A lot of Sierra Leoneans feel it is disgraceful to refer to ourselves as poor because the Good Lord has lavishly blessed us with vast natural resources. Sometimes you ask yourself “Why are we so blessed?” The biting ironies are remarkable.
See how fast we have tried to rebuild pour shattered lives. See the mansions that have gone up over the past six to seven years after the war. Even Kissy Road which had many old “bode oses’ has been give a remarkable face lift.
The Freetown East-end we knew 10 to 15 years ago is being transformed to something else that is acceptable. Only the tight roads really belie the progress made over time.
Many people believe that Koinadugu which is the biggest district is also the poorest and the most depraved. Well no wonder that we have one of the highest numbers of NGOs and MDAs for a remote district. I am not convinced that Koinadugu is the most backward…I think it shares the same characteristics with its neighbor border districts like Kono and Kailahun.
In Freetown where we expect the greatest chances for the good life- whatever that is- people don’t have access to fresh food. Take meat for example it is so expensive that a lot of Freetown residents may prefer to be vegetarians just that this is not yet on the African cultural menu. It may end up to be the poor man’s obvious option in the not so distant future. In Kabala almost every household has access to meat at least twice a week. Sometimes if you eat in a Restaurant you even get fed up eating meat. You find roast meat all over town center like you find biscuits on the streets of Freetown. In Kabala you do not have to live on rice alone. You can easily have bread and meat for your meals. Some of the roasted meat is so seasoned that you can eat it for two days and more. It is as good as breakfast…there could hardly be anything like it. Talking about breakfast… why the name? I think it is simply because you do not eat when you sleep at night. So when you wake up in the morning and eat, you are actually breaking fast…the English are really clever here…aren’t they? So in actual fact we all fast albeit willy-nilly. Would it have been actually better for people fasting to break their fast in the morning which is more logical? Well do not ask me anything else beyond this. Don’t get Boko Harams knocking at my door!
Just this morning I came across a guy who said he hails from Guinea and does business in false teeth and other denture services. He called himself a dentist. I did not argue with that, after all many people parade under the title doctor…oh how I feel sorry for the Medical field…it is so expensive to train for yet every jack and Harry just wakes up one day and call themselves doctor. This does not happen in the legal field. Lawyers do not even accept other people calling themselves ‘My Learned friend’, if you do not belong to the profession. In Africa almost all Heads of State straight away become Doctor this or Doctor that…even where they have not darkened the walls of a university. How this came about I really don’t know but it is an acceptable practice. It’s just like the Chief title in Nigeria. Why is it that Africans like titles a lot? There are some Parliamentarians that actually spell out the word Honorable in front of their names. This is of course no big deal…except that in a country where people throw a lot of weight around, bandying titles may actually constitute intimidation and by extension some kind of advantage, the type that Anti- corruption disapproves of.
My late grandfather of Blessed memory once told me something. He said given the same situation there is always bound to be individual differences. He cited the case of HIV. My grandfather said that 10 men can go with a lady living with the virus but not all will get infected. He also said that there is no disease without cure…that people only need to look for the cure. As a little boy I could have been killed by tetanus, but at that time no one in my town knew about it and so the four inches nail I stepped on while playing football did nothing to stop me from continuing the game. My colleagues simply removed the rusty nail and I really did not even mind the oozing blood. We are indeed so rich that our ignorance makes nature not to kill us for every illness especially when our awareness level has not yet taken those diseases in. In one article I talked a little about the kay-kay dogs in the villages which clear the backsides of babies when they pupu. Now tell me something if those dogs had rabies why were the babies not painfully dying like flies? Or are the rabid dogs only found in big towns? Thank God in Freetown they were bundled into cages recently. How can you say we are poor when we live with pigs and rodents down at Kroobay and Mabella and yet our children there are as chubby as those at IMATT? Do you not still see the point I’m making? What good is it to have so many dollars only to spend it on expensive operations like the likes of growth and cancer and their cousins? Sierra Leoneans are not poor; we are “Poor Millionaires”. We might not match the Dollar millionaires but the krio say ‘All kabor Nar kabor’. When our own James Jonah, while at the INEC once said that if you put all the wealth of Sierra Leoneans together and share it among all Sirerra Leoneans we will all be poor; I agree with him only partly. People only feel poverty when others parade with a revolting vulgar display of wealth. You see James Jonah Is one man I highly respect… in the line of Mandela. He is so down to earth. He was bold enough to once refer to the AFRC Junta as Pol Pot’s children! He even left politics when the going was still good. Not many of them do that these days when pass-dieism has returned to African politics. Thank God Sierra Leone will not revert to it any more. Taking two terms in office is even so much a challenge in office that it will be fool hardy to ask for a third term like other heads of state in Africa are shamelessly doing. I think we have broken that cycle except perhaps if we want another military paradise. Our politics have proven that we are rich…we have some record that are not doubted. Not like the doubts over Casper Semenya’s gold victory at the Berlin athletics. At least in Sierra Leone what determines someone’s sex is the biological identity between the legs… not outrageous tests in a far away laboratory. Here not even the DNA test might be acceptable in our rural settings where chiefs are allowed to marry as many wives as possible. I have seen situations where an ageing man even recognizes his younger wives’ boyfriends who are encouraged to play the husband role including child bearing. What will DNA tests show in this case? Who are the illegitimate children in our rural settings any way? We will always have problems with our laws on legitimacy. Can this not be part of why we are Poor Millionaires.? Or don’t you think you are a millionaire? Look, like somebody said on the BBC recently “No matter how many million legs the millipede has, it will never beat a snake at a race.” Let those who can, go to the skies and count the stars…we who cannot should do our own while stuck on the ground.
By S. Beny SAM