By Ing. Yayah A.B. Conteh
A sickening sensation often assails me every other moment that I reflect on the degree of irresponsibility demonstrated by the average Sierra Leonean citizen in addressing some pertinent issues affecting our society.
This degree of irresponsibility, manifested on a daily basis, often acquires an alarmingly menacing proportion, depending on where it is experienced, with its attendant negative consequences, be it in the city or in the provinces.
The first thing that readily springs to memory is the inability of the average Sierra Leonean citizen to respond to the challenges of maintaining simple decency within his/her environs.
A casual stroll along the streets or drives in both Freetown and the provincial towns clearly testifies to this lack of decency, evident from the scraps of papers, remnants of corn cobs, cigarette jots, etc., that can be found littering our surroundings. It is not always surprising to find out that most of these items are thrown around by pedestrians or passengers travelling around in taxis, tricycles or “kekes”, poda-podas or other forms of transportation plying the length and breadth of these routes.
It is high time pedestrians, along these routes, or passengers travelling in these moving objects, cultivated alternative means of disposing of this dirt, whether in the cities or elsewhere. This would not only help breed a dirt-free environment but that it would also boost the national cleaning consciousness of our citizens.
The littering of our bituminous highways, with oily substances by drivers and operators of both light and heavy duty vehicles, including those of heavy machinery, is nothing to write home about. It constitutes yet another issue bedeviling our society.
The reckless spill of fuel and lubricant oils, on these highway surfaces, undoubtedly weakens their cohesive content, leaving room for the creation of potholes and craters.
It is not uncommon, in fact, to see vehicles of different models which, having suffered from some mechanical defects on these highways, park along some portion of same. And thereafter, for lack of an appropriate traffic breakdown warning signs, the apprentices of these vehicles litter the front and back tracks of these vehicles with up-rooted grass or other objects so as to alert the attention of approaching vehicles and passers-by of the danger ahead.
The unfortunate aspect of this development is that the tracks, along which these vehicles are parked, are left littered with the dead stumps of these up-rooted grass or objects of some kind long after the vehicle had been repaired and rehabilitated, leaving in its wake a horrifying spectacle to behold. It is therefore high time this narrative is altered so that these tracks or carriage ways are always left clean and tidy.
.Additionally, the parking of vehicles and other forms of equipment, with reckless abandon by irresponsible drivers and operators on our roads, is yet another issue bemoaned by many a citizen in our country. This practice is predominantly prevalent in the Freetown Municipality, including the provinces as well.
It is common practice to see a vehicle or a tipper truck, for example, swerve to an instantaneous halt in an unauthorized portion of the road, thereby disrupting the free flow of normal traffic.
The argument normally advanced for such unauthorized parking, by most of these defaulters, is that there are no specific parking spaces reserved for such purposes. And if only such parking facilities are provided within our city and township roads, then that would ease the challenges associated with this. But be as it may it is but fitting that the defaulters in this case, plying the length and breadth of our roads with these vehicles and equipment, cultivate the habit of parking in orderly fashion in order to reduce accident threats that might result to fatalities.
Another area of concern, demanding a change of mentality on the part of culprits concerned, is in the use of indecent language against each other by taxi, keke and poda-poda drivers/riders in particular.
This normally happens in their quest to outdo one another in the process of capturing the attention of passengers further afield. It is common practice to see culprits of this act recklessly overtaking their counterparts at accelerated speeds in dangerous terrains of the road, and thus posing threats to the normal flow of traffic.
This unbecoming conduct, on the part of these defaulters, most often times invites strings of invectives from the challenger and the challenged. Truth be told, the trading of these invectives by both parties sounds unhealthy for our societies and culprits must desist from such practices if the values inherent in us and the morals we intend to uphold as a nation should be maintained and respected.
Another thorny issue bedeviling our society, for which a change of mentality is absolutely necessary, is the inability of our landlords and landladies to put into practice the long abandoned practice of maintenance culture to their premises.
Take a look at some of our magnificent edifices on our streets, especially in the city of Freetown. In spite of the blend of modern and archaic architectural designs that adorn most of these structures, yet a good number of them go without rehabilitation and maintenance attention.
Mostly these two or three storey buildings tower gracefully into the sky and yet depict total decadence and a horrifying spectacle to behold altogether.
The lack of providing them appropriate maintenance attention denies them of their original architectural beauty and this is grossly reflected on the poor general outlook of the city and townships we proudly call our own.
Apart from the fact that most of these suffer leaking roofs and other defects, they have equally remained untouched by a brush of paint for many a long decade.
It actually sickens me mostly to learn that our landlords and landladies extract exorbitant monies from their unfortunate tenants in the form of rent without even contemplating on improving the overall general outlook of these towering structures. This is indeed a disservice to these tenants of whatever class or standing in society.
The fact remains that improving upon the general outlook of these unkempt structures, both internal and external, does not only go to gladden the hearts of their occupants or help beautify our cities and provincial townships but that it would also uplift the image and prestige of our populace, especially in the eyes of visiting tourists and strangers from distant lands.
The City Councils, both in Freetown and the provinces, including other stakeholders of other similar organizations closely associated with finding solutions to these seemingly intractable problems, would have to revisit their drawing boards in order to seek remedy to them.
There are indeed so many other issues of untold magnitude hitherto affecting our society from the colonial era to date, which have not been highlighted in this write-up. Enumerating them all might seem to pose a bit of a challenge, for their number is legion.
But probably, the earlier we are able to address these issues by seeking the way forward in eliminating them altogether or reducing them at least to a minimum, the better it would be for the inhabitants of our cities and provincial towns and, indeed, the country as a whole.
Ing. Yayah A.B. Conteh
Director of the Mechanical Services Department
Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA)
Tel Nos.: 076640364 / 077718805