Urey’s Misadventure into Liberian Politics

By Theodre Hodge

Politicians around the world do have a recurring tendency to spew the most puzzling (and sometimes idiotic) things out of their mouths. Donald Trump, a contestant in the Republican race for the US presidency has topped the charts recently for saying the most outrageous and offensive things imaginable. His asinine and fatuous statements have caused rancor of global proportions. But in this piece, my aim is to focus on the Liberian variety of politicians, specifically a gentleman (the term is used loosely) named Benoni Urey.

Mr. Urey, an aspiring candidate for Liberia’s next presidential elections (2017), is generally described as the richest Liberian alive, a dubious claim albeit. He is also described as an astute businessman and philanthropist. But does that make him a good politician? On that score, I beg to differ. And here’s why: I, personally, question the logic of Mr. Urey’s alleged comment that Liberia needs the Masonic craft for national leadership at this crucial crossroads of the nation’s history.

The Masons are known as a worldwide organization; it has been so for ages past. I do not intend to question the usefulness or the importance of the fraternal order since I do not have requisite standing to do so. It has been said that Masonic qualities include: God-fearing, caring, giving, loving, patriotism to country, etc… Again, for the record, I cannot confirm or reject such claims. What I do question is Mr. Urey’s bold and perhaps reckless strategy of tying his candidacy to such a proposition. While you are reading this, I’m scratching my head.

The aspiring candidate purportedly said: “We must build a new Liberia because there is a need to improve the Masonic craft and our country.” Notice the ‘country’ is apparently subordinate to the ‘craft”. It seems that Mr. Urey’s call is for the re-building of the Masonic craft, and if in the process they manage to refurbish a new country, then so be it. The reason I question this man’s political strategy is that he has already lost track of what he’s running for before the race actually begins. Any pundit or political strategist could have told the candidate to stay away from such a “hot potato” issue; you have more to lose than gain on such a proposition… and I shall demonstrate why in the next few lines. Seemingly, although Mr. Urey is touted as an astute businessman and philanthropist, he has not invested in wise political counsel.

Mr. Urey, I shall take the initiative to give you some free and unsolicited advice: In politics, especially on a stage of this magnitude, one is better off selling himself as a ‘man of the people’ as opposed to an elitist. In a society such as ours, where diversity reigns whether culturally, economically or socially, a candidate wants to stress what he has in common with his constituents, not what makes him stand apart as an elitist or socialite. In other words, emphasize inclusiveness as opposed to exclusiveness; your call for a Masonic re-birth runs contrary to that.

Mr. Urey purportedly said during his speech to his fellow masons: “The new government that is to succeed this government in 2018 must be led by a mason. Brethren, I want to let you know the new Liberia that we are striving to build for our people must be led by one of our kind.”

One of our kind? Did a candidate running for the presidency of a country actually make such a proposition? That the majority should sit spinelessly and support a member of the oligarchy in lieu of a democracy? What, one must wonder, is the benefit to the masses, especially given the history of our country?

Let’s delve a bit into our history. According to Mr. Urey, the secret society of masons have had grand masters who eventually became presidents of Liberia. One of those honored by the distinction was President Charles Dunbar Burgess King. King leaves one heck of a legacy as a Masonic grand master and president. It was during his administration that we got Firestone Plantation Company, the everlasting bloodsucker. It was during his administration also that Liberia had to face a League of Nations inquiry for the ‘Forced Labor Scandal’, ending into the resignation of his administration.

But King, the grand master president, leaves a more glaring legacy for posterity: He won the dubious distinction of being listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the most fraudulent election reported in history. The most fraudulent election reported in the history of the world? Yes. According to the record, Liberia had 15,000 registered voters and the other candidate, J. Thomas Faulkner, won 9,000 votes. But that didn’t stop our Masonic grand-master-president from winning by a landslide; he won by a count of 240,000 votes! The repetition is necessary for emphasis. There were 15,000 registered voters but the president won by a count of 240,000 votes!

It should be emphasized that Liberia at the time only extended basic suffrage to property-owning males of the Americo-Liberian ilk. Women had no vote; neither did the vast majority of the indigenous masses. Yes, the people of the interior paid taxes to the government and were forced to perform public works ordered by the government, and in some cases, forcibly conscripted to work for companies such as Firestone domestically, or sent to the island of Fernando Po… this led to the aforementioned ‘forced labor scandal’.

This is only a brief glimpse into our window of history. What is this proud record of leadership of which the candidate speaks so boastfully? What did the masons do for Liberia? The article on Mr. Urey’s speech also refers to the grand and majestic Masonic hall as “On the Hill”. Exactly what is the benefit to the masses of choosing an elite, a pious elite for that matter, from up the hill when the majority is consigned to living down the hill? Does our candidate understand the unfortunate euphemism employed here? Apparently, not.

Perhaps a brief caution is necessary here before the campaign intensifies: Liberia started out on the wrong foot, creating a divisive, instead of an inclusive society. Anyone interested in genuine change, as the candidate claims, needs to be cognizant of preaching unity and integration, not disenfranchisement and marginalization of the masses as the past shows. Throwing this counsel out the window could prove detrimental… leading to futile effort. It’s free advice; take it or leave it. But for a man calling for leadership from among ‘people of our kind’, Perhaps I’m only wasting my time. Checkmate.

The Author: Theodore Hodge can be reached at: imthodge@gmail.com

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