Finding Missing Links

28 July 2009 at 01:28 | 542 views

By Mohamed Boye Jallo Jamboria, Norway.

A week or more ago, the Sierra Leone Stock Exchange was launched at the Miatta conference centre, Youyi Building in Freetown by the President of the Republic, H.E.Ernest Koroma.

Upon reading HE’s speech, I particularly took notice of his opening remarks “ I am extremely delighted to be in your midst today as we all celebrate the Opening of the Sierra Leone Stock Exchange. Since its inauguration in July, 2007, no formal trading of securities has taken place on the floor of the Exchange. This time round, my government is well determined to fully put into operation the Sierra Leone Stock Exchange with a view to kick starting a well planned development agenda for this country”

This caused me to make a lot of reflections on several premise.First was I remembered sometime on frist Saturday of July of 1996 when myself, Alhaji Unisa Awoko Sesay, Dr Bubukai Jabbie, Mr Chris Jassabe and others from the Sierra Leone Chamber of commerce were on the Radio programme ‘Buziness Tiday’.That particular programme was the first of several programmes that discussed the need and relevance of a stock exchange in Sierra Leone.

Secondly, I was more or less perplexed by the part of HE’S speech which said”…Since its inauguration in July, 2007, no formal trading of securities…”but on second thoughts I asked myself, is it going to ever take off and what if it does who are going to be the key investors? My questions, introspective as they were, are also key questions examining our attitudes and perceptions of those issues that we need to address but which most times we tend to underrate or sideline. These issues inadvertently are most times the keys to finding the missing links to our developmental problems and challenges. As of writing, I am working on a book to be titled “Missing Links”which I hope will be out by 2011 .That will be my gift to my motherland, Sierra Leone on the occasion of her 50th anniversary, and my continent Africa. I was inspired to undertake such a daunting task by the seeming inability of us to take off even after so much had happened and so much has been done to put a new system of governance in place for the first time since independence. I have specifically said since independence because most of us get carried away by the presumption that we inherited a democratic system of governance of the Westminster type at independence.What we inherited was a system of political pluralism that was never democratic. We had never been taught the rudiments and fundamentals of democracy before independence but instead we had been taught the rudiments of transforming our traditional governance systems into authoritarian systems run on the lines of oligarchic organizations that thrive on patronage and the divide and rule political philosophy introduced by Lord Luggard and adopted by the British as the system of governance in all her colonies.

Most of us do not normally tend to see or understand how this affects our development or even attitudes to our very affairs, a correction of which will be one link to what is missing in our developmental aspirations.I must hurry to say that these aspirations will never be realized if we do not close the gaps of nation-statehood that we so use and misuse to our very detriment. In everything we do, we soon water down very good concepts into non starting and failing projects because we are of the tendency to use the negatives of the sociological Principles of groups and the Public good.

In and at all levels of our daily lives we, as human beings operate consciously or otherwise on the dynamics of these principles but we most times fail to achieve our goals because we do not take time out to understand these dynamics as we are mostly one linear in our outlooks. This one linear outlook is seen in almost every social association and venture we undertake the list of which ranges from our religious associations, political perceptions to even our economic aims and aspirations. We have the tendency to miscarry the assumptions of groups existing to “further the common interest of people.” We use this assumption but normally fail to translate this into a broader national perspective as most times it is limited by our self interests and ego as these are driven and directed by the learnt perceptions and attitudes we inherited from our colonial masters and which are based on the oligarchic and divide and rule system we wrongly believed was the best modus operandi as it had some aspect of political pluralism. We, in the process have watered down political associations into regional, ethnic and even self interest groups that right enough seek the interest of its members but fail to address the interest of the broader national aspirations because was far as the system goes it does not incorporate nor understand the essence of the Nation as the greater and most relevant group. This is the only reason why I normally tell my friends that, in as much as I can be one; I do not have to be a member of a political party to contribute to the welfare of my country. Simply put I do not see the broader system existing in our political parties even though they have the structures and membership.

On the economic platform, we have woefully failed because we have not been able to translate the principles of groups and public good into viable and sustainable main stream and dynamic realities. Instead we have used these principles to operate and reinforce undercover self serving ventures which have, in the process, developed and sustained a shadow state of few powerful and self serving groups run on the basis of patronage and protectionism. It is because of the strong influence of these few self serving groups that national ventures of the like of the stock exchange find it difficult to take off or if they do they are normally taken over by foreign elements who have little or no interest in the development and sustainability of the nation-state called Sierra Leone or as it may apply to any African nation-state that operates on similar model.

Above all this has failed, as David Keen in his book “Conflict &Collusion in Sierra Leone,2005” said that “Towards the end of colonial rule, and during the early years of independence, efforts were made to rationalize the economy, to bring production within the legal sphere, to increase the tax revenue from primary products exports …”, because we have not been able to translate the principles of groups and the Public good into nationally workable programmes and projects. Where we have tried to do so these programmes and projects soon become influenced by our inability to seek the greater good for the greater group, the Nation. A very good example Keen gave was the policy that followed the recommendations of the commission of inquiry that was headed by Sir Albert Margai and Mr.Siaka Stevens in 1954 following the increase in Diamond smuggling to Liberia in the late 40s and early 50s.One very significant recommendation was that if smuggling was to be contained, the then Sierra Leone Selections Trust(SLST) who had sole rights to all mining concessions and lands must give back some of these concessions and lands to the people of Kono and Sierra Leone and create official channels to buy and contain the diamond supplies as they are mined and sold. This also was paralleled with the formation of the Diamond Corporation of West Africa (DICOWAF) and a cutting and polishing Firm in Sierra Leone with headquarters Liverpool Street in Freetown. As Keen said, “In 1955,SLST surrendered most its concessions ,retaining the particularly rich fields in the vicinity of Yengema and Tongo…The following year diamond mining by Sierra Leoneans was legalized. In the areas ceded by the SLST, the government established the Alluvial Diamonds Mining Scheme, under which it granted licences to Sierra Leoneans and Sierra Leonean Companies, provided that the local chiefdom and the current landholders agreed.”

This very productive and viable arrangement was soon to be the root of our demise as it was never seen nor developed to take advantage of the application of the principles of groups and the Public good as this pertain to the welfare of the greater group, Sierra Leone. Instead it became the source of extension and exercise of power for the Paramount chiefs and cheap sales of our resources and integrity to those who had the economic means by then. As Keen said “Unsurprisingly, it was the wealthy and well-connected who benefited disproportionately from these changes. Those who could afford the licences and the necessary rudimentary equipments were often chiefs, politicians and most importantly traders. Some were civil servants…Sierra Leone’s Lebanese community was able to use its superior access to capital to dominate the new ‘native’ mining sector ….

However, while reducing smuggling was one thing (of this policy), raising substantial revenues was quite another…All this meant that Sierra Leone’s diamond wealth continued ,in effect, to haemorrhage from the country, while the country remained chronically underdeveloped.”

Why did it, and is still happening, that way?

Simply put Sierra Leoneans failed, and are still failing, to take advantage of this opportunity to use the principles of groups and the Public good for the greater group, the nation. Instead it has always been “the God for us all whilst every man for himself”, phiolsophy which is now so deep rooted in the social intelligence that it expresses itself in every action and thought of the Sierra Leonean to the extent that it is the mostly unsaid ideology in every political party, social organization and even economic undertaking that Sierra Leoneans venture into.

This philosophy is the very reason why we still make big issues out of non issues as and when they appear to suit our self serving interests. This is why we fail to look and policies and the continuity of policies but instead address them on the basis of which political party started or did what. This is why Sierra Leoneans find it difficult to exercise the human virtues of trust and fair play in and with one another and for them to pool their resources, mental or otherwise, to begin to be masters of their own destiny by investing time, human and fiscal capital and other resources for the greater group, the Nation-state we all believe is our motherland.

It is one reason why most presumed rich men in Sierra Leone have found it difficult to pool their resources together, in stocks and bonds but instead have preferred to stick it out as one man enterprises that soon die out or fade out upon their death.

It is one missing link that makes very viable projects like the Stock Exchange are soon taken over by elements that do not have the interest of the welfare of the nation at heart. It is one reason why we spend time and energy in being critical of projects that should or may have been the vehicles to lift us out of the underdevelopment we are in.

It is one reason why since its inception in July of 2007 there has been no trading of securities at the stock exchange.

It is one reason why a lot of people out there have reservations about projects like DENI-SL, a channel that will allow us to take control over those factors that have always limited our capacity to be economically independent.

Above all it is one reason why we still feel and act regional, ethnic and self serving (which we naturally must but over do in most cases) to the detriment of the greater group, Sierra Leone.

It is one very big social dynamic that has been translated into an attitude and which needs to change, if attitudinal change must have any meaning or significance to the overall well being of the Nation-state or the continent on a more broader perspective.

It is one raison d’être for my researches and publication soon of, God willing, Missing Links, which I hope will be my footprints on the sands of time to be seen by our posterity as a venture worth its while.Inshallah!