BY AMARA THORONKA
Advancing in age is always expected to be characterized by wisdom, maturity, experience and workable solutions to existential and potential problems. It is often surprising to see someone who has advanced in age portraying the portraits of the unwise. Interestingly, I am not talking about a person but rather our beloved land that we “love” our Sierra Leone. The inverted commas are deliberate because one would like to know the kind of love we show to our nation when our actions and inactions have been making it very unattractive to the wider world. Since independence from United Kingdom on 27th April 1961, the country is now exactly 60 years old.
In sixty years, the nation has experienced a lot: from one-party state to multiparty democracy, military interventions, eleven-year civil war, fatal flooding, mudslide, Ebola outbreak, violent occurrences, political turmoil and now Corona Virus, a pandemic.
However, the country has also witnessed some positive changes like the transition from one-party to multi-party democracy, ending the civil war, establishment of democratic institutions, infrastructural development, increasing access to education, consolidating the peace and peaceful transition of power from one civilian government to another.
In all of these we still have a long way to go. The painful part of it is to learn that Sierra Leone is the first country to have many developmental tangibles in sub-Saharan Africa; ranging from education to technology, trade, political institutions and many more. It is also painful to learn that most of the African countries, now doing well than Sierra Leone, came to our dear Lion Mountain to pursue western education. Those nations have outrun our country because of their nationalism and zest for sustainable development.
It is disingenuous to point fingers because all of us are responsible for the current state of our nation. We keep doing things that undermine development just because we do not share ideologies with the incumbent. Our focus should be on supporting those in power and hold them accountable for their stewardship.
For politicians, the focus should be the drafting, adoption and implementation of a progressive national development agenda, and not politically charged ones. Since multi-party democracy in 1996, the nation has witnessed different development trajectories which have not been exhausted. Each regime has brought its development agenda which is usually abandoned by a succeeding regime. Late President Tejan Kabba’s government designed the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP 1&2) while his successor, the immediate ex-President, Ernest Koroma developed the Agenda for Change (AfC) and in his second term of office the Agenda for Prosperity (AfP). The incumbent government of President Maada Bio has the New Direction Development Agenda. It can be deduced that the country has experienced the introduction and implementation of five national development plans in less than three decades.
Over these years, billions of dollars have been pumped into these development agendas through loans and grants from international development partners and locally generated revenue. Because of corruption, an inconsistency in development drives, bad policies and leadership, over-blotted budgets, political protectionism and misplaced priorities, the country has very little or nothing to show in many sectors. Majority of Sierra Leoneans still find it extremely challenging to access and afford basic social amenities like safe drinking water, electricity, transportation, housing, healthcare and telecommunications. Many constructed roads are substandard and majority of the country’s roads are dangerous to ply. Poverty, unemployment, injustice, suffering and despondency continue to characterise the lives of greater percentage of people in Lion Mountain. Democratic institutions continue to be weak and efficient in timely and sustainably deliver the purposes for which they were created.
Sierra Leone failed woefully in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the first global development agenda designed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which spanned from 2000 to 2015. The world is now fives years into the current global development agenda, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will elapse in 2030. As it remains nine years to go, would Sierra Leone fully achieve any or some of the SDG’s seventeen goals?
Just as aforementioned, all of us have blame and a role to play in developing our country. The President should continuously evaluate the competence and efficiency of his appointees through quality assurance and quality delivery mechanisms. He should be progressively courageous to fire and not recycle under performing and non performing ministers and their deputies, heads of public departments and agencies, commissioners, diplomats and other public officers across the board.
Civil and public servants should not do their job with the aim of amassing corrupt wealth or project certain interests at the expense of the growth and development of the nation. They should be seen working towards helping the government of the day to succeed in accomplishing its manifesto promises.
To opposition parties; the best way for you to succeed is by supporting the incumbent so that when you come to power, you will meet strong foundation to stand and move further. It should not be either you or no one else. The political space is for all and sundry to explore if one desires so.
Judges, magistrates and lawyers should ensure swift and impartial justice system. Remember justice delayed is justice denied. People should be convinced to see the judiciary as an appropriate resort for the settlement of disputes and controversial issues arising from the constitution.
Parliamentarians should understand that they are called “honourables” because of the prestige, ambience and power that are associated with the law-making body where they are representing the dreams, welfare and aspirations of seven million Sierra Leoneans. They should not be seen trading blows or supporting their parties even on the wrong trajectory. Legally and morally speaking, they should be seen representing their constituents in debates, deliberations and other parliamentary functions.
Civil society activists and journalists should preach the truth undiluted and uncompromising because we are supposed to be the torches, bridges, eyes and mouth of society. It is the responsibility of civil society activists and journalists to hold duty-bearers accountable for their stewardship through unbiased and uncompromising reports.
Doctors, nurses and other health practitioners should work in consonance with the oath they took to passionately and unconditionally save lives. The hospital should be a place where lives are saved and therefore ultimate care for the patient should not be theoretically said but practically done.
Also, teachers and school authorities should not only be the repositories of knowledge but also embodiments of ethics and professionalism. It is unthinkable to see a teacher or principal facilitating examination malpractice and other academic improprieties.
Commercial drivers who make life unbearable for poor Sierra Leoneans should desist from such acts. Can you imagine asking someone to pay three or four times the prescribed transport fare. Those passengers who can afford will be conveyed while the less privileged will be left stranded. In addition, conductors and drivers often molest and embarrass passengers as they feel like which sometimes lead to fighting.
Traders who sell substandard food and non-food items should be asking themselves the number of people that have been killed or hospitalised by their substandard products. Also, they should ask themselves about the adverse economic impact of their profiteering venture on poor Sierra Leoneans.
The list above is not in any way exhaustive of society’s composition, but it rather gives an assertion of our individual and collective deeds that have been contributing to the snail pace development of Sierra Leone.
As we are now sixty years old as a nation, we should imbibe the trash can and refrigerator mentality. We should throw away all those actions, inactions, feelings and attitude of stagnation and underdevelopment and imbibe and preserve peace, tolerance, ethics, professionalism and nationalism. These are the forces that will lift us from where we have always been since independence to a state of sustainable development and growth in all sectors.
We can still belong to and support political parties but it is the interest of the nation that should be preferential. Through the national pledge and anthem, we have been making serious vows that we shall always do our very best to develop Sierra Leone, but if that was so, we should have gone pass this dependency and fragile status by now. Let us all do the right thing in our official and unofficial capacities.