“If you've had any dealings with our fellow Sierra Leoneans back home, then you may have had your own bitter experience to share about dishonesty, deception, jealousy and hatred. Many have tried to establish businesses in SL; counting on the support of family members and close friends. But sadly, they have ended up losing everything in the process including their capital and left with huge loans to repay. As a result, they often return to their country of residence and completely foregoing any sort of business adventure in Sierra Leone; understandably. Well, am not going to lament too much on the level of dishonesty here in Sierra Leone because I've had my fair share, but will never abandon my homeland for anything”.
During my visit last year, my Nokia phone was stolen right in front of me without even realising it; undoubtedly I never saw it again. Today, I forgot my iphone in a taxi and owing to the above standard platform of widespread dishonesty, I assumed I'll never see my Iphone again and most importantly my contacts are gone. Being the optimist I am, I kept on calling the phone with the hope that the taxi driver is one of a kind Leonean who will be genuine enough to return my phone. An hour later, the phone was answered and I couldn't believe my ears. I pleaded with the Mr Mohammed Lamin (the driver) to return my phone, and he replied calmly, ' “man I am on Putney Street, so please come and get your phone'”
Quickly, my cousin and I rushed to the street and found the gentleman sitting in the back seat of his taxi, having lunch. Gently he giggled, “am sorry I didn't pick up your calls earlier because the police pulled me over for a broken trafficator light and took LE50,000 bribe from me before letting me go”. The driver then handed me my phone, I asked, 'how much are you required to pay to your boss on a daily basis' he responded 'LE50,000' so I gave him the money and gladly departed (Aiah P. Thomas lives in Brisbane, Australia. see photo below).
Today's experience has given me hope that indeed we still have the old Sierra Leonean values of trust and honesty, thus all is not lost even though we've got a long way ahead.
Happy Thursday people & stay optimistic and reframe from generalisation of any kind, coz people are different.”
(Culled from “Open forum for future economic and social development in Sierra Leone”.., Face book).
The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return.
I read this story on face book and felt compelled to write an addendum. My compulsion to do so was triggered by the fact that these are the kind of stories that hardly see the light of day in our newspapers and other news outlets. When a story broke out last year about Sierra Leone being ranked by Transparency International, as one of the “MOST CORRUPT” countries in the world, politicians, party sympathisers and other “patriotic” citizens were up in arms. They queued up at every available radio station that cared to give them airtime, to vehemently “debunk” the results of the survey. Press release after press release was rolled out faster that you could say “jazz”.
What the “patriotic brigade” apparently failed to take into consideration was the nature of the survey. The survey that was conducted focussed on individuals’ “PERCEPTION” about corruption in the country. The results revealed a very high percentage of corruption, as PERCEIVED by the participants of the survey. The ensuing result was therefore rightly or wrongly interpreted as meaning that the country was the “most corrupt” nation. I always thought that perception and reality were different and the former is subjective. And all this happened at a time when our brigade of “patriots” was on over drive; thanks to the twin intoxicants of blind loyalty and denial. So it was surprising that any hint of giving credence to the report was seen as a revolutionary act.
But here we have a simple story of a simple experience; fully loaded with a heavy dose of the human spirit. Like many people, Aiah may have shared a similar perception about this country. It might sound like a needle in a hay stack; but his experience, though simple, was enough to restore his faith in the beauty of the human spirit. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
Let us picture this for a moment. Here is a taxi driver who works no less than a 12 hour shift daily. He spends the day in perennial but avoidable traffic jams, dodging okadas, manoeuvring his way round chassis breaking pot holes; all in a bid to earn fifty thousand Leones for his employer (master lorry). That is less than £10.00. As if that is not enough, he may have his dependants to feed, cloth, pay school fees and eh…buy phone credit for the odd girlfriend. He finds a phone that costs no less than a million Leones, at worst. At one million Leones, it would have saved him 20 work day shifts. Don’t tell me that the driver didn’t know its worth. In spite of all the plausible temptations, he must have been pulled by the natural instinct of the human spirit.
Some people would be asking: “what’s the great deal about this? Firstly, there are many stories with a similar ring to them, but it is not your everyday story that you read in the daily rags. This story and many others like it, show that the human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but the size of the heart. It also reinforces the belief in the hidden strength of the human spirit; and that the greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to the one’s opportunities and make the most of one’s resources.
I had a similar experience with my Samsung S3mini. The boy who found the phone handed it back to me, after toying with my emotional joysticks. He couldn’t resist telling me gleefully, that he saw the callers’ photos each time my contacts rang my number. He saw this as a novelty; but it was not enough to tempt him to keep the phone. I won’t tell you the prize for his honesty, but suffice it to say that the experience was a tear jerker; not for the phone though, but for the restoration job he did for my faith in the human spirit. A worker at the MJ Hotel recently handed back $2,500.00 that a Zimbabwean guest mistakenly left in his room after he checked out. I am sure that a certificate of merit for this worker and many like her, from the Anti Corruption Commission will not go amiss.
So when we talk about corruption in this country, are we talking about the average man on the street or is it the institutionalised version? The gist from this piece is to re-affirm the beauty and kindness of the human spirit. Interestingly, that beauty was demonstrated without sounding condescending, by people that are least expected and are from the lower rungs of the social and economic ladder of society. Isn’t that beautiful? Can we take this attitude upwards; with a bottom top approach?
Lest we forget, my condolences to the family of the late Alhaji Ahmad Tejan kabbah. Our nation will be eternally indebted to you for presiding over the cessation of our brutal war, for serving as a member of the team of midwives for our young democracy, and for displaying the human spirit of reconciliation. You are our very own Nelson Mandela. May you rest in perfect peace.