Another election will take place in three years’ time and Sierra Leone will again be in another frenetic mood. Mammoth crowds adorned in their party colours will take to the streets singing the praises of their candidates who they believe will help solve their problems once they assume office. And they the people are ready to do anything humanely possible to ensure that their candidates get appointments. They will even kill or maim at will. But the people usually turn out to be cruelly disappointed at the end of the day. And this has been the case since independence. Indigenous leadership has not proven better. These politicians once they assume office will neglect the people, leaving them as worse as ever. But during an election period they will hobnob with the people as that is the only time that they think the people are relevant to them.
Without mincing words, the Sierra Leonean politician is an entirely different breed of individual. He seems to have come from another planet that is beyond human ken. He is insensitive, mindless, and selfish. Whenever he yearns for the votes of the people, he will appear humble, gentle and servile. But once he assumes office, he takes the character of a peacock, so pompous, proud, eccentric, boisterous, shortsighted, megalomaniac, as he is now in control of power and influence and financial resources. He now earns a license to privatize public wealth. He cares for no one, not even God himself. That is the instinct of our politicians, I mean the Sierra Leonean politicians, who, to me, have sold their souls to Satan. They are as murderous as Shakespeare’s Macbeth to achieve their political ends.
British writer and journalist, Jeremy Paxman, in his book, ‘The Political Animal’, has this to say: ‘’In much of the popular mind, politicians are all the same. They’re a bunch of egotistical, lying narcissists who sold their souls long ago and would auction their children tomorrow if they thought it would advance their career. They are selfish, manipulative, scheming, venal. The only feelings they care about are their own. They set out to climb the greasy pole so long ago that they had lost contact with reality by the time they were in their twenties. You cannot trust a word any politician says, and if you shake hands with them, you ought to count your fingers afterwards. They are not people you would want your son or daughter to marry.’’
That is the hallmark of the politician. That is the case of the Sierra Leonean politician. In this country, the politician is so manipulative that he capitalizes on the ignorance of the people. He usually plays on their minds for them to see reason why he must not be blamed for not serving them at all. And he often succeeds being manipulative. The cycle gets as vicious as ever each election period. And the story is woefully just the same.
The big question now is, must the people, the notorious victims, who are oblivious of the chicanery and machinations of the politician over the years, be blamed? To me, they must be blamed wholesale for proven always ignorant of electing the wrong persons into office.
Truly, the modern political history of Sierra Leone is fraught with cases of individuals in leadership positions who have woefully failed the people, and whose lives have become so deteriorated. The social statistics are appalling. Yet we keep on making the same mistake each election period of voting the wrong individuals into public offices-those individuals who, to me, are the real enemies of the state. The thing is, we elect them because they are members of the political parties that we support. We elect them because they are members of our ethnic groups and they hail from our regions. Ironically, we collude with them in a way to exploit us; we know for sure that they lack the capacity to deliver. And a man who cannot deliver in any way is as useless as he is irrelevant. Yet we vote that same man into office. That is the saddest part of our politics.
What these individuals have also succeeded in doing is to create regional and ethnic divisions among the people of Sierra Leone. This is evident especially during election periods. In order to achieve their selfish goals, they keep on appealing to the ethnic sensibilities of their people, who, as ignorant as the majority of them are, fall in for this. As a cosmopolitan person, it troubles me in no small a measure whenever I see blatant displays of negative ethnicity during elections. The guy next door, who I once considered as a good neighbour, and who hails from another part of the country, will, in a subtle manner, demonstrate to you that you are not one of them, or both of you do not hail from the same region. All this is part of the diabolical machinations of the politician.
Post-independent politics has clear evidences of bad leadership. We see a crop of ‘’misleaders’’ who think that Sierra Leone is their patrimony, siphoning all that belong to the people. We see those, who, under the guise of democracy, blatantly violate the rule of law and good governance. They scoff state finances at will without recourse to accountability. They steal with impunity as they are not answerable to anyone. State institutions that are there to hold them to account are no better. Yet we celebrate them. We celebrate them because they are members of our ethnic groups and political parties. We celebrate them because they hail from our regions. We celebrate them even though we do not benefit from them in any meaningful way. We even help to protect their ill-gotten wealth even though we the masses are ‘the wretched of the earth’!
So the idea of bringing our ‘leaders’ to account is a far cry. That is why this hydra-headed monster called corruption continues to be alive and well in this country. That is why we have poor healthcare system. That is why we are still contending with food insecurity. That is why our roads are as deplorable as our hearts and minds are depraved. That is why income disparity is alarming. That is why we have hyenas in public offices. That is why life expectancy of Sierra Leoneans is at a very low ebb. That is why we have poor and insufficient public transport facilities. That is why our educational system is failing. That is why we are contending with the mass exodus of our young men and women to foreign lands because Sierra Leone is no better. That is why protestations, demonstrations, contestations and strifes are omnipresent and are a daily diet. That is why there is no justice for the masses. That was why the rebel war emerged. The list goes on and on with no solutions in sight soon. Yet we continue to gyrate to the lullaby of the rogue politicians. We are the architects of our own downfall, and I do not see any substantial level of consciousness on the part of the people to exert any meaningful change in this country. We all seem paralyzed by the diabolical schemes of our politicians.
Until we the people themselves get up from our big sleep and see how determined that we are to rid ourselves of the bad politicians in our midst, Sierra Leone will continue to totter under the weight of poverty, deprivation, shame, and backwardness.
Alpheus Rogers teaches journalism and media studies at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology at Hill Station in Freetown. +23288436967