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The Audacity of Prosperity.

The Audacity of Prosperity.

When President Barack Obama declared his intention to become the most powerful man on the planet, it was laced with the audacity of “hope” and only “hope”. Only the minority took him seriously then, and the rest is history. You will therefore be forgiven if you think that President Ernest Koroma’s  (EBK) “Agenda for Prosperity” was some phantom figmentation that you could only associate with Disneyland. Having closed a deal in the region of $ 8.5bn with his Chinese counterparts, EBK proudly launched his “Agenda for Prosperity” with all the pomp and pageantry befitting a royal birth. But amidst the fanfare and feel good factor, the good news was rudely interrupted by the bombshell that Sierra Leone ranked as “one of the most corrupt countries on the face of the planet. Or better still, Transparency International portrayed the respondents that took part in “their survey” as the “most honest” to admit giving bribes.  (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)

Juxtaposed between the good and bad news, was the NRAgate which continues to pose a risk to the country’s economic life support machine. We know that all institutions are prone to corruption and to the vices of their members, and I don’t believe in coincidences. But given that the gut wrenching corruption scandal that emerged was enough to bury such good news has left me thinking whether it was God’s way of telling EBK that “corruption is your Achilles heel for your Agenda for Prosperity”. Prosperity is a subjective term, hence its ambiguity. For some people, prosperity is the ability to put food on the table while for others; it is the next 4×4 Lexus for the third concubine.

Like wealth or happiness, it can be difficult to gauge or quantify a people’s level of prosperity. The list can be endless but suffice it to say that among others, a good and purposeful educational system, good infrastructure, improved health and life expectancy, high employment rate, good communication networks, and a high standard of living, marinated with peace and good governance could be used as yardsticks. Apart from the educational system which remains suspect, you cannot but acknowledge the strides that this government has made along these lines. Under the “Agenda for Change” the government has laid the foundations for “Agenda for Prosperity; courtesy of road building, electricity, increased food production and healthcare systems, etc.

However, we would be burying our heads in the sand if we are dismissive, wholesale of the findings of Transparency International (TI); courtesy of the misguided notion that by doing so, we are proclaiming our patriotism. It is easy to point fingers at the BBC and other media sources for the perceived error by TI; as some would have you believe that the report is mere desktop information.  Some political commentators, wanting to be as popular as the midday sun have done their best to discredit the report. But are we actually acknowledging that corruption is nature’s way of restoring our faith in democracy? All intellectual tendencies are corrupted when they consort with power (C. James) Are these so called “patriots” really telling us that our country is not corrupt? Well here is the good news: Hell is freezing.

Can anyone tell me why upon becoming the new tenant at State House, one of the first creations of the President was the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC)? It goes without saying that with his “Agenda for Change” and “Agenda for Prosperity” in mind, the President had already diagnosed the ailments of this country.  Even from the embryonic stage of his tenure of office, the he must have known that corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance.  By setting up the ACC, EBK wants to rid the country of corruption and return our economic environment. Instead of wasting valuable airtime and endless reams of paper to deny the obvious, well meaning citizens should be asking:  “What can we do about it?

The survey was never a direct attack on the government in the first place; and so you would wonder why the long face? Whether the survey was scientific or research based should be the least of our worries. Let us leave the science bit to Einstein and the 14 others. The undeniable fact is that, corruption is rife; although the level or percentage is subject to individual perception and experienceIf ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen! (Samuel Adams)

When the President launched his “Agenda for Prosperity” skeptics and many of his detractors may have questioned his confidence for embarking on such bold and audacious ventures. That audacity must have been borne out of his confidence in the country and its people. To say that Sierra Leone is one of the most richly blessed countries is like telling the Bishop that the Pope is catholic. Rumour has it that our country is awash with thirty seven different minerals. If the above is true, (remember it’s a rumour… .enn hen) and with a population of 6 million, there can be no reason why we should not share the President’s optimism about our prosperity?

 A decade ago, Freetown was a symbol of “failure and despair” .Sierra Leone itself was described as being “of no great importance” because the country’s only relevance to the world was the sympathy needed for its people. In May 2000, the respected weekly magazine The Economist published a provocative lead article describing Africa as “the hopeless continent”.  Ten years later, the cover page for the December 2011 edition labelled Africa “The Hopeful Continent”. And they had statistics to back it up. Over the past decade, it was noted, “six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing countries were African”. Africa’s economy is growing at a rapid rate despite the global economic downturn that is adversely affecting some of the continent’s major trading partners, especially those in the euro zone. (Culled from The Star, July 24, 2013). Someone once said that “life is like photography; we develop from negatives”. Is that what the President knew, when he declared his “Agenda for Prosperity”?

Come with me on a short journey here. The President is conscious of our God given good relationship with the equator. Dr. Ernest decides to harness such close ties for solar energy. So he embarks on a nationwide venture to provide street lights; not for the privileged, the rich or the greedy, but “FOR ALL”. What happens next? We are now hearing that the first solar eclipse   took place in some ministerial or royal compounds.  In Pythagoras theorem, corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency. We are talking about MPs and well known dignitaries whom we expect to set the standards. If that is not corruption, then I am a Jew.

In any country, corruption tends to increase when more respectable means of social advancement break down. It is an open secret that after decades of “one party democracy” (contradiction in terms), our political system is still metamorphosing into an embryonically mature stage.  As a nation we should see corruption as a mortal enemy for our young democracy. For collective security and surety, both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective: “War against corruption” “war” might not be the most appropriate to use here, but hey. I read about a guy who, on the 28th August, 1963 lead a March into Washington and told the world, “I have a dream”. The rest is history.

Don’t forget to dream before you wake up.

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