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Liberia Greatest Enemies

“VOLATILIA AD SIBI SIMILIA CONVENIUNT”

By Hun-Bu Tulay

In 1975, the late President Tolbert held a cabinet meeting and for the first time, he invited the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of a country is not a member of the cabinet and does not attend cabinet meetings, so it was outrageous to see him at the meeting. Also, in attendance were the leadership of the Legislature (Speaker, Deputy Speaker, President Pro-Tempore, and the chairmen of the executive and defense of both houses. In the president’s opening remarks, he said he was declaring war on the country’s three enemies. We assumed at this point; the president stopped for a few seconds for this to sink into the minds of those at the meeting. Those at the meeting were looking at each other and most of them thought about the country’s neighbors (Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast). After those few seconds, the President continued and said the country’s three enemies were Poverty, Disease, and Illiteracy. He said he would use all the resources to fight these enemies. It is now 47 years, and these enemies are still around. Are these the real enemies of the country?  Our answer to this question is a Big NO.

The country really has only two enemies, not three. These two enemies are GREED AND ENVY. Before we continue, we are going to define each for you to be able to follow the discussion. Greed is defined as an uncontrolled longing for increase in the acquisition or use of material gain, or social value, such as status, or power. It has been identified as undesirable throughout known human history because it creates behavioral conflict between personal and social goals. It makes a person look for more to be happy, and therefore it is one of the SEVEN SINS in the Bible for it is a self-goal to be happy.  It is the desire for money, fame, or authority. It has only one main goal: to seek happiness and satisfaction, but the happiness greed gives is only temporary. This is one of the harmful human vices and is related to jealousy, selfishness, and fear. 

Envy on the other hand is defined as a painful or resentful awareness of the advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. It is characterized by an insatiable desire like greed and lust. It can be described as a sad or resentful covetous towards the traits or possession of someone else. 

Both greed and envy are listed as two of the SEVEN SINS in the Bible. These two human vices have destroyed countries and will continue to do so until humans become intelligent enough to realize this. These two vices are the root causes of social injustice, corruption, violence, dishonesty, ritualistic killings, sexual abuses, and economic imbalance. If these vices are systematically cultivated in a country, the inevitable result is nothing less than the collapse of human intelligence. Leaders driven by these vices lose the power of seeing things as they really are.  And if the whole nation becomes infested by these vices, the people become increasingly incapable of solving their most elementary problems of everyday existence. They make leaders live upon ideas that conflict with the laws governing the country and the universe. Whenever a nation reaches this stage, conflict happens. Therefore, for some of us, April 12, 1980, coup d’état was not surprising. Even on December 24, 1989, civil conflict was never a surprise.  All leaders after the April 12, 1980, coup d’etat, including the current leaders, have been infested by these two vices.

Nobody should have the view that conflicts are irrational catastrophes. They happen when wrong ways of thinking and living bring about intolerable situations. These wrong ways of thinking and living are controlled by these vices (greed and envy). Are we close to conflict now? Your answer is as good as mine. Just look around you today and see what is happening with your resources and how our leaders manage them. You have heard statements such as “you killed my pa. you killed my ma, I will vote for you’ or ‘’you know book, you do not know book, I will vote you”, or “I will lay aside the Act that created the Bank and do what the President says,” or “sanction or no sanction, we will vote for you” or even “if you take our money and build houses for you and your families, and the houses are here that is developing the country.” These statements are made by leaders and people who live in falsehood. Bishop Bennie Warner once said, “The problem with Liberia is Liberians.”  We now believe he was correct. We, the voters, are the problem in this country. The Constitution gives us the power to vote for visionary leaders every six or nine years. Still, we prefer to vote for corrupt, crooks, irresponsible, avaricious, and envious leaders because we want short-term benefits like rice and ten US Dollars.

Do we have leaders in Liberia who can change the situation for the better?  We believe we can. Our forefathers had the opportunity to elect such leaders. The opportunity came for them to elect such a leader in 1885, that is 172 years ago, and the second opportunity came in 1952, that is 60 years ago, but they denied two of the greatest sons of the land the presidencies in persons of Edward Wilmot Blyden and Deedwho Weeden Twe. The mistakes made in the 1885 and 1952 elections got us where we are today (underdeveloped) and lost 40% of the land area of the country.

All the troubles of this land, even the collapse of the Seven Policia Alliance in 1997 and the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), can be attributed to these two human vices that have infested our political leaders in this nation. The CPP was not the first political grouping formed in Liberia that collapsed because of greed and envy. The first was the Alliance of Political parties, composed of seven political parties.

You all remember in 1997 a Political Alliance was formed with the intent to challenge the National Patriotic Party founded by Charles MacArthur Ghankay Taylor.  In a speech delivered in the hall of the Centennial Pavilion on January 3, 1997at 1100 hours, the Theme was “A NEW YEAR-1997”. In the Alliance’s opening statement, the representative said, “1996 has come and gone, ushering in new year; the Alliance of Seven Political Parties (Liberia Action Party-LAP, Liberia People Party-LPP, Liberia Unification Party-LUP, National Democratic Party of Liberia- NDPL, True Wing Party-TWP, Unity Party-UP, and United People’s Party-UPP) has been formed. The Alliance is thankful to the Almighty God for His Grace and Blessing to have made it possible for us to reach this day and for the Liberian Nation to still exist”. This speech can be found online).    The overall objective was to ensure that Taylor, the WAR LORD, was not elected as a Democratic President of the country. And to achieve this overall objective, the Alliance needed a FORMIDABLE CANDIDATE to challenge Charles MacArthur Ghankay Taylor in the 1997 General and Presidential Elections.

The Alliance had NO Roadmap or Strategic Platform for the reconstruction of the county after the Civil Crisis that destroyed all the basic infrastructures that provided the basic social services (Health Care, Education, Transportation, Telecommunication, Water and Sanitation, Agriculture, etc.), Rule of Law, Judiciary, Security, etc.  There was nothing that the seven parties jointly subscribed to; each party in the Alliance had its own vision, mission and platform that were different from the other parties’. This was sad because these seven political parties in the Alliance had all the best brains of the country. For me this was a fundamental error.  NPP realized that because this shared vision, which was reflected in a platform that articulated a clear program for reconstructing the country, was lacking, it would be easier to break up the Alliance.  On the day of the elections to select that formidable candidate for the Alliance, a NPP representative visited the Alliance at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Conference Center in Virginia, where the election was to be held, and with CASH Inducement, influenced the election of a less formidable candidate (Cletus Wortorson). It was not that Wortorson was a weak candidate, he was just not known at the time on the Liberia Political landscape. He was a geophysicist, and he was known as such. But the strongest candidates in the Alliance were Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Togba Nah Tipoteh; the NPP made sure neither of them was elected to represent the Alliance’s Ticket. Sirleaf or Tipoteh as a candidate against Taylor, the probability of the NPP or the Alliance winning would have been 50%-50 %.

Like the Alliance before it, the CPP has made the same mistakes (NO ROAD MAP/PLATFORM). There have been obvious evidence of the influence of money and Greed for power in the disintegration of the CPP. Remember that CDC formed a coalition with the NPP and those actors that destroyed the Seven Political Alliance are now active members of the CDC.  So, it was easy for them to use the same playbook to break up the CPP.  Like the Alliance before it, the CPP Members are highly educated. Still, most of these members are susceptible to the same temptations that doomed the Seven Political Alliance self-interest supersedes national Interest.

 We can say all this because we had the opportunity to sit and discuss the national interest of this country with some of the great political minds of Liberia. One such of persons was Dr. Edward Beyan Kesselly, the founder of the Unity Party. We became close when I was President of “the Lofa University Students Association (LUSA)”.

Sometime during the Interim Government headed by the late Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, a former employee of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism died, and the funeral was held in Millsburg. I believe, the deceased once served the Ministry as Special Assistant to many of the Ministers including Dr. Kesselly, when he served that Ministry as minister.  I attended the funeral because churches in the Congo Settlement are small and the church was already whole by the time I arrived. I saw some friends of mine and stood with them outside the church.  Later Dr. Kesselly arrived, he was the Minister of Defense of the Interim Government. Upon seeing me, he walked to the group, greeted us, and asked me to follow him. His bodyguards wanted to follow but he told them not to and we walked to a nearby old Cotton Tree. We discussed Liberia’s future and the election. I asked him, “how, would the Monrovia Group hold an election when NPFL controlled 70% of the country’s land area”?  He said, “My idea of an election is not the ordinary election. We as stakeholders will meet and develop a ROAD MAP/Economic Infrastructure Plan to restore the country’s postwar infrastructure, like that of the United States of America Economic Recovery Act signed by President Harry Truman in 1948, which became known as the Marshall Plan. The US plan was proposed by George Marshall, who was then Secretary of State of the United States of America. After it was passed by Congress, it was named after him.

The Marshall Plan was an Economic Assistance to restore the Economic Infrastructure of Post WWII Europe. Dr. Kesselly said, “We, the stakeholders will identify, one among us, one person who we believe has the capacity to best sell our plan to the International Community and that person will be head of government, the rest of us would serve either as Ministers, advisors, etc.”

After my discussion with Dr. Kesselly, I thought about what he told me when I returned home that night. I said to myself this man is a true son of the soil. He is not self-centered or greedy for power.  Unfortunately, he died two months after this discussion with me. Maybe, if he were still alive in 1997, things would have been different. Just think about Dr. Kesselly, Dr. E. Z. B. Liberty, Dr. Patrick Sayon, Dr. Mary Antoinette Grimes Brown-Sherman, Cllr. Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Sr., Dr. E. Romeo Horton, Dr. Flomo Y.  Stevens, Cllr. J. Rudolph Grimes and Dr. Benjamin Dennis in the same room to develop the Road Map for Liberia post-war Liberia. And after developing the ROADMAP, they would have hopefully selected one among them to sell this plan to the International Community. Who would you think they would have selected? Your answer is as good as mine.

Selecting a president is not as easy as many people think. Many believe that someone who has been successful in the corporate world would equally be successful in running a government if that individual became president. This has not been the case. We want you to know that business and government are like rice and cassava; one exists to make money (business) and the other to serve and protect its people (government). A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) dictates decisions, while the president needs to bring people on board.  We have seen evidence that business experience doesn’t work well in the presidency of a country. Even academicians do not normally make good presidents; these we have seen in army countries including the great America with Donald Trump, a businessman, who was elected president of that country and Dr. Hilla Limann, who graduated from London School of Economics, who was elected president of Ghana. Many may not know him but asked Ghanaians.  In the corporate world, you step on your friends or sacrifice your friends to rise to higher positions. The CEO spends money to protect the image of the organization.   Under the legal system, when two parties are in court and there is a contentious issue, the court appoints an individual or a group, with the consent of the parties, with the expertise to give a professional opinion. It is the court that exonerates an individual before her, not the expert that gives the professional opinion. And after the expert professional opinion, he or she is subject to cross examination by the legal teams of both parties. Reports do not exonerate or acquit accused people.  This was the reason the True and Reconciliation Recommendations were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Liberia

Most reports on antagonistic issues are published for the purpose of transparency. The reading public follows the methods used, findings and how the experts arrived at the conclusions and recommendations. The report does not acquit or convict anybody. However, it acknowledged the people the team met and spoke to during the investigations. Read the Kroll Report and the Presidential Task Force reports on the LD$ 15.5 and US$25 MILLION Mop-up Exercise.

Secondly, if someone spent millions to ascend to the presidency, he or she needs to pay back those who provided those funds. This is often done by sacrificing the needs of the voters. This happens in many countries. The voters need to sacrifice their short-term benefits for better long-term benefits such as infrastructural development, better education, health facilities, stable energy, water supply, etc by electing visionary leaders. Voting a celebrity as president would deplete the country’s resources. Celebrities spend thousands of United States Dollars daily’, they love spending money that is the reason most celebrities get broke a few years after they are retired.  We have seen this around the world and even in our country.

The story of Liberia is like a story one Oldman told me many years ago. “Two young men from humble backgrounds, coming from a village, were fortunate to complete college. Upon completion, one was fortunate to be appointed as Deputy Minister of Finance and the other was employed as assistant director. The salary of the deputy minister was five times that of the assistant director in addition to other benefits. They both were not married. The deputy minister rented a five-bedroom house, and he furnished the house with some of the most expensive furniture. He developed a habit of taking his breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. He made visits to foreign countries every six months. The assistant director rented a comfortable one bed-room apartment and furnished it with moderate furniture. He saved most of his salary and invested in real estate. Five years later, they both lost their jobs, the deputy minister could not pay his rent, and he was kicked out of his rented house. By this time, the assistant director had two compounds each with four 2-bedroom apartments and he was living in one of them. The former deputy minister came to ask him in one of the apartments because he could pay the rent of the house he was living in.”  The former Deputy Minister wasted his money. He was living a false life. This is the story of Liberia; our leaders are wasting money; Agriculture Budget of US$7.2 million while subsidy for imported rice is US$14.0 million, they purchased and ride vehicles costing US$90K vehicles, while there are no drugs in health facilities, no chairs, no library, or science laboratory in our schools, etc. What are their priorities? Again, these are leaders, who are infected by greed and envy and beware of them in 2023.

To the Politicians and political leaders

Over the past few months, I have written several articles, such as Blind Loyalty, My Heart Bleeds for My Country, The Judiciary, and Why Liberia Continues to Remain Underdeveloped. All these articles are online for easy reference and reading. The roots of our country’s problems are outlined in these articles. Now this one discusses and contains two of the Deadly Sins in the BIBLE (GREED AND ENVY) as it relates to our country. These articles are intended for the reading pleasure of the public, but they are also my humble contribution to the ongoing dialogue about how we extricate our country from its demons and set it on a more promising path to sustained peace and prosperity.

Liberia has gone through some really challenging times during its more than 175 years history. The Preamble of the 1986 Constitution, in the second and third paragraphs, gave a summary reflection of the country’s history and accurately expressed the country’s hope and aspiration.  It reads as follow:

Realizing from many experiences during our national existence, which culminated in the Revolution of April 12, 1980, when our constitution of July 26, 1847, was suspended, that all our people irrespective of history, tradition, creeds, or ethnic background are one and common body politic.

Exercising our natural, inherent, and inalienable rights to establish a framework of government for the purpose of promoting unity, liberty, peace, stability, equality, justice, and human rights under the rule of law with opportunities for political, spiritual, and cultural advancement of the society, for ourselves and our posterity.

. . . Do hereby solemnly make, establish, proclaim, and publish this Constitution for the governance of the Republic of Liberia.

The question is, are we as a people living by these, particularly over the past five years? If our answer is NO, then it is time to reflect on our situation so as not to waste the lessons that should be learned from the country’s history, particularly the events of the last four and half decades.  We need not remind you of April 14, 1979, the protest on April 12, 1980, Revolution or the execution on April 22, 1980, or December 24, 1989, Civic Crisis and the list goes on. These are all acrimonious experiences the country and people of this land have gone through. We do not want the repeat any of these experiences. It is time to reflect and do the correct thing for our people.  Where do we start and what do we need to do as political leaders?

Now, what do we do to give our people greater opportunities and hope for the future? We believe that our politicians need to regroup.  How do they regroup and how should they move forward? This is the million-dollar question that is now begging for an answer as we prepare for elections in 2023. This is a question that we all need to think about. Perhaps the place to begin is with an honest public discussion of the question. This regrouping would need to be based on shared values, vision, and mission, not on self-interest as was the case of the Alliance of seven political parties in 1997 or as it seems to be the case with the current Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).

We need to identify those mollycoddlers in our political parties and disenfranchise them. They are Liberia’s greatest problem. We need to emphasize the necessity for visionary leadership for the country and identify individuals who should make up this group. And we as a people need to rally around those individuals and have them elected. Self-interest has failed us. If we do not do this, the BLOOD of those who will be victims in the next few months will be on our hands and we will not be exonerated by our children and grandchildren. The choice is ours.

 TO THE VOTERS

Election 2023 is crucial for this country because the country has gone one and three-quarter centuries with very little development despite the abundance of resources. If we do not elect the right leadership in 2023 the country will go the next one and three-quarter centuries without development. We cannot continue to elect individuals that are infested with greed and envy. We cannot continue to elect corrupt individuals. We can easily identify these people by the people who surround them. There is a popular Latin Phrase or proverb, “Volatilia ad sibi similia conveniut”. This proverb is translated as follows: “To be among monkeys, you must be a monkey, or people of similar character, background, or taste tend to congregate or associate with one another.”

Look around your political leaders and see, who they are associating with, and you will know if electing them will bring development to Liberia and your life will change for the better.

Make that wise decision in 2023. These political leaders have shown us their associates and based on the same we can easily predict the future of the country if they were elected leaders of the country.

NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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