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What it takes to be a patriotic Sierra Leonean

What it takes to be a patriotic Sierra Leonean

George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics, once said “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.”

It simply means showing unconditional love for your country, and putting your country first or above personal interest. It means making sacrifices for your country, and being prepared and willing to defend your country at anytime and at all costs. It means showing loyalty and commitment to your country.  We must emphasize that we are all Sierra Leoneans first and foremost, and that is why we all travel with a Sierra Leonean Passport? Is there anyone in this room who has ever traveled out of this country with a Mende, Temne, Limba, Susu, Madingo, Kono, and Creole, APC or SLPP or PMDC or UDM passport?  Please show by raising your right hand.

At this point, I want to propose that we reinstate the National Pledge which is universal to all Sierra Leoneans. I would ask with your permission Mr. Chairman, Cabinet Ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen  that we all stand and please repeat the National pledge after me.

SIERRA LEONE NATIONAL PLEDGE

I pledge my love and loyalty to my country Sierra Leone;
I vow to serve her faithfully at all times;
I promise to defend her honour and good name
Always work for her unity peace, freedom and prosperity
And put her interest above all else
So help me God 

A negative view of your ethnicity and your culture undermines the importance of being a patriotic Sierra Leonean. Let us all remember that we stand committed to our national flag, our national anthem which is our symbol of our national identity and often considered sacred. A patriotic Sierra Leonean should be ready, willing and prepared to die for his or her country.

The only way one can achieve that is when we change our attitude, change our mindset, start thinking outside our personal interests, start thinking outside the box, start thinking out of our political agenda and help make Mama Salone a better place for our children and grandchildren.  If we don’t change, change will change us. If we are not prepared to follow the wind of change, the wind will blow us down. Let us all leave a legacy that other countries around the world would emulate.   This country needs patriotic citizens and not lawless leaders.  Does one have to be a soldier, a wealthy man or woman or an elected official to be a patriot to his or her country? The answer is simply NO.  Each of us in this room can be patriotic if we change the way we think. If we stop saying that this is none of my business. If we stop thinking that only the government should fix the roads; if we stop thinking that only the government should clean the gutters and clean the streets. If we accept the fact that we must all pay our taxes and contribute either in cash or in kind towards the development of the country’s program, and be very proactive in what we are doing, I am absolutely sure this country would regain its lost glories, and redeem its name as the ATHENS OF WEST AFRICA. I believe we can do it. YES WE CAN!

I implore all of us this evening to pledge our loyalty not just too any particular leader, or group, or cabal or camp but to our nation, to our country, to our land.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen please allow me to talk a little bit about attitude, behaviour, change, patriotism, AND political tolerance

 (1) What does patriotism mean to you?

(2) Has your idea or attitude of patriotism changed since 2002? If anything, one would have hoped that after the gruesome AND senseless war this nation went through, we should value PEACE, TRANQUILITY, and CIVILITY in our discourse no matter what different points of view or associations.  Peace is free war costs, and there are times when war can cost the lives of thousands of human beings and millions of property.  I am absolutely sure we do not want to go through that path any more.

Change your attitude and you can change your life.  John Lily once said that “Our only security is our ability to change”.  We must change positively, and always show a positive attitude because it is not only the right thing to do, it is healthy.   Negative attitude is unhealthy and often leads to stress, high blood pressure, and other psychological and mental illnesses.  Instead of always blaming the Government for this problem or that problem, ask yourself “how can I help government to solve this problem or that problem?   Your attitude colors every aspect of your life.  It is like the mind’s paint brush.  Remember positive attitude is the power that drives you to success. A positive attitude leads to happiness and success and can change your whole life.

To the police, perform your duties professionally and strive to manifest integrity that will give the force public trust and respectability.   Remember that you are the first criminal justice agency with which citizens get into contact, and in turn form opinions about the whole justice system.  Your oath to serve and protect life and property must be paramount in everything you do. 

To you the military, you are responsible for the security of Sierra Leone’s border and defending the national interests of Sierra Leone.  Please stay committed to that cause, to ensure that our shore is safe and peaceful.

Prison officers you are responsible for the security, supervision, training and rehabilitation of people committed to prison by the courts. You should not compromise your uniform or your integrity.  No one should be above the law in this country, whether you are a military officer, a police officer or a prison officer.  Anyone who breaks the law of Sierra Leone should face the consequences.  

To our students, use your time wisely.  School children should be home in the evenings to study and not be watching premier leagues or Nigerian films. Let me hasten to remind you that education is the only instrument that will take you to upward mobility.

To the members of the different political parties, we must remember that we are Sierra Leoneans first, before belonging to political parties, and our different political associations should not make us enemies to one another. I think we all love this country, but share different views in which direction to lead the country.    Remember there are no angels in politics just angles.  Politics is a turn by turn game.  Only those who do not understand how it is played look at it from puritanic sense.  In 2002 the angle in Sierra Leone politics was Ex President Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabba.  Today the political angle in Sierra Leone is His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. You may not like the current President primarily because of your political association, but that does not mean that you cannot support his agenda for change and help make this country a better place to live.  We should accept and respect the basic rights and civil liberties of persons and groups whose viewpoints differ from one’s own. Remember political tolerance is a key principle of democracy. All citizens including political leaders have a responsibility to practice political tolerance.  Political intolerance represents threat to democracy since it discriminates and may even silence certain parts of the population.  A culture of tolerance means engaging in a civil discourse and dynamic exchanges of opinions.  We should not encourage political violence.  Any attempt at political violence violates certain provisions of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and international human rights to which Sierra Leone is a member. 1991 constitution (section 5(4) states “The state shall protect and defend the liberty of the individual, enforce the rule of law and ensure the efficient functioning of government services”

To our youths, I want to encourage you to resist any effort from any politician to perpetrate violence. Do not allow anyone to influence you to hurt your fellow Sierra Leonean just because they have different opinions from yours. 

To my sisters, we buy the ashobi, we do all the cooking and the dancing, but we always fail to exercise our rights.  Make sure you register so that come the day of the election you will be able to cast your vote and vote for the person whom you have absolute faith in.  Vote wisely and vote according to the dictates of your conscience.

As I conclude, I hope that we begin to interact with our fellow country men and women with civility. Let us respect our police officers, and protect government properties. Let us discharge our duties diligently, and endeavor to think of solutions for the good of all, rather than just criticize government. Those of us in positions of trust should conduct ourselves with integrity to earn public trust and respect. 

IF YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A TRUE AND SINCERE PATRIOT —–RAISE YOUR HAND. RAISE YOUR HAND TO THE CALL OF MAMA SALONE.  As Bob Riley puts it, “I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism.” HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Nanette Thomas, Freetown, Sierra Leone

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