Sierra Leoneans on my mind, Again! By Khadi Mansaray

Since I wrote an article “Sierra Leoneans on my mind”, I’ve been desperately waiting, looking for a reason to say I was wrong, and that we are a noble people. Some critics felt the content of my piece was unfair, disrespectful and some even described me as being of the war generation.
Although I found good and noble Sierra Leoneans they are by far in the minority. A friend of mine on the death of Dr Khan reminded us that we were the generation that has always stood forward to fight the good fight. We stood up against the rebel invasion of the capital Freetown, we stood up to fight tyranny and lost our lives in the process. We were the generation that got good grades in spite of teachers’ strikes. We were the generation who were exiled and returned.
To that I add that we were also the generation who stayed and mounted the most remarkable civil disobedience in history, we were the generation that chose democracy. We cut across all tribes and religions and we are all over the world standing proud. We are the generation that can reverse the odds against our country and we will. We are the generation that is saying that this is simply not good enough.
Of course the truth is hard to hear and I accept that. There is nothing in my original article that does not happen, we just turn a blind eye or convince ourselves it doesn’t. We are the generation that paid the price for the mistakes of those before us and we are the ones who shall set it right for those before us. We do what is right and we shall speak about what is not right. Dr Khan was one of us and he was too young to die.
Almost every Sierra Leonean has another category to blame for our troubles; we say:
The Lebanese are bad for us
The Krios are bad for us
The Mendes are bad for us
The Temnes are bad for us
The Diasporans are bad for us
The home-based are bad for us
The returnees are bad for us
The old are bad for us
The young are bad for us
The politicians are bad for us
The simple truth is WE are bad for us and until we accept that and try to change it things are going to remain bad for us. Today it’s Ebola, tomorrow it will be something else.
We are still electing egomaniac, incompetent, lecherous, and corrupt leaders. The Ebola problem has exposed how bad they really are and how bad our institutions are. The government failed to take prompt measures to contain it and a weak opposition still fails to show how they can do better. We don’t want failures and we don’t want coup makers. We deserve better. Strategies for Ebola appear to be implemented with a three-month time delay and the authorities seem to have lost the ability to think on their feet and adapt quickly to a changing environment. Elaborate cover-ups have replaced common sense. A private radio station has to edit their news because government stations are too slow to make official announcements. It’s not just the present government it’s the ones before them too. We choose them and let them stay. There is very little desire amongst us to achieve excellence, but great appetite to preserve egos. Attitudinal and Behavioural change didn’t work because hardly anyone bought into the values it required. The government cannot do it all. Agenda for Prosperity will not work because very few of us really believe in the equitable distribution of wealth. We want more than the next man; some of us want it now and don’t necessarily want to work for it.
On my last visit to Sierra Leone some were flaunting wealth obscenely, the last-in-class boys were running the country and the beautiful women were dressing up for them. People were excited about roads that should have been built 10 years ago and the lifts in government buildings still don’t work. At least no one is screaming ‘world best’ during the Ebola crisis but when it blows over we shall be asked for a third term. And yet amidst it all, we have the brave, striving hard against all odds. They keep the sanity, maintain excellence and are committed to serve. They are everywhere, you find them in government, in opposition, in institutions and in business, but we need more of them to make a difference.
The normal human responses to danger are fight, flight or freeze but for many Sierra Leoneans it is blame someone else or pray. We pray reverently for everything, and do nothing. Make a plea in the name of God and hardly anyone blinks, but say you’re going to curse the wrong doer and see people shake. Sierra Leoneans are still not taking responsibility for their actions, there’s always a ‘hater’ or Satan to blame. So the Pastors take our money, damn the devil and we don’t learn from our mistakes.The Imams tell us to fast. So we fast and pray and do nothing. I remember sticking my neck out for a group being bullied and got a result. When asked what they wanted to do next they said fast and pray. I gave up. I am a believer but prayers have to be backed by sensible action. Prayer is not an excuse for inaction or dumb action. We need to believe that our actions can yield result and we don’t have to sit and wait for bad things to happen. We need to have faith not just in God but in ourselves too. He created us with brains lets glorify him by using them. Lets pray and act and pray again.
As we still deny glaring truths and ‘prefer to sugar-coat the unpleasant things the ignorant amongst us continue to hold us to ransom. Instead of challenging the status quo, we dumb down to fit in. As I write those who don’t believe Ebola is real put others at risk. Those who are hungry for power raise petty squabbles and those who talk sense are silenced or ignored. If we don’t stop this foolishness our children will have no future, and the last in class will be riding their fancy cars and telling us to eat grass and be grateful for it twenty years on.
Is this the future we want?

Initially Published on Politico SL

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