—A Tribute to Pan African Progressive Struggle icon and 1979 “Rice and Rights” Riot Hero Prof. Alaric Tokpa!
By: Mustapha N. Kanneh (Ataturk)
April 14, 1979 change the course of the Liberian political history forever and produced it villains (those from the oligarchy who arrested, wounded and murdered Liberians for standing up for their rights) and heroes (those who march with our people into history to defeat the system that oppressed them). One of its foremost heroes is Prof. Alaric Tokpa, a fearless and decent Liberian revolutionary icon, a political scientist and former student leader.
From a humble upbringing, Prof. Alaric rose to become one of the most decorated national student leaders who championed the cause for democracy, political rights and social justice in Liberia. While serving as the Secretary-General of the Liberia National Student Union at a very tender age, he signup for the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA)—A Leftist Pan Africanist pressure group that was agitating for social justice, academic freedom, democracy, peace and the improvement in the objective living conditions of the mass of the people living in Liberia and Africa. The Progressive struggle took place at the time the masses were denied access to universities, excluded from participating in the democratic space and subjected to harsh living conditions in shantytowns and slum communities such as Buzzy Quarters, Doe Community, Sonniwein, West Point and Sinkor, etc. Alaric Tokpa and other Progressives like Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh struggled to change this viciously scathy political system that pariah our people in their own homeland. He was one of the five student leaders of the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU) that were sentenced to death on firing squad by the PRC Junta military government in January 1982, but he was later reprieved by the grace of God while his colleagues were killed violently.
Subsequently, by 1985, he was again illegally jailed in the dingy, solitary prison of Belle Yellah with hard labor, the revolutionary cadre was sentenced and remained in prison until the end of the military despotism of Samuel Doe. These unjust confinements and torrid experiences in prison did not deter him as a revolutionary praxis to struggle for good governance, accountability in public service, human dignity, people’s power and the elimination of the bubonic plague of corruption from our society. On his bare brown skin are painted a tattoo of revolutionary insignia and a seal of national heroism; an enviable status and impeccable reputation to behold among prominent members of the Liberian political progressive class.
Since his release from prison; he has been more critical and against injustices, inequalities, state plundering, and bad governance/s everywhere in the world and especially Africa. Prof. Tokpa as a practical theorist did not only fight against injustices and corruption in government and politics for over 27 years, but also blended theory with practice by contesting for a seat in the House of Legislature of the Republic of Liberia and the Presidency along with George Klay Kieh as Vice Presidential candidate on the ticket of the New Deal Movement in 1997 and 2005 respectively, because he holds that fighting for the people in the streets and trenches is not enough in the liberation struggle but also providing quality leadership and strengthening the values of leadership that is critical to improvement in the quality of the leadership of the Executive Branch of government and the pursuit of national development. But the irony here is eloquently expressed in the words of his revolutionary comrade Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh Jr. ” The masses don’t know their leaders, they celebrate and elect thieves but vilify good men and women”. Had Alaric and other members of the struggled Progressive Class succeeded in obtaining state power, there’s no doubt that Liberia would have been an isle of prosperity and national development by now.
What distinguishes Comrade Tokpa from his contemporaries is the single fact that he has never signed up for a government job due to the prevalence of corruption, bad governance, inequalities, injustices, bad leadership and the failure for each regime to improve the lives of the Liberian people since the Rice and Rights Revolution of 1979, the comrade is unblemished. He served as Chairman of the Political Science Department of the University of Liberia and former Professor of Political Science at the University of Liberia. Prof. Tokpa lives a modest and decent life by providing consultancy for NGOs/CSOs and INGOs at home and abroad. In addition to teaching and research, his engagement with subsistence farming and facilitating workshops for local farmers has given him exposure to the rustic pastoral living conditions of our people and clear knowledge of the suffering of Liberians in urban and rural areas.
Despite the Progressive, not having attained political power, they have never bullied the people and have always stood on the side of the defenseless masses from time to time. They were with the masses against the tyranny of Master Sergent Samuel K. Doe. They fought with the people against the phony dictatorship of Charles Taylor, they sided with the people against the kleptocracy of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and are still with the masses currently at the barricades boxing against the emergence of Black Fascism and Kakistocracy under George Weah. Comrade Tokpa and others in the Progressive Class have devoted their lives to the struggle for justice, the generous good of all and the equitable distribution of the wealth of the state for the betterment of all of its citizens. The “golden generation” of the activist in Liberian history, has been and is still here!
Comrade Prof. Alaric Tokpa life’s struggle can be summed up in the oath of a Knight of King Arthur’s and the Legend of the Round Table and should be for all of us to take to heart: “I will develop my life for the greater good. I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth, I will never boast, but cherish humility instead, I will speak the truth at all times, and forever keep my word, I will defend those who cannot defend themselves, I will honor and respect women, and refute sexism in all its guises, I will uphold justice by being fair to all, I will be faithful in love and loyal in friendship, I will abhor scandals and gossip-neither partake nor delight in them, I will be generous to the poor and to those who need help, I will forgive when asked, that my own mistakes will be forgiven, I will live my life with courtesy and honor from this day forward”.
Fellow comrades and the progressive class, “We can’t be taking pleasure from the poverty-stricken condition and abject misery of our people then we say the struggle must end. We can’t be in haste to get rich and pretend that the struggle is coming to an end. On our side, the struggle is just beginning” —Prof. Alaric Tokpa.
Sixty-one (61) years at the barricades and onwards stronger and hungrier in the people’s struggle for a better Liberia— Happy Birthday Prof. Alaric Tokpa! Semper Paratus—Dominus Vosbiscum!
Main Picture: Alaric Tokpa, /www.liberianlistener.com
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