Salone at 50!
A month from now Sierra Leone will be celebrating fifty years of self-rule. Between the period 1808 when Sierra Leone became a Crown Colony and 1960 the eve of our independence, this ancient country was under the white man’s rule, specifically the British.
Some of us read from history that this ancient land of ‘milk and honey’ was first chosen as settlement for freed slaves or the chosen people of William Wilberforce and others. It was a great land endowed with all the natural riches nature deposited on earth – gold, diamonds, rutile, bauxite, iron ore, oil, marine wealth, fertile land for agriculture, etc.
The legacy has remained a landmark for posterity.
In 1827, this land of gold and diamonds got its first university in sub-Sahara Africa and as the ‘Athens of West Africa’ it represented a shining example of emerging nations that were carving a niche in human development. In other words, Africans from all over the continent came to Sierra Leone to receive higher education for the onward advancement of their budding nations. Sierra Leone in large measures, contributed to the progress of other states in Africa.
While their liberation struggles lasted, students from both southern and northern Rhodesia – Zimbabwe and Zambia respectively sought education in Sierra Leone while Nigeria, today’s big brother of West Africa and tiny Gambia benefited from our fountain of knowledge.
Fifty years on, ask yourself, do we stand any better than these countries mentioned above? Many will shake their heads with a vigorous no! Even small Gambia who, until the outbreak of the civil war in 1991, got their university in this country, has progressed faster than poor mother Sierra Leone.
Apparently, Sierra Leone is known for her beautiful coastlines, her fine and sunny beaches, her potential tourism, her cultural heritage, friendly and hospitable people, who remain very resilient and enduring.
Probably there the nice attributes about our country and its people will end. All that one will remember about our country are mostly in the negatives: bad or weak governance systems, slow progress, poverty, injustices, bad attitude, greed, selfishness, etc.
Corruption is the bane of our backwardness as a nation. Corruption has bled this nation, literally incapacitating her, deflating her pride and making her the sick man among nations, always with a cap in hand begging others for her survival.
Corruption has reduced this country to a nation of shameless people, glorified thieves and criminals.
See what happened to the 50th Anniversary Committee. See what they did to funds meant for the celebration. Criminals in Bishops clothes have almost marred what was expected to be a grand affair.
And people have been asking, what are we celebrating, what do we have to show for our first fifty years of independence? Many of us today may not live that long to witness our centenary (one hundred years) celebration of our independence. It would be a blessing, an opportunity to witness this one with memories, sweet memories that will linger for generations to come.
I will attempt to do a prediction here; my prediction may not be a pleasant one. I am not predicting doom, but given the prevailing economic situation in the country triggered by the high cost of living now rocking the peace and tranquility in most homes, many will be celebrating the anniversary in tears: no money, no food, no good or decent clothes to put on; many will go to bed that night on empty stomachs, many homes will experience power outage during the period of celebration with no running water.
This will be Sierra Leone at fifty! No portable water, not many good roads, electricity is erratic, education in a country once regarded the Athens of West Africa is running low, poverty is devastating our youth, while their future remains insecure.
Here in the capital, one thing that will reduce the glamour and excitement around the much anticipated anniversary celebration is the filth that is making our city look like one huge garbage site.
Except the Mayor Herbert George Williams wishes it so, residents of the city would surely not think of celebrating their country’s 50th birthday in filth and squalor. And we expect to receive visitors to witness this historic moment and we also expect the anniversary celebrations to form part of the re-branding efforts geared towards promoting our culture and tourism for the good of mama Slone.
But is that a picture we are going to present to our visitors – a dirty city, of lazy people who care less about their environment? Surely not!
I heard the mayor saying the cleaning will be a frequent exercise up to the eve of the anniversary. I don’t think I heard him correctly. Does he mean the cleaning of Freetown will be a weekly affair? He must be joking.
It has taken City Council almost a week to clear the rubbish accumulated from last Saturday’s cleaning exercise. One should advise the mayor to finish clearing the pile of garbage strewn across the city before thinking of undertaking another exercise.
Indeed, many residents have argued that the so-called cleaning of the city almost always ends up making the city much filthier than before. So why not leave us alone and stop embarrassing us, Mr. Mayor?
As a matter of fact, council does not have the capacity to clean the city. Lack of equipment and other logistics has always hampered the cleaning which only helps to cause more trouble for motorists and pedestrians alike.
Whatever the mayor does to keep the city clean, let him ensure that we do not see our city filthy at fifty years! This is our plea, Sir.
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