To a frequent holiday-maker with a whetted appetite for newsfeed, I found myself switched into an active observation mode the moment we touched down in the land of bliss! You just can’t help but notice the new broadness of the airport, to the extent that, you’re left guessing as to where the terminal bus will eventually dock. That was just too obvious in the past, isn’t it! But wait for the fine tune of airport reception! The airport security staff has suddenly turned professional service-providers, with rehearsed lines of courtesy code utterances as they welcome new arrivals to the land of Sierra Leone. The ‘chalk’ deal on baggage in exchange for small denominations of ‘Forex’ is now a thing of the past. If you so wish, you can walk right out of the airport, ignore the tamed approach of drivers outside cajoling for Taxi Charter, then walk straight down to the main ‘highway’ and join other local commuters heading for the Ferry in Tagrin, where gushing winds of the sea freshens your skin and helps on-lookers pick you out easily from the rest as the new JC!
I honestly can’t point a finger at it, but there’s this unmistakable calmness in peoples’ attitude that tells a story of its own. From the street vendors to the mini-market stalls, there is a significant level of confidence that floats around – a feel of lesser burden of worry, perhaps – that signals a new dawn in the era of business prosperity …. as the regular sales/turnover/mark-up of the day hovers within the expectation range. The accustomed scenario of competitive rush, knock-over tussle to present foodstuffs to potential buyers has reduced drastically. The Ramadan fasting effect could noticeably be a contributing factor, but the totality of the sanguine mood could well be rooted to other broader factors including a tangible growth in the national economic development index, however abysmal that might be!
As we cruised into the capital from Ferry Junction, you begin to blame yourself for spending too much time overseas! God! The local folks are challenging the hills and mountains with mighty mansions! The sheer audacity of building a four-storey house automatically engages a calculative mind about the total cost of construction, stating from the cost of getting the building material up the mountainous landscape in the first place. The bold, brazen, go-for-it zealousness can only be attributed to the new lease-of-life economic confidence that the leadership of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has successfully infused into the business sector. People just have to take him seriously, can’t they! After all, he has proven to a large extent that he is a man of his words. The natural interpretation is that, an Agenda For Prosperity could never have been pronounced by the President if he has not already figured out the visionary dynamics or supportive mechanisms that should make it happen! Perhaps, this is one unavoidable fact that has made the entire opposition visibly jittery with malfunctioning attributes! The collateral fear that surreptitiously remains unspoken by the majority of the opposition is that: When President Koroma finally leaves office, he would have ruled the country in such a tremendously successful manner, the standards will be too high for any opposition to convincingly make a contrasting case in an election campaign! A further stark reanalysis is that, the potential continuity of the ruling APC could see the main opposition playing no part in the making of a national record-breaking developmental history! Understandably, the recent rumors that President Koroma is using the constitutional review as a ploy for a third term are emanating from confused minds needing regular doses of assurances to ‘morphine’ the unsettling possibility that the World Best might go for a third term. But then, who should be held responsible for a self-inflicted disillusionment that originated from nothing but selfless visionary statesmanship!
As I go about my daily observation routine, I realized that the country is entering a new phase of political reality. I had to turn down vehicle offers to avoid driving in the traffic that has refused to go away. You can’t see much, hear much, ‘jam-body’ much, or even engage much in ‘raw’ political discussions as we normally have it in the taxis, busses and Poda-Podas. In fact, the truth is, driving around the center of capital during the day is like being re-colonized by technology. I found healthy freedom in just trekking it out in the length and breadth of the capital, thus avoid the extra responsibility of vehicle care. Yes, back to the new phase of political reality! President Koroma is setting the hurdles of governance up to such a high standard of assessment, the people can no longer be taken for a ride by politicians who talk the talk that builds castles in the air but then fail woefully to walk the walk that constructs the foundation of such a castle. Politicians can only cut a deal with the people if there have result-oriented programs on the offing. The majority of the youth are well updated nowadays with latest regular mobile ‘newsfeed’! Politicians will have to stay close to sincerity when making their campaign case, or they risk being quoted from the rampant fashion of mobile recordings these days! Mobile phones are now the new accountability devise archive!
Largely evaluated through the lenses of EBK’s leadership, you can sense a moderation in the tone of blanket condemnation of government, compared to what people used to do in the past. The speculatively tangible hope created by the pronouncements of the Agenda For Prosperity must have sunk deep into the mood of the people! You now begin to see the cool and cozy attitude of the 80s re-emerging in peoples’ way of life! Even those who condemn do so with some element of caution – pinpointing areas of dissatisfaction! I’ve heard on many occasions people expressing impatience about the Agenda For Prosperity! Those who ‘Ponder Their Thoughts’ keep saying that the change in the Agenda For Change had not been fully realized when there came a jump-skip into the Agenda For Prosperity! I get to hear much of the grumbling while walking under the rain… while struggling in soaked clothes, soaked shoes and fighting to get transportation to return home! Transportation is one area that surely needs fixing! One can import a fleet of vehicles for transportation purposes, but the defying trend of population growth meant to go side-by-side with the proportionate increase in transportation services remains an unavoidable reality!
Then, by mere coincidence, I found myself thrust deep into the circles of disgruntled youths who have an axe to grind with the government. These are all young graduates, well articulate in their presentation aptitude! In fact, one had already stood but lost in the last general elections under the main opposition ticket. Admittedly, they are all equipped with some sort of negatively synchronized views and, unsurprisingly well-versed with current political issues to their finger tips. I am forced to rely on my regular offshoot of internet news material, but crucially, I owe my phenomenal defense-to-attack debate strategy to a key bank of wisdom: Alhaji M. B. Jalloh, the Press Attache of Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia! Maintaining a good relationship with those who know led us to develop the culture of asking questions. The ensuing fireworks, the logical dismantling of allegations, the unraveling of counter-accusations, the punching of holes in defense walls,….. and the total mouthwatering scenario of that intense political discourse should better be left for another day! A Part 2 post, perhaps!
From Freetown with love!