By Martin K. N. Kollie
Youth Activist, firstname.lastname@example.org
In most of Africa of which Liberia is of no exception, education is most probably considered as the leading qualification for national leadership. Overtime, this mentality has proven false and futile. In some countries, even the most educated or academically qualified have failed miserably and performed dismally. Liberia is a perfect case to reference under President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
This analysis is in no way suggesting that education is less important or is not a key qualification for national leadership, but it is not the highest qualification. The highest qualification for national leadership is PATRIOTISM. One could be the most educated, but at the same time the most unpatriotic. One could obtain double PhD degrees, but does not have love for his/her country.
PATRIOTISM goes beyond education. It is putting one’s country above self through devotion and allegiance. It is a self-sacrificing love for country and people even if it causes death. This is why I consider PATRIOTISM as the highest qualification for national leadership. When those in authority are patriotic, the country and its people prosper.
The comparison below further qualifies my conclusion that PATRIOTISM is the highest qualification for National Leadership.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former factory worker and shoeshine boy led Brazil as President for just 8 years and lifted 20 million people out of poverty. During his Presidency between January 1, 2003 and January 1, 2011, Brazil became the World’s fifth largest economy. Even though Lula da Silva was never a graduate of Harvard University, Cambridge or a Nobel Peace Laureate, but he ended his Presidency with 90% approval ratings.
Lula da Silva, a child of dirt-poor migrants and a metalworker rose to prominence as the 35th President of the Federative Republic of Brazil and led his country with dignity, patriotism and dedication. Under his reign, the poor and middle class had high purchasing power with unlimited access to quality education and improved healthcare.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair described Lula da Silva as “one of the most remarkable leaders of the modern age”. Lula is widely regarded as one of the most popular politicians in the history of Brazil for his outstanding leadership.
Lula da Silva of Brazil meeting with poor Brazilians
John Pombe Magufuli, a former teacher, farmer and industry worker assumed office as the 5th President of Tanzania on November 5, 2015. In just 12 months of his Presidency, John Magufuli who is popularly known as the “Bulldozer” set up 1,423 industries even though he is not a Harvard trained economist. He cancelled Independence Day celebration and diverted the funds to fight cholera outbreak and buy hospital beds.
President Magufuli auctioned the luxurious cars of senior government officials and banned any future purchase of such vehicles. He reduced government ministries from 30 to 19 and banned the purchase of first air tickets for ministers. The “Bulldozer” also instructed that government meetings and conferences be held in state buildings instead of expensive hotels. President Magufuli was recently named as the World’s Best President by the United Nations Economic and Social Council for leading his people by example.
John Magufuli leading a clean-up campaign in Tanzania
Paul Kagame, a former refugee and village boy from the Southern Province of Rwanda became the 6th President on April 22, 2000 when his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned. Under his Presidency, Rwanda’s economy has grown rapidly from a GDP per capita (PPP) of US$567 in 2000 to US$1,592 in 2013. Kagame has transformed his country’s economy from an agriculture-based to a knowledge-based economy in an effort to achieve a middle income country status by 2020. Kagame has lifted over 1 million Rwandans out of poverty and led his country towards a growth rate averaging 8% per year. Access to primary and secondary education has nearly been achieved with infant mortality rates dropping by two-thirds
Transparency International ranked Rwanda as the 8th cleanest out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and 60th cleanest out of 178 in the world in 2010 while the United Nations rated its capital city, Kigali as the most beautiful in Africa in 2015. The President has made youth education a very high priority for his administration allotting 17% of his country’s annual budget to education. Rwanda’s literacy rate has increased from 58% in 1991 to 71% in 2009. Kagame made health insurance mandatory for all citizens and by 2010, 90% of the population was covered. He increased the health budget to 9.7% in 2008 and launched a US$151.8 million initiative to train medical professionals in 8 years.
Under Kagame, Rwanda is becoming the hub of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Africa. The first ever high quality “Made in Rwanda” computers were manufactured and wholesaled on November 9, 2015 for as low as US$265 per computer. Due to Kagame’s patriotic spirit and dedication to service, the people of Rwanda led a campaign to amend the Constitution in order for President Kagame to run for a third term in 2017. 98.3% of Rwandans voted in a referendum on December 18, 2015 to change the constitution in favor of Paul Kagame’s third term bid.
Paul Kagame and his wife providing community service
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female President, an alumna of Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Nobel Peace Laureate assumed office as the 24th President of Liberia on January 16, 2006. President Sirleaf has won for herself 8 Honorary Doctorate degrees and over 15 International Awards, but Liberia is the 4th poorest country in the world according to Global Finance February 13, 2017 report. Transparency International ranked Liberia as the most corrupt country on earth in 2013 while UN Habitat rated Monrovia as the least city with a City Prosperity Index (CPI) of -0.313.
President Sirleaf has been in power now for almost 12 years and her government has received the highest international support since 1847, but 81.86% of Liberia’s population remains poor with 83.76% living on US$1.25 a day according to UNDP 2015 Human Development Report.
If a shoeshine boy like Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil could lift 20 million Brazilians out of poverty just in a period of 8 years, I am wondering why couldn’t a Harvard trained public administrator like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf lift just 3.5 million Liberians out of poverty and crush corruption. In the midst of abundant natural resources and a small population, what is big about reducing poverty from 81.86% to even 50% in a period of 12 years? If Magufuli of Tanzania and Kagame of Rwanda are making their people smile through sweeping and concrete reforms, Why not Ellen who is presumably ‘overqualified’ for the presidency?
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf posed with her Nobel Peace Prize
Now I know that PATRIOTISM is the highest qualification for national leadership, especially for the Presidency. Now I know that there is a difference between ACADEMIC QUALIFICATION and PATRIOTISM. Now I know that PATRIOTISM is different from mere RHETORIC.
Bad governance as a result of greed, nepotism, corruption and the lack of political will has hindered and continues to impede Liberia’s progress. As Africa’s first independent nation proceeds to yet another historic and crucial election in October of this year, Liberians must elect PATRIOTS. Anything on the contrary, GENUINE TRANSFORMATION is yet too far from the shores of Liberia.
From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a NEW LIBERIA rising above the African Continent.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist who hails from central Liberia specifically Bong County. He is currently a student of the University of Liberia studying Economics and a Lux-In-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is also the West Africa Bureau Chief / Editor of Globe Afrique, a Global Columnist of The African Exponent and a contributor to dozens of local and international media outlets. He can be reached at email@example.com