As the year draws to a close, what comes to me, like the beams from a lighthouse in a dark and merciless sea, is that the house of cards we in Sierra Leone are building needs an island of reason in our ocean of irrationality and what is obviously, a very deficient system.
While I appreciate whatever efforts the current administration might be making, it is incumbent on people who believe things can be better, as well as those within the realm of governance who sit at the apex of a system that impacts on all of us, to look beyond the hysteria that often surrounds any call for introspection. Amidst social stagnation and the carcasses of lost opportunities, which epitomise the level of our depravity, it is very obvious that if there is indeed a national aspiration to which we are all committed, then we cannot let the politics of Sierra Leone be dominated by the politics and priorities of a few, as is the case now.
One of the fundamental truths of modern life is that even though the whole essence of democracy, vests power in the people, most of the decisions that affect us are taken by people over whom we have not the faintest control. But at a time when the words of politicians have become increasingly wooly and meaningless; at a time when our political bosses are all at sea in an ocean of self-regard and the press is widely distrusted; at a time when the kamikaze opposition SLPP has lost its way, there is indeed a compelling need for genuine debate, discussion and even arguments. For it to be effective, we must also ensure that such national discourse is generally devoid of archaic tribal garbs, empty emblems and superficial symbols of the political colorations of a fragmented society.
But judging from events since the countdown to the last general elections, rather than the challenges of improving educational and health standards, tackling the high level of poverty and unemployment; as well as the rot embedded deep in our society and future political goals, being the core business for our nation, sadly, it is the messianic belief of individuals and their grand delusions that continue to make the headlines. This is why six years down the line, the restoration of electricity (as opposed to the myth that the government brought light to the country) is still the first thing reeled off by those with vain personality disorder, when we are assessing our growth.
We are told that there will be improvement in economic prosperity in excess of the huge development and investments from all those swarming over the nation’s landscape; yet inflation is marching on like an out-of-control robot and the prevailing view, unspoken by those wheeling and dealing around us, is that of a basket-case country in need of salvation. Our society is on the cusp of el-dorado they tell us; yet, the promise of a change rings hollow, when the nation’s Satan – corruption, is a member of the ruling executive and foreign investment has enabled politicians to enrich a small circle of their supporters while you can hardly point to a single factory; and unemployment remains a scourge.
The people of Sahn Malen in Pujehun District are said to be resisting foreign land grabbers who have forcefully taken thousands of acres of land from ordinary people to grow palm oil for bio-fuel and six of their leaders are falsely charged with destroying plantation and inciting violence; but of course, that is an elephant in the room that must not be talked about. State institutions are being weakened by political forces anxious to protect individuals from legitimate scrutiny; yet every issue and every political disagreement continues to take on a particularly shrill tone.
Within the last fifteen months, we have spoken about President Koroma being called names, yet despite the fact that the national WASCE and BECE results are almost worse than before a generation of kids were forced to miss a year out, we deliberately find it convenient not to take the mirror to the Gbamanja report, the consequence of its implementation and the disaster that is our educational sector. We have spoken about the new airport but not why your whole day is ruined if you have to travel out of the country; or the reason why even the law courts and State House environs in the heart of our capital, don’t have constant running water.
On our radar are reports of all the goodies that the government has provided; but not why, God help you, if there is a fire, you are doomed as there are virtually no vehicles nor trained personnel to combat the increasing number of infernos that are also linked to the state of our nation.
Recently the first family went away (probably at our expense) for medical checkup (the First Lady as at the time of this piece is still out there by the way) but the issue of the state of our health system is not one that is worthy of debate because the plebs should be grateful for the free donor-driven tokens that have been introduced. The opposition presidential flag bearer’s culpability in a two-decade old issue and his ‘amorous life’ for which he is expected to apologise to the nation, becomes a national talking point; yet those who are blatantly stealing us blind; or the church rats who have suddenly become fabulously wealthy, remain untouchables and their acts of omission and commission are taboo subjects.
Election are not for another four years but yet prospective candidates and new political cliques are working on isolating rivals within and outside the two major parties while making sure that we help them in clipping the wings of other probable hawks. Koroma versus Sumana? How about that for a sumptuous lunch instead of collapsing infrastructures or high cost of living. Or wouldn’t you prefer a ping-pong blame-game of media versus politicians to a dance-of-independence by the legislature and the judiciary.
Since his assumption of office, President Koroma has consistently insisted that making Sierra Leone a fairer place is a priority of his party; however, the teeming masses waiting for manna from heaven before they can eat is nothing to do with government’s agenda or the painful non-recognition of their plight. Following the cardinal sin of breaking away from the bogus myth of its freedom, hot air is now blowing all over the groveling media in the land and unnecessary energy expended on the future of press regulation as acolytes and sycophants, through a sleight of hand and spin, engage in the cynical process of ensuring that style over substance overcomes integrity.
Sometimes I wonder if those who embark on this are not just silly people who need attention like the rest of us need air.
Of course our country is the poorer for the fact that we are now governed by winners of beauty contest rather than people of principles while folks of integrity and ability are scared away by the image of the political power brigade. This is not only tragic. The fact that we are turning into a soap opera, the opportunity to learn valuable lessons about the competing and sometimes chaotic economic and socio-political forces at play in our governance, makes it more agonising, massively regressive and has a worrying air of accomplished dishonesty and national complicity.
If this is the best we can come up with after six years of the ‘Agenda for Change’, I’m afraid it highlights society’s political constipation and the ineptitude of government policies. Indeed the most fascinating (?) thing is seeing the identities of those who exercise power and their relationship with the people at the bottom of the hierarchical pyramids. Did I hear you say power to the people? Don’t make me laugh. Anyway, where lies justice when you want it?
So as we thrash around in search of socio-economic and political growth, we are losing out because of the unwillingness across the political spectrum to acknowledge that for progress to occur, people of good conscience must move beyond perpetuating the status quo, to fighting for an institutionalised channel of freedom to enable the country to be able to set out a credible alternative to government programmes and direction, through a rigorous national discourse
Those who in their heart of hearts know the sheer lunacy and implications of leaving the government to its own device and to let it continue with its antics should not remain deafeningly silent, for fear of losing whatever clout or riches they need to protect. The bell tolls for all of us. Even the most optimistic person could not claim that the state of our country right now inspires absolute confidence. This is not a criticism of the government but a reality of where exactly we stand.
The government needs, if not a soul, then a moral purpose to better the lives of the people it represents and that purpose still burns deeply and brightly. It’s a shame that President Koroma and his administration are so blinded by the lust for a prosperity revolution that they can’t discern and appreciate the sublime brilliance of adding the intelligence and imagination of a truly national perspective to the formulation of an enduring legacy.
To me, the painful thing is that all our costly distractions now appear to form a more cohesive national focus; masking and distracting from rational complaints with the way the country is being run and the fact that we seem to live in a world where all sense of morality has given way to the search for power, wealth and influence.
A few lone voices should not be the only ones heard (if they are heard at all) in the debate to ensure that our society is not perpetuated by ignorance of the real pressures faced by the generality of the people and the maze to which we are driving into. On a second thought, perhaps it is not such a terrible thing afterall, that our society has found itself a confident, slightly imperious new voice in the civil organisation and a segment of the local media; who are beginning to see in the present national realities a perceived leadership lethargy verging on weakness, as well as the fact that talk is not only cheap, but often, as the standard wisdom runs, the great talker is afterall, never a great doer.
As usual, some may see this as only images in the wild imagination of the writer or even of his ignorance. I agree. Because, the reality is even more complex and the systems to adjudge the true state of affairs are not only fallible but have been completely manipulated. But all I am saying is that we need a new clean generation, untouched by the current corrupt dealings, which characterise our society and politics. And we need to talk about it collectively.