By KABS KANU :
There would have been plenty to celebrate as Sierra Leone marks 56 years of Independence and nationhood tomorrow if calamity had not befallen our nation two years ago.
Sierra Leone was making tremendous strides towards sustainable economic transformation and she had the second fastest growing economy in the world , but her efforts were derailed by the devastating Ebola outbreak and the dramatic drop in the prices of our minerals in the international commodity market. No doubt, with the effects of the economic slowdown being felt by one and all in the country , the mood in many quarters is bound to be despondent . This is quite understandable.
However, all is not lost. As a resilient nation , we cannot give up hope. We can still build upon the post-Ebola socio-economic and political foundations laid by the President Ernest Koroma Government to steer our country back to the paths of rapid national development. The IMF has projected that the economy will expand by 6 percent in real terms in 2017. We must remain hopeful that the plan by the government to enhance domestic revenue and increase public investment will bear dividends. At least, the IMF commended us that “Sierra Leone’s economic reforms over the last three years have been largely successful. ”
As we celebrate 56 years of nationhood, let us be proud that despite our economic situation, some very impressive infrastructural developments and socio-political and economic reforms have been undertaken by the Ernest Koroma Government, which, in the long run, will serve to spur our economic and social recovery and development. The Government is gradually changing the face of our nation and today we are far better off than we were about nine or ten years ago when our infrastructure was in ruins, thanks to the war , and basic amenities like light and pipe-borne water were non-existent.
Though there are too many divisions in the country, manifested through tribal and regional political rivalries, intra-party conflicts and infighting, we must be proud that the centre continues to hold and we are enjoying tremendous peace and security.
Democracy is working; Civil society, Women’s and children’s groups are very active; the media is free and ponderous and we are heading towards what could be another free and fair elections, the modalities having been put in place for transparent elections in 2018.
Many are calling for change but they must know that change begins with ourselves . There will be no meaningful change in Sierra Leone if the people do not change their mindsets. We must respect and obey the Rule of Law. We must perform our simple civic duties, like keeping our surroundings clean. When we throw garbage in the gutters and clog them with filth , thereby causing flooding and congestion of trash in the city whenever it rains , how can we expect the change we are advocating in the country to come ?
We must change our mindset towards service to the nation. Government appointment is not an invitation to engage in mindless plunder and squandermania. It is an invitation to hard work and selfless service. When President Koroma appoints any one to a position, he must put service first.
Some of our youths must change their conduct and renounce violence and their unruly, ruffian and uncouth ways . If leadership has to pass into their hands, they must begin showing signs that they will take good care of it when they get it . They must show signs that they will be good stewards of leadership .
We must be patriotic and nationalistic. We must love our country. The information and images we share at times on social media, designed to smear our country and put us in the bad books of international monitoring institutions , stakeholders and the international community at large , do not depict patriotism.
The general mood is one of despondency , but we must look to the future with hope.
We must all bring change to our nation by having all hands on deck. One man cannot build a nation. President Koroma is doing a magnificent job but he alone cannot develop the country. He needs our support and assistance. Great nations are built through the collective efforts of their citizens. One man cannot make a farm. There must be cultivators who brush the farm .There must be tillers of the land. There must be planters and when the crops grow there must be helpers to drive away the birds and other creatures who prey on the crops. When everybody had played their respective roles well, then everybody can then take part in the sumptuous harvest.
Our mindsets should change towards what we consider productive work . Government cannot employ everybody. White-collar jobs are not available for everybody . Our worth is not defined by jobs that transform us into “Mr. Coker”, always clad in coat and tie and sitting behind desks in offices .We have rich and fertile soils . Let us go back to the soil.
Able-bodied young men and women have abandoned the interior and moved into the city where opportunities for gainful employment and self-advancement are next to zero. They have overcrowded the city, thereby creating social woes and crime. They contribute to overstretch Public services and utilities , strain sewerage services and city budgets. No surprise that Freetown is breaking apart . There is no need for these ills. They can stay in the interior and build better lives in farming and business enterprises , especially now that the infrastructure is good.
Sierra Leoneans living in the diaspora must continue to play their own part in nation-building through their highly-appreciated remittances which help to make pots boil and provide much-needed foreign exchange and circulation of money .
If we all remain diligent in our respective ways and continue to love our country, we will have plenty to celebrate in subsequent Independence commemorations.
COCORIOKO wishes everybody a happy 56th Independence Anniversary and may God bless us all.