As we celebrate forty seven years of our independence from Britain this weekend, just pause and take a deep reflection on the state of our country. I am proud that in the last twelve years, excepting the AFRC madness, we have been having governments the majority voted for and the people chose to be there. I am glowing with a high spirit of nationalism that despite being ranked at the bottom of the UN’s development index, I have my fundamental freedoms. That, I can never take for granted.
That said, things should definitely have got better. We have got it wrong not once, not twice, but many times. So much so that despite having the first psychiatric hospital in Black Africa, more and more are having mental problems today. Despite having the first secondary school in West Africa, our educational level is plummeting if not already. Despite having the first radio station in black Africa and the first newspaper in West Africa, our media, vibrant as they are, need more uplifting. Despite having the first institution of higher learning in Black Africa, life for students is sickeningly unbearable. And the list goes on and on and on.
Today, in the whole world we have the highest infant mortality. Today we have the highest maternal mortality and morbidity. Malaria which is being talked about today (25 April being World Malaria Day) kills us like nobody’s business. Today, we are among the most corrupt on the continent. Today, we have some of the worst skilled manpower on the continent. Where and why did we get it all wrong?
Our forces have let us down. They turned against us as if they were not paid by us. Our politicians have thrown us overboard. They have been so reckless with us that you would swear we have not been putting them there. Some of our journalists have turned a blind eye to the truth and remained transfixed on collecting bribes to destroy others and cause mischief in society. Our doctors kill for money and let die for the lack of money. We have all failed our nation in one way or another. We have hated each other for such petty reasons as belonging to different tribes or coming from different regions. All of this must change. It fits perfectly in the new mantra of attitudinal and behavioural change campaign. But that campaign itself is as disjointed and smirking of the same old ways that it gives me no hope.
I drove to Hill Station yesterday afternoon. On my way back, I bumped into a friend and former college mate. He looked angry. Really testy! Until recently, he worked at the Bumbuna Hydro project at Bumbuna. Because he will be very easy to identify and I am not sure he wants to be, I will not tell you the department he worked in, but it was at a high level. He is really frustrated. Frustrated at what he called the discrimination happening to Sierra Leoneans in Sierra Leone at the hands of the Europeans apparently running the project. So he says he chose to resign. Frustrated at how water from the closed taps can inundate a whole community yet the chiefs and some other authorities can play tricks with their people’s welfare. Frustrated that he could not get succour from anyone to ensure change. All of this, forty seven years since we gained our independence.
It is forty seven years, for crying out loud, since we agreed to tend to our needs ourselves. Forty seven years of a spectacular failure and a classic example of how not to rule a nation. It is stunning how much our destiny, apart from electing our leaders, is still not determined by us as a people. Where is our ownership of our country?
Of course nobody is saying we should live like an island when we are known for our beautiful beaches where the Atlantic Ocean comes every few seconds to lick its lips and to yawn. But we should not open ourselves to ridicule by allowing any prescription forced down out throat.
I am sure you have heard it over and over again the potential this lovely country of ours has. The largest Rutile deposits anywhere in the world. Imagine the massive bauxite and iron ore deposits that sit or lie in the north and south. Not to mention the diamonds in the east and parts of the south. The arable land. The sunshine and the rain. Gold, etc etc. All for around five million people. If anything, their presence rather than prosper us has impoverished us. In spite of all of that, or may be because of it, we have to go clapping hand all over the place, even to countries in the West Africa sub-region for one form of assistance or another.
You hear of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of export and you ask yourself how much we have to show for it. It creates a bloated impression abroad and the worst ramifications back home.
Probably without the huge minerals we would be much better off today. That should have forced us to embark on more sustainable ways of surviving and more honest ways of being led by our governments. Where is the genuineness in the area of agriculture despite all the political talk in the last decade? Successive governments have shown more interest in mining companies which apparently would dole out kickbacks and bribes, than in agriculture that has been proved to be the only way of averting the looming disaster of hunger and price hikes.
In all of this, we open our hearts to all prescriptions with all intents other than interest. You hear Western countries announcing big sums of money “for Sierra Leone” they claim. The lion’s share of it goes to their citizens who come here to “implement” those projects. If we do not coordinate and collimate our strategy, we will only get worse off than we have ever been. Because the scam is coming even from under our feet and we are collaborating with it for the immediate benefit to ourselves and our inner circle. Damning the people and posterity.
The other day a company masquerading to be among Africa’s best and most reliable in the area of pharmaceutical was given a VIP treatment. Several sources at the international airport at Lungi said the company’s officials were given a waiver stricto senso. Even to check their luggage was inhibited if not prohibited. Here they were, eventually, just to be noticed currying for favour to be eligible for a $ 4 million World Bank project.
All sorts of businesses are registered when all they claim to have are bearer bonds. In other words the money they claim to get is debt.
Nongovernmental organisations of all sorts enter the country with a carte blanche. They fly in so-called experts who are nothing but new and inexperienced graduates from some college in Europe or America. They come here and lord over us, using up funds that count as aid to Sierra Leone. Some of them who can almost appropriately be referred to as “boys and girls” sit with our presidents and almost literally dictate to them. Even where such dictates hurt us as a people.
Our roads are terrible despite the billions of leones we pay as road user charge. It seems the longer we move away from colonialism, the more we prove incapable of providing for ourselves. The more years in independence, the more reliant we become on former colonial masters and other Western countries and even China.
Despite many decades of being independent, we had to rely on Nigeria and Britain’s intervention to help end our agony. Now we are asking china to come and grow rice for us to feed. Where is out
In all of this we have a golden opportunity to reverse the setback. In the words of the American pop star Michael Jackson, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” Happy Independence Day in advance. By Umaru Fofana