The Remarks were delivered by Alaric Tokpa, Chairman of the National Democratic Coalition Presented at the Town Hall Meeting Held in Minnesota on Saturday, November 13, 2021, by the North America Chapter of the Unity Party in Honor of former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Head of the Collaborating Political Parties and Political Leader of the opposition Unity Party
Mr. Vice President, head of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and political leader of the Unity Party, the chairman and officials of the North America Chapter of the Unity Party, Chairman of the Board, president and officials of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, dear friends, distinguished ladies, and gentlemen, comrades
I know that we are all here very anxious to listen to Vice President Boakai. But it is equally important for those who seek national leadership to be guided by what they hear from those of us who are the genuine leaders and representatives of the poor and oppressed majority, mainly we the social democrats in the progressive community. Concerning what I have to say today, I decided to document and be guided in what I have to say on this occasion because, in the era of social media, varying interpretations and misinterpretations are the order of the day.
We live at a time when the availability of information is overwhelming. There is too much information on just everything. We live at a time when interest in current affairs has grown very fast. We live at a time of social media when it has become difficult to ignore details and rumors. Unfortunately, the increasing presentation of opposing commentaries and viewpoints has sometimes made matters confusing for ordinary people. Hence, on occasions like these, it is important to make correct analysis in order to complement the tireless efforts of young people in the media who are fighting to make Liberia a better place for all of us. So kindly allow me to make some technical remarks and substantive comments in general.
For those of us who have lost comrades, brothers, and sisters in the struggle for democracy in Liberia, the election is not a play-play thing. Incidentally, election 2023 will not be a palmbutter or torborgee party. To be frank with you, it will be an act of confrontation in which one party will overthrow or push away the other.
Beware, my friends. This is not the time for elegant speeches in Liberian politics. This is not the time for rhetoric in Liberian politics. This is not the time to cultivate blind support. This is not the time to flatter politicians. This is the time for us to say exactly what’s on our minds and find ways to work together for the good of Liberia.
Let me, therefore, begin in a blunt way. During election 2023, the worthless CDC government of George Weah will fight hard to remain in power. Why? This is because, as in the
words of Charles Taylor, the terrible tyrant, “no business is more lucrative than becoming president of Liberia.” Yet, 2023 will come and go and Liberia will still be here. So let those of us in the leadership of the opposition negotiate and hold together in such a way that will promote the interest of Liberia, our beloved homeland. On that note, except if the interest of the very country that we love so much requires us to do so, this is certainly not the time to kiss each other goodbye.
So I want you to bear in mind that within the very reason why the CDC government of Mr. Weah will fight hard to stay in power during election 2023 is the correct analysis of the misunderstanding in the opposition, not only within the CPP. As we the social democrats in the progressive community in Liberia see it, it is the crisis of the incurably corrupt state that is manifesting itself as a misunderstanding in the opposition. Why is this so? It is that way because control of state power has become a major source of accumulating wealth so much so that the competition for state power has become a life and death struggle. That is to say, control of government administration is big business. Not having the know-how on capital formation and knowledge of how to undertake private business initiatives, the assumption of government position is a serious investment for most of the incompetent and unrepentantly corrupt politicians in Liberia who have no other way to make money and live dignified lives.
That is why the CDC government of Mr. Weah and his surrogates and sycophants who have used his popularity for the wrong reasons will go on to present the party, state, and government as one fearful force that will continue to intimidate the voting population and attack opposition leaders by placing obstacles in their ways through all kinds of tricky illegal, illegitimate, and dishonest means. Of course, this will be wrong and problematic. But that is the way in which dictatorships function. And that is the way the Weah dictatorship will function towards the 2023 general and presidential elections.
Dear friends, distinguished ladies, and gentlemen, Liberia is bleeding and bleeding very fast. Liberia is terrified by an unimaginably evil government. Liberia is dying. With rapid frequency, Liberia is drawing nearer to her grave. In order for us to save our country, we must get focused and have the courage to tell each other and ourselves the hard truth, as we find useful ways to work together. In whatever we do, whether we agree or disagree, whether we say yes or say no, whether we become stubborn or compromise, we must insist on the best interest of the homeland, the sweet land of Liberty, and find unselfish ways of working together to save Liberia.
Come election 2023, my friends, we must come together and bring impunity into account by harshly punishing corruption and the killing of innocent human beings. We must come together and harshly punish rape. The fight against sexual and gender-based violence must feature high on the agenda. Let us stand together and demand justice and peace. In the spirit of our constitution, let us stand together and demand freedom of association, freedom of movement, and the honest counting of ballots. Let us come together and save our democracy and Liberia. Now is the time! So let us relate and talk to each other with respect. Let us try to understand and tolerate one another. In the best interest of our country, let us come together and cooperate where we can.
Hence, we who serve in the leadership of the political class in Liberia have work to do. And my dear compatriots, comrades, once we are doing the right thing to save Liberia from shame and disgrace, we should never waver. We should remain unshakable in our resolve.
Nevertheless, it should be said and understood that as part of the complications of democratic politics, it is difficult to understand the human mind and predict with absolute certainty the activities that a particular mind can produce over time. For that reason, the electoral history of Liberia teaches us that the policy of competitors when they seek popular support might turn out to be very different from their politics when they get elected. That said therefore when we distill the lessons of the past, we are well-advised and required to study and learn something about the past records of political competitors in order to make informed and guided opinions about whether or not to support them.
It is interesting that as we are talking about coming together to work for democratic change in Liberia, there are others who are determined to make Liberia remain the way it is or to make her worse than she has ever been. In that regard, I venture to say, when we observe that it is raining and others say that their sun is shining, then, the debate is over. People have eyes. They can see. They have ears. They can hear. They have mouths. They can eat and talk. They have skin. They can feel. We could easily say that if such people are satisfied with their reality, they can continue to live that reality. However, political questions in complex emergencies are just not so easily answered. In our present context, if we did that, we would be blaming the victim because ours is a society in which the system has deliberately manufactured ignorance and poverty in order to subjugate the majority of the people.
Historically, our people have been denied education, good health care, job opportunities, housing, and roads for reason. They are impoverished by the system so that they can continue to depend on corrupt and defective politicians during elections. Undeniably, therefore, the rigging of the electoral process has already started. Take the composition of the Supreme Court bench, the composition of the election commission management staff, the monetization of politics using state resources, and the manipulation of the monetary regime in preparation for the 2023 general and presidential elections. You name them one by one.
So toward elections 2023, we have work to do. And it will not be a palmbutter or torborgee party yah. For this very reason, those who will associate with opposition aspirants and candidates while carrying in mind selfish motives need to rethink their very positions. Towards elections 2023, the main work will be found in the field and not in the immediate surroundings of the candidates. The main work will find expression in the proper organization, proper management, the quality of the content of the checklists for the holding of events, and proper task execution at each and all levels.
Ladies and gentlemen, the meaning of election 2023 is to be found in the need for the survival and protection of the dignity of Liberia. In order to succeed in the 2023 elections, the opposition will need to engage in civic and voters’ education. There will be the need for campaigning in the homes, communities, villages, towns, districts, counties and cities. There will be the need to spread education and awareness materials. There will be the need to make constant telephone calls in order to persuade voters in the right direction. We will need to engage the media and elevate the most important concerns and issues of our people for public debate. We will need to work with our people in humble and respectful ways. These will be some of the activities to carry out in order to extract good meaning from the outcome of the 2023 election in the national interest.
Today, Liberia is at crossroads. Whether we go left or right, whether we go ahead or move backward will all depend on how well we answer the difficult questions before us. From our side, we the social democrats in the progressive community in Liberia believe that in order for Liberia to get on the right path, the political class will need to negotiate the way forward in the best interest of the country. First and foremost, in the interest of the country, enough is enough. The Weah administration must be given the red ballot in election 2023. As the first order of business that will be key in the understanding to be reached.
Mr. Vice President, dear compatriots, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, comrades; history is not only the path left by the past. History impacts the present and can direct the path to the future. If we pay keen attention to the lessons and power of history, we will find that the presidency in Liberia is extremely powerful. In a very interesting way, the rise of the powerful presidency in Liberia gives unique content to our political culture and system. Thankfully somehow, the unique trait and fashion of Liberians are that they always follow the direction of their president or leader.
We come from a country where the presidency can become a negative force; but, on the other hand, we come from a country where the presidency can also serve as a positive force. Hence after election 2023, as always, the direction that the president or leader will take is what will finally make or break Liberia. So how will we select and make that experience, knowledgeable, hardworking, and compassionate president; and just how will that president lead Liberia in the right direction? Those are some of the difficult questions that we are compellingly obliged to answer.
Liberia needs a leader who can listen. We need a leader who can think clearly. We need a leader who can stabilize and unify our country. Liberia needs a leader who will bring back our respect in the international community. Liberia needs a leader who will put us to work for national social, economic, and cultural development. Liberia needs a leader who will help revive our indigenous languages and the best parts of our culture. Liberia needs a leader that will inspire us to work day and night. Liberia needs a leader that will help us understand that nobody pays a woman or a man for sleeping unnecessarily. We need a leader with wisdom and vision. We need a leader who will touch hearts in a way that will bring national healing and reconciliation. Liberia needs a leader who will stop the wickedly motivated and senseless killing of the innocent. Our country needs a leader who will take decisive action to save the future of the youth who have lost all hope. Liberia needs a leader who will pay attention to the concerns of children, the youth, and the women. We need a leader who will understand and empathize with the issues and challenges of the working people and the elderly who have retired from work.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me remind you at this stage that I am not a member of the Unity Party and that I am not a member of any of the other constituent parties of the CPP. I am the head of the National Democratic Coalition (NDC) which is the oldest coalition in Liberia. I am the founding Chairman of the New DEAL Movement, the only political party that was formed during the administration of Charles Taylor, the terrible tyrant. I am the head of the social democratic tendency in the progressive community in Liberia. We the social democrats in Liberia believe in the struggle for political freedom and economic justice.
Yet, do not allow appearances to deceive you. We all function in the modern democratic culture. But I come from the heritage of the indigenous chieftaincy. We are the owners of Liberia. So we are the ones that God and our ancestors have given the assignment to save and protect Liberia at every critical turning point. With pride, dignity, and sacrifice of the best of ourselves, we will continue to honor that mandate of our ancestors and Almighty God.
In relation to our historical assignment, I should therefore say this. To those of my friends and comrades who always encourage me to stay in the United States, please do not take me out of context. There are many young people and other Liberians that have good reasons to be in America and the diaspora. But if I should speak for myself, I do not stay in another man’s land because it is shining and admirable. Our mission is to make Liberia shine and attractive too.
Yes, in Liberia, there are conservatives, there are liberals and there are radicals (say progressives). Of course, where some have worked for profit, we the progressives have usually worked for the people. But remember, we are human beings too. It is just that for the love and sake of the country, we since made the choice to struggle on the side of the poor and oppressed people for political freedom and economic justice. Because of that choice, we prefer to die poor and report the story to our heroic, revolutionary ancestors in the struggle. But this is not the time for that debate. This is the time to pay attention to negotiating the best interest of the country.
That said, it becomes clear that the so-called generational debate on the relationship between age and the ability for good and effective leadership is not applicable in this critical period of our national history. There is no theory in the science of politics and government which says that the younger that one is in age, the better the leadership he or she can provide. There is no theory in the science of revolutionary politics which says that the older you become, you have to conduct politics in a way that brings you wealth, even if that means betraying the struggle for political freedom and economic justice. Of course, in the progressive community, there may be hangers on and inconsistent elements. Such people should even be congratulated for their past efforts. But, comparatively, we have abundance of evidence form the side of conservatives and liberal opportunists that some of those who may be younger in age are more corrupt, wicked, and destructive than some of those who are older in age. This is the truth. Good leadership requires working with sensible ideas. Good leadership requires vision, wisdom, and commitment to principles and values that are people centered. Good leadership requires the ability and will to do what you say you will do for the people and for the sake of country. On the contrary, good leadership is not to be found in the reckless physical strength or roguish and criminal behavior of those who may be younger in sequential age. No, no, and no!
Therefore, with these general observations, permit me, in closing, to escort you on a tour of imagination into the future. Should the truth be told, if the political class does not come together and summon the courage to negotiate the best interest of Liberia, if the political class does not stand together and decisively act now to save Liberia from bandits and scums, one day a curious child from among generations unborn will rise up and ask the very question that we should be asking ourselves today? That question will be what really happened to the black African people of the sweet land of liberty that once existed on the west coast of Africa? If we do not act decisively and selflessly at this critical juncture, it is highly possible that in answering the question posed by that curious child in generations to come, it will be said that the people of Liberia forgot their history, and so they died. With Almighty God above and our ancestors beneath, I cry in prayer that this should never happen to us.
So the struggle continues
Main Photo: Alaric Tokpa