One person I know that will never subscribe to the view that Sierra Leoneans are a generally lawless lot is Lady Clarice, and she would cite copious Biblical and contemporary secular references to justify her convictions.
To her, lawlessness cannot logically apply to the citizenry of a country like ours in which an average of ten (10) Statutes are enacted by our National Legislature annually, not to talk of the occasional Bye-Laws also passed willy-nilly by Local Authorities – in or outside our intermittent States of National Emergencies. So rather than tar us all generically as lawless, she would rather attribute our frequent (I repeat, frequent) lapses into social disorder, chaos or maladministration to a sheer unwillingness or a failure of those entrusted with the requisite powers to deal with persistent and notorious violators according to the law..
In this context, I shall restrict my arguments to the Western Urban Area or Freetown in particular, having regard to the existence of a plethora of traditional and local authorities’ regulatory edicts complimentary to existing central government statutes in the rural areas, and each effectively administered to ensure a rigid enforcement of all laws in their specific localities. Further because such complementarities do not exist in the Western Urban areas, demographic densities have pressured successive governments into a lax and sustained dereliction of duty especially in the maintenance of law and order– all in the name of (cheap) politics – which is often misinterpreted as lawlessness on the part of citizens
Arguing from the scriptural context, Lady Clarice would relate or compare the powers of an Executive President to that wielded by God prior to the appointment of human rulers over ancient Israel. In those days, and according to the Bible, “when God spake; it was done!” Period!! And that went on for hundreds of years. So if in the absence of God, human rulers, leaders and Presidents elected and or appointed to exercise local or national authority in God’s stead “speak”, and “it is not done”, then we the ordinary citizens should not be blamed for being remiss in our responsibilities, because our duty is to comply with, not to enforce laws. Laws are made to be obeyed.
Another of her favourite Biblical character to denote the exercise of absolute power and authority as vested in officers of the state is the famous “Centurion” in Matt. 8:9 and Lk.7:8, who only had to utter words that automatically became commands. For example the scripture says; “He says to that one, go. And he goeth….. and to another come, and he cometh…..and to yet another, do this, and he doeth it”. And in all of those commands, none so much as ever dared ask him where or how far to go or when to return. As far as the “Centurion” was concerned, a servant so ordered to “go” must just keep going until probably the day it entered his boss’ mind to order his return. But that is what exercising and enforcing power and authority is all about.
For contemporary secular instances that sierra Leoneans are not lawless, but would readily conform to laws and regulations when rigidly applied, Lady Clarice would cite the following few examples-:
– No one has ever dared to obstruct a Presidential convoy. Not even lunatics have tried it.
– None of the Bye Laws passed throughout a previous or the current State of Health Emergency and banning “Ordeh-Ileh” street masquerades, Watch Night Church Services and Carnivals during the last Yuletide festivities; travels to and from quarantined locations, street trading after 6PM daily and or the total ban on “Sunday Trading” has ever been openly violated. Isolated instances of such breaches have been promptly dealt with by a strict application of the appropriate penalties, which was enough to rein in the rest of the population into rigid compliances.
– Even where laws to the effect do not exist, pedestrians and vehicles are forced to remain static whilst our national tricolor is hoisted or lowered daily around State House, Police Headquarters and Military Barracks. And people are made to comply from as far as away 500 meters.
– Curfew hours are breached at one’s own peril
I have decided to bring out the foregoing logical illustrations, to avoid speculations that my support for Lady Clarice’s postulations was influenced by dietary considerations. Far from it!! Rather, it clearly shows that once any government is willing to enforce the laws as appropriate; there will always be a way to do it, instead of demonstrating vacillations that will end up branding the entire citizenry as lawless. No we are not!!!
Orders From Above
From Biblical times though, possibilities existed for underlings very close to those wielding executive powers to access and abuse such powers occasionally, even without the substantive holders knowing about it. Jesus was aware of that too, hence His warnings to the disciples in Matt. 24:5 that -: “Many shall come in my Name saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many”.
In our contemporary times, President Koroma too has acknowledged an awareness of such abuses, hence his repeated warnings for citizens to be wary of those citing “orders from above”. So the logical question arising here is, if people can deceitfully use the names of those wielding power and authority for their own selfish purposes so effectively, why should those persons in whom the actual authorities are vested not be able to ensure a strict application of our laws?
Do we need to pass new laws to -:
– Enforce social orderliness and decorum in the immediate vicinities of schools, churches and mosques by evicting boisterous and lawless traders from within those precincts permanently – whether or not services of worship are being conducted?
– Evict beggars, mendicants and vagrants from our city streets – particularly around the Central Banks and Law Courts buildings – and or clear those Car Wash drug addicts from our main internationally acclaimed Ministerial Youyi Buildings?
– Evict slum dwellers from the back proximity of Cockrill Military Headquarters, or from underneath the Congo Cross and Aberdeen Bridges, along our city coastal creeks or to clear Breakers’ (Scrap) Yards in prime residential areas like the Hill Cot Road?
– Stop pigs roaming the city undisturbed?
– Discourage hawking by “minors” or to prohibit traders from vending alcohol and tobacco to them 24/7?
– Motivate the various Censor Boards to wake up to their responsibilities?
For crying out loud we don’t! In fact there are enough statutes and regulations in our law books already, and an enforcement of which will befit our description as a regularly organized society. Our problems just lie in the unwillingness by those entrusted with their enforcement to do so. And that is shameful, having regard for the speed with which societal values have continued to be eroded.
So if it is a matter that the Police must be prompted to do their jobs, then so be it. Let that prompt come from the relevant authorities that will allow them to do their duty without let or hindrance
We have been so misled into entertaining the pessimistic view that our negative national ethos is characteristically innate, that some have even been advocating for a change of the name of our capital city from “Freetown” to something else, without ever stopping to think that the fault cannot possibly lie in something as inanimate as the appellate designation of a city that has existed from 1808 (or for 207 years now), but rather in our crude socio-political psyche. After all is the direct English translation of the French name of the capital city of Gabon, “LIBREVILLE”, not also FREETOWN? So how come they are not as lawless as we are here?
And if just a change in an appellate designation would remedy all social defects overnight without the will to enforce laws, how come those recently released from our “CORRECTIONAL CENTER” and displayed on SLBCTV looked no different from inmates released from our PRISONS all previous years – if not worse off?
So I agree that Sierra Leoneans in general and “Freetonians” in particular are not lawless after all!!