From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

‘Ernest’s Discipline Clarion’: Best with Military Training for all Youth
By Oswald Hanciles
Jan 10, 2013, 17:06

There are visible evidences of the towering vision, and courage, of the Ernest Bai Koroma presidency during his first term in office.  The Wilberforce-Juba-Wilkinson Road project is one of them. These roads used to be dangerously narrow, ridden with potholes.  He dared to widen them.  He challenged powerful and highly educated landowners in the affluent West end of Freetown by carving into their private property to create space for the roads. Look at how delightful those roads are now to ply!!  How proud they make every Sierra Leonean feel – even aristocratic Barrister Blyden Jenkins-Johnston who had howled in protest as the fence of their family property in Murray Town was razed down would brim with pride today.  The Smallholder Commercialization Programme, and the Agriculture Business Center (s) that are dotting every chiefdom and district in the country is another visible sign that distinguishes the Koroma presidency. 

However, what would be the most enduring legacy of the Koroma presidency – and what would benefit Sierra Leoneans today the most; and hoist generations to come from their developmental abyss – is the consciousness of President Koroma that the most formidable foe of development is essentially psychological; and, the President’s courage in energizing psychological strategies to trump our seemingly intractable ‘mind enemies’


Take the President’s now institutionalized ‘Change of Attitude’ campaign during his first term; and in 2013, his pronounced ‘War on Indiscipline’ thrust. 

Change of ATTITUDE Must Not just be Semantics

We still have to simplify, and make more imaginative, our change of attitude campaign.  There is generally a suicidal ATTITUDE of Sierra Leoneans: not to CONFRONT societal problems.  Even when we are overwhelmed by societal problems, even when they gnaw us, we would rather spend endless hours talking idly about these problems – not strategizing to take action to confront and solve these problems.  Even the so-called educated elite talk about societal problems as if ‘others’ should solve them.  A director with a doctorate degree would think that it is his minister who should solve a chronic problem in his ministry.  A minister would say it is only the president who can solve a vexing societal problem.  Sierra Leonean presidents have been known to go cap in hand begging the perceived omnipotent ‘international community’ to solve problems of finance, of agriculture, of education….In the throes of the Darkest Hours of our ‘rebel war’, we turned with reflex to the outside world to ‘save us’ – Nigerian-led ECOMOG troops; Indian Ghurkas, South African Executive Outcome mercenaries, British Marines…..Our citizenry - especially, the educated elite  who are over 40 years, and exposed to living in other sophisticated societies -  must change this shameful ATTITUDE. 

Our governing elite must adopt the ATTTUDE of confronting societal problems, debating it, synergizing, and moving with military dispatch to find solutions. 

Now that President Koroma has made a clarion call to us all to END ignominious indiscipline in our nation – which partly explains the disgraceful paradox Sierra Leone wallows in: one of the richest countries in national resources with most of its peoples squalidly poor – our ATTTUDE must be to collectively join him to give optimum momentum to this campaign, without which all our talk of being an ‘independent’ nation, of embarking on sustainable development, is bunkum.

‘In times of peace; prepare for war’

In this vein of a changed attitude, with confidence that we all must give all-out support to President Koroma’s war on ill-discipline, I dare to re-suggest (I first suggest this idea in my first article on my return from Nigeria in 1995; which was published in George Khoryama’s NEW SIERRA LEONEAN newspaper) that ALL ABLE BODIED YOUTH SHOULD DO COMPULSORY MILITARY TRAINING.

With the nastily brutish ‘rebel war’ of the Foday Sankoh-led RUF in our mind, most Sierra Leoneans palpitate with any serious mention of ‘military’ or ‘war’.    A trite dictum for rational nations is this: ‘in times of peace, prepare for war’.  

We are at peace today.  We apparently have peaceful sub-regional neighbours today.  So, it appears that there is no immediate need for military preparedness of our entire citizenry.  Wrong.  Our recent history should open our eyes to the need for military preparedness of the entire citizenry.

In 1991, when Foday Sankoh’s RUF entered Sierra Leone from Liberia and ignited his ‘rebel war’, Liberia was a weak nation.  Prof. Amos Sawyer headed a government that had control only in the capital city of Monrovia.  Charles Taylor and his NPFL rebels controlled most of the countryside of Liberia.  Liberia was almost a non-state, with two governments, and its 2 million people were locked in a bitter tribal war. 


Yet, Liberia’s Charles Taylor sponsored a military incursion into Sierra Leone; where there was a government headed by a ‘military general’ – General Joseph Saidu Momoh.  The scorch-earth tactics of the RUF rebels were only checkmated when there was universal military preparedness of the rural peoples, especially with the Kamajors in the South/East.   Tiny nations like Switzerland and Israel that have compulsory military training for all their citizenry have shown the deterrence value of compulsory military service.  No other nation dares mess with them.  No small group of people internally would attempt to impose their will on the majority in those countries.    Military discipline for all the citizenry obviously transcends preparedness for physical war. 


Military Discipline Will Prepare Youth for General Discipline

The most important creed in a military is DISCIPLINE.  

It is DISCIPLINE that President Koroma is resolved to instill into our citizenry.  Military discipline for all youth will certainly help the President to more speedily achieve his goal.  Military discipline would inculcate into our youth the noble qualities of service, sacrifice, devotion and dedication. Military training will generally keep our people  physically fit; and will broaden their mind to fully embrace the British-created  geographical entity called ‘Sierra Leone’ – escaping from current primordial ‘village-doms’ thought processes.   Through   militarizing the entire citizenry, we will be accomplishing qualities and characteristics which we lack today, and desperately need.   We lack virtues like team spirit, loyalty, sense of duty, value of time, dignity of labor, selflessness, simplicity and nobility of character, strength of courage and spirit of good fellowship.


Military Discipline Will Help Youth in Sports and Academics

Since the year 2000, I spend most of my non-working hours with youth who are members of the youth group I helped to found, Youth Arise!! I teach them Hatha Yoga; and others teach them Martial Arts.  Even at 58 years of age, I have bodily flexibility than most of the under 20 year old youth I teach.  I deduce that our weekly squash-playing President Koroma has more physical strength that most of our under 30 year old youth.  This is disgraceful.  It is hardly a wonder that Sierra Leone almost never would win international laurels in sports or athletics.  When I watch our teenagers dance I am saddened. Sierra Leone’s youth mostly would just wiggle their waists seductively – exerting hardly more energy than a 70 year old grandmother dancing.   No wonder most of our youth in educational institutions perform so woefully.   Lazy bodies – lazy minds.  Recent research by scientists in reputable universities in the West supports the thesis that vigorous exercise for children and youth enables them to perform better in their academic pursuits, even with difficult Mathematics. 


Disobeying Constituted Authority Must End in Salone

With military discipline, our youth will learn the fundamentals of command and control.  It is amazing how indiscipline has eaten into the fabric of our society - like virulent cancerous cells.  I know of a public institution where clerks, janitors, cleaners, etc... Would spend the first three hours of their working day in main halls joking loudly, eating breakfast, and joined by their administrative and human resources management directors – with absolutely no fear that the CEO of the institution would bump into their floor and meet them in their shameful squandering of corporate time.   Germans, Singaporeans, Japanese....with their penchant for law and order would think Sierra Leonean public service managers and leaders absolutely CRAZY when they tolerate junior workers to challenge the authority of their seniors – with impunity.

In 2011, I was head of public affairs in the National Revenue Authority.  I insisted that staff under my command should fill in a DAILY ‘Time Budget’ – to indicate in the letter the use of every hour of their working time.  They refused to obey my instructions.  I sent a formal Query to them.  Half of them relented. 

The other half still snubbed me. I escalated, by taking the matter to the institution’s ‘Disciplinary Committee’ – equivalent of a Supreme Court.  It was then that their political godfathers pleaded for them.   They were left off the hook.  These staff, all of them under 35 year old youth, were triumphant.  When the President facilitates regular consultation with senior staff in government he would get hundreds of similar stories which would make nonsense of his discipline campaign if he does not address them systematically. 

Systematically and comprehensively – not in just a speech alone, or, we are doomed as a nation.    


The President Intrinsically Delegates his Authority to Other Authorities


During the January 4, 2013 launching of the Operation WID at State House, President Koroma was emphatic about the authority of the presidency, of the State, which has been delegated to the ordinary policeman.The President said he would back to the hilt a policeman who implements the law.  The President threatened to dismiss an Inspector General of Police who tolerates those under his command and control to violate the law.  This spirit should pervade the entire public service.    Of course, if the President barks and does not bite, people would be derisive, and we would relapse back to what the President said would never be: ‘business as usual’.  The President would then betray the trust of the people who voted for him,  shatter the hopes of the entire citizenry whose optimism for national rebirth have been kindled by the President’s determined disciplined talk - especially the youth.    With compulsory military discipline for all the youth, the President’s resolve for a quantum leap towards a more disciplined society would become our national culture even within three years into his second term.  

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.