By Umaru Fofana
“High we exalt thee, realm of the free; Great is the love we have for thee; Firmly united ever we stand…Land that we love our Sierra Leone”.
These words to our national anthem are perhaps the words we have been most insincere with and among the most abused by us. Our behaviour as citizens leaves a lot to be desired. If Sierra Leone were a human being it would have protested. Often we pay lip service to her. More often we betray her.
From the doctor who puts money ahead of saving the life of the patient, to the journalist who accepts bribes from unscrupulous businesspeople and politicians to exalt falsehood and denigrate the truth. From judges who circumvent justice and truth for selfish gains or interest to politicians who betray the trust of the people and seek the interest of their own families and cronies. Crumps are all they drop for the masses.
Yesterday I laid my brother-in-law to rest – my wife’s only brother. At the sermon at St Peter The Rock Church at Calaba Town in eastern Sierra Leone, the Rev Fr Phillipson Moore preached about how temporary we all are in this world. He went on to ask how come we could so easily forget this and bask in our current status forgetting that we will pass on one day.
How I wish our politicians and their supporters and followers would always remind themselves of this. That no matter the wealth of the people they steal and amass, they will die and leave it all behind. Scrambling for money from mining companies in exchange for deals that leave the people impoverished. Spreading hate to entrench themselves in pockets of areas as if they will live forever. All in the name of love for country. Yet they have so much hate for her.
In all this I think lacks the word HONESTY, and perhaps SINCERITY. I am on the listserve of US president, Barack Obama. So I receive emails he and his wife and his campaigners send out regularly. Ahead of his birthday this week I was struck when in one of the emails last week he wrote thus: “Hey Umaru – My upcoming birthday next week could be the last one I celebrate as President…”
Next example: Exhibited in a discussion programme organised by the State Department shown at the US embassy in Freetown. Democratic strategist, Donald Fowler conceded that his preferred candidate Barack Obama is not as popular as he was in 2008. He believes the race is too close to call and that it can go either way. Republican strategist, Paul Pelletier came in the back of that and said that even though he supports Mitt Romney he believes Obama has a slight edge over him.
This is called HONESTY and CIVILITY. Not arrogance and presumptuousness. And it helps both candidates because it frees them from complacency. How many African leaders and their supporters, including ours in Sierra Leone, would entertain and admit in public that the possibility exists that they would lose in an election fairly and squarely. How many incumbents will insinuate that they could lose?
In 2007 Solomon Berewa and his supporters exhibited arrogance in as much the same way as Ernest Koroma and his are displaying at present. Without any sense of realism both sides are sounding as if the elections are long over and done and dusted.
Lacking honesty and sincerity at this stage tells us a lot about what happens after victory, or even defeat. More dishonesty and more insincerity. So much so that we forget we will all die someday, somehow.
Sierra Leone is too small a country for us to hate her so much. Like my dad would tell me, we all know whether it is to heaven or to hell we will go after death. We may be pretentious in what we say but we know exactly that by our actions here way we are headed. The same applies with our love or hate for our country. In the open no-one wants to admit it. In our hearts and our actions there is no denying that we hate our country.
Politicians have died a great deal especially lately and especially from the ruling party. But I wonder how many of those still living have been impacted by those deaths. Rev Fr Moore was absolutely right when he said that in life we want all the comfort of this world, willing to have it at any cost. God is the most present in our life yet we forget about Him the most.
Sierra Leone is so insignificant to many of us that we relegate her after God, after tribe, after region, after family and after friends. By the time we get to her, there is nothing left for her. So we lack any sympathy for her and so do everything against her interest. And the vicious cycle is being trickled down to the next generation. University students see themselves more as tribesmen than as citizens of the same country. And those in authority do not seem to be helping. The ramifications will be dire. Unless we act now and with sincerity and honesty too.
The main political actors – the All People’s Congress and the Sierra Leone People’s Party – must be told to spare this nation of further calamity and death and destruction. Their supporters take a cue from them. I sometimes have the feeling that our politicians do not aspire to serve the nation; rather to enrich themselves and their cronies. Otherwise why would they show such blatant desperation in their desire to either stay in power or get to power!
We owe it to this nation to save it from further abyss. We must always be reminding ourselves about our recent past. As we approach Decision 2012 tensions are getting increasingly high. Conscious efforts are needed to save our elections from following the path of Kenya’s.
“We raise up our hearts and our voices on high; the hills and the valleys re-echo our cry…” These additional words to our anthem some of us are meeting. I am raising up my heart to my country, and my voice so the hills and the valleys will re-echo. So posterity will absolve me of any blame. I am using my power – the media – to sound a warning. May we all love our country as we profess to. And may we appreciate Rev Fr Moore’s admonition. See you soon.