The President of Sierra Leone has been credited for most of the transformation that the country is basking in, since his election in 2007. Party stalwarts and sympathisers have been singing his praises from the rafters and will continue to do so until the cows come home. There is a strong temptation to conclude that the outcome of the recent general elections is an acknowledgement of his efforts by the electorate; as codified by “Action pass intention”. However, in as much as we can acknowledge the president’s effort for his drive, vision, leadership and direction for achieving all that he has been praised for, we should not forget that much of that was grounded in the will of the people, to serve as partners in his “agenda for change”. No one can say that the “Agenda for Change” is complete, hence the birth of “Agenda for Prosperity”.
But what is prosperity? Some cynics believe that “prosperity” is necessarily the first theme of political campaigns”. There is a widely held notion that “Prosperity is something the businessmen created for politicians to take credit for” But True prosperity can be the result of well-placed confidence in ourselves and our fellow man.” Assuming that this notion about prosperity is accepted, the question we might ask is, do we have “confidence in ourselves and our fellow man?” If so, is the confidence “well placed”?
There is no doubt that as a people, we have every reason and every right to be confident. Just look at our resources and the increasing number of “investors” re-enacting the “Scramble for Africa”; Sierra Leone edition. As if on cue, our President is the guest of honour of the President of China. No disrespect intended but a few years ago, you would have struggled to convince the Chinese president that there is a country called Sierra Leone. It is an open and universal secret that our little country is blessed with so many resources. Sadly, we are afflicted by the very “resource curse”; the bane of the African Continent.
It is all well and good to trumpet the mantra of “Agenda for Prosperity”, but if we are to realise what many see as a utopian pipe dream, our country must be disinfected from the cankerworm called corruption. “Prosperity is the best protector of principle” Let us accept that Sierra Leone’s economic malaise is a concomitant effect of the canker worm that has degenerated into pervasive corruption. Our democracy is a relatively fledgling one. All the various “experts” that have written post mortems on the causes of our decade long war have cited “corruption” as one of the main ingredients that made the rebellion a palatable excuse for those merchants of barbarism.
Corruption has never been compulsory but it can be the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty. It is worse than prostitution. Prostitution might endanger the morals of an individual, but corruption invariably endangers the morals of the entire country. It is so disheartening that the theme of corruption has taken centre stage of our political, social and economic life recently. Headlines like “corrupt officials may wreck NRA”, “Police uncover massive financial fraud”, “more high profile officials to be arrested”, and etc do not make good bedtime stories; but enough to spoil your appetite at the breakfast table.
With “corruption” innately etched into the DNA of our psyche, it was prudent that the NRA was initiated to tap into the tax system of the nation. It was meant to ensure that all dues owed to the government are paid and on time;” cash cow”. Allegations arising from ongoing investigations show that it is the main financial arteries of the nation, which include Ecobank, S. L. Commercial Bank, Sierra Leone Shipping Company, investment companies to name but a few, that have been hemorrhaging the system. Looking at the cast of this episode, you cannot help but gasp in awe for the utter magnificence of what lies ahead in this corruption scandal. No need to dance yourself lame, when the main dance is yet to come. These are yet allegations.
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has taken a lot of flak recently, after the courts failed to convict in some high profile cases. Some have questioned the need for its existence. Others went as far as personal, to question the justification of the Commissioner’s salary. You cannot doubt the enormity of the task that lies ahead, if we are to ensure behavioral and attitudinal change. Considering that corruption is the main disease in this country, it goes without saying that the “Agenda for prosperity” could never be realized without dealing with corruption as a way of life. By implication, this puts the ACC firmly into the equation. But for the ACC to succeed in its endeavor to tackle the epidemic, it will require the will and support of every well meaning citizen and non citizens alike to face this national affliction and deal with it. Corruption has become normal and accepting to the society and any attempt to go against the tide is seen as a revolutionary act.
There are many factors that cause and lead to corruption but let us try a layman’s version. Take an average government worker for instance. The rate of inflation is high and the price of necessities is beyond affordability. If the salary is not enough to afford the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing, how is that individual expected to live a decent life? The government therefore needs to raise wages; but where will the government get the money to pay for increased salaries? Obviously from services, taxes and resources, to keep the national coffers topped up. But how can that be when one man decides, through bribery and corruption, to deprive the government of such badly needed funds? How can the government raise those funds when you and I are readily happy to offer the bribe and corrupt the already corrupt official? In effect, we are all partners in crime; for if there are no “givers”, there will be no “takers”; some vicious circle.
So next time some seeks for a bribe, remember that he/she is actually stealing your very own money. The great constitutional corrective in the hands of the people against usurpation of power, or corruption by their agents is the right of suffrage; and this when used with calmness and deliberation will prove strong enough.(A. Jackson) it may sound simplistic but most developed countries are grounded in “tax economies”. They are not blessed with diamonds, gold or bauxite. What they have is better management, accountability, and law enforcement.
Yes, I said law enforcement but let us not go there. Now that the ACC is trailing some big guns in the name of corruption, can we have a wink at those who are supposed to enforce the law as well? Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.” The ACC has been given the mandate to go after the corrupt officials; so use it. The knife of corruption has endangered the life of our beloved country. The scalpel of the law should make us well again.If the ACC fails, so does everybody. Lest I forget, SLCB just celebrated its 40th birthday. I have a thousand ideas about a birthday treat; but a night at Pademba Road Prisons is not one of them
Don’t forget to check your account before you leave the bank.