RANDOM MUSING, by Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
Future historians will look back at the 2007-2012 slot in our history as one of the golden opportunities that was allowed by our leaders to slip away.
Even though ordinary Sierra Leoneans are going about the task of survival with a smile on their faces; and weed-filled gutters are adding an air of desperation to one- time thriving centres of the civic pride, the raging poverty in the land makes Sierra Leone look like its been hit by a tornado.
Despite our abundant wealth and resources, all that appears to be happening is that the world’s con-men, tricksters, hungry and hard-nosed suckers with vested interests, like ‘Paramount Chief’ Tony Blair, using their clandestine influence and posing as saviours, keep trooping to our turf to cart away our resources under different guises and we just provide them all with the wherewithal to screw us further.
These shadowy individuals, pressure groups and influential elements, who have been nothing but cover for local and foreign interests, have been a disturbing, sinister tinge emerging daily, as the government’s socio-economic policies continue to fail to lift thousands out of poverty as promised and as expected.
Most of those who condemn any attempt at quizzical articulation of governance are mostly those who have had no insight into the proud genesis of governments in Sierra Leone.
So, they have continued to make TRUTH about our reality, the love that dares not speak its name but we just cannot simply put our heads under our wings like elegant swans and hope that the dream of a better tomorrow is just round the corner. No it is not and we know it
It might be churlish to criticise a government that appears on the surface and from all intent and purposes to be doing well, but the truth is that the achievements being bandied, fly in the face of the promises, the level of expectations and the resources that have been wasted or poured into our coffers from those who are laughing away at what they have received in returns for the chicken change they gave us.
If you are satisfied, are the majority of the people better off now than they were four years ago? Yes; the country is better off in terms of infrastructural development (which is tragically still far behind where it used to be) but as a country and a people, the truth is a resounding NO.
Electricity has continued to be the government’s ‘darling Clementine’. Sympathisers and cheer-leaders point to the restoration of this basic amenity, taken for granted elsewhere, as a sparkling jewel and the spate of road construction work as fabric woven with gold; while describing the ‘flock of investors’ as an aura of a sweet smelling aftershave.
But the best of colognes cannot hide the putrid smell of decay in the very epicentre of our socio-economic and political sphere. Just as one rocket does not make a cosmonaught, one or two achievements in a five-year span is no cause for continuous cheer. Development is also not about fine roads alone.
Maybe that is one of the reasons why in our world of smoke and mirrors, corruption and greed masquerade as progressive service; ‘bandits’ are hailed as economic liberators and paucity of ideas as vision; while the preening vanity of our leaders, inflated with the god-like power they have over vulnerable, lost souls; is wheeled out for the mirth of the mob.
In his New Year message, President Koroma stated: “Fellow Sierra Leoneans, on this very first day of 2012, I am reiterating my resolution to make this country live up to its destiny of greatness. We will continue along the path of progress and development. We will continue to build the roads. We will keep on increasing electricity supply, we will go on with turning farms into businesses, and we will continue to implement the free health care initiative. We will go on with rebranding this country. We will continue to win accolades for our dedication to development and democracy. We will continue to lead reforms at the United Nations. We will go on sharing the blessings of peace by sending peacemakers to trouble spots in the world. We will move on with attracting investments, improving the business climate, creating jobs and maintaining law and order. We will continue to fight corruption. We will continue to protect the environment and bring to book those who violate our environmental laws; we will continue to prosecute those who are involved in electoral violence; we will continue to stand up for the common man and woman. We will not be distracted; we will not turn back; the only option is to move forward with unrelenting zeal”.
Yes sir, we can see the grey skies but where are the sunny uplands? They appear lost in the blizzard of box ticking and overzealous attempt at pleasing the outside world.
Sadly enough too, nothing in the speech touched on feeding the masses and ensuring that the scourge of poverty which afflicts millions is wrestled to the ground. There is still no grand strategy obvious to dispassionate observers. The government may have one but the President has not told us.
In his own words: “our country is undergoing its greatest transformation since independence. Forecasts for our country becoming an oil-producing nation are great, we may soon become the largest per capita producer of iron ore in the world; we have landed the fibre optic cable, we are attracting huge investments in agriculture. Sierra Leoneans should take charge of this transformation; citizens of this great nation must be the drivers of this change”.
With no entrepreneurship initiative announced, surely he does not expect the people to wait until his and his fellow star-gazers’ forecasts come to pass. Similarly, this can definitely not be the main response to an economy in the doldrums.
With enormous prospects staring us in the face, Sierra Leone’s economy remains a paradox. Its leaders’ performance and response to the fundamental problem of the country more mystifying than UFO and their performance regarding the bread and butter issues of the masses leaves much to be desired.
Despite claims to the contrary, the keys to quality of life remains under the door mat. Unemployment remains an issue. As it is, virtually ninety percent of young employable people may live out their most productive years unemployed and ultimately unemployable.
Yet one cannot see the evidence that public policy has seen this as a crisis that has assumed the moral equivalent of war.
Instead, in the words of the President, “Let me also use this occasion to congratulate the youths of this country for their great contributions to the development of Sierra Leone……We salute your resilience and your talents as musicians, teachers, traders, students, religious youths, office workers, riders and drivers. We applaud your skills and energy as operatives of tele and video centers, your mastering of the use and repair of mobile phones and electronic games. We are heartened by your passionate but peaceful support of football clubs. We are with you in your celebrations of youth”
So, the poor continue to have too few champions and their voice is lost in the unjust system at the heart of the short-sightedness of our political elite. It is easy for the President to stand on a lectern and deliver a heart-tugging sermon on the hope of tomorrow when he is not the one living the nightmares of today in what is a never-ending limbo.
Categorically, his submission is not the experience and cinematic truth about the realities of the average man on the streets. It is high time the President stopped hiding behind bland speeches, jaded promises and political posturing.
So whatever we decide, we need to have a debate about the past and the present because the worst choice would be to continue to soldier on believing the clever tactics and the mistakes of our leaders that they will make an Eden of our land.
That hasn’t worked so far and there are no indications that if we don’t take them to task, we will arrive at our destination on time.
Once upon a time, the bile and guts to stand tall and demand one’s rights with the gallantry of knighthood once made heroes of those who fought for our nation’s political emancipation.
These days though, the camps and courts of political interests have taken the place of swords and shields and I think I am getting tired of raising my voice.
The beginning of another year should tell us as a nation and a people that it is time to sit up and begin a strategic rethink of the future. We need to begin to take some leaps. The rest of the world is moving on and we cannot continue to exist like this. We should advance and to achieve that, we need to break this endless cycle of meaninglessness.
Countries are marching towards a better life for their citizens; Sierra Leone should not be left behind. Let there be a breath of fresh air in the midst of the posturing of vain glorious political personalities.