Just two weeks ago, I finished reading one of the most fascinating books in my life called “Why Nations Fail”. After reading the book, I appreciate how far we have failed to impress on the world stage since Independence. But most interesting are the warning flares the authors put up about some countries in the world especially about my beloved country, Sierra Leone. Co-authored by the M.I.T economist Daron Acemoglu and the Harvard political scientist James A Robinson, “Why Nations Fail” argues that the key difference between countries is “institutions”. Nations thrive when they develop “inclusive” political and economic institutions, and they fail when those institutions become “extractive” and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of only a few. The authors explained that their core point is that countries thrive when they build political and economic institutions that “unleash”, empower and protect the full potential of each citizen to innovate, invest and develop. Compare how countries like Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Georgia have done after the Genocide, fall of communism and the rest.
As I ponder over some of the simmering signs ravaging in my country about weaknesses of institutions, my mind caught interesting news about the Kenyan president introducing a lie detector for all public officials as part of a corruption crackdown. According to the president, the test would determine employee integrity. He said , Kenya had lost $78million from a government agency. Hmmm a lie detector? I wonder how the lie detector would react if it is introduced in Sierra Leone especially where ministers, university lecturers, parliamentarians and senior government functionaries falsify their certificates and diplomas and still occupy senior positions. The lie detector would crack and cease to exist in Sierra Leone.
Some countries fail spectacularly, with a total collapse of all state institutions, as in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, Somalia after the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre where the government fail to exist altogether. Some of Sierra Leone’s institutions are cosmetic and some of our politicians like it as it is. The Sierra Leone Police, Anti Corruption Commission, Parliament have failed in certain areas to show its neutrality and objectivity in promoting the interests of the country and its citizens.
Since independence, both the prominent parties, Sierra Leone Peoples Party and the All Peoples Congress have played huge role in undermining the very institutions they created for their own political reasons. Siaka Stevens and his All Peoples Congress ran the country from 1967 until 1985 as their personal fiefdom. Little changed when Stevens stepped aside, transferring the mantle of leadership to his protégé, Joseph Momoh, who just continued the plunder.
The Anti Corruption Commission in recent times has been a key player in this scuffle. There are many cases including the Hajj gate, Mudslide gate, Ebola gate and many more cases that are still being investigated. It begs the question why the delay in prosecuting these cases under the Koroma presidency? The suspicion game will definitely gather pace when these cases are being prosecuted under the current SLPP dispensation. Many would want to ask, why didn’t the commission complete investigations during the APC era? Is it only when governments are out of power that institutions tend to prosecute cases? To his credit, the Ernest Koroma presidency prosecuted some cases and others are still waiting for thy kingdom come. Consider what will happen to SLPP operatives when they go out of power and the ACC starts prosecuting cases of alleged corruption? This is as a result of weak institutions failing to operate independently.
Watching the South African parliament in session, one begins to wonder when such a scenario will happen in Sierra Leone. Before the ousting of the former president, Jacob Zuma, the firebrand politician of the Economic Freedom Fighter, Julius Malema question the controversial arms deal the government did with the Gupta family. Our parliament under both the APC and SLPP has failed to investigate certain cases against the interests of the state. Politicians have presented fake certificates, diplomas, falsified university admissions, and nothing has been done.
As for the police, hmmm leh wi lef am so ( I rest my case). The recent pronouncement of the president calling for de-politicization of the police force is a testament that the police force is not a force for good anymore. Political cases are treated with urgency depending on who is in authority.
For my beloved country to thrive and stand as a nation of emulation, the state institutions should be strengthened and independently allowed to operate. It is better for a country to have strong institutions than strong men.
May Allah continue to bless Sierra Leone.