There is a flurry of frenzy in the air as Sierra Leone prepares to mark its golden jubilee. The fluttering ‘Green, white and blue’ flags flapping and floating on strings zig zagged across the streets, dancing unrelentingly in the wind; the hastily white washed kerbs which undeniably give these abandoned streets a much needed face lift; the utter desperation of gangs of youths getting the drains and gutters flowing freely again laudable efforts, if these were not just a one- off !
Things are seemingly looking up and there are sure signs of ‘preparedness’. Well, that is if you discount some of the initial organizational blunders and endemic corruption that were exposed.
I am no party pooper. Personally, I have a preference of being in the thick of things than at the margins. Moreover, it will be rather daft of me to dampen this euphoric atmosphere or even attempt to be suggestive of anything that detracts from this heavily whipped up patriotic streak. Let’s face it, at a time like this heaven knows we need that in abundance.
Celebrating the freedom from colonialism should be a moment of tremendous rejoicing in anyone’s book. Nonetheless, any fiftieth anniversary is a time of great pontification. It is a time to reflect, to take stock and to strategize for the forth- coming years. It is the stock taking that leaves me jittery, hugely uncomfortable and mildly pessimistic about the next fifty.
Ironically (as any 50 year old would tell you), it is about that time in your life when the human physiology begins its down turn. The body lets you know time is running out. There is unceasing pain in the joints; your reflexes are distorted; constant fatigue and energy dwindling episodes (particularly in the mornings), are a given. Everything seems to have past their prime.
Don’t get me wrong! There are some upsides to turning fifty as well. There is a reservoir of experience (and quite invaluable too), and you have a bit of ‘dosh’ in your pocket.
So what are we celebrating? Without glossing over this extremely important question, I am inclined to treat this as a rhetoric. The real truth is, I feel incredibly inadequate to evaluate this subject objectively. But if we are honest, there isn’t a lot to celebrate.
A year ago the Nigerians got the balance right theirs was a muted celebration and quite rightly so; a fiftieth anniversary in the midst of a global recession and economic downturn. Do Sierra Leoneans feel really liberated? Do we sense ‘real’ development since 1961? Well, except you are completely deluded.
When Sierra Leone assumed its independence fifty years ago, it had a GDP equivalent that of Portugal (a European Country). Its university, Fourah Bay College, was universally renowned and much the envy of most West African Countries, including Nigeria and Ghana. The Governance of our political system was tremendously robust and our judiciary was admirably well structured, independent and efficiently well managed. The list is endless.
Whilst it is fruitless to dwell on the ‘ what could have been’ because that would be immensely depressing and heavily counter productive, not to recognize the conspicuous decline will be an abject refusal to accept the blindingly obvious we have not lived up to the expectations of our liberators.
I do acknowledge the current government’s attempt and modest strides in attempting to reverse this gigantic decline. However, it is going to take more than the reconstruction of roads to get this country moving again.
This fiftieth anniversary ( rather than being a missed opportunity),could be a benchmark which reinvigorates the government’s attempt at Nation building, foster patriotism and industry, turn our economy around through sound and prudent fiscal policies, deconstruct and reconstruct our schools and Institutions of Learning , reduce our trade deficit, develop the country’s infrastructure – including our National Post Office , encourage foreign investors through tax incentives, with a caveat to providing gainful employment for our youths, improve our skills based workforce; introduce policies which encourage our banking sector to provide loans for small businesses , particularly to indigenous Sierra Leoneans this list is in-exhaustive.
Then our Fiftieth would have been worth celebrating.
By Patrick John