SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 By: Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
It is unfortunate that we are learning about the deadly Ebola in a hard way, with hundreds of dedicated and innocent compatriots paying the supreme price with their lives. If the government had heeded the alarm bells when the ‘unwanted tourist’ first came calling or while it was still camped with our neighbours, we probably would not have had such a large-scale public health crisis and fatality on our soil.
Considering the toll and disruption of the last Cholera epidemic, one would have thought that any potential health issue would never be left to chance again by the government. But obviously not. It never affects the juggernauts in power so why bother.
Anyway there are always lessons to be learnt in every challenge, however daunting the human situation seems to be; and heeding the warning and inherent lessons are keys in overcoming this and further challenges; such as the flaws in our socio-political system.
An African adage literarily translates that out of the black pot comes the white delicious food. In other words, out of something seemingly evil looking, often comes out some good. So, as we reel under the yoke of Ebola, we need to realise that we are in an almighty hole and we’d better pause and stop our social and political digging. It is my hope and prayer that this disaster will cause a national self-examination that will be the catalyst for the Sierra Leone of our dreams.
We need to appreciate that things cannot just continue this way. The majority of the ordinary people cannot just continue to be the sacrificial lambs despite the fact that they are also heirs of the nation’s commonwealth which a handful of hawkish politicians have cornered for their own selfish ends simply because they are in a position that makes them ‘untouchables’.
But it is an indictment of us all that we sit and watch their whimsical fine words and failed mission to fix our broken society. Despite the catalogue of cock-ups and inefficacy of successive governments, we cannot continue to build imaginary castles and invent fantastical sieges while waiting for the right driver to emerge and propel the engine of change we desperately yearn for.
So whether educated or semi-literate, in the Diaspora or the upper strata of our society, let’s take our minds to the contraption called Sierra Leone and its broken links. Let’s turn our gaze towards what happens in the aftermath of our romance with national deception as a societal value.
How do we ensure that our political leaders, who are deep in self-delusion, stop being our pig-in-a-poke as soon as it becomes obvious that they cannot manage the expectations of the very people that chose them as servants? Because, when disasters such as Ebola and Cholera strike, who bears the brunt? The people of course.When schools were forced to regress, who were the victims of this abysmal policy? Needless to say.
Yet, how many of the kids of ministers and top government officials are around in the country today learning in the appalling system that has been created by successive governments and taken to a higher level by this present administration.
When any of our leaders has a headache or foot pain, do you see him or her at Connaught Hospital? When their wives and concubines give birth – is it at PCMH or is it at high-brow American and London health institutions; paid for in some cases by our money – stolen or commandeered?
Can any ordinary mortal hijack the sole fire engine around town to carry water to his village for a party or does he head for the disease-infested stream, river or well for the source of his water? It took money and other incentives to get the ministers and parliamentarians to go into the midst of the people and talk about Ebola. How sad.
While bags of rice and other goodies are doled out to the military and such pampered elite groups who continue to rape our society, does anybody remember the poor civil servant whose family has to make do with surviving on the pittance that he is paid?
After struggling to get into a rickshaw called public transport in order to get to work or their means of livelihood, spare a thought for the harassed pleb who is then forced off the road by the blaring siren of mortal LORD AND MASTERS and their convoy of hangers-on.
We can go on and on. Yet who are those who troop out come rain come shine in a desperate bid to choose those they feel and believe will improve their lot. How much is the ordinary man really asking for, that our leaders who love to play ‘gods’ still contemptuously go ahead to make them the sacrificial lambs at the altar of vain projects, greed, non-chalance and oppression.
Till date, apart from the selfless doctors and health workers, some of whom had no choice, how many on the list of the casualties of Ebola are from the mansions that are now littering the landscape of our choice locations. Or how many have been spirited out on private jets for their illnesses?
Compare the quality of protective clothing given to those on the frontline with those adorned by our leaders when they go on their photo-shoot while hundreds are giving up the ghost. See how much has been doled out to ministers and parliamentarians for so-called sensitisation programmes and yet those poor doctors, nurses and health workers at the thick of the battle have not even got any incentive for their sacrifices.
Our society, aided by our leaders across board, has become a self-annihilating one in which the people tear down the nation and the country in turn destroys its human assets. Ebola has exposed how this present administration has taken it to another level. And that, is the reason we are in the mess we find ourselves as a nation and the key to why our leaders keep hanging illusions which is their own insurance bail out, for us to worship.
Our major problem remains that of division; which desperate, lazy and selfish elites are capitalising on, by ensuring that they don’t elevate conversations to the level of national discourse and orientation. Because ingrained in our political strata is the colouration of incredulity in which principles and honour count for nothing as the players show a determination at all costs, to realise their aspiration or delusion as the case may be.
Or else how come that the erstwhile minister of health on whose patch the government made one of the greatest blunders of all times, stayed in her post until she was fired by an obviously reluctant President Koroma; who simply shifted her chair to the next room at his office, while washing his hands in public, like Pontius Pilate.
But wait a minute; as a people, when did we stop having the same perception, so much so that now, we have no perspective at all, on anything? How is it that over a decade after anarchy constructed the dagger that tore the nation’s flag to pieces, we are still standing on the quicksand and still allowing our fears to be played upon intermittently by hypocrites and political cowards, the same way the shepherd dog frightens the flock; reminding them of the lurking wolves?
We are where we are today as a nation, because of our dysfunctional and unhealthy value system; which not only reflects in the way we do things as a people; but which is also incapable of sustaining the kind of dreams many of us harbour.
So, if everything from our politics through to our society, some of which used to make us the cynosure of all eyes are now nothing but an embarrassment and full of self-serving relics, then it is because agents of disaster have turned us into a nation of fragmented ethnicities where human diversity is not blended because of political machinations.
If the crossroads look familiar when we look at events on the socio-political landscape, it is because we have been at this junction before – in fact several times in our history. It is a retrospective excursion into the remote dusty archives of history which shows a rebirth of events gone; and of which no lesson has apparently been learnt.
But if what is going on in the country turns our stomachs and is repulsive to our noses, like the irate woman in a video that went viral this week, then we need to point the accusing finger at ourselves – the people of Sierra Leone.
As the culture of impunity, epitomised by our leaders, defines us as a people and we continue to promote a society of stark contrasts, POLITICS is replacing the very awareness that our country needs to make progress.
I sincerely hope that looking at the goings on in Sierra Leone today, those who truly wish to put themselves on the side of truth will see how we, as a people, dig a hole on a road we intend to travel through in the future; because we don’t think.
As a result of the choices we’ve made so far, when we think of our land of milk and honey as well as the beautiful and ugly things therein, the only obvious conclusion is that we’ve ended up being who we are today because of the values which we embody or/and the choices which we have made.
Which is why we need to change our gaze collectively from the current hocus pocus, to engage the discourse of our future on how our national values and vices have prepared the ground for the kind of country which we are seeing today.
Seeing and hearing of the countless number of young men and women drifting along the streets of life without any hope or purpose and watching thousands of our elders dying in penury and with regrets; forgotten in our broken social and communal safety net, which used to be our backbone, I wonder if it does occur to our leaders that definitely this is simply unjust and unacceptable.
It does appear to me that like most of its predecessors, the current Salone leadership believes in dissipating efforts on the minors while treating the majors with kid gloves or, in some cases, reckless abandon.
Unfortunately, our future as a nation will be shaped by the majors, not the minors; the substance and not the shadow. How sad that this essential and sacrosanct fact is precisely what is not getting the commensurate attention and which this Ebola disaster has clearly exposed.
Every dream has a price. Our situation may or may not get worse before it starts getting better, but the absence of a defining moment so far, makes the present leadership, appear like a staging post in Sierra Leone’s journey to a better future.
If we are determined to realise our own dreams, we need to shed the pretence. Right now, it seems as if we are faced with a national conundrum which has no answer and no immediate solution. Sierra Leone needs prayers.