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Curing Sierra Leone’s Inferiority Complex
By Oswald Hanciles
Oct 13, 2010, 17:45
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The October, 2010, edition of NEW AFRICAN states that “a good 17 African countries celebrate their golden jubilee this year”. Most sub-Saharan African countries who with euphoric razzmatazz cut off their umbilical cords from a ‘Mother Country’ in Europe in the ‘Independence Wave Era’ of the 1960s would join Nigeria, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone, etc. in Jubilee celebrations in the next five years or so. Africa’s independence has been meaningless largely because Africans have appeared oblivious of the most chronic disease Africa has been afflicted with: inferiority complex.


Living in Liberia and Nigeria for almost twenty years before I returned home in 1995, I have often been perplexed at the keen sense of inferiority complex among Africans there, generally.  Compared to Nigerians, however, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians are much worse off in their sickening inferiority complex.  One find among some  Nigerian ‘nations’ in their federation, especially the Yoruba in the South West and the Igbos in the South East of Nigeria, a resolute effort at overcoming their inferiority complex through overachievement – especially in business, finance, the media, and to some degree, in technology. 

But, not so, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians!!  Maybe, it is because of the strong ‘slave history’ of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Genetic tests of African-Americans today in the U.S. show that most slaves from the ‘Grain Coast’ of West Africa were snatched from where Liberia and Sierra Leone are today.  At the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the late 18th Century slaves freed in the Americas were settled in Liberia and Sierra Leone. 

They became known as ‘Creoles’ in Sierra Leone and ‘Americo-Liberians’ in Liberia.   Apparently, their ‘Slave Mind Disease’ has never been cured.  This ‘slave virus’, apparently, has infected the indigenous populations these freed slaves met in Africa.  Let us understand a few basics of this ‘inferiority complex disease’…..

In the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis, an inferiority complex is an extremely deep feeling that one is inferior to others.
It is buried so deep in one’s subconscious, appearing so ‘natural’, that one does not know how this inferiority complex thought holds sway in one’s daily thoughts and actions.  It is an extremely deep feeling of inferiority that can lead to pessimistic resignation and an assumed inability to overcome difficulties. Unlike a normal feeling of inferiority, which can act as an incentive for achievement, an inferiority complex is an advanced state of discouragement, often resulting in a retreat from difficulties.

The concept of the inferiority complex was first introduced by Alfred Adler, in his work, ‘Individual Psychology’.  Adler defined mental health as a feeling of human connectedness, and a willingness to develop oneself fully and contribute to the welfare of others. When these qualities are underdeveloped, an individual experiences feelings of inferiority, or an attitude of superiority that may antagonize others. The perception of superiority leads to self-centered behavior and the individual may become emotionally or materially exploitive of other people. Adler’s theory of ‘Individual Psychology of Psychological Compensation’ states that “the stronger the feeling of inferiority, the higher the goal for personal power.” (The later is typified by the likes of African presidents like the late Samuel Kanyan Doe of Liberia, and the late Idi Amin of Uganda whose quest for personal power resulted in crude suppression, and exploitation, of others, plunging their nations into nauseous pogroms).

You have to re-read the paragraph above before you can get the gem of this article – how the individual sense of inferiority complex has mounted into the collective sense of inferiority complex among Sierra Leoneans.  We are being eddied into celebratory fervor for the 50th Anniversary of a nation called ‘Sierra Leone’ in 2011.  Do we pause to reflect that this ‘Sierra Leone’ was carved for us by the British colonialist?  Most of the laws, and the standards, of this ‘Sierra Leone’ nation were bequeathed to us by the same British who were principals in the enslavement of Africans for centuries, and colonized us to crudely exploit us for almost another century.  We have blindly adopted, not adapted, most of the superficial forms in British society with its Temperate Climate – including our lawyers wearing three piece suits and horse hair wigs in the sweltering heat of our Tropical Climate 10 degrees from the equator.  The reality of our confused state of mind is that the essence of what it means to be a nation is lost on us.  We, especially the leadership, are largely predators – recklessly preying on the state; exhibiting a flagrant willingness to sell our country cheap to any buccaneer that comes floating into our land claiming to be an ‘investor’.   There are many forms in which our collective inferiority complex in Sierra Leone has manifested itself over the years, but, it would call for several books to handle this vital topic, not one newspaper article.  Let us examine a few examples of the inferiority complex psyche of Sierra Leoneans.


Sierra Leoneans feel inferior not only when they compare themselves with white Americans and Europeans, and yellow Asians, but, even when they contrast themselves with their Negroid neighbors - like Nigerians, Ghanaians, Ivorians and Senegalese.  Over the past five years when you meet Sierra Leonean ministers, managing directors who travel to Ghana, you hear them raving about the tremendous progress in Ghana – in their well-paved roads; their streets lights all over; their clean cities; their burgeoning affluent suburbs….And, they would juxtapose Ghana and Sierra Leone – and pour opprobrium on Sierra Leone.  As they extol Ghana’s progress, these Sierra Leonean elite would appear to be morphing into being Ghanaians – and denying their Sierra Leonean-ness.

Another variable of the chronic inferiority complex of Sierra Leoneans is the ‘double standards’ in their attitude to fundamental human values.  Sierra Leone’s leaders would attend international conferences in Europe and America, for example.  They would tell the white man’s world that they are upholding principles of Human Rights at home.  They would claim that in the management of public sector institutions, and supervising private sector businesses, basic Human Resources Management principles are being implemented in our country.  When they come home, however, it would be a dramatically different story.

Leaders in Sierra Leone are more likely than not to deny their people basic tenets of Justice.  In too many police cells, one would see children being detained for one week on mere allegations of having stolen a mobile phone.  Some people are sent to Pademba Road maximum security prisons on just accusations of having beaten someone more powerful than they are. In some national institutions, CEOs become tin gods, tyrannizing their staff; and there is Management by Emotionalism and Caprice, not strategic design.  Fear is calculatedly instilled into staff!!!  Good ideas are stifled.  Yet, these same CEOs would attend UN, World Bank, IMF, Commonwealth meetings telling the world how they are the best managers of their nation’s human resources.  When African leaders talk with white men they are nice, putting up their best boardroom manners  –  but, when they are dealing with their fellow black Sierra Leoneans who they have to daily work with, they glare intimidating-ly, they hiss, they sulk, they treat their compatriots as if they were dirt.   Aha!! Most people may not see such shameful behavior as inferiority complex.

Let me pick out these lines from the paragraph above that tries to define inferiority complex: ‘Adler defined mental health as a feeling of human connectedness, and a willingness to develop oneself fully and contribute to the welfare of others. When these qualities are underdeveloped, an individual experiences feelings of inferiority, or an attitude of superiority that may antagonize others’ If a Sierra Leonean journalist goes to seek information from, say, a senior government official, he is likely to be snubbed, or, treated with condescending levity.  But, let it be announced, “BBC/CNN reporters are here to see you, Sir”; and the senior government official would jump over himself to welcome the foreigners with broad smiles, and entertain them with drinks. So, it could be said, a senior official who exhibits hauteur or hostility to his own countrymen and is nice to foreigners is really manifesting a form of inferiority complex.

Generally, the cream of the Sierra Leonean elite have acquired some of the best ‘book knowledge’ the world can offer. But, they have largely failed to translate this book knowledge to ‘utilitarian knowledge’; into developmental drive.  Importantly, Sierra Leoneans hardly strive to contribute to the welfare of others.  If, largely, we have been doing that, then, we would grasp the fundamentals of human progress – building up confidence among the citizenry in a modern nation, harnessing human thought as knowledge in an interdisciplinary way.  If  the Sierra Leonean governing elite weren’t thinking themselves as inferior beings, then, they would be less likely to view all the citizenry through the prisms of ‘APC-SLPP….Mende-Temne…’

I don’t know how President Ernest Bai Koroma is going to integrate this matter of Inferiority Complex into his Attitudinal and Behavioral Change (A-B-C) campaign and Agenda for Change initiative, but, I state absolutely that as long as we don’t understand these deep-seated neurosis in our national psyche, we are never going to forge ahead as a nation, and we risk slinking back into the gory abyss we emerged from during our recent ‘rebel war’ years.   We appear to be striving to solve our national problems – with new roads; mining concessions coming to establish businesses; free health care, etc – but, in the broad sweeps, in our psychology, we are consolidating ‘village-doms’, not strengthening a nation. Are there solutions to curing ourselves of our festering sense of Inferiority Complex? 

There are solutions, but, that would call for more articles, maybe, even books for me to expound on.  As we go into overdrive to celebrate our ‘50th Anniversary of Independence’, let us reflect deeply on what we are, what we want to  become, not indulge ourselves in just primordial revelry…..

We must not skip over such words, as found in the NEW AFRICAN (October, 2010)’s Column called “Back to the Future”, in an article titled, “Africa at 50: Still Singing the Blues”:Take our experience as Africans over the past 200 years.  The truth is that we have suffered devastating and humiliating defeat after defeat which eve
ntually leads to the loss of independence….We live in the shadow of this defeat, but it seems from the way we behave today we have drawn the wrong lessons.  Rather than understanding our loss in terms of our failings, we instead settled on, ‘How dare they conquer us’?....”


President Koroma has to think deeply, and pool as one formidable body, those Sierra Leoneans who can be identified as being inured to this Inferiority Complex disease.  This body will help cure the others….And, maybe, when we emancipate ourselves from what Bob Marley sang as ‘Mental Slavery’, we would not be celebrating 50 years of ‘independence’, but OUR FIRST YEAR OF MEANINGFUL INDEPENDENCE IN 2011.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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