The dirty dust might be settling down on the social welfare ministerial tsunami which gave an already subdued nation; however the reshuffle it perhaps generated is still being talked about all over the place. It is not so much the extensiveness of the move, but certain reappointments albeit in other positions are being queried by some sections of the populace. The logic used is that if people are sacked for incompetence, can they be reappointed never mind the position?
In this country we have had a long history of incompetence demonstrated by public officials and yet remain in office unscathed till thy kingdom come. In the few cases where they are sacked, they lie low for some time only to be reappointed into positions of the same level as previously or even sometimes better.
As we struggle to clean our constitution, I really hope the appointments for non-statutory positions be curtailed to the minimum or actually prescribed. Over the years we have seen a bevy of spent forces appointed to work around the presidency whose impact on the running of state affairs has hardly been felt except of course the huge sums of money they are alleged to have tampered with.
Do we ever learn? I am sure we really do not learn any lessons at all. Most times if we are not repeating former blunders, we are making spectacularly new ones. It is very difficult to pin point what really is working in our country despite the huge efforts, many well-meaning Sierra Leoneans continue making, remain poor, die and get forgotten. The recent presidential nominees as usual will all pass Parliament’s vetting. Why should you doubt it? It is not really characteristic of our parliament to reject nominations from the presidency never mind the presence of opposition MPs. I think there had been only once since democracy struggled back to Sierra Leone. I think it was Late President Kabbah’s nominee Mr. Shekie Bangura who failed Parliament’s scrutiny and was dropped. Pa Kabbah had to nominate someone else.
When President Obama said if you have been doing something for 50 years it did not work, it’s time to change, perhaps he actually had Sierra Leone in mind. Just go back to the independence speeches in 1961. Most of the things that were challenges, like health care, are still with us today after over fifty years. To be very sincere, our curse as a nation is that we are stuck with two almost equally weighted political parties that have ran out of all ideas to bail this country out of depravity, poverty and squalor. Somehow we can only expect mediocre performance. Check any project for our zillion years’ existence if the cost benefit comes out positive. It is not really the number of projects a government can do but their effectiveness in positively impacting on the lives of the people.
The one and singular near exception to our negative rule is to some extent the efforts made by the current government in getting city and district headquarter town streets and highways to be tarmac. A lot of work is also on for electricity and water. Having said this, we need to check the quality of work and the costs involved. Generally every kilometer of road completed costs some $40,000. This is quite a huge sum of money by our standard. So, proper monitoring mechanisms should be put in place to avoid wastage. I was in Kenema when the main road was tarmac in 2005 or so. I lot of Civil Society activists cried foul that the road was poorly done. Authorities at the time never bothered. The township hollered and hollered to the Kamboi Hill to for at least the second coating of the tar. This never happened and we were told the contractor had run away Sierra Leone style.
A recent development is the way our Parliament is conducting its affairs. For a long time the consultative aspect of their work has been completely disregarded as evidenced by the recent decision to increase the cost of our passport from Le100, 000 to Le500, 000. Indeed our parliament looks like graduating into the level of Sacred Cows. Yes the preponderance of actions irrespective of people’s contrary views is definitely symptoms of this. Another rather recent development is the palavers among state actors who are supposed to be working steadfastly to provide the needed services for a people whose rights continue to be trampled on. A spectacular one had been that between the ministry of sports and the Football governing body SLFA. There was the other between the ministry of Youth and the youth Commission.
Also the celebrated Social Welfare Ministry is yet to resolve their impasse with the Sierra Leone Union on Disability issues (SLUDI). To complicate matters, daggers were also drawn by them against their Commission on Disability. So with all these and more, can we honestly say that we are making progress? So much time is lost on petty squabbles here and there and action on them is not taken on time; even when taken you do not see the punitive element.
When will our Governments in Africa stop being the Club for the Big Boys and Girls? I almost forgot this one. Indeed Makeni has every reason to be a happy city. They have 24-hour electricity and the city roads are tarmac. You can say this again. However passing through, I noticed a small technical error on the roads. As evidenced in Freetown normally the roads are done in such a way that taxi doors can open with ease to let dropping off passengers can step on the slab at the sidewalks. In the Makeni situation, this is not so. Are we saying that we do not expect taxis to return to our cities again? Well somebody should check on this so that cars can have passengers dropping off on the off side of the roads.
When President Koroma came to power, he proudly said that his government will not encourage sacred cows. However today, the story is different. There have been people whose performance and popularity have remained on low ebb but are kept tightly in their positions until the social welfare Ministry showdown. Can we just say other little tsunamis are fermenting?
Most of all this can be avoided if our duty bearers take social accountability seriously which can reduce inequality by providing new spaces for vulnerable and marginalized populations to participate in governance systems. Remember as Dr. Paul Farmer once said: “the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all the problems in the world’.