Bai Koroma to condemn tribal hate speeches that had the tendency to plunge the country into chaos. The lead of the story had read thus: “Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL) and the Body of Christ have jointly called on President Ernest Bai Koroma to speak out and vehemently condemn the recent spate of tribal and regional hate speeches that have engulfed the political landscape in the run up to the second ballot scheduled for March 27.”
Immediately the story was out, the religious leaders, through one of their public relations persons, placed our reporter under enormous pressure, asking him to retract the story. Guess what, their bone of contention had been the use of ‘vehemently’ in our lead. They had feared that the ‘Di Pa dae read Concord Times daily en go vex’ (The president reads Concord Times daily and he would be angry with us).Imagine religious leaders who should put our political leaders on their toes, are the ones making them demi-gods.
Former President Ernest Bai Koroma was undoubtedly a good leader, but he was seriously misguided by the endemic sense of psychophacy that characterises every facet of life in Sierra Leone. Nobody dared to look at him right in his face and tell X, Y and Z. He did very well in so many ways, but fumbled in a number of ways that nobody, including our revered religious leaders could look at him right in his face and tell him the truth. Former President Koroma unconstitutionally and single handed sacked his former Vice President Sam Sumana and got away with it. Even our Supreme Court backed the decision of the former president. Disgracefully, the Ecowas Court of Justice ruled against the Supreme Court’s judgement.
I would not hesitate to say that democracy is not working here because we own and respect rogue politicians at the mercy of the country. In countries like the UK and the United States where democracy works, political leaders cannot do things through wild dreams. Structures are there to checkmate them. When the current British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson suspended the UK Parliament for five weeks, so that he could navigate his way to Brexit, the Supreme Court ruled against him. That is what we referred to as democracy and the rule of law! It is not the kind of kangaroo structures we have here that are always ready to dance to the tune of the powers that be. Our authorities heading institutions that should make democracy works care less about their integrity. They are always curious to maintain their positions, collecting big fat salaries at the detriment of the masses.
In Sierra Leone, we so admire the luxurious lifestyles of politicians, oblivious of the fact that they are skinning us alive to make their lives better. Here in Sierra Leone, it is a crime to boo at a political leader, even if he does not live up to expectations. When the current Vice President Juldeh Jalloh was booed at by worshippers at the Basharia Mosque, several unofficial government spokespersons took to the social media and politicised the issue. They linked the leadership of the mosque to the opposition. But what many failed to realise is that you can only talk about democracy when there is opposition. That particular moment was a testament to the fact that the masses are not allowed to stage peacefully protest and vent out their grievances from time in memorial. In the case where the police is always issuing out press releases, threatening to arrest whosoever takes to the street in protest for their rights, people would use whatever opportunity at their disposal to vent out their anger. That was exactly what happened!
In 2018, people entered into a social contract with the current administration, hoping that things would get better for all and sundry in the country. Is it a crime to boo at the vice president just to tell him that things are not going on well as promised? Unless you don’t want to be honest as a Sierra Leonean, but things are really not ok at the moment. People are living by magic and you want them to keep quiet? We may not blame the current regime for all the odds because every achievement is based on solid foundation, but they are oblige to make things right for the people as promised.
Argument put up by many was that the mosque is a place of worship and people should not use it as a platform to vent out their anger. To me, that sounds bizarre because that was the only opportunity they had to speak truth to power. We should not use religion to cow people because it has taken us to nowhere. If it were for prayers, Sierra Leone would have been the richest country on planet earth. But are people doing the right thing? Are they honestly serving the Almighty God? In Sierra Leone, almost everybody is either a Muslim or a Christian, but we still grapple with poverty as a result of corruption. Are the Pastors and Imams not preaching against corruption, selfishness and greed? If that was the case, then there would have been no need to establish the Ant-Corruption Commission.
Respect cannot be bought in the shopping mall, but earned. Therefore, our political leaders should not be respected if they fail to do the right thing. It is too much for the country and its people. Year in year out, politicians keep telling tales to people as if everybody is a fool. It is time for the masses to know that our political leaders are our servants because we vote for them to serve us and the country. We should not worship them but rather tell them right in their faces the right thing to do.