We reserve high tables at religious, cultural, social, political and other public events for thieves and rogues who continue to rob us and wipe our noses in their acts. We elect and appoint those who turn to be murderers and later we started complaining. Therefore it is not in any way possible to root-out the menace without us willing to do our part.
By simple definition, corruption is the misuse and abuse of one’s position in both public office and the private sector for personal gain. It is essentially a misuse and abuse of power and authority, and is largely committed by high profile individuals who hold positions of trust. The posture of corruption in Sierra Leone is unique, it is said that it was even espoused by a key public figure in the person of the late and longest serving President Dr. Siaka Probyn Stevens that: “Wusai Den Tai Cow Nar Dae e Dae Eat”; figuratively meaning a cow should graze wherever it is tied. Utterances from public figures such as presidents and politicians generally carry heavy weight; such utterances can even shape behaviours and create attitudes in citizens that may end up passing off as culture.
Over the years, corruption has become so pervasive in Sierra Leone that it has eroded the nation’s moral and ethical fabric because corruption in Sierra Leone is like an executive order. Those Sierra Leoneans who occupy positions of trust and whose positions are meant for public service at most times have no other choice, but to be corrupt. They become corrupt largely because they are often subjected consciously or unconsciously to heavy psychological pressure or otherwise from peers, family members, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends and others with the saying “Boh nor sleep oh….!” The ‘Boh nor sleep oh!’ syndrome over the years caused, and continues to cause decent Sierra Leoneans to become corrupt even though their values and beliefs may be antithetical to corruption. This unabated syndrome cuts across every sphere of our organizational and national life, whether between the police and the poda poda driver, whether in oak-panelled air conditioned offices; in political offices, educational institutions in the private sector, in nongovernmental organisations, in the parastatals, etc.
It is further speculated that corruption can be reflected in negotiations and agreements with international business and trade counterparts. The question that often comes to mind is who are the negotiators who negotiate with foreign investors, trading partners and others? In whose interests do they negotiate? When one sometimes hear about the negotiated agreements between our negotiators and the foreign partners one may tend to question whether such agreements represent the interests of Sierra Leoneans.
In the political arena, the people are sometimes largely responsible for the politician’s corrupt behaviour. When our favorite politicians’ win elections, we jump on the street singing euphoric songs to celebrate their victories. One of the notable songs over the years has been “Watta wae na 4 yu E nor go run pass yu oh”. What kind of water has Sierra Leoneans been giving politicians all these years when they win political offices? Is it the positions or the financial or natural resources? When politicians are elected into offices, it appears as if they have been given a blank cheque by their supporters. They can fill in at will, and over the years Sierra Leoneans have failed to hold those politicians accountable. It is unfortunate that the public measure the achievements of those that hold public offices in terms of the number of assets they acquire, in terms of the vehicles they own, in terms of the number of houses they build at home and own overseas, and the number of relatives and friends they send overseas.
It is interesting to note that the people themselves have largely failed to measure the performance of those politicians and those that hold public offices in terms of the achievements of national objectives; but essentially on wealth they represent a dangerous political culture. In the event that they fail to achieve their own parochial goals, the same public would say they have been ‘sleeping’. It is because of the unique nature of our corrupt behaviours, that one strongly believes that the current strategy for curbing corruption, some people would assert, could hardly achieve its desired objectives. To naturally curtail corruption is a far fetch achievement and does not need a legal function; it is believed that it is a management function which requires veteran public administrators with very strong management skills in handling it. The current strategy which is hugely reactive and which waits until the culprit is caught will not and could never be the prime way of curbing corruption. What Sierra Leone needs is a more proactive strategy that would place high premium on the prevention of corruption than the current knee-jerk approach of chasing the criminals and fining them ridiculous sums after they have committed the crime.
Importantly, what is needed is the restructuring of our organisations and intuitions at both local and national levels to be less unnecessarily bureaucratic and hierarchical in nature. Less bureaucracies will obviously reduce the red tape which is very much characteristic of our institutions. With less bureaucracy customer care services will be faster and effective, inter personal contact will be much easier, communication flows will be efficient. With this arrangement over time corruption can be efficiently managed to levels that will not affect economic growth and development. This requires strong management skills, not necessarily the law.
Indeed, Sierra Leonean leaders, be it a politician or not who embezzles monies today means that tomorrow teachers will not be paid on time, soldiers and police will not be paid on time and parents would not afford to send their children to school, they will not afford a square meal, and the average citizens will not access safe drinking water and constant power supply. This is why The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans describe our corrupt leaders as Massive Murderers. Yes they are! As a patriot, one may not be able to do something about it, but one may decide not to be part of it by refusing to give or take, and by refusing to respect or honour those who do. As long as we are willing to partake in it or not mind being its beneficiaries through our kith and kin, then corruption will remain endemic.
We should not hesitate to label public officials and their private sector collaborators as mass murderers, killing millions of people through inadequate public services compromised by corruption. Monies meant for drugs, roads, hospitals, schools and public security are siphoned away, making The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans vulnerable to premature death and the society more unsafe for human habitation.