The new path to public service

11 July 2009 at 01:56 | 703 views

By Mohamed C. Bah, Ex-President Sierra Leone Community, Atlanta, USA.

In this era of the twitter generation,we need a new political formula,a good nationalistic orientation and fundamentally a different approach to the way we govern and how we solve national problems in Sierra Leone. Enough to citizens or elected officers who believe that contributing to the socio-economic developments of our society is to destroy existing progress or blocking the good works of other patriotic citizens for political necessities. Enough to the hate culture, where those who genuinely work to promote the welfare of our nation are targeted and destroyed. A new line should be drawn on the sand that there are differences between those who faithfully serve the people and those who frivolously engage in warrant less infighting at government level which leads only to the bridge of nowhere.

Do we really believe that the self-defeating concept of “individualism” would ever reform our health and educational institutions or build roads and take us to the path of self-sufficiency? Why is that many of us do not support brilliant initiatives and ideas that are not our makings or choose to contribute in our own little ways for the good of Sierra Leone? When are we going to develop the culture of team work and pro-activism over the impulsive thinking of always looking at what is wrong? Infact,when we look at what everyone seek to accomplish,we can see clearly that the easiest and convenient way to succeed is to solve our problems together.


Enough to the politics of “search and destroy” the numerous half-completed donor funded projects that always display the mind set of some of the “old political mavericks” who deceived the people by their calculated actions of institutional mismanagements. Enough to the troubled political brinkmanship of an older generations of politicians,who time and again have defrauded the people by selfishly promoting their own personal agendas. Enough to the poor “maintenance culture”, where public properties are not regularly maintain and protected to keep its values, structural integrity and architectural beauty. Enough to the politics of “divide and conquer”,where the same people are separated into tribes and regions, class and status, friends and enemies.

The citizens of Sierra Leone have been given many reasons not to believe in the ability of government to deliver public services and improve their fragile living conditions. As a matter of fact,life for the average Sierra Leonean have worsen over the past decades with little signs of improvements. And campaign promises have been broken by one political party after another. Is politics in Sierra Leone a spectacular sport or a life time opportunity to transform a nation from the dungeon of poverty into a haven of human prosperity? Is public service a noble profession called the absolute“service to mankind?”

Indeed,slow progress have been the political play books of our national parties ever since we raised our flag of freedom. It is the pulse of our political life in Sierra Leone today. If you are doing the same thing over and over with no measured results and what you are doing is causing “more pain and no gain”,i think it is time to stop the repetitive cycle of deception. It is time to charter a new course and pursue a new concept of good governance while putting “county first” over the “what-is-in-for-me” mentality. Rightly so: The institutions of government is not a wall street investment center, where the motive of operation is profit driven and the overriding goal is wealth creation. Government is for the people, by the people and of the people. Public office is a sacred platform, where good citizens serve their people with honor and distinction, where the core principles of changing the lives of ordinary citizens becomes the enduring legacy. Thus,the new political game-changer must be a public service ideology that gears towards improving the socio-economic well being of Sierra Leoneans and not working for the self-interest of parties, regions, friends and families.


Like most Sierra Leoneans, I wonder that day when will our country utilized its minerals and natural wealth to pay for national development programs. I wonder when will Sierra Leone dismantle the “life-support machine” of multi-donor dollars and formulate,develop and independently fund national priority projects. I imagine a Sierra Leone, solvent with surplus mineral revenues to fund completely a full electricity or water supply projects. I think of a young nation,where every Sierra Leoneans enjoys a quality and decent education ,one that broaden their imagination and expand their capacity of nation building.

Indeed,i pray for a Sierra Leone where the sick have an opportunity to avoid premature death sentence,where access to quality health care and preventive medicine are available to every one. I dream of a modern super high ways and railroad system that connects towns and cities, where good commerce and tourism flourish to every corner of Sierra Leonean society. I imagine a nation where its people don’t have to live in a constant strain of inadequate water supply system, when its is even surrounded with abundant water resources. Like most Sierra Leoneans,I dream of a nation, where job opportunity defines the new middle class structure and where the median income of Sierra Leoneans exceeds all of sub Sahara Africa.


While, I am hopeful of a Sierra Leone that will be the fastest growing nation in Africa,i believe that the common enemy that impedes our national progress are our negative thought process, our misguided intentions, our character of poor statesmanship and our inability to build a team of good public servants around the common purpose of nation building. Thus, a call to public service is an urgent reality, one that every patriotic-loving Sierra Leonean must consider and be willing to do. It starts with our communities, our towns, our cities and eventually our country. It begins when we answer the question of what President John F. Kennedy posed many years ago: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This attitude of public service must be the new thinking and behavior, especially among our youth population,who by design are the future leaders of tomorrow.

I have long wonder how can we be endowed with vast mineral and natural resources but yet considered very poor on the UN human indexes? How can we have so many citizens who go to bed hungry every day,millions of children who have never been vaccinated against diseases and heart attack victims whose chances of survival are at the mercy of destiny. How can we live in a nation and a culture that does not always value the physically disabled or mental impaired?

We should not be ashame to identify our challenges and predicaments as long as we are willing to act in good faith to solving them together. And we must not ignore the fact that our government is doing its best and some how making some modest gains in other areas of national developments. But the work is far from over and it takes all the political leaders including our citizens to do their parts in building a better Sierra Leone.

George Admittedly,a Ghanaian economist clearly defined the two generations of leaders in Africa. In his lectures,he categorized the “hippo generation” and the “cheetah generation.” Interestingly, the hippo generation are the old ruling class who have enriched themselves from the nation’s coffers,who sees Africa’s problems as the root causes of colonialism and imperialism. The cheetah generation are the new breeds of Africans, who see salvation and solutions to Africa’s problems through self-reliance approach,independent thinking and constructive political management. The cheetah generation also believe in accountability, democracy,a corrupt free and a transparent society, where justice is protected and valued.


And the question now:Do we have many cheetahs in Sierra Leone?Indeed, the latter should be the new path to public service in our beloved homeland. First,we must learn to work together for the common good of promoting the well being of our people. To just consider those who disagree with our political philosophy as “mortal enemies” disables the engine of progress and put us on the “reverse gear” of political confrontation and economic stagnation. And to just believe that effective opposition is to say “NO” without alternative solutions are disingenuous and counterproductive. We must be the guardians of justice and freedom through our patriotic works and compassionate relationship with our fellow citizens.

We must change the flamboyant “egoist-culture” of thinking that everything runs through our emotional hemisphere. Public service is never about the person but rather about what the person do for the public. We must not be emotionally misguided to believe that we are superior than others because of our class status or positions of wealth. We must not ignore the common facts that we share the same hope and fear, passion and determination to building a Sierra Leone of peace ad prosperity.

We must focus on human development initiatives,community empowerment programs, restructuring of our political systems, replacing Aid with trade, establishing a transparent financial system and breaking away from the cycle of poverty. These are the greatest challenges we face as a nation,not the egoistic warfare that rages like a “California wild fire” in our local communities, social organizations and even the hallways of our government. When we bring down one Sierra Leonean because of ethnic,gender or professional differences,Sierra Leone loses the opportunity of benefiting from the gifts and talents of its own citizens or nationals.

Furthermore,the character of honesty and integrity in public life should be the new “map quest” on our long political journey. Public service demands a high level of moral and ethical standards. Like any civil society, government represents the mandate of the people and operates under the constitutional laws of the land. The constitution defines the power and functions of each organs of government, rule of conducts and manner of operation,how justice is dispense and the right of citizens under the law.

For decades now, we have generally being a “non-conformist society” where we disobey the laws that are design to create fairness,orderliness and sanity. Often, we have created so many short cuts and undermined the moral standing of the law by either buying our way out of our transgressions or promoting the pseudo-social doctrines of tribalism and nepotism for political expediency. We cannot build national unity,inspire a generation of Sierra Leoneans and create a lawful society, if we break the laws or allow others to become habitual law-breakers. No modern society have enjoyed shared progress with a system and people who recklessly do not value, respect and obey the laws that keeps them functional and cohesive.


Finally,the question of nationalism and patriotism lies at the cross road between the path of public service and those who wear the “wolf garments” of destroying the future of Sierra Leone. Imagine a Sierra Leone where ever citizen gives her the most cherishing love by investing their talents and capitals, contributing in building dams, roads, schools and bridges through the tax revenue system. Imagine a government that manage and distribute its revenues to public service sectors in a transparent and accountable environment,where our justice system takes a strong stand against corruption and the state of lawlessness. Imagine, citizens who take pride in their community and nation by obeying the laws,performing their civic duties and paying taxes. Imagine, politicians who value the legacy they will leave behind over the vanity and material wealth their public offices brings. What an end to a successful journey we could have reached since the dawn of April 27, 1961.

Indeed,Sierra Leone needs a new moral vision,a major political change in how public service is viewed as a profession. It is not about access to fame and fortune,but the opportunity to share the gift of human love, the power to change the future of a generation and the self-fulfillment such lofty mission brings to the soul of mankind. If Sierra Leone is serious about making giant progress in this era of the Internet,we must unconditionally love our country and love the people of Sierra Leone. Then, graciously take the majestic part of public service that leads us to the monumental palace of accomplishments and achievements for the people. For now,it is true that the old system has not work.