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Ernest Should First Liberate Sierra Leoneans from ‘Mind Prison’

Ernest Should First Liberate Sierra Leoneans from ‘Mind Prison’

In 2011, President Ernest Bai Koroma organized a Conference on Transformation and Development and floated the vision that in 25 years time Sierra Leone would be transformed into  a ‘Middle Income Country’; and in 50 years time, our country still racked by poverty today, highly dependent today for most of its development needs on Chinese, and European/American business partners and aid donors,  will be metamorphosed into a ‘donor nation’ – doling  out development aid to poor countries.   Future Time!!  25 years from 2011 will be 2036.  President Koroma will  be a ‘youthful’ 84 years of age  then –  he will still be much younger than the  late Dr. John Karefa-Smart when he was contesting for the presidency; will be about the same age today of prolific and incisive columnist, former APC cabinet minister, former SLPP cabinet minister, medical doctor who build a hospital in Kenema, ace spin doctor of the SLPP, Dr.  Sama Banya.    In the development he is stimulating  today – in road construction; in development of thermal, hydro and solar electricity; in fiber optic cable landing; in nation-wide Agriculture Business Centers with its unique blend of ‘Socialist’ and ‘Capitalist’ ethos; in Free Health Care system which would significantly increase our population in the next ten years, etc. –  President Koroma is manifesting what  one of our most fiery evangelical clerics, Archbishop Archibald Cole (at an ecumenical Christian service at Miatta Conference Center in January, 2012, to mark the end of a presidential-declared Fast and Prayer Week),  in his sermon called ‘Generational Mentality’Bishop Cole implicitly lauded President Koroma for forging a nation not only for those of us who are adults today, not even for youth and children alone today, but, for generations yet unborn.   But pause!! How many of  the ordinary people, how many of the citizenry even among the crème de la crème of the educated elite who are ministers, directors, senior civil servants, advisers… have a spiritual and intellectual grasp of the President’s vision, and are ready to make necessary sacrifices today to help the President’s vision to become tangible reality tomorrow?  An infinitesimal number, I absolutely can state here.  Why?   Generally, the African Mind is in a TIME PRISON; and except development experts, thinkers, and visionaries like President Koroma appreciate this fundamental reality  of  the African Mind, and evolve a sustained strategy to liberate the African from its  Mind Prison, sustainable and egalitarian development in Africa would continue elude us.  The worst sort of prison for humanity was  NOT the type that  Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in on Robben Island for 27 years; the worst type of prison is the ‘mind prison’ – the ‘prison’  that about 99% of Africans are today imprisoned in.

Liberia’s Genetic Wealth Destroyed by Charles Taylor and Johnson-Sirleaf

I am absolutist in what I write there because…From infancy I have been a voracious reader.  That has fortified me to have, in some cases, an in-depth knowledge of the human situation, or, at least, a smattering knowledge of the human drama from pre-historic times to the present – on all continents.  As regards the African Mind, including continually replenishing my knowledge base,  after university, I lived and worked in Liberia for 12 years; in Nigeria for 5 years; and have lived in Ivory Coast and Ghana for a couple of months…so, I have observed the African Mind, and can put it in perspective.  I can diagnose the chronic problems of the African Mind, and can safely hazard   suggestions of cures.

In Liberia in 1987, I was one of the founders of the Save My Future Conservation Society (SAMFU).  SAMFU gave birth to the mainly cartoon development/environment magazine ‘GREENLOVE’.    This magazine was sponsored by some of the biggest private and public ‘green’ bodies in Europe/America – the World Wide Fund for Nature-International, the German Forestry Mission to Liberia, etc.  It was focussed mainly on one of the most exciting ‘discoveries’ of the enlightened global ‘green elite’  – Liberia’s tropical rainforests.  In the late 1980s, pre-eminent environmentalists, Norman Myers, stamped Liberia as one of the ‘top ten biological hot spots  in the world’.  Whereas a neighbouring country like Sierra Leone had lost over 90% of its virgin tropical rainforest by the late 1980s, Liberia still had about 50% of its tropical rainforests intact.   About 60 percent of plants and animals can be found only in such tropical rainforests.  The multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry extracts about 70% of its ‘raw materials’ from plants found in such tropical rainforests around the world.  Hence, the 1989 first edition of the GREENLOVE magazine I was Editor for has its cover story dubbing Liberia ‘One of the Richest….’ countries in the world!!!

During Liberia’s about 13 years of civil war, Charles Taylor wantonly chopped down these forests to extract logs which he exported for cheap to Europe  – to buy guns and bullets; to buy perfumes and silk dresses and luxury cars  for his many young female lovers.  I have been shocked to learn that the government of President Eilen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia is perpetuating this ruthless destruction of the invaluable tropical rainforests of Liberia – through reckless commercial logging – in the quest of ‘development’.   To me, this is what is happening in Liberia:  A man has vast fruit farms, and dozens of fruit processing factories; then, for some perplexing reason, the man sets fire to all of his wealth, and proceed to build a few zinc shacks to sell a few imported matches, cigarettes, candles, etc.   Gross stupidity or  madness?!!?  President Johnson-Sirleaf was educated at one of the most prestigious and qualitative universities in the world, Harvard; and, most of those who head diverse institutions in Liberia today are of her ilk –graduates of elite Ivy League universities in the US: Princeton, MIT, Yale, UCLA, Boston, etc. ….Yet…..

Nigeria has not reached the stage of the start of the Industrial Revolution in Britain

I fled Liberia in May of 1990, before Charles Taylor’s Gio-Mano tribe rebel troops   advancing on the capital city of Monrovia against President Samuel Kanyan Doe’s Krahn army got really nasty and nightmarishly brutish.  In Nigeria in September of 1990, I became Deputy Director of the African Center for Science and Development Information (ACSDI), on 7 Tapa Street, Ijeshatedo, in Surulere, Lagos city.  The Founder/Executve Director of ACSDI was Oluwasuen Ogunseitan.  As Science Editor in one of Nigeria’s most prestigious newspapers, The Guardian, O’Seun had won nation-wide fame in the late 1980s for his investigative journalism that led to the unearthing of the dumping of toxic wastes on an island off Lagos city called ‘Koko’.  Almost as soon as I joined O’Seun, he won a contract from the famous dollar-billionaire, late Bashuroon M.K.O. Abiola, to develop the African Science Monitor magazine.  The lead story of the first edition of the magazine which debut in 1991 was on the speculative effect (ominous, and/or positive)  on Africa  -based on empirical data – of the then still budding global genetic engineering .  It was euphoric time of hope for Africa, as the dollar billionaire Abiola stood ready to finance a surge in science  promotion for all of Africa, starting in Nigeria.  I was the anchor of the second edition of the magazine, which was on the state of science education in Nigeria.

I was chilled to the bones  by the content of the information reporters flooded my desk with from all over the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  During the oil boom era in Nigeria of the 1970s, the best science equipment, and materials, in the world had been bought, and stationed in all their universities.  There was enough money to train Nigerians in science in the best universities in the world.  By the 1990s, all that had become decrepit.  Worse, most of the best brains in science had fled the country for Europe/America.  The few largely elderly scientists who chose to stay in Nigeria lived a pathetic life of middle class poverty – barely able to afford to drive a single car.   Nearly all of them could not afford global scientific abstracts, which should keep them up-to-date on what their scientific peers around the world were doing.  Most the wealth of Nigeria in the oil boom era had been squandered in an orgy of ostentation by the elites – importing fine wines and very expensive clothes and luxury cars; and indulging in wasteful parties where even beggars would not finish the leftovers.  Sure, in cities like Abuja and Lagos today, there are oasis of opulence and ‘scientific and technological progress’.   Compared to Freetown and Monrovia, these narrow patches of wealth in Nigeria are a hundred years ahead of West Africa.  But, in terms of real technological progress, Nigeria has still not reached that technological stage, that organization, that technological mindset of the United Kingdom at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom some three hundred years ago.  Nigeria’s relative stage of scientific and technological backwardness is more shameful when Nigeria is compared with countries like Singapore and South Korea.

About sixty years ago, the city situation, the level of modern education of Singapore and South Korea was almost at the same level as Nigeria.  Today, the GNP per capita of these Asiatic countries is an average of $20,000 – that of Nigeria is $500.   In terms of technology, companies of Singapore and South Korea are able to compete with the top corporate companies in Europe and America – in the manufacturing of cars, mobile phones, space equipment, pharmaceutical products, etc.  So, what happened to Nigeria?

Nigerians, like Sierra Leoneans, and nearly all Africans, are in a Mind Prison.  How do Africans escape from this mind prison?  I would dwell on this in other articles.  We in Sierra Leone have  in President Ernest Bai Koroma one of the most marketable, most sincere, hardest working national leaders in human history.  It is once in a lifetime opportunity.  I am optimistic that he would lend profundity, and stimulate action, on such ideas here which I share with the public – and become a liberator of Sierra Leoneans from their Mind Prison.  Or, else…his dreams of a rapidly progressive Sierra Leonean will be just a mirage.  Evanescent!

by Osmond Hanciles

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