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Monday, May 23, 2022
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Why I celebrate independence

By Mohamed Gibril Sesay

Okay there are also many things that would make us not want to celebrate. I agree. And this is true everywhere; there are reasons everywhere not to celebrate independence, or even put on some happy face. Like so many things now need our condemnation- rising costs of surviving,the dominion of false credentials and other fakery, the arrests for speaking out against.

But today, I choose to celebrate. Or Ethan’s let me downgrade it a little and say commemorate. Sixty one years ago, in November Nineteen Sixty One , there were less than 2 million Sierra Leoneans – now we have more; and what more to celebrate than the gift of life that this country is ensuring and increasing. Of course, as we say, by God’s Grace. Over 80% of Salone people today were born after independence – Okay let’s put it this other way, the majority of us are born free- free from foreign rule. I celebrate that.

There were few schools before independence, less than 20 secondary schools, now there are thousands of school. And hey, yes, I know we need to improve quality. And go beyond this dominion false life. But  let no one fool you, those who were schooled after independence have also proved their mettle globally in every endeavour, I celebrate them.

And health- come on, life expectancy was way down during independence. Yes we still have lots of issues with our hospitals and clinics; but hey there are hundreds more of them than before independence – and so many diseases and afflictions that tormented the people then without a way to get them looked into, now, hey, ‘bozin’ are being operated on in many places, jigga is hard to come by; and lice. Okay the story of lice- The other time I was having a conversation about lice; and a younger man asked, what is lice? Waw, only then did it strike me that it had taken years since I last saw lice. I celebrate the absence of lice in many places, and jigga and bozin and a lot of others.

I celebrate the nurses and doctors. Okay we have challenges here and there- but there are thousands more of nurses, and lot more other medical professionals- many diligently doing their jobs and promoting healing in lots of places. I celebrate them.

And teachers. Okay, I’m a bit sentimental here. I’ve been teaching in many places for nearly thirty years. So I’m a bias here. But hey I love teachers. In fact my first love was one- my class four teacher. So great, that woman. And I had the idea that if I worked harder at school she would agree to marry me. Class four me- I worked so hard, did so well. Got to read very well, do numbers very well, and did well in ESPS- English Sentence Pattern and Structure, and more. So you see. So you see how teacher love got pushed me on. But  Hey I have met not so clever teachers, and I dare say even stupid ones, at school, at university, even. Students kinda know those lecturers that are fools. But the good ones were really good; and they guided us- and there were and there are still many of them. I celebrate them.

And I celebrate the women of this country- all over: mothers, traders, policewomen, teachers, farmers, fishmongers and more. Where would this country be without women. A symbolism of the Lot’s story is that a governance of men being only with men in the halls of governance is sinful governance. Joyful blessed governance is governance with lots of women in it. But hey I celebrate the women of this country- they move this country forward, despite the badness of its men.

And I celebrate the houses. Come on- there are lots of ugly houses around – just look at many places in Freetown. But yes- let’s say, there are lots more better houses than before. Okay, I know Freetown houses more- before now, lots of thatch houses with makeshift doors. Now no such thatch houses here. Okay, there are now pan bodies. No one should celebrate pan bodies. Well, don’t say that to a lecturer friend of mine, whose childhood pan body steeped in him desires to excel. But truth be said, pan body has become symbols of so many things wrong with Salone. Anyways, I celebrate the lot more beautiful buildings than before, and the people who built them. We need to have more, sure. But I celebrate those around.

Okay, I get the story why we feel like it has mostly been doom and damn since independence. It’s been the race to erase work of previous or existing regime. Turns out in the early periods of independence, those who lost out, in terms of power, had lots more education than those who got power. So hey, you know the educated now; when they lose out they grumble more, are more visible. So people from the provinces, less educated, got power at independence. Well, nothing good would come out of it, cried the better educated in the Freetown. And vap, the guys from the provinces split into two, the more educated amongst them and the less so. Forget about that  Ruskin College Oxford stuff from Stevens, Albert Margai had  better formal education. Okay so, the less educated leader won in 1967. And bam, the more educated pushed on the gloom and doom part. And doom and gloom became the favored regime of truth amongst those who write, amongst those speak. So it percolates, nothing good to write home about. Salone in a bad place. Okay yes,  no denying bad things have been happening – corruption, tribalism, and the ultimate baddest event – war.

So I’m not saying there are no reason for not celebrating, for crying down this place. There are. In fact, there are so plenty, like pray-day   Jollof ‘traday’.  But allow me to also celebrate, for there are also things of celebrate, lots.

I’m a an isten Freetown person, from Crojimmy. I celebrate the fearless back back talk of Freetown. The free talk, that’s our way of free expression. None can stop it, neither that public order act, nor this new cyber law. I celebrate the commitment of the people of this land to free talk. Even waiting at television stations or radio stations to arrest people won’t stop that. If the game big, pull an.

I celebrate the fearlessness of the Chernoh Bahs and of the backtalkers of the junctions.

And more, I celebrate those who went to public service to serve. There have been lots of them, civil servants, and hmmm, yes, even politicians. Politicians are not out of space, they reflect the good, the bad and the ugly in us. Sure there are bad ones, but I celebrate the goods ones -those who care for their people. Okay, there are lots of challenges with public services, but I know that lots of politicians have been involved in alleviating actions – everything , from paying hospital bills to school fees, to taking care of funerals, to naming ceremonies, and traditional rites and yes initiations, are these not part of what is expected of them? Did many not do these things? Oh yes, many do not care, but many do care. It is not enough, and they possibly short changed other things. Come on, the good ones amongst them did good things, and I celebrate them. Sustaining the state is not an easy task; many civil servants are working to sustain it. Okay, there are bad ones amongst them. In fact these bad ones may be in the majority, whose only interest in working is mokofay. But there also the good ones -those who stay late at offices to work, to get things going. There is a saying in Freetown that those in the Labour  Party are small and those seeking the ladida party are many. I get that. But I celebrate those in the labour party, the workers who really keep the various MDAs going and by extension  preventing the state and its affairs from deteriorating further. Or getting the state to do some good things here and there.

The thing is public servants are also our relatives and friends and in-laws. As individuals, we evaluate them in complex humane ways. A son loves his police father, a daughter  likes her politician mother, a brother his civil servant brother. Okay, as a group, we tend to blame them for all manner of problems. Sure. But we relate them as individuals also, and we know the ones who are individually bad and those who are individually better. I celebrate these individually better police officers, better politicians , teachers, civil servants, doctors and more. May their circles of goodness grow.

Okay I get you, the post-independence systems has problems, lots of it. Some many missed opportunities. Like the system is permanently engaged in what the youth call ‘ “shinka.’ Continuous shinka.  But the system has its better parts – with all the challenges, the system builds roads, gives free drugs to many, and well free books. Though they say the children who have better  bags to put their books and whose schools have libraries get the better share. 

Okay, a more personal reason: I celebrate independence because I was born on Independence Day. Not the one in 1961- come on, I’m not that old. I am way off from getting to sixty one. Okay, that’s looks settled. So this is my birthday- Ha, you remember that song with the chorus, it’s my birthday. Alright, there is this other one, allow me to enjoy myself. But hey, this is Ramadan. I am the son of an imam- not brought up to dance and sing and be jolly during Ramadan. And tonight is the Laitul Qadr, the twenty seventh night of the holy month – assumed by many to be the likeliest holiest night of Ramadan. Okay, I will spend part of it reading the Quran – I still got a number of Juzu to go to complete reading the whole of it during this  Ramadan. I have not been a fast reading it as I had hoped for at the beginning of Ramadan. Too many intrusions of matters of the duniya slowed me. I pray that I finish reading it before Ramadan ends, that’s one of my prayers today.

I pray for many things. Okay, my mother- I usually say mothers are the real celebrants of their kids birthday. They did all the laboring. For kids, it looks more like the enjoyment of being born. My mother died a year and half ago— God bless her Barrzark. She told me I was all head in my babyhood, with body so frail that it could barely carry the burden of the head on it. And the neck dangled this way that way, fighting to stop the head from falling down. She said so many thought I would not survive infancy. But she kept the faith in my life. You know mothers now, they bet against the odds. And an older  cousin once told me she saw my father praying over this big head. ‘May this head not be laughed, may it be protected from stupidity, may what comes to it be retained’. And some other words that imams say over their children’s head. Now, let me just say my mother  won her bets against the odds. I’m still alive. I celebrate the faith of mothers in their children today. I celebrate me- and collaterally, I celebrate Salone.

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