By: Pah Chea Youlo
Indeed, this question has been on my mind for over three decades. I have not asked this question because Liberians consist of many people of diverse backgrounds – some are tolerant and others are intolerant; some are introspective and others are not; others are insightful and some are not; others are easily offended and some search for reasons. In keeping with my upbringing, asking a superior person, especially all inhabitants of a nation or anybody for that matter, ‘what is wrong with you’ makes that person or group of people feel otherwise.
Being a humble and respectful person, and somebody who comes from a background of God-fearing people, with the burning desire to ask this pressing question at this crucial time of our country history, I have decided to reframe it to: ‘what is wrong with us, Liberians?’ so that you and I can be comfortable with the issue. As Liberians, we are compatriots. In order for compatriots to move their country forward, they need a high degree of patriotism. Patriotism works with collectivity; and collectivity is oneness – working together in unison. Therefore, on the national front, your error is mine and others’ shortcomings are everybody’s failure. Let me tell you what I mean:
You know, history is the written record of past and present events – this article is an analogy depicting Liberians’ continuous judgmental errors. We have observed with distress the reactions of Liberians to unfolding issues. In 1980 for instance, when the then Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe and sixteen enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia on April 12 slaughtered President William R. Tolbert, Jr. for ‘rampant corruption’, there was jubilation in the streets of Monrovia and other parts of the country.
Instead of a mass demonstration denouncing the coup and calling on the plotters to go back to the barracks, Liberians were singing: native woman born soldier; native woman born soldier. That was a great mistake! Liberia’s constitution does not say when an elected president is corrupt then you should use the barrel of the gun to remove him from power.
According to our constitution, when an elected president is found guilty of corruption, the National Legislature is clothed with the statutory responsibility to remove (impeach) him from power. This is why the Legislature is the first and most powerful branch of government. But because of this same question (What is wrong with Liberians?); the capitol building is filled with former warlords and ex-combatants who don’t have regard for the constitution. But we will be doing a great disservice if we don’t congratulate some good and progressive lawmakers like Honorable Conmany B. Wesseh of the House of Senate and Honorable Dr. Bhofal Chambers of the House of Representatives, to name a few, for their unflinching strides for true democracy in Liberia. Thank you gentlemen! That mistake was never corrected for almost a decade. Suddenly, Charles Taylor, in disguise with patriotism, entered the country through Buutuo in Nimba County to unseat another elected president.
Without remembering the suffering of the people of Biafra in southern Nigeria; the suffering of the Angolans in the hands of the UNITA Rebels; the suffering of the people of Uganda in the hands of the National Resistant Army, and the suffering of the Sudanese in the hands of the Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) of the late Dr. John Garand; just to name a few, Liberians from all walks of life joined the revolution. The numerous deaths, destruction and looting of properties, gang rape, cannibalism – all the bloody deeds and the rest are history.
After years of fierce fighting with combatants, the West African Peacekeeping Force (ECOMOG) succeeded in restoring peace in the country. An election of propositional representation was held. Again, Liberians took to the streets singing: You killed my pa; you killed my ma, I will vote for you. And so Charles Taylor was elected president. Charles Taylor, throughout the war years, created animosity with our neighbor, Sierra Leone through rebel incursion and as such, he was never a favorite of the international community, without whom our beloved country is isolated. As a result, Taylor’s ‘hands were tied’ and could not reconstruct the country (but he bought arms and ammunitions in huge quantities).
Liberia remained in darkness and the people stumbled. The so-called Liberia World-wars I, II and III broke out as deaths, looting, rape, hunger and suffering returned to Liberians once again as a retribution for the mistakes they continue to make. When the carnage and anarchy ended and calm returned to the country once again through the intervention of the gallant men of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (may the Almighty God continue to shower His bountiful blessings upon this sister country), Liberians were sent to the ballot box. The ‘Iron lady’ of Liberian politics was elected in a run-off with one of Liberia’s finest, renowned, decorated, patriotic, peace-loving and flawless son of the soil, Ambassador George Manneh Weah. The result of the election and the subsequent inauguration was followed by nepotism, favoritism, sectionalism and all the destructive isms.
What Liberians cannot understand is why corruption would surface in the regime of the Iron lady. During her inaugural speech, corruption was termed as public enemy number one. When national auditors and the international community scrutinized the Government’s activities, the Unity Party-led government was termed as the most corrupt government in Liberia’s history. The government failed to combat the public enemy. Unable to fight corruption, it was again termed as a vampire – meaning the Unity Party-led government consisted mostly of economic vampires. Instead of allowing the law to take its course, the president declared that she would put her head on the chopping-board for government officials who were accused of misappropriating government funds. Some were recalled to the Executive Mansion as advisors to the president. Public enemy number one at work!
The 2011 re-election of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is another mistake that the electorates made that has affected the peace and reconciliation process. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommends that some individuals should not hold public office for thirty years or so. Mysteriously, the recommendations of the TRC are being buried under the carpet. Why Liberians couldn’t tell the international community that ‘we will not vote unless the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are implemented’? Interestingly, they went to the polls under the sun and rain and voted for the people who are banned by the TRC recommendations. Right now, if you enter the Capitol Building, you will realize that a significant number of the lawmakers are ex-combatants. What is actually wrong with Liberians?
Our people (the Liberian people) surprise me a lot! Why will we continue to elect people who don’t have feelings for the poor? Here is the Group of 77 – no proper care. Would you have me to believe that you prefer darkness rather than light? Yes. I strongly believe that if Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God of Israel, would come in His glory and tell you: I am Jesus of Nazareth; I have brought salvation and light, you will definitely choose darkness. Come on fellow Liberians; this is the time to vote for change and pave the way for our children’s future.
They depend on us too much and therefore, we cannot remain dormant. During the hearing of the TRC, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of the Republic of Liberia, a Nobel Peace Laureate, told the Liberian people that she gave ten thousand United States Dollars to Charles Taylor to help the Liberian people. According to the president, this amount was a humanitarian gesture. But she was heard instructing Charles Taylor to break down the Exe
cutive Mansion. Liberians left the right path and re-elected the Unity Party in the 2011 presidential run-off. They surely expected the worse to happen – and it happened: the National Oil Company of Liberia then headed by the president’s son went bankrupt.
In this respect, counting the failures or errors of the Liberian people in choosing a progressive leader, we will not dispute their need for a change this time around. Truly, Liberia needs change. We cannot continue to keep the same reactionaries in power and expect change. This time around, this 2017 presidential run-off is like a judgment day.
It is the time for Liberians to choose a progressive leader instead of an old reactionary with no vision at all. This year’s presidential run-off is highly interpreted as a transition from reactionary to progressive change; it is a transition from an old order of things to a new Liberia in which all Liberians are equal before the law; a new Liberia where all Liberians will be given equal opportunity to participate in the nation-building process; a new Liberia in which Liberians will be given preference for job; a new Liberia in which our people will be proud of been Liberians; and a new Liberia in which peace will prevail forever.
The Change We Need
From time to time, when those vying for elected positions are successful, they abandon the people who elected them. This time around, those elected to lead must be our servants. In the new Liberia, there must be equal distribution of state resources. Today, there are foreigners working in government ministries and agencies and accumulate fabulous salaries and take the money to their countries for onward development. Government contracts are being awarded to foreigners while qualified Liberian contractors operate skeleton firms. Our lands are being sold to foreigners because Liberians are jobless and have no source of income to sustain their families. In the new Liberia, it is highly expected that qualified Liberians will replace these foreigners without the least hesitation.
While we accept the fact that foreigners are partners in progress, we will not allow foreigners to occupy positions in government ministries and agencies while qualified citizens remain jobless and live in abject poverty. We believe it is the citizens of a nation that are responsible for its development. So how did the reactionaries expect us to rebuild our country – with our bare hands? In the new Liberia, we need an inclusive form of government with everyone having equal access to opportunities and resources including the poor and marginalized.
Yes, we need a change! We need to change Monrovia as our capital city and build a new one in central Liberia. We say central Liberia because it will be easy for people from the fourteen counties to reach the capital city in lesser time. Monrovia has become saturated with people and the sewer system can no longer stand the test of time. We need a new political capital for rapid development. Foreign missions will build their embassies in the new capital city so that bu
sinesses will boom thus creating job opportunities for Liberians.
Change comes with decisiveness, determination. In the old order of things, the leaders actually failed to realize that to effect change you use alternative, not ultimatum. As a result, they could not change the old system. One example is that a senior security officer was dishonorably discharged. Instead of finding alternative means to effect change in the force, the dismissed officer was returned to post as if to say he is the only Liberian. Leadership does not come with education; Leadership is the ability to effectively serve your people to their satisfaction, impacting and instilling moral discipline along the way. A true leader requests for wisdom to govern his people and not requesting for signature fees for a contract that will bring economic empowerment to the country as was done in the Unity Party-led government.
Come November 7, 2017, we expect all registered voters to turn out in their numbers and exercise their constitutional rights by voting for CHANGE. All Liberians know the old saying: You never try, you never know. It is a matter of trust. Every Liberian knows this country needs change. Government is not run by one man – as one tree cannot make a forest. We need to pray to God vigorously and place our country in the hands of a progressive leader who is from the grassroots and knows our suffering. And with God above our rights to prove, we will overall prevail. Change is all we need and all other positive things for Liberia’s growth and development will follow.