The 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections will bring us to a watershed period in both our post-conflict and post-Ebola recovery processes. A time when we are expected to peaceably make a momentous decision, either to choose a seamless transition or solidify the ground works for prosperity or to choose stagnation and pave the way for its debilitating ramifications.While international partners will supplant the government’s efforts by providing much needed support, the entire process is going to be exclusively owned and managed by Liberians. Should all turn out well, Liberia will experience a peaceful transition from one living President to another for the first time since 1944.
All of this means that the electorates particularly the youth, along with; the National Elections Commission (NEC), political parties and their leaderships, the media, and civil society, have a shared responsibility of ensuring that the hard won peace and stability are not eroded. While a lot of attention tend to be reserve for the day of polling, and ballot counting and tabulation processes, the comportment, pronouncements and activities of political actors prior to and during the campaign period are critical as they provide a window into gauging the general cohesiveness of society. Groups of Liberians can and will fail as political parties but Liberians must never fall to the temptations of failing as an entire society due to political differences.
The recent elections in Ghana and Nigeria provide good lessons that we can piggyback on to form optimism that we too can be that country that firmly aspires to the tenets of a strengthened and more functional democracy in Africa.
Regardless of who wins these elections, there is a huge gap to fill and certainly a good foundation to start on. Consolidating the gains made from the last twelve years and boldly correcting the real and perceived missteps, might prove daunting but is nevertheless doable if we work together as a unified people seeking a secured, just and prosperous future for ourselves and posterity.
Admittedly, every outgoing President will be concern about his or her legacy and may want to have a say in the decisions which lead to the picking of his/ her successor. However, true to our conscience and in our heart of hearts, this electionis neither just about preserving a President’s legacy, nor is it only about who runs the most sophisticated campaign, makes the loudest noise orarticulatethe most unrealistic platforms. It may also not necessarily be about the candidate with the most education. Rather, it is more about our security (economic, social, educational, health, among others) and the future of Liberia. To this end, integrity, grace, and sensitivity for shared prosperity and progress count.
I’m a reader and practitioner of international development and I know that governance and development are inseparable. They are like a pair of Siamese twins with complex and enormous difficulties.But in governance as with development it takes strong will, commitment and clearly defined policies and honesty to achieve anything meaning. There is absolutely no magic wand to surmount these hurdles it takes dedication and hard work and all of this begins and end with the people.
The winning party of this election presumably will be the government for the next twelve years. By then, I will be in my forties like many others who make a third of our population. Certainly, more than half of my supposedly appointed time of my earthly journey according to the good old book will have been covered, by then, hopefully my unborn kids would be in her mid-teens. These reflections alone remind me that so much is at stake for us not to be honestly critical and demanding of ourselves. We must ask the hard questions and do the most thorough assessments of character, experience, history, integrity, temperament and judgment of those seeking to serve and lead us.
The decision we make in October this year will help in determining whether we will be a successful people or miserable failures. 2017 will also determine if my daughter and other kids coming after will have that kind of basic quality education that offers the chance to compete with other kids across the globe and not be laggards.
The potential winners and losers of these elections are those I call the ‘Forgotten Majority’the Youth. But the youth also have an advantage, which lies in their constitution of 60% of the population. This means that we are the ultimate decision maker. Thus,it is important that we remain positively engaged. The current waves of personal attacks only drift us further away from the core issues related to what ought to be our shared destinies. (quality education, health and a fairer and functioning economy that provides an opportunity for everyone regardless of your political, sexual, social and religious persuasions and status.)
A rejection of an issue- centered discourse gives us only one outcome and that is bad leadership- something too expensive to afford at this moment. We might tend to be mean and insensitive because of our connections to a party or class, which might flaw our selection of the next leaders. Quite so, because of self-aggrandizement, thus, banishing the sense of love for country. But I ask, to what end? Some of us may get lucrative jobs but what pleasure will it give when a good fraction of our generation got no sustainable livelihood and income? Some of us will travel to the best schools abroad but what pleasure will it give seeing other colleagues struggling to acquire education from universities without an up-to-date libraries, science labs and class rooms occupied with ill-prepared lecturers and professors? Some of us will ride good cars but what pleasure will it give to see other young folks and seniors commuting because there isn’t an affordable and efficient public transport system? Some of us will afford to seek medical abroad and send our wives and fiancés to foreign hospitals to give birth to our kids but what pleasure will it give to see our kindred die in hospitals not fully funded, staffed and equipped? Some of us will afford a good meal at the best restaurants across the city but what pleasure will it give seeing a fellow compatriot hustling in an undignified way just to have a day meal?
These are some of the hard questions that should resonate with us when we make the ultimate call of who should govern us. The more we ignore these questions, the stronger we build an environment of insecurity and the closer we edge to another civil conflict which many predict might be brutal than the first.
We can safe our generation and secure the future for the next. The debate must be issues and ideas oriented. We must choose the right leaders with the will, passion, dedication and integrity. We cannot let ourselves fail!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill McGill Jonesholds a Bachelor of Science in Degree (BSc.) in Economics (Cum Laude) and is currently studying Environment & International Development (MSc.) at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. He is a mid-career professional with several years of working experience in development planning, monitoring and evaluation, project management and consultancy; a researcher and provide policy support to senior policy actors/national leaders and also inter-sectorial (public, private and non-profit sectors) coordination. Excellent communicator, good inter-personal and team working skills acquired through my volunteering works with the Liberian National Students’ Union and Federation of Liberian Youth. He is interested in working with development driven organizations that are interested in environment, climate change, project, development planning, community engagement, policy, programs and research. He can be reached at Bill.Jones@uea.ac.uk or email@example.com