A Country of Pain and Penury – Busted Beyond Repairs?

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you, I’m doing community service this week. The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘Thank You’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

The same scenario played out on the second day with a fruit seller, who went on to leave a card and a bag of fresh vegetables outside the barber’s door the next day.

On the third day, a politician came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week. The politician was very happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen politicians lined up, waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my dear readers, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and our political class, especially the leadership. The last political generation promised us a better tomorrow, only to leave us in total darkness. The current one is now at the threshold of quitting the stage and no doubt its legacy is going to be the same old song that tomorrow will be better.

When do we plan to sing a new song? If we do not take our country back from the politicians, we’ll be busted beyond repairs. We need to smash the smug, self-regarding political compromise that once we have a leader, then he automatically becomes a ‘god’; because the trouble is that, if you treat him as a ‘god’, he ends up treating you as a ‘dog’.

As our economy unravels like the threads on a cheap Africana, the journey before us is not far; but the places we are likely to detour because of the antecedent of our political class, is what is making the trip an arduous one. The deception in our governance, where there is an absence of real people who know how to fix our problems, is why, from the tranche of evidence, the restoration of Sierra Leone’s grandeur is nothing but a pie-in-the-sky.

We already wallow in a culture of “hypocrisy” which, along with the new kind of religion called laziness and mediocrity, across our society, is why our youths who are the future of our country, have been turned into thugs, cultists, and people with virtually nothing to do, in an existence that has strangled the life out of them.

The very survival of Sierra Leone is hanging in the balance as we continue to pay a heavy price for decades of apathy, national greed, collective mistakes, as well as the kleptomanic tendencies, avariciousness and the callousness of the political class, which has ripped the heart out of Sierra Leone and created a permanent and entrenched culture of poverty.

As we approach the final home run of the current government, we need as a people, to start retracing our steps and stop behaving like a god made of clay, clamouring for a bath at the river side. How long shall we continue to empty our national container, filled with water, with a tea spoon?

To those who see the continued criticism of the Koroma administration as unfair or politically motivated, I believe it is only fair for them to realise that even though our society is polarised and the majority of the people cannot trust the government and politicians, farther than they can throw them, the very existence of the majority is still heavily dependent on the actions and inactions of these two critical groups.

Sadly, all indications are that the gap between the leaders and the led, is now wider than at any time in our political history; so much that even the Egyptians of old would be envious of the Pharaohs that now reign over us.

The embattled, hungry frustrated, disillusioned and desperate majority are in a world of their own; far away from the luxurious, champagne and wealth acquisition and well-secured domain of the tiny few; who only leave their padded world to spew banal promises and chest-beat without substance, when the votes of the ignorant masses are needed. Cometh 2017, cometh the foxes again?

Therefore, when leadership is so bereft of basic understanding of the true nature of the world of the generality of the people, any surprise they’ve led us down this cul-de-sac of gloom that currently envelopes the nation?

We have a comprehensive and grave socio-political and economic problems in Sierra Leone, where the political class has not only devoured our future, it now wants us to look to the hills and the heavens and forget that the future they thought will never arrive, has now appeared like a genie out of the bottle and exposed their gross incompetence.

They lack the gravitas needed to sweep away the stench of failure that has turned a once proud and blessed Sierra Leone that had it all, to a disabled, rust-belt-like nation, carrying a beggar’s bowl and waiting to be spoon-fed.

Our political leaders have traditionally set a very low bar for interests in the welfare of the people they govern; but I must confess that in the era of this current administration, they have somehow managed to crawl under it and created widespread pain and misery.

Now, at the advent of the Koroma regime, some of us saw a meteorite falling out of the sky and totally out of form with the Kabbah dross that preceded it and what Solomon Berewa appeared to be bringing to the table.

Having seen our past economic promiscuity, political lethargy and social contradictions bring out several incompetence and untoward eventualities that dumped us in the back wood of development, some of us felt that as the last grain of sand slipped through the economic and social glass, the unfathomable question was whether we wanted to cling to the status quo, like a snake to its skin; or whether we wanted to reverse the continued state of melancholy.

The change mantra therefore resonated with the focus of striving to expunge the perpetuity of leadership failure, in favour of social equality and a brand new beginning.

We felt that with the inability of the Kabbah administration to wipe away the blood, sweat and tears of the masses and lift the national gloom stifling hope and crushing dreams, the emergence of Berewa, would simply see aspirations fizzle out and the endless darkness of that period, elongated.

The 2007 election was therefore seen as an opportunity too good to miss, to change what was seen as the curse of bad leadership and corrupt systems that had permeated the entire fabric of our national existence, once and for all. It felt like a seismic moment in our national life.

In the minds of some of us, there was the fear that without the loftiness of hope, which was virtually extinguished as the Kabbah administration struggled to entrench its own version of change, Sierra Leone will struggle to break the yoke of stagnation, the shackles of maladministration, our legacy of despotism, or get rid of our carcasses of lost opportunities as well as the wrenching poverty and grotesque political incompetence on offer.

Ernest Koroma was meant to be a breath of fresh air to blow away the acrid stench of blatant corruption by ministers of the helpless Kabbah amidst other enduring socio-political and economic problems. It was meant to be a blood and thunder trip to the realm of a new beginning. The time for talking was over, action was meant to be the buzz word as Sierra Leone was in haste to reinvent itself.

We saw the world changing at a frenetic speed and Sierra Leone stuck at the bus stop of underdevelopment and becoming a basket case in need of salvation, a land riven by hunger, poverty, war and disease. We realised that if we don’t run, there’s no future.

Since societies are not built with the gravels of dreams, illusions and utterances, it was felt that a mix of performance, ideas and verve, can be used as a prick of our conscience; to do more for the less privileged, the displaced victims of our ten-year carnage and the very flaws and challenges of our environment.

So, the issue today, like then, is about a new and better country that will take care of the silent and impoverished majority. The current corrupt and excruciating system is unjust, immoral and without a redeeming value. It has been bastardised by the accursed political leadership which is only interested in the honeypot of our commonwealth.

It is made worse by the resolute behaviour of our leaders who promised much, but all they could return with, is a bigger ego, primitive instincts, party-think and ethnic typecasts as well as cluelessness; while they even snack on the crumbs of sliced loaves of frustration, which they have packaged for the masses. It’s not fair!

Whatever is the state of the economy today was prophesied by some of us a long time ago. When the deception of immense growth that was bandied around failed to appreciate that the monolithic economy was being driven on a gasoline of ultimate failure, we sounded the warning of the corrosive image and destructive nature of such claims.

When we failed to save for the rainy day and a lethal combination of cash-hungry leaders and greedy investors could not put aside its arrogant assumptions, discard damaging old narratives, and engage with today’s reality, we realised that the dream had ended, on arrival. The loftiness of hope began to dim daily as drip of corruption that used to be a trickle, turned into a deluge.

It was now a case of how do you convince the upcoming generation that education and hard work as well as patriotism are the pathways to success; when we are surrounded by poor graduates of history; stinkingly rich and greedy criminals in power-toga and those, with the sense of ‘we are the world’ whether we do something or nothing or whether Sierra Leone, loses or wins.

Ebola or global recession aside, as we flail around in search of economic growth, the truth is that the government has been very wasteful. What bothers me is the unfeeling nature of these people. The general lack of seriousness and comprehension about the state of the nation. The blatant disregard and disrespect for enduring vision, in favour of vainglory.

Let’s be frank with ourselves, the only true economic growth and prosperity in Sierra Leone in the past eight and a half years, is in the realm of the bank balances of our leaders and their property portfolio as well as their harem of women.

I challenge anyone to verify the improvement and development in the core lives of the majority. Point out one individual, without political connections or Diaspora influence, who can say, hand on chest, that the enabling environment and the thriving economy is what has lifted him or her, out of poverty.

Readers are free to thoroughly examine the lives of their families and relatives and debunk this assertion. Whether it is pre or post Ebola. Forget about the massaged reports and predictions; assessments, back-slapping statistics and praise of institutions like the IMF and co, whose primary interest is the survival of the economies of the developed nations. Everywhere in the world, a country’s growth index is measured by what it does with its fortunes when the economy is in good shape and the quality of life of the generality of its citizens.

In our case, when other nations were busy keeping aside some of their wealth for rainy days, our leaders were busy frolicking and siphoning the lollies into private accounts, wasting a lot of opportunities and embarking on projects of vanity that have not yielded anything significant in terms of economic benefits to the nation.

Like we did with our diamonds in its heydays, rather than the government to institute a permanent, sustainable and long lasting solution and plan for our assets and resources, such as bauxite, iron ore, and titanium, etc. for economic darkness like now, they were more interested in being railroaded by the IMF and other such guardian angels like China, into taking stop-gap measures that granted hawk-eyed ferocious-investors, the leeway to usurp what is our irreplaceable commonwealth and postpone our evil days to what is now unravelling.

Our leaders were willing to dish out sainthood at the drop of a halo, to any sweet-talking charlatan or companies with a few bob in their pockets, without a look at the long-term commitment of such investors. Fair weather friends who were ready to beclouded the judgements of, and muddle up the thinking and vision of those who ought to appreciate the value of our resources more, were worshipped.

Not even the trail and scars of our experiences in the hands of economic saboteurs and greedy capitalists, who had taken us hostage in the past, was enough time bomb to stop our leaders committing the same errors, in the name of divestment.  All they knew was a desperate search for quick economic solutions, in an environment of financial uncertainty, to prevent total collapse of the economic wonderland claimed to have been built, before Ebola came calling.

The performance of the ruling elite has been symptomatic of a leadership in which the fringes of the much-touted growth has been laid bare, as a rabble of unfocussed sub-standard prospects. While the initial strides appeared impressive in isolation, it did not mask the social and political fragility permeating the economy.

Ebola was not at the hub of our inability to save during rainy days or diversify. The government’s relentless, sneering-disdain for wisdom and long term-planning, is not conjoined with the scourge of Ebola. Our predicament, is the consequence of the hysterical-looting of our resources and the political mentality that limits everything to the shambles of just the red-party card and thinking.

I’m sorry but the system that throws up retards, cognitively-impaired and resource muggers as leaders, is one of the reasons why we have to be drenched today before a new shelter is provided, tomorrow.

To all intent and purposes, the government is not getting much sympathy and understanding for bemoaning the economic hell we are in, simply because when it mattered most, draconian risks to entrench new values which should be the crux of our vision, were scornfully relegated to the whims of ruthlessly-drilled gamblers and guzzlers.

Meanwhile, the saddest thing is that, encouraged by the camp of those who have by all means twisted historical facts and played the ethnic, political and religious cards, majority of us are treating the nation’s future and the imminent existence of generations unborn, trivially and with contempt.

(To be continued)

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