Legal luminary, Blyden Jenkins- Johnston, has said at a public lecture that from 1961 to now, the political parties that have ruled Sierra Leone since independence have been like a litany of “missed opportunities and misplaced priorities.”
The public lecture themed Sierra Leone at 50: How far? How near? It was organized by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) at the British Council Hall in Freetown.
In his presentation as one of the discussants, Lawyer Jenkins Johnston reiterated that” it is my very carefully considered and researched opinion that in these past 50 years, we as a nation [through the ruling class], have not harnessed our God-given natural resources for the full benefit of the people of Sierra Leone”.
He added that unless and until “we as Sierra Leoneans decide to harness our own resources for the benefit of our people, we will remain a wretchedly poor Country going around the world with a begging bowl, leaving others to plunder our wealth”.
Lawyer Jenkins-Johnston maintained that after 50 years of Independence, is it now time we take full charge of our resources and make sure our people benefit from them. Are we not tired of begging? He questioned.
“It is my submission that after 50 Years of Independence, it is time for us to assert ourselves as a nation, it is time for us to rely on ourselves and to stop crying down ourselves and our compatriots and not to rely on foreigners for everything”, he reiterated.
He averred that every day you hear the Sierra Leone Ruling Class praying for and calling for ”INVESTORS”. – Investors are not Philanthropists but Businessmen, and they come here to make a profit for themselves and their shareholders, not to help us solve our problems. There are a lot of things we can do for ourselves for which we do not need to rely on Investors, and it is my plea to all Sierra Leoneans that we need to be self-reliant as far as possible. We need to believe in ourselves and to stop thinking that Foreigners can do everything better than we can.
He noted that the free medical care launched by President Koroma is a laudable venture, but most of the time the medicines are not available and the women have to buy drugs outside the hospitals.
Nowadays, he disclosed, you hear people with a medical problem going to Ghana for treatment, adding that Ghana achieved Independence only four years before we did, but they have now left us far behind. With the very small population we have, coupled with the vast natural resources at our disposal, ought we not to be in a position to provide proper medical facilities in our country? He asked.
The Lead presenter, Dr Kelfala Marrah, Chief of Staff at State House in his presentation, shared his views on where we are coming from, where we are as a nation and our preparedness to lay a foundation for a new generation. He said that there are good reasons to celebrate improved power generation, emboldened private sector strategy, ongoing infrastructural development in the form of roads and the free health initiative. Yes, he urged, we have something to celebrate and yet we also have the opportunity to learn from the past so as to lay sounder foundation for a new generation. The Chief of Staff reiterated that our 50thindependence anniversary makes our development equation easy but painful. Easy, he said, because it provides the opportunity to reflect on alternative development paradigms so as to build on successes we have made over the years. Painful, because in building those successes, we are required to firstly, conduct a national performance audit on our collective approach to development over the last 50 years, not only to learn lessons, but to reflect on some of the inconvenient truths as medicinal dose to our collective conscience.
Mrs Lulu Wright, a retired Academic and one of the discussants, said that the country needs a leader of vision that will generate change. For the past 20 years, she stated that Sierra Leone stagnated because of lack of good leadership.
Questions and comments formed part of the lectures.
By Abibatu Kamara