God is not dead: of "ghosts" and legal identity
In my last article - Of "ghosts" and legal identity: meeting Sierra Leoneans in Zambia - I wrote about some Sierra Leoneans I met at the Fifth Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration in Zambia and that my general impression was that the team's performance was outstanding.
The Sierra Leone team I met at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka included the Minister of Internal Affairs Edward A. Soloku; the Deputy Minister of Information Mamadi Gobeh Kamara; Director-General Mohamed M. Massaquoi of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA); and Ag Director of Births and Deaths, Brima Victor Kamara. Also attending the meeting were Director Sonnia Jabbi of Statistics Sierra Leone and Dr. Francis Smart - Director, Planning, Policy and Information of the Ministry of Health. I also met Stefano Schwarz from UNICEF.
More than 750 delegates, including experts, from 53 African countries, United Nations and other partners, attended the conference under the theme: "Innovative Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System: Foundation for Legal Identity Management" in a country where clearly God is not dead.
Perhaps, unlike other conferences I have attended, in Zambia offering prayers was a feature of the gathering. In one of the prayers offered, the scriptural reading was - "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain... " In addition to this passion for God, 18 October was a National Day of Prayer, Fasting, Repentance and Reconciliation, declared a national holiday in the country.
While there is abundant evidence that the spiritual world exists, and that Sierra Leone is a "God-fearing" nation, I would like to reiterate that what we truly believe should transform us. It is naïve though to always raise corrupt hands in prayers and expect God to answer us.
In some of my previous articles, I had indicated that having institutions is one thing and having qualified and patriotic compatriots serving in those offices or institutions is another. Think about this. Build a state of the art office and institution, equip it with the latest technological devices and then employ corrupt people - what will you get?
Today, it is the modus operandi of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in Sierra Leone for instance to recklessly loot instead of generating much-needed resources for the development of a country that is overtly and shamelessly dependent on aid. Evidence abound that instead of being a revenue authority, over the years, NRA has efficiently become a robbery authority where some kleptomaniacs actually believe that the best way to serve their motherland is to selfishly pocket every cent they see.
While some employees of the NRA take delight in committing heinous economic crimes, recent raids by the Anti-Corruption Commission during the private West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in which invigilators and students were passionately involved in exams malpractices all speak volumes of the sad state of affairs in the country. We are our own enemies.
After years of working at the international level, mainstream journalism beckons with a burning desire to join colleagues in exposing every rogue, every thief and every cheat, including in religious establishments where some so-called men and women of God feed on the gullibility of the ignorant.
As I type this piece, I am informed that Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, a Muslim, was recently prevented from worshipping at a particular mosque over bizarre reasons in a fashion that will make even Satan very embarrassed.
With a population of 7,075,641 (2015 Census) and endowed with natural resources, Sierra Leone has all the potential to be very prosperous. Let us understand though that praying 24/7 for prosperity with raised corrupt hands only make us ridiculous.
Being like an alien at home, let me point out that it is refreshing to learn that NCRA is providing civil registration and vital statistics and ID services are functional in all 16 administrative offices across Sierra Leone notwithstanding challenges. Director-General Mohamed M. Massaquoi says currently there is availability of biometric data on about 75 percent of the country's population with plans to capture the remaining 25 percent by end of 2019.
In my last article, I stated that Minister Edward A. Soloku said biometric IDs and national identification numbers were used to clean payroll system of government that tracked about 9,000 duplicated and non-existent workers thus saving over USD 6 million for government annually.
Many years ago, African countries yearned for independence, including Sierra Leone. However, declaring independence does not in any way mean freedom from dependency and mental slavery. The truth? Political independence has not brought us mental independence. Appoint most people today to serve in public offices and the first thing that comes to mind is to loot; pay an invigilator to prevent exam malpractice and he or she excitedly collects brown envelopes from candidates and becomes the chief cheat etc.
Let us always remember that God is not dead. God is a spirit. He will not come to run our homes, offices and country for us. Most of the issues we contend with in our lives, homes and in the country are our own creation. You think about it. Kudos once again to the team that represented Sierra Leone in Zambia. Best wishes!
About the author: Sulaiman Momodu is a Sierra Leonean journalist currently based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He is also a student of Theology.