Almost half a century since the attainment of political independence, our political structure is as disorganized as ever before. Not that the politicians are not fully aware of it but that greed, hate, quest for power, tribalism, egotism, nepotism, personal aggrandizement have long usurped the politics of the country and these continue to be the hallmarks of successive regimes. Even when the brutish and insensitive rebel invasion devastated the county for almost ten years, the situations continue unabated. Is it because our Founding Fathers failed to lay a better foundation for the acceleration of development projects in the country?
Unlike some other countries which pride themselves with the handiwork of their Founding Fathers, Sierra Leone cannot even brag of such political heritage because the Post independence leader, Sir Milton Margai, died shortly afterwards without accomplishing his political aspirations. This did not grant the country the opportunity to benefit from such ambitious beginning which grounds future rapid and expansive developments other countries are now benefiting. Instead political apathy and the hunt for that power continue to characterize the national politics as opposed to nationalism and development.
However, the strength of Sierra Leonean nationalism is being emaciated with constant and stubborn politicization of every facets of the society and by every government we have had to date. This is the sad route to economic and social doom. Unquestionably, modern USA is built on the foundation works of her Founding Fathers to whom every Americans is still proud of. What is there to be proud of our own Founding Fathers? The right to self-determination is often exhibited with the potential to perfect the interest of the State and her citizenry above all else. This is the success of the American story. This is the success of the Asian story. This is success of some East, West, North and South African stories!
What about us? Shamefully, however, education which is the linchpin to development continues to lag behind. The reason is far from complex as it is geared towards subjecting the majority of the citizens in ignorance and misery whilst mode of living of this handful political class continues to blossom. Were members of this political class not products of free and effective education? Were they not former victims of economic hardship and social neglect? Was Fourah Bay College not sobriquet as the Athens of Africa?
Like Athens, the Greek City State, it was the centre of learning, the reception of profound knowledge in academia. This heritage of learning cannot be consolidated because of the lack of political will. As a result, we find ourselves down the abyss of development. Because of this political indifference, serious issues of nation building cannot be effectively addressed. This has often culminated in the implementation of some enduring madcap donor driven schemes which continue to jeopardize national interest. In Sierra Leone, politics has engulfed every phase of the society to the extent that most of the Lecturers lack the stamina to constructively and openly criticize bad governmental policies either for fear of loosing their jobs or being sidelined on the instructions of the powers that be.
What a bad politics! What a misery for our beloved nation! But why have the authorities failed to maintain that heritage of western education? The desire for self aggrandizement is so pervasive among these so-called political liberators that adequate and effective vocational training are conspicuously lacking in this society. This is essential to augment the middle level manpower necessary to impact development. The introduction of the 6-3-3-4 has not either filled this vacuum. Instead of developing vocational institutions with its full manpower, this whole project is derailed from its accepted operations.
Because of greed and sloth, academicians prefer to pursue contemporary courses in tune with nation building to sister countries within the continent namely Makarere in Uganda, Legon in Ghana etc. The obsessing issue about this is that we were ahead of these countries in terms of education before Independence yet meanness has jostled us from that glimmering status. It is this that continues to stifle nation building and development initiatives. Appallingly, politics of greed and madness continue to usurp our obligations to the country and as such nationalism is relegated for tribalism, cronyism, material aggrandizement, regional polarization. Are these the viruses that politicians are determined to inject in the rising generation? It is truism that the country is endowed with rich natural resources yet reasonable steps have not been taken to tap these natural endowments for benefit of all. Similarly, oppositions which, at times, are vehement but constructive about the State maladministration have not remedied those defects in any case. Of what necessity are these resources to the average citizen? I was elated when President Koroma signed the contract with London Mining Company this year
It is generally believed that, at least, it will alleviate the malaise of unemployment. As we look forward to its expected unemployment amelioration, this project will be more telling and prudent if those raw materials were transformed into manufactured products in the country. Will that not have increased the rate of employment in multifold? This is a fearless challenge to us the rising generation. Unlike successive regimes which passed the batons of corruption,
tribalism, egotism and self aggrandizement, their economic well being has been ephemeral. Just look around the community to prove me wrong. If Sierra Leone is to jump into the bandwagon of development then we must brace ourselves to confront the challenges with candour, diligence, fearlessness, truth and jingoism, if you like. Hope there will be if only collective effort is directed towards the development of State machinery.
This could be a beacon of hope for Sierra Leone! Additionally, President Koroma has initiated under his Agenda for Change, attitudinal and behavioral change. This is a fine pathway to development. However, it is my considered view since law is the bulwark to society must be enacted to regulate those unwholesome attitudes that undermine development. It must be dispensed reasonably, equally and equitably. This will bring about the positive change every well-meaning citizen is yearning for. Sadly, however, there are laws in this country which are almost extinct. For instance, the law relating to public health, building permits, zoning regulations to name but a few. If these are to be adhered to then the relevant provisions should be invoked whenever the need arises to meet the changing circumstances.
This will consciously bring about the systemic attitudinal and behavioral change. Quite recently, however, the Freetown City Council made byelaws relating to public decency, public safety and public health etc. These laws, if effectively and dispassionately implemented, will invigorate the attitudinal change program. Honestly, it is shameful for some politicians to endorse the 1997 military putsch at the expense of the Constitutionally elected government so also is it disgraceful for others to call the Bumbuna Hydro a white elephant master plan. These are startling revelations of the set of attitudes that spineless Sierra Leoneans exhibit. This is implicit of the weakness of our nationalism!
I feel American when I saw the televised demonstration of Americans during the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 2001.Had that despicable act occurred in Sierra Leone I wonder what trend such absurd politicization would have taken. If development strides are to be accelerated and fully realized, then we must inject an unreserved nationalistic sentiment in our veins for rapid and substantial development to follow. As good citizens, we must sacrifice our personal interest so that the course of national politics is to dramatically change for the better. To what end can this be achieved? Universal adult suffrage should for the time being be substituted with RESTRICED FRANCHISE.
This is because there is a teeming rate of illiteracy in the country aggravated with the so-called number of elites who do not actually vote on shrewd policies and issues. However, the application of this concept should not be understood in its traditional interpretation, that is, qualification to vote on the basis of property and marriage. Here it should be confined to educational qualification. From University graduates down to holders of High School Certificates! Obviously, this class of voters will not only consider why they vote but the potential to rule for the betterment of the nation and the citizenry.
This could be discerned from the manifestoes, past records worthy of evaluation. In short, what political ingredients such Presidential and Parliamentary candidates do have to add to the national sauce. It is appalling to know that since the opening of Parliament and up to its dissolution, there are those who have never and will never contribute to debate in Parliament. Because the ingredients are lacking! Sometimes those who vote, vote on party line others on economic enticement. Then in whose interest are they elected? The frustrating point is that most candidates are given Party symbols even when they are no longer residing in that constituency or ward. How could such elected member be familiarized with the problems of his people? By very frequent visit? Then how frequent is the frequent visit? Certainly this common game plan will not succeed where a candidate will have to reasonably convince a host of educated and well meaning voters. If this is allowed to thrive, then politicians will be on their toes to rise to the challenges of their national obligations.
I know fully well that some people will be critical to this suggestion but the point is that the Greek democracy differs from the one that is practiced today. In fact today democracy as it operates in Presidential and Parliamentary systems is different yet there is that convergence of democratic ethics still in operation. In Uganda, there is still the practice of no party system yet donor support is still forthcoming.
What a magic wand! In Sierra Leone, politicians continue to have a field day because of the magnitude of illiteracy and it is obvious that if this state of affairs continues the country will be plunged into political stagnation. Hence a century behind development shooting up in other parts of the globe! Regional politicization is the vogue in our national politics and this has gradually found its way into students’ elections. This is the malaise that the politicians are using to better their ends. Both the 1996 and 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections are implicit of this. If this miasma is not discouraged, it will lead to a recipe of regional conflict. Are these politicians really mindful the resultant effect or are they waiting when the situation will have been considerably deteriorated? However, they ought to be .
alarmed by the fact that even though their quest for power is often exhibited with any imaginable strategy yet government cannot work effectively in a politically divisive and tribally infected nation. Not even in deep seated illiterate society. Let alone in ours where illiteracy and selfish motive amongst some intelligentsia is far more pervasive as one can imagine.
Since political power is the fastest and nearest accessibility to economic paradise, it will be impossible for them to let go such ill motivated objectives. In this regard, voting should be restricted. Public servants, on the other hand, openly declare support for the political parties of their choice. Does this not undermine their functions to the opposing political party which comes to power or which continues to wield power? Don’t they deserve to be sacked? Yet I admit that there are procedures to be followed! But who is to be blamed for the action of the regime in power? If Sierra Leone is to ascend to substantial development strides then they deserve to be sacked! Let them be politicians instead!
Does political tolerance provide for this when they know fully that they ought to resign at least a year before elections? Similarly, in an underdeveloped country like ours, the political tenure for the conduct of both Presidential and Parliamentary elections are relatively short and this has catapulted the practice of the party in power to start effective campaigning by the end of its third term long before campaigning is declared by the Electoral Commission. At least a political tenure of seven years with reelection or tenure of ten years without reelection will suffice. The reason being the country is still in the twilight zone of development and so it will be necessary at times to allow potential good leaders to work well yet provision should be made for bad leaders to be impeached.
Comparatively, the US system of Presidential tenure is appreciable but cannot suit our political atmosphere because of the rate of stark illiteracy and rampant donor intervention.
Unlike the Americans who are braggart about their reserve, our natural resources are mostly untapped and even those that are being tapped are not beneficial to the society. Thus, development is a mirage. If steady development is to kick in then we must cultivate a system of governance to suit our environment. Also, there is that marked absence of cultural ethos in this society. Westernization has continued to usurp our cultural heritage. This is not too bad yet some of our cultural works should be encouraged by increasing our purchasing power to promote their development. We should take the lead to compete with the cultural handiworks of other countries namely Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and even Jamaica .Not that the practice is bad but that we should be in the vanguard in the promotion of the cultural handiwork of compatriots so that they could benefit from their own inventiveness.
How many Sierra Leonean do buy these items? Indeed, we must think rationally and be enthusiastic both in promoting the national interest and that of our compatriots. Similarly, sporting activities that should appease the frustrated mind is apparently and intensely corrupt. There is no development plan to improve these activities. Though the country is endowed with beautiful talents yet serious effort is not shown to spread out and improve these activities. Where are we heading for? It obvious that sporting activities do contribute to build the socioeconomic structure of society but this is not the case in Sierra Leone where most of the sporting authorities are square pegs in round holes. It is evident that Sierra Leone is endowed with rich natural deposits yet citizens continue to live in abject poverty.
This is as a result of the avariciousness and selfishness exhibited by our political leaders across the board. Most of these leaders prefer to deposit huge account abroad than to help develop the country. At times, such account remains untraced on death. Equally, it is commonplace for politicians to send their children abroad in pursuit of either higher learning or to reside there. The effect of this is not bad, as others might think, but the truth is that why don’t they visit their villages at times. Sorcery? But some of these people are born and bred there. Why can’t they initiate development there? In Nigeria the wealth and status of the sons or daughters of a village is calculated on the basis of developments impacted in that locality. Why can’t we? What a shame! Finally, if development is to be accelerated in Sierra Leone then bold steps must be employed to increase the earning capacities of Medical personnel, Teachers/Lecturers and Judges. Not that the services of other Public Servants are not recognized and acknowledged but that performance, sanity and development in any society hinge on the effective output of these professionals.
By Abu Bakarr D. Bangura