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Random Musing – Lessons from the billowing ashes

Random Musing – Lessons from the billowing ashes

As the ember of the flames from the land of the British; from where we sucked the milk of hypocrisy, fades into ashes, it is imperative that we learn lessons especially at this period in time when the last shafts of twilights to herald the next poll in our beloved Sierra Leone are becoming more and more visible.   (Photo: youths in Kono)

From every indication and all over the world, the devil appears too busy blind-folding leaders that he has no time finding work for idle hands and has privatised that work to our societies, governments and politicians who are indeed making a very good job of it.

So through benign neglect, Sierra Leonean youths have become and remain something unknown, volatile and vaguely threatening. Coupled with the necklace of poverty already round their necks, the underlying current of disillusion among these youths is indeed palpable.

The government can continue to promote a future that fails to materialise but as the days go by and there are no answers for the begging questions of the hungry and malnourished, suffering thousands of young men and women roaming our streets, how long shall we continue to paint the picture of a troubled past as the excuse for a stagnation that is being cosmetically engineered as progress?

I know critics and apologists are going to squeal like people with constipation as they read this. But sincerely speaking there’s no point deceiving ourselves or continuing to pretend that everything is honky dory and what happened in the United Kingdom could never occur in Sierra Leone. Ours would be bloodier, if we allow it to happen.

But sincerely speaking, the issue of our youths has been long in production, lofty in conception but with no real conviction in execution. This time-bomb has been held back from the fast lane by hope till now; but for how long more? While it is not a race for the swift, it is a swift race that demands speed.

Tension is always there in the eyes of these abandoned youths; used and dumped by politicians. Their voices echo the pain in their hearts and unless something is done we risk the pack mentality breaking out over trivial issues; especially in the run up to the forth coming polls.

In the light of this, we should avoid heating the polity by crass utterances that inflame tribal and social divisions which blatantly plague our nation but which we often choose to deliberately ignore or fan, as it suits our political goal.

The youths we refer to as ‘Djamba smoking thugs’ or ‘ne’er-do-wells’, are a product of our creation. Labelling them is simply taking away the last dreg of their dignity and replacing it with ammunition against the very society that has abandoned them and driven them to find succour in the bosom of hopelessness.

They are also the segment that has been patronised with empty rhetoric in the last four years only to watch the rich and the highly connected riding the gravy train while they get drenched in the urine of poverty from the genitals of those in the corridors of power.

The assumption that one person can be demonised for whatever these youths unleash will prove too late for us to look for answers and we may be consumed. So let’s face the real world. We created the lost generation which has lost faith in seeing salvation from those in power and will cling to any thing or person that point towards redemption.

Our careless disregard for the rumble in the jungle of 1991 is still a scar on the left side of our face. We do not need to self destruct. We need to do something more concrete and endearing, not divisive.

Heating the polity by threats of digging up dirt and the ghosts of the past; or whipping up emotional blackmail in an already charged atmosphere is simply creating a tsunami that may consume us in the process of its rage. Recent political clashes are a pointer to what lies in store.

Too many innocent people have suffered and are afflicted for life because of our past political recklessness, utterances and ethnic stimulation. As a result, today, our youths and the poor, weep in terror at their plight. Let us not add to their woes and that of our society.

As the cities of the UK smouldered, my mind raced back to my article: EBK: DARE TO BE DIFFERENT? (25/2/2008) in which I wrote in part:

The Dilemma of Youths: One of the most saddening, shameful but also painful thing in Sierra Leone today, is to see the army of youths parading the streets of our major cities, especially Freetown. Some of them have lost hope and confidence in themselves as a result of the frustration, discrimination and abyss that envelope them, courtesy of our leaders. Generations of forgotten children who have been incubated in sub-human conditions in densely populated communities and slums have now come of age. Years of dehumanising existence have shaped minds and conditioned them.

We all know that the youths are the live wire of any society. The virile age bracket of 18-50 especially, is the centre on which the present and future of this nation is anchored. If a man with a vision rules Sierra Leone, there will be full and gainful employment for at least this group of citizens. They are the desired manpower. A good leader of any nation should be a leader that knows how to exploit and tap the strength of its youths to enrich the nation and at the same time, make its youths fulfilled. Unless Koroma takes how to utilise the human resources at his disposal as a first priority, the country will lack a tomorrow. It is for the tomorrow of the youths, that those who shed blood and limbs gave their yesterday and today.

Going by the widening gap between the poor and the rich in Sierra Leone and the growing awareness by the large army of impoverished and disadvantaged young men and women, our beloved country could witness a revolution against the rich and super rich. Sounds and flashes of this are being heard and seen from the distance, like the signs of a heavy downpour. It is the widespread social unrest characterised by the rising crime wave. It is the party youths refusing to be short-changed, used and dumped by politicians. It is the mistrust and distrust of anything remotely connected with power. It is our youths crying out for justice and change through their music, actions, words and deeds.

Three years later (3/7/10) in: A COBWEB: Our Youths, Our Dilemma, Our Future, comes the following extract:

“……..Tragically, today, still strewn across the landscape of Sierra Leone, are the ashes of the nation’s innocence – the same youths. They are lost in a fetid pool of dismay, disillusion and myth. Their future lost in the morass of politics and graft. It is becoming harder for them to see the wood from the trees.

Yet, as we hawk the nation’s economic and social heritage around the global bazaars like a sullen slave, our youths see the exaggerated emotional allegiance to their plight while greedy investors are shielded and shown the highway to heaven.

The government might refuse to appreciate the devastating all-round consequences of the dilemma of our youths and it might continue to use statistics and platitudes in an attempt to get us to disbelieve the evidence of our own eyes; but stark analysis shatters any notion being bandied about.

Yes, it didn’t create the problem. Yes, it’s not this government’s fault. Yes, most of the young men and women just want an easy life. Yes, the youths are not ingenious. Yes, there are many excuses for the sorry state of affairs. Yes. Yes. Yes, Yes ……………to a lot of things.

But if people are going to be beaming with smiles and ready to take the accolades when it finally goes right, they should appreciate that the buck also stops at their desks when things are not moving in the right direction or are not what they should be.

What has the government done since assumption of office to remedy the situation which it acknowledged and recognised at its inception? What strategy has it put in place to even ensure that the long, much-touted Youth Commission, when it finally leaves the realm of the imagination, will be able to apply a soothing balm to the epicentre of the festering sore?

How far have our leaders gone to implement, for example, the 2004 continental Ouagadougou Plan of Action for young people? What multi-sectoral approach is in place? How is the government planning to ensure that the flood of dreams of these youths is being properly channelled and consolidated for the desired societal rejuvenation?

Because the issue, is like the bull in a china shop. It’s not the despair that’s killing these youths. It’s the forlorn hope. It’s the lack of enabling environment for those of them who are willing, to thrive. It is the lack of leadership. It is the disparaging neglect. It is their exploitation. It is their neglect after being tools in the hands of those in whom they have placed their trust and confidence. It is the steady destruction of their dreams.

What you see, are brutally bleak and depressing pictures of lives half-lived and utterly bereft of hope as well as raggedly-arsed, pasty-faced kids reared on a diet of palm oil and rice and yet we wonder why the youths now develop behavioural problems. We wonder why they fail at school; suffer mental issues; turn to drinks, drugs and crime as well as perpetuate AIDS.

Is it any wonder then that graduates of our schools and universities are the chief political thugs, con artists and fake merchants?

How can we seriously progress as a nation or think that peace will reign forever when millions of unemployed youths watch as mindless leaders gorge on scarce resources, oil an uncaring system and further enhance their deepening frustration by preaching the sermon of austerity from the throne of opulence.

We are yet halfway into another year and if left as we are, will end up repeating the mistakes of the past and continue with the indiscretion of past administrations’ whose neglect of this vital organ brought us to where we are now.

Unless the government takes urgent, concrete and practical steps to deal with the issue of those who have passed school age and whose lives have been blighted by our senseless war and greed as well as those churned out yearly into the labour market without corresponding opportunities our new ‘smooth’ roads that is taking all our attention will become highways to hell.

If we don’t deal with those who have watched life pass them by through no faults of theirs, our designer homes will become fortresses. Our streets littered with checkpoints and our lives a misery.

Mentally, this neglected segment of our nation see society as indebted to them and since it won’t pay back by improving their lot and giving them comfort, their only orientation is to grab and loot by force if necessary.

When they join the police, rather than serve, they oppress and extort. When they join the ministries they pollute them by creating obstacles to diligence. When they join the financial sector, they risk your future and when they go into politics……… God help us all.

The half-baked graduates of our institutions realise their inadequacies and take their pound of flesh while also becoming a clog in the wheel of progress resulting in our search for foreigners for our salvation.

Those who see themselves as sidelined from mainstream society become resentful and ‘saboteurs’ with a ‘them’ versus ‘us’ mentality and even overseas educated Sierra Leoneans are seen as usurpers.

The government can continue to trumpet roads, Bumbuna etc but the millions of youths caught in subservient existence are not impressed. They want food. They want cheaper cost of living. They need help to ‘free’ their minds and souls. They want to leave the status of second class citizens. They want to stop being sex slaves and drug couriers, cultists and thugs.

If all their lands are given to foreigners and political jobbers, no amount of money pumped into agriculture without them will engineer the kind of agrarian society of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s nor will it attract them back to the soil.

If the vital ethos is missing from those at the top, forget the Sermon on the Mount as they can discern reality even if they have no voice for their feelings. Give them their dignity back and watch them flourish. Help shape their belief in the possibility of improving their lives and see the transformation.

The so called growth performance has not met the self-actualisation aspirations of the youths and it is an explosive device. It is a cobweb in our system……” (The second part of the series “Let’s get the cobwebs out please).

Tell me, four years down the line and as we approach the end of the first tenure of this administration, has anything changed?

By: Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

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