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Independence Celebration: Soft or Hard Patriotism?

Independence Celebration: Soft or Hard Patriotism?

Relative to the radio discussion held by the committee set up to oversee the 50th year Independence celebration 0n 13 January, 2010; I wish to nominate Dr Julius Spencer and his acolytes for an Oscar in sophistry. No rational Sierra Leonean is expecting nor asking to be offered the moon as an independence celebration gift. Our national priorities and social expectations are completely unlike those of Ghana or Nigeria. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes that these countries made. The quantum of money is not the issue but the purpose which it is intended to serve when 4/5th of the population is living in beggary: it is like going to the Kentucky Derby and you cannot tell a cow from a horse.

It is a shame that those who professed to be patriotic because of their unwavering ability to recite the country’s national anthem and pledge with their eyes closed are the very ones who go against its dictates with their eyes widely opened. Not only is it preposterous but utterly simplistic to define patriotism along financial lines. You cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.

Soft patriotism deals with fiduciary matters whereas hard patriotism deals with issues that undermine or threaten the concept of nationhood: selective justice, kleptocracy, poverty, disease, corruption, illiteracy, bad governance, weak rule of law, crime and ethnic politics. I am not in any way against the celebration of the country’s independence. That said, it is better to have a low-key celebration so as to save cost, which could be used to improve our standing on the Human Development Index. $25 million is a huge amount by any standard, so Dr Spencer should cease to make the amount appear as if it is a trivial amount. I hope this is not going to be another celebration for the ‘Pigs’ of Animal Farm to feed their insatiable appetite for French or Italian wine. If the drinking of alcohol is bad for other animals, why should ‘Pigs’ be bibulous?

The uncomfortable truth is that tourists will never gravitate towards this country, no matter the degree of PR, in the absence of structural reforms. We should shift our priority from PR to infrastructural development if we want to seriously compete with traditional tourist destinations like the Gambia, Cape Verde, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Senegal etc. I am not surprised by Dr Spencer’s pronouncements because he has never ceased to amaze me as an ‘actor’ or a political gymnast. Sierra Leone needs that money more than you do: your unenviable pronouncement has only confirmed my suspicion. Arguably, Dr Spencer’s patriotism is tainted by greed. Sierra Leone does not need your brand of patriotism.

Silas Gbandia

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