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The Power of Words….‘Ernest’s’ Words

September 2, 2015 By Oswald Hanciles

The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma (lovingly called “Ernest….Ernest…Ernest” [!!!] by children who get hyper-excited when they see him; and adoring youth who get frenetic in dancing behind him) on Friday, 12th July, 2013, articulated in the launching of his ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ that Sierra Leone between 2013 to 2035 would become a middle-income country. That Sierra Leone would be an inclusive, green country, with 80% of the population above the poverty line. That Sierra Leone would have gender equality, a well-educated, healthy population, good governance and rule of law, well-developed infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, with private-sector export-led growth generating wide employment opportunities. That there would be good environmental protection, and responsible natural resource exploitation….

President Koroma is a deeply spiritual man. When he joins others to pray there is such intensity in his visage that one can conclude that there is a direct communication between himself and unfathomable being known in English as ‘God’ – and, in the monastic humility of his lifestyle, the President manifest that indeed he recognize what the Bible states: that the ‘spirit of God’ is in man; every man, poor and rich, learned and illiterate. The Quran echoes the divinity-in-man letter – that ‘Allah moulded man from clay and put His breathe into man’.   The words of President Koroma that Sierra Leone would become a ‘middle income country’ in 25 years….a country with egalitarian prosperity….; a donor country in 50 years….are attuned with profound spiritual truths.

The Bible and the Power of Words

The mouth is a dangerous weapon, which can work for or against an individual, or society, depending on how it is used. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:20-21, “A man is filled with what comes from his mouth and is nourished by what his lips provide. The tongue has power over life and death, those who like speaking will eat its fruit.” Though it is a gift, our words have the power to destroy and the power to build up (Proverbs 12:6).

The apostle Paul wrote in the Bible: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).. That is reminiscent of Paul’s words to the Colossians: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).

Sierra Leone’s Big Opportunity

You have only one Judge — your word. Jesus Christ said; “I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, for by thy word thou shalt be justified, and by thy word thou shalt be condemned.”

Jesus reminds us that the words we speak are actually the overflow of our hearts (Matthew 12:34-35). In other words, President Koroma speaks of “prosperity” because his heart is overflowing with prosperity. The President has – as those versed in metaphysics would put it – “Prosperity Consciousness”.

The religious books of some of the major religions talk of a ‘Day of Judgement’ when there would be Armageddon.  But, it could be that every day for every human being is a Day of Judgement – depending on how we use our words on a daily basis.

We need to look back at our lives and see how it has attracted happiness or disaster – collectively or individually.   Remember in the 1980s when the economy crimped, and a lot of the educated elite fled the country in droves, and many Sierra Leoneans would say, “It is only a war that would free us from this problem…”. And, the words of the collective conscious, planted into the collective subconscious, became concrete reality – the nasty and brutish ‘rebel war’ of Foday Sankoh.  The reverse of those evil words is what President Koroma is planting into our collective subconscious – “prosperity”. It is a big opportunity indeed for Sierra Leone to have a spiritually alert man as President Koroma.

Islam and the Power of Words

Sierra Leone has the global reputation for being about the most religiously tolerant nation on earth.  What does the other major religion that Sierra Leoneans claim adherence to say about words?   Islam is quite particular in asking believers to be extra conscious while using language.

The Quran says “O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him and speak (always) the truth” (33:70). At another place Allah says that “On the day when their tongues, their hands and their feet will bear witness against them as to what they used to do” (24:24).

It is said that an injury by a sword can be healed, yet an injury inflicted by words remains incurable.

The tongue can break a heart, while it can also console a broken heart. It can establish peace, create friends, impact others, win hearts and minds and also leave long-lasting memories in others’ hearts.

Conversely, the tongue, if used negatively, can hurt people, create foes, establish animosity and above all destroy the peace of society. Therefore, all world religions, including Islam, urge us to be aware of our language.

Islam, being a religion of peace, is very emphatic that one should be mindful of his or her daily utterances. It even declares in the Quran that “Kind words (spoken) and forgiving of faults are better than sadaqa (charity)….” (2:263).

Prosperity not on a silver plata…But, government creates the condition for prosperity

When the President articulated his prosperity vision, most of the local press highlighted his warning that prosperity is not a gift on a silver platter – but only comes to those that go for it. The local press did not focus much on the resolve of the President on what his government has done, and, will continue to ‘do more’: “We will do more to complete residual projects in the Agenda for Change and to address recurring and emerging challenges. We will do more to address unemployment, particularly among the youth. We all need to do more to better manage our natural resources for the good of all Sierra Leoneans, we need to do more to add value to our primary products, and we need to extend, expand and sustain the Free Health Care and Scaling-Up Nutrition initiatives. We will reform the educational system to meet the emerging needs in the job market, we will finish on-going projects in roads, energy and water supply, and we will build much needed infrastructure, including the new mainland airport, railway, roads and ICT capabilities; provide a social safety net for the vulnerable population; promote good governance; ensure that the public sector is capacitated to deliver; empower our women and ensure equal opportunities for both men and women; and above all, we will sustain our fight against corruption, and provide the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive”.

Atomic Power of Words….

The power of the President’s inspiring ‘prosperity words’ can best be appreciated when juxtaposed with the poisonous words of Great Evil men of history – like Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Sierra Leone’s Foday Sankoh. Philosopher, Pearl Strachan, wrote of words: “Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” Rudyard Kipling, world-famous writer, writes that “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind”. One of the greatest prophets of all time, the Budha, says of words: “Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.” In 1994, it was the jingoistic words of the extremists in Rwanda that stoked the fires of ethnic distrust and perceived ethnic marginalization and superiority/inferiority ethos into one of the most concentrated pogroms in history – with some two million Rwandese being butchered by ordinary Rwandese within a nine month period. Seventy years or so ago, Adolf Hitler’s words triggered the holocaust on Jews – six million of them were murdered in nightmarish scenarios. Words are like atomic power indeed!!  We can use words to destroy like the dropping of the hydrogen bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to end the Second World War – or, we can use words like Lee used words to transform the resource-starved Singapore into a first world nation in less than a hundred year period.

President Koroma’s responsibility…..

For his prosperity vision to become more speedy concrete reality, it would be helpful if the President more directly, regularly,  liaise with, and co-opt, those in the ‘word business’ – pastors and imams, teachers and musicians, film stars and film producers, journalists, etc.  Within our churches, especially our evangelical churches, within our mosques, there is awesome power of words being unleashed.  Some of the ‘traditional churches’ deride the new evangelical churches for their ‘prosperity gospel’ – but, if we can translate their ‘prosperity messages’ to individuals into forces of good  for collective prosperity, we will win half the prosperity battle in Sierra Leone.

Of course, the President’s prosperity agenda to materialize for the majority, for the majority of people to kindle prosperity in their psyches, we must confront, diagnose, and cure the collective ‘poverty consciousness’ of the majority of Sierra Leoneans. This poverty consciousness is responsible for the disgraceful paradox of Sierra Leone – a country over-endowed with marketable natural resources yet burdened with some of the poorest people on earth. The words of the President have to be incisive in giving support to those who are productive. We cannot continue rewarding the sycophantic and lazy who spew poisonous and divisive hate – while the governing elite, directly, or, implicitly, punish those who are the most productive in our society. We must create a system where those who are imaginative and produce works of art or music or clothes, etc. show prosperity. This would mean giving teeth to the Intellectual Property law passed by this APC government. Indeed, the President cannot give prosperity to the people on a silver platter, but, he has the responsibility to stimulate the conducive environment for prosperity to flower in Sierra Leone – with his targeted words.