Proverbs chapter 29 verse 18; ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’. This I can use in two contexts according to my own ideas, I believe many people have other interpretations of it.
Firstly, the word “vision” used here has to do with the Word of God. Where there is no Word of God, where there is no message of life, the people perish, is the primary interpretation of this passage. This passage is used in that manner in other verses in the Bible. In 1st Samuel 3:1 we read, “The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision”.
Secondly, I believe that the ideas, determination and wisdom that a leader has to succeed will lift his people from decadence to prosperity. His innovations and determination for success will always bring prosperity.
My interest is in the second interpretation relating to poverty, poor health and the ineffectiveness of our governments to deliver us from bondage.
Reading stories and articles in the internet has left me in serious doubt whether the change we advocated for in 2007 was for economic and social or was it for the sake of change. The stories and articles that come out everyday are either PR from journalists who are trying to gain favors from some politicians or journalists who are really sincere to the course of seeing Sierra Leone becoming a better country.
Some of these rantings have paid off for some journalists who are benefiting from the government; others want to join the fray by continuing the PR, others too still believe that the opposition will succeed and they too will enjoy, while the rest are the sincere ones who want to see a better Sierra Leone. I would rather pitch my tent with this set of writers and journalists who believe that a better Sierra Leone will benefit all of us.
The SLPP party ruled for 11 years – 1996 to 2007, they lost because they were overrun by crooks and degenerated into a caricature promising to take the country to higher heights and liberate the creative genius of the Sierra Leonean society.
Along with the snowballing fiscal problems that some of my elder colleagues have cited, I would add the very discouraging rise of nanny-statism on both SLPP and APC. This takes many forms – Kabbah was famous for ‘no one will go to bed hungry by 2007’. President Bai Koroma responded that this is a new APC that has come to alleviate the sufferings, but you have to judge me after 36 months. The PMDC leader Charles Margai came with positive change.
The two ideas from the former and present governments offer conceptions of a sweeping mandate to State House. And once in a while, politicians reveal the patronizing attitude toward the voters that underlies these promises.
APC accused SLPP for close ties with Ghadaffi and even told their supporters to wear black dresses during the visit of Ghadaffi under SLPP. It is the same APC who went one step further by crowning Ghadaffi as Honorary Member of Parliament. SLPP was practicing tribalism, but the APC did the worst by having 60% of the ministers from Bombali District alone.
Political movements need a vision. SLPP in 1997 accused APC of destroying the fabrics of the country during their 24 year rule and they lacked vision; and by their nature they cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. The 11 year reign of SLPP was almost the same as the APC’s 24 year in power.
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. All of us need to be reminded that the government did not create the provinces; the provinces created the government. So why should these areas be so underdeveloped over the years. These provinces have been electing the leaders, but what have they done in return to alleviate the sufferings of the people. The vision they have is to get $4,000 monthly salary and a Le45 million jeep with luxurious houses in the city and not their constituencies.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” or at least the party and its principles. The first task in advocating a limited government is to develop and advance that vision. The president and politicians all honed and advocated their ideas long before they saw political victory.
They must translate those visions into policy proposals, organizations, and political movements. As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, so should our leaders advocate and work for better social facilities, improve peoples lives by alleviating poverty and must make ready the ideas, the platform, the networks that could serve a political leader who wants to take on the task of clearing away the 20th century’s accumulated burden of bureaucratic systems, unfunded liabilities and usurpations of the responsibilities of free citizens. We don’t have to resign ourselves to a counsel of despair. It would, in any case, prove self-fulfilling.
The political and economic failings are a proof that we are incapable of ruling ourselves. I believe the colonial Britain opted out prematurely and some more years of parenting might have made a difference. The doubt certainly occupies the thoughts of many Sierra Leoneans as they watch their prostrated country treated as basket cases. The doubt has been growing with each decade of apparent failure of the leaders and their parties to change the status quo of the country.
Under colonialism, there was food, light and other social amenities, we thought that trend would continue after our fore fathers took over, but the future was compromised by the failure of the present. After almost 48 years of independence, we have lost faith on our politicians and almost all Sierra Leoneans want to relocate for greener pastures.
Some people think the persistent mismanagement is down to lack of capacity for good governance. The country is now a guinea pig with all kinds of NGOs and donor agencies trying out new system of giving out aid and implementing projects.
Many of these programmes in the country have the notion that poor governance is due largely to incompetence, ignorance, lack of visionary leaders and inadequate infrastructure. In effect, many of us feel that before the colonial masters left, they should have taught us how to govern ourselves, that would have helped Africa and Sierra Leone especially a lot. Why did East Asian countries too that were under colonial rule succeed but Sierra Leone and others failed. Sierra Leone was better off than Japan in 1961, what happened with Sierra Leone – ‘where there is no vision the people perish.’
Certainly we suffer from poor administration, inadequate judicial infrastructure and insufficient number of expertise. But these short comings cannot explain the abuse and misuse of state power in the country. Sierra Leone has quite a good number of administrators, accountants, good lawyers and other professionals.
Laid down budgetary procedures, including provisions for checks and balances are adequate. But the fact remains that our rulers have ignored the provisions of the constitution and laid down administrative procedures that are relevant to the actual workings of government.
Abuse and misuse of power and authority have not been due to lack of capacity, but most of them have been incompetent and ignorant. The lack of administrative or intellectual expertise to formulate and properly execute growth enhancing policies has never been the major problem; simply, the leaders have acted in their own selfish interests in total disregard to existing rules and laid down procedures.
Similarly, we should not see reactionary economic policies and practices of the government as stemming mainly from lack of knowledge of economic theory or management. Many of the economic policies and actions that have entrenched the country in economic under-development were deliberately carried out to serve the interest of those in power. Why was the railway stopped in the country, which benefit did we have in hosting the OAU, why did the Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST) blue print work in Botswana diamond mines and was never implemented in Sierra Leone?
Political elites have benefited enormously from the economic misfortunes of the country. Not surprising, they prefer to maintain the status-quo as chaotic and depressive as it may seem for the majority of Sierra Leoneans and liberal observers from abroad.
Let us not think that our leaders are puppets or buffoons, because we always say it is not the leader’s fault but those who are behind him. Rather we should see them and their actions from the perspective of the interests they serve. Was the president forced to choose 60% of his cabinet from Bombali District? I doubt it. The failure of economic development in Sierra Leone is due to a large part of the scramble for wealth by these predator elites who have dominated our politics since independence.
They see the state as a source of personal wealth accumulation. There is high premium on the control of the state that is the biggest and easily accessible source of wealth accumulation. These ones in power and those seeking it use all means to attain their goal, by fostering ethnic and regional sectarianism and political repression.
Sierra Leone fought an eleven year senseless war because of all the negative vices listed above, even though it was bitter, most of our politicians still don’t care whether we retrogress or we progress. All they care about is the control of state resources using the police and thugs to keep them in power.
As long as politics is dominated by these predator elites it is difficult to see how meaningful economic development can be sustained. The challenge facing those who want better governance is how to make those in power accountable and ultimately rescue the state from them and to transform it to an agency for positive change or else the people will continue to perish for lack of vision.