The attitudinal change campaign has gone full circle from its rebirth in President Koroma’s inaugural speech, to a rallying philosophy for change and to it pending demise as slang left to perish in that vast wilderness where earlier political philosophies of constructive nationalism, Self help etc were left to die uncelebrated.
Whatever happened to the ideals couched in the attitudinal change campaign? Why is it that the president’s agenda for change is making strides in infrastructural development but not in attitude change of the people? The answer lies in the intrinsic nature of man as a selfish being and the contrast in the nature of man as a decent being perpetuated in the attitude change campaign. The conflicting images open an old debate on the nature of man in a state of nature. Thomas Hobbes theory of man as being intrinsically selfish and brutish makes a mockery of the decent image of man in our change of attitude campaign. It is the validity of Hobbes theories that subscribe to the need to create a society govern by law with the view of taming the selfishness of man. Theories like enlighten self interest, social contracts are all based on the assumption that man needs to be tamed by putting the supremacy of the law over and above everything. The need to tame man to fit in society is in the core of jurisprudence. The state is premised on the assumption that man will be tamed through law that is why instruments like Constitutions are crucial in the existence of the state. Do we think we can bring changes without the supremacy of the law? Yet how ethical are the custodians of the law in our society? How come the legal practitioners compute mostly in matters of wealth acquisition rather than serving? Who got trampled in this material race? What is the fate of the law in this new paradigm?
The idea of sanitizing society through talking; Talk alone is tantamount to returning the debate on the nature of man to the Pre-Socratic era. Few years ago we manifested our brutal nature in a senseless war caused mainly by the failure of state institutions like the justice system. Now we assume we could wipe out the mind virus of that injustice by preaching attitudinal change? It is true that we need change but it must start with the many rogue institution in the country reaping and raping the people. The groans of the rappers and the moans of the raped are making discordant music to our soul we therefore cannot hear the change of attitude campaign blaring in the air.
Attitude don’t happen in a vacuum they are a product of a social milieu, campaigning for change of attitude without an evaluation of the social and political context which gave rise to the attitude is in itself symptomatic of mixed priorities. The bad attitudes for which Sierra Leoneans are notorious could be summarized in one word respect; the lack of respect for the supremacy of the law, the lack of respect for public property and the lack of respect for the otherness of others. The logical question is how did this happen to a people with humble origins? What role have the custodians of the law played to have lost the respect of the people? Do we think we can bring back respect in the equation through radio jingles, talk shows and banners without reforming the institutions of justice?
Nelson Mandela is a model citizen of the world but he had no respect for the Government of South Africa during the apartheid days because it was premised on injustice. Similarly it will take a whole lot of campaigning for Sierra Leoneans to begin to have respect for the injustice in our society. It is hard to respect a court system in which some court rooms stink like enlarged urinals and justice is perverted by inconceivable delays. It is hard to change attitude towards a system where justice is sold to the highest bidder and in which the differences between the court and the auction house is in the wig-they both have the gavel it further accentuate the similarity. It is hard to change your attitude towards an institution that gives you a building permit and later demolish your building as an illegal structure. It is hard to change your attitude towards a journalist who impoverishes the blank page with a figment of his imagination for a fee and it is equally harder to change attitude towards a law that criminalized free speech.
This is a world of everlasting conflict and mankind’s activities almost always driven by selfish interest that is why scholars and thinkers place institutions of law at the apex of the human pyramid. If we think we can use another route other than the law to change attitudes we must think again and again and again. The attitude change campaign must be left in the hands of Pastors and Imams. The state resources must be directed to reforming the judiciary to ensure a fair and just society. Respect for fairness and justice will come naturally if the system is made just by some executive mandate. Justice is the unforeseen structural beams that hold the super structure of world society. Remove Justice, then the structural integrity of society will be challenged and the result is fail states.
I love change because change is the only permanent thing in this world of constant flux. Change manifests the ephemeral nature of our existence. Institutions and scrutinized thoughts can be temporary signpost of a changing world. We don’t seem to have that and we are now pinning our hopes on tired campaigners spewing strings of slogan on equally tired listeners. The change of attitude campaign has a guilt projection element in it. It seems to imply that the downtrodden are somehow responsible for the rot and that by changing their attitude things will change for the better.
Less is being said about the rogue state institutions that push the people to the brink of insanity to the extent that they now keep machetes and witch guns alongside conveyances to defend their properties. Less is being said about how the law works with break neck speed for the high and mighty and not for Sorie public. Less is being said on how prime land is given to a privilege class and the people left in the fringes of humanity. Less is being said on how successive Government transforms the people to children of a lesser God. Less is being said on how we ended up with Anti -Corruption Commission to prop the failure of the justice system. Less is being said about how many Institutions we need to create to prop up our justice system before it dawn on us that the lack of Justice is at the core of all our problems.
For two years of a five year presidential mandate we have been inundated with a campaign for attitude change, as you can see we are not changing so what are you going to do about that Mr. President? Campaign us some more? Or change us with the mandate we gave you?
I think the way to go is too bring back a just society through the tested means of the supremacy of the law. We need to give the judiciary massive doses of colon cleanser to clean up the half a century constipation that has rendered it septic. The shortcut to click in the attitude change campaign is the judiciary; let the nation descend in our court rooms clean off the scrap yard image, get a store outside the court house to keep the goods seized from people. Above all get all human resources expert or even ‘Ariyogbo’ to search for decent men within the judiciary like; Tejan Cole, Jenkins Johnston, Joseph Kamara etc to head strategic position in the transformation of the judiciary. Get Special Court expert to help us with case management scheme so that justice perverted through delays be dealt with once and for all.
Let the scale replace the extortion bowl we now see in the firm grip of the symbol of justice in front of the law court. Let the sword be replaced with a nuclear bomb if the law is to live up to its fighting spirit, the hawkish eagle be an eagle again soaring above all else and the wise old man need the strength of Hercules to complement his wisdom. In brief give the law a radical make over if we want changes beyond attitude change.
The less advantaged youths, the products of the unjust society constitute the highest number in our prison a kind of the rich get richer and the poor gets prison sequel. Sometimes in such scenarios, a Foday Sankoh comes along and repackages all the injustice to a twisted ideology adorned with a Kalashnikov while we wax lyrical about attitude change.
By Oumar Farouk Sesay