By Jackson Bropleh
With less than 24 months to 2023 Presidential and General Elections in Liberia, the daunting challenge Liberians are faced with is who will be the next very good President. On every street corner, the arguments are raging like California fire. Markets women are actively pitching in. Academicians, universities students as well as others are comparing notes of who will ensure full financial support and a smooth or uninterrupted academic program. The grand Student Unification Party and other students’ groups are worrying and wondering who will guarantee academic freedom and social justice. Jurists are busy looking forward to practicing law without any interference. Businessmen, as well as other professionals, are contemplating the next President that will create a level playing field, develop and implement business-friendly policies that would engender economic growth, attract investors, and ensure businesses flourish. Yana boys, motorcyclists, and Kekes’ drivers can’t wait to form the long cue to cast their votes for the next Commander-in-Chief. First-time voters including my teenage daughter and other young voters are excited and eagerly waiting to make history. They will run like hurricane Katrina to cast their first and historic votes that will determine the kind of country they will want to live in. I am yet to return a call from my brother, a fisherman, who wants to know who to vote for to ease or reduce the high taxes imposed by our Kru brother. My nephew in KEY who is raising two young children asked me during a visit who to vote for. Gbaehplue, Senyondee, Jebeh, Tenneh, Boakai, Tamba, Kotokai, Kai, Chelly, Nyemah, Sando, Fallah, Gbe, Koffa, Varney, Koko Wleh, Sonpon, Chea, Toe, Weah, Flomo, Hiah, Nmah, Yamah, Doe, Wiefueh, Finda, Saah and Korlu all tenants of retired and oldman Kerkula who is yet to receive his retirement package, engaged in a frantic and civil debate. Liberians are actively discussing their political future.
As these discussions are progressing and the search for a real patriotic and very good leadership continue, the proliferation of political parties does no good to Liberia’s democracy. The emergence of many political parties including the People Liberation Party (PLP) in recent times, adding to crowded theater, presents no genuine and authentic solution rater, it serves as another breeding ground for some greedy and disgruntled elements, people who jump from one party to other. These political grasshoppers, who failed to compromise or reach a settlement of problems in their original parties, seek sanctuary in other political parties. While there is no constitutional limitation of political parties, common reasoning should take precedent. This is a very small country with less than 5 million people and about 90% illiterate population, how many political parties will be in this tiny country? Liberians should by now understand that our problem is not about the number of political parties, it is the quality of leadership to lead the Liberian people and restore laws and orders. A leadership that will focus on elevating the Liberian people and improve their lives. A man that will indeed build a wholesome functioning society in which Liberians will take control of their economy. For over decades since the brutal murder of former President William Richard Tolbert, our nightmare seems to have no end in sight.
Liberians should begin to canvass for an honest leader, one who understands and demonstrates a strong commitment to the causes and aspirations of the country and its people. One who lives and survives the Liberian situation and therefore will put Liberia first, Liberia in the middle, and Liberia last. A person that will create a level playing field for us to realize our worth as people and country. A very good leader that will prioritize Liberians over foreigners. Foreigners have taken over our banking and insurance industries. Ghanaians are controlling our insurance enterprise something that will never and ever happen in Accra. Reports have it that the Liberia Government has no majority share in the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI). In short, there is no Liberian-owned operating bank. It is our information that all of the banks in Liberia are either owned and operated by Nigerians and or Ghanaians. It is no secret but a very shameful undertaking that our country is lost in the international community. As things stand, Liberia has become a laughing stock. The present leadership from all indications seems not to be interested in doing the job of the Liberian people instead of engaging in acts not portraying a good image of our once land of Liberty, our lovely Liberia. We have no footprint even in regional body organizations including ECOWAS. All we hear and see is the overturn of rulings of the Supreme Court at the ECOWAS court.
When the late President William Richard Tolbert took the oath of office in July 1971 and promised to lift Liberians from mat to mattress, his actions matched his words, and his administration was focused in that direction. He didn’t build chalets for himself. There were policies formulated that enhanced these pronouncements. Payment of salaries of civil servants, for example, was made current while the cost of living was gradually improving. A bag of rice was less than $20 United States Dollars and speculations to increase the price of rice were widely discussed. This sparked debate among the Progressives and also among Students. Students at the University of Liberia were actively involved. A possibility of a nationwide protest was at arm’s length. Commany B. Wesseh, a former student activist at the university who took part in these deliberations is sitting at the National Legislature and Liberian people including his own people from River Gee can’t afford to buy a bag of rice. Working-class families could afford and provided a nutritional meal for their families. Some were able to send their children to some good schools. MCSS managed schools were outstanding. President Tolbert’s policy on education was unmatchable. He strongly believed that one of the solutions to our problems was to reduce illiteracy. To achieve this, President Tolbert’s 9-years leadership saw the construction of the Voinjam and Zwedru Multilateral schools, unlike his predecessor whose 27 years saw very few schools mainly in Monrovia. During his tenure, the people’s Borough of New Kru Town which was created by an Act of the National Legislature in 1916 saw for the very first time the construction of a modern high school formerly Tolbert High now named D’ Twe High. That school is almost taken away by the erosion while a Kru man is sitting at the Executive Mansion. President Tolbert created an enabling environment for learning. To this end, he provided subsidies to qualified privately managed institutions including my Catholic Church Education System which today is allegedly plagued with maladministration including financial indecorums. As a result of these alleged improprieties, Catholic School Teachers have gone on strikes.
The Late President Tolbert was a visionary. His dream of making Liberia self-sufficient in food production especially our staple food (rice) was not political rhetoric or mere jargon. As a manifestation, President Tolbert provided incentives for students at the College of Agriculture and Forestry while tuition was free. Graduates from that College were employed while others were sent out for advanced degrees. On the other hand, he encouraged Liberians to engage in food production. On infrastructure development, President Tolbert undertook lots of development projects including low-cost housing units for working-class families. The Stephen Tolbert and Barnesville Estates are testaments. President Tolbert and his officials didn’t build personal houses using government resources. Under his regime, the Unity Conference center was built with the magnificent Hotel Africa overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. That hotel is threatened by sea erosion. The Gabriel Johnson Tucker bridge and the construction of the UN Drive from Vai Town to St. Paul Bridge and Unity Conference Center were a portion of his development projects. The foreign Ministry which now becomes the new Executive Mansion where Ellen Johnson Sirleaf performed dismally and wrecked the Liberian economy was built by the late President William Richard Tolbert. Remember, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered the Executive Mansion burned down and promised to build it. But for the 12 years of her criminal activities, she used the Foreign Ministry while the elegant Executive Mansion is sitting idle.
Since the brutal murder of President Tolbert, succeeding governments have not lived up to the task. Empty, false, and broken promises have become new norms of government operations. Mayhem, torture, and extrajudicial system have been introduced and pervasive especially amongst the new breed of young administrators. The immediate past President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the worst of all. Stealing of the Liberian people’s money by Government officials is the new order of business. With her so-called impeccable academic and other credentials, her 12 years rule yield nothing but rampant corruption and breakdown of societal structures. One such institution that is malfunctioning is Social Security. The report has it that Social Security is a pepper or backyard garden for this Chief Executive. Retirees hardly receive their social security income. As a way of saving herself, she installed this regime.
It is a hard fact that the Government of Liberia lacks the willpower to meet the ever-growing challenges in the country. All that seems to capture their attention is to make foreign trips to receive huge traveling allowances without any result. Also, their interest is lavish spending and indebting the country. This regime does not have the capacity to tackle the task of nation-building. For three years plus sitting at the Executive Mansion, no infrastructure bill has come to the desk of this President for signature and implementation. His policy of making learning institutions especially the nation’s highest institution, the University of Liberia, the cream of our society more viable is not a priority. More or less that knowledge creek is partially paralyzed. The President of the University of Liberia and his financial crew have to make multiple voyages to the Ministry of Finance, my former work site to get a single voucher approved for payment. All we see and hear is the continued payment of extra money to government officials including the National Legislature. The latest one being the so-called “Community Engagement” payment of $30K to each Senator. Very disgracefully, the building of substandard and or patching of roads in the capital city, Monrovia is the most achievable undertaking. Liberia is 174 years old, we are still building Monrovia. When will we look to other areas including the home of a one-time political activist who is sitting at the National Legislature and approving the national budget? As a result of these unwholesome behaviors, one wonders what is happening to our taxes. What our taxes are doing for our country? Liberians celebrate kind gestures from other countries. Remember, the construction of the Japan Freeway was done with the Japanese citizens’ taxes. The citizen of Japan’s taxes is what built the road that was dedicated on July 26. Where do our taxes go?
As Liberians eagerly matching towards the 2023 elections, we should ask a very simple question, what will happen to our children, grand and great-grandchildren? Which country are we leaving them with, a broken country? In so doing, Liberians should be careful of who will peddle the canoe that will catch more fish to feed over 5000 people. A man with that character free of corruption. A man who will say NO and mean NO. A man will not say YES for NO. A man that will be the symbol of our country. Liberians should in 2023, elect a man that lived and endured the Liberian struggle. A progressive whose works speak for his character. There is no time to wait, a man who on day one after his inauguration, knows who to call. A man whose signature will switch the lights for Liberia to shine again.
Let Liberians rally around a man that will ensure that our children, grand, and great-grandchildren will have a good learning environment so that tomorrow they will take over the leadership of our country. What is happening in Liberia now especially in Monrovia does not guarantee any good future mostly for the young generation. We must put the future of our country first against our greediness. Let’s rally around a man that will build a society in which the rule of law will take precedent. A man that will put the interest of Liberians over foreigners. A man that will empower Liberians to manage and control their own economy and not foreigners like Ghanaians, Indians, and Lebanese. Let’s elect a good man with decent character. Let’s elect a man that will put Liberia first, Liberia in the middle, and Liberia last. A nationalist that will make Liberia great. In a short term, let’s elect a man who will be the embodiment of the true Liberian society that we are yearning for. Let’s watch out gradually, he is coming soon.
Main Photo: Ellen Sirleaf /Liberian Observer