Many things hold back our development as a nation. They are largely if not mainly enmeshed in one chief notion. To thrive on the ignorance of the people even if it means telling lies to them. Keep them in perpetual darkness, with a view to blurring their thinking so as to stay at the helm. And it all depends on who it suits, and when.
It seems lying, thieving and begging are fast becoming the rule rather than the exception in our country. Begging in its orthodox form is thriving among especially the youth who keep embarrassing people all over the place to give them what they didn’t work for. Agreed most of them do not have a job, but many of them just refuse to do something productive. A young man chose to forfeit an amount he asked for – and I wanted to give to him – simply because I asked that he should do some domestic chores for me in exchange for the money. But that is neither here nor there.
Thieving and lying seem to be becoming the hallmark of many in our political class; and it would seem without exception. And they do this under the cloak of spinning (in the case of those in power), and exposing the ills of government in the case of those in the opposition.
Last week there was talk about two mixed reports on how Sierra Leone has progressed and retrogressed. The latest Transparency International report says we have slumped in their ranking on corruption. While, on the other hand, the annual UN Human Development Index says we have made a great leap forwards. And the reaction of members and supporters of the two main political parties has been stunningly disingenuous.
When the TI report was out, I received a deluge of telephone calls from some people who were genuinely concerned about our ranking regardless of the giant strides taken lately in the fight against graft. But also from people who ridiculed the current Government for, in their view, having slid the country down on the corruption list.
Even before I knew that the report was out, some SLPP people called to mock the APC government whom they blamed for the low corruption ranking. But these same people took ownership of the rise in the UNDP ranking of Sierra Leone. And whereas they agreed that the human development ranking uses data that have nothing to do with what happened this year in which the report is published, in other words credit to the SLPP, they would not agree the same applied in the case of the Corruption Index.
And they were not alone. The Minister of Presidential Affairs was in the news as having claimed ownership for the rise of Sierra Leone on the human development ranking. According to a news bulletin I heard on Capital FM, the minister told a group of Sierra Leoneans in the United States that the reason for the improved performance was thanks to the efforts of the present government especially the provision of electricity to Freetown.
However, other members and supporters of the APC have been arguing that the corruption ranking reflected the last year of the SLPP government. This is absolute dishonesty on the part of both sides of the political aisle. They seem to be telling lies blatantly just to suit their own convenience and further confuse the masses. The truth is the APC government should neither be credited for the good news, nor excoriated for the bad one. Not at all! Such reports are not published to necessarily reflect the situation as it stands at the time of the report’s publishing.
The truth is that the former SLPP government made some giant strides in the provision of free basic primary education by waving off school fees for primary school kids, paying for thousands of candidates for junior and senior public school examinations. With the help of external donors, they provided vaccines for under-5 year-olds, and distributed thousands of mosquito-treated bed nets. These are the indicators used in putting together the latest UNHDR report. So thank you SLPP.
Invariably, even though they set up the Anti Corruption Commission with the passing of the Act, the SLPP government showed ambivalence at best, or sheer reluctance in letting go of the leash they still held on the commission by refusing to deal with the fundamentals. They declined ceding control of prosecution of corruption suspects to the ACC, increase on the number of corruption offences or oblige public officials to declare their assets; hence the bad ranking on the corruption front. So shame on you SLPP!
With all of that now done, the Transparency International ranking next year would be challenged with the strongest vigour and synergy if Sierra Leone did not make an envious climb on the ladder. Then the APC government will have the moral high ground to claim responsibility. Similarly, any showing on the UNHDI ranking short of an appreciation will be squarely blamed on the APC government.
Essentially, truth-telling by our politicians will serve as example for the up and coming generation who seem to see lying as trendy and as an acceptable norm in our society. The truth about telling a lie, not least the blatant and unnecessary kind, is that it takes away the decency and respectability that the humanity in the teller represents. Seeing our political leaders trading falsehood will hide the veneer in honesty.
When a politician says something to a journalist for example, and by extension the people they represent, and it later becomes apparent to be a lie, there is hardly anything that politician will say that will be deemed as true. If they think a certain truth should not be told, they should rather not say anything at all. Decent public figures would resign if something they said turned out to be a deliberate falsehood. And lying by politicians is as common here as resignation is uncommon. We must shame shame itself, to make sure we are not shamed by shame. By Umaru Fofana