The Issues Desk wishes to look at the multiplicity of political parties and presidential and legislative candidates in the 2011 general elections vis-à-vis their conspicuous absence from, silence on or disappearance from the political and we-will-help-the-people stage since the elections ended last year.
During the elections, there were at least twenty-nine political parties, all saying this and saying that, suggesting this and suggesting that, indicating what the citizens need and how those needs could be satisfied, and so forth. There were even more presidential and legislative candidates than political parties during the elections. These political aspirants – or at least most of them – were almost consistently on radio, on television and in the newspaper, talking about what they are capable of delivering to the Liberian people.
As our people would say, “Our ear couldn’t hear around here.” They were in this city or town, and that city or town. Some went to villages, highlighting what they would do for the people and pointing out where President Sirleaf and her government had gone wrong or were going wrong. Talking about this issue and that issue and stating what they would do for the people and how they would do it fascinated a great deal of Liberians and non-Liberians. It was during the elections.
However, strangely – and disappointingly, too – the scores of presidential and legislative candidates that crowded the political field and were all over the place during the elections are now nowhere to be found. Predicated on their conspicuous absence, disappearance or silence, we ask: Where are they 2011 aspirants now? Have they travelled out of the country? Where are they now? Are they ill and seeking treatment somewhere? Where are they now? Are they dead? Where are they now? Have President Sirleaf given them jobs, silencing them in the process?
Where are the 2011 candidates now? Have they forsaken the Liberian people for not voting for them in the elections? Have they decided not to participate in active politics anymore? At least Cllr. Charles Brumskine has indicated that. Where are the 2011 presidential and legislative candidates? Or are they waiting for another round of elections before coming back to the people to speak about this issue and that issue? Where are the 2011 political aspirants now?
One of the hottest post-election discussion topics is about the discovery of oil in Liberia, the contracts signed and how the resource will benefit the people. Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh was one of the most spoken politicians when it came to holding President Sirleaf and her government accountable for how oil contracts were signed or how oil blocks were apportioned. Many consider him the voice of the voiceless; however, Dr. Tipoteh has not commented on the discovery of oil and its impact on the people, needless to mention hearing any critically analytical comments from him about the development.
Why isn’t he saying anything about it? Is everything President Sirleaf and her government are doing, including the appointment of her son as Chairman of the Board of NOCAL, great and acceptable? There are people who would like to get Dr. Tipoteh’s informed opinions on the matter? Why is he silent at this time? We are aware that President Sirleaf has appointed him Chairman of the Steering Commission of Visioning 2030. Is he not speaking out because he is too busy with the Committee’s work, or has he chosen to be silent because of the appointment? If the President’s appointment of him will cause him to stop speaking on behalf of the people, then it is better for him to give back the position and fight for the people as many believe he has done for years.
There were sixteen presidential candidates in the 2011 political race. Where are they all? Except for Mr. Simeon Freeman who speaks on national issues occasionally since the elections, Mr. George Weah who had a major press conference recently and spoke on some pertaining national and people-oriented issues, and Senator Prince Johnson who revealed recently that NOCAL gave US$10 million for President Sirleaf’s re-election campaign and that the Sirleaf administration should not cut down the defense budget, we hear nothing from the 2011 candidates. Where are they? What are they doing for the Liberian people?
During the 2011 elections, for example, Rev. Kennedy Sandy campaigned about ending poverty in Liberia and making the people self-sufficient in food production. While speaking on the Slip Sports Pitch during a campaign rally, Rev. Sandy said: “Poverty has been killed. Poverty has died. We are here to celebrate the death of poverty. Poverty is about to be out of here… Liberia has a more prolific soil, yet they cannot grow their own food. Salvation is coming. I am coming to make Liberia into eaters’ vine. When I become president, people will go to bed and sleep for three days because if Liberians want to eat, I will kill Liberians with rice.”
Has the time past for Liberia to be rid of poverty? Has the time for self-sufficiency in food production gone? Where is Rev. Sandy and his message about ending poverty and making Liberia satisfied with food? Can he not do anything in that direction unless he is elected president of the nation?
During the 2011 elections, also, one of the governing principles Senator Prince Johnson promoted and campaigned on is federalism like in Nigeria. He has said nothing and done nothing about this idea since the election ended – at least not to our knowledge. Why? Does he have to win the presidential race to campaign and push his doctrine of federalism?
Where are the 2011 political aspirants? We are discussing about the discovery of oil. We are talking about reforming our education system. Where are the 2011 candidates? The young people are talking about youth empowerment, and they want to know what the 2011 candidates think and can do. Where are they now? It has been reported that teenage pregnancy and prostitution are on the increase. What are the 2011 candidates saying and doing about it? It is said that the number of street children in the country has increased. What are the 2011 candidates saying and doing about the situation? There is a need for us to promote self-sufficiency in food production. What ideas do the 2011 candidates have? Almost everyone is interested in development and progress. What ideas can the 2011 aspirants propose?
Again, we ask. Where are the 2011 presidential and legislative candidates? Are they waiting for another round of elections before coming back to the people to speak about this issue and that issue?
If the answer to the question above is a yes, then it could mean that the candidates are telling us that they can do nothing unless they are elected. But if this is the understanding, then they are treating us just as kids propitiatingly do their parents: “When I get big, I will take care of you.”
But, unlike children, politicians usually lie to the electorate, those who brave the heat of the sun, the ran, the pain and discomfort to stand in queues for hours just to vote for them. Many people are disappointed that the 2011 candidates, especially the presidential candidates, generally speaking, are saying nothing and doing nothing for the country and its people.
Where are the 2011 presidential and legislative candidates? Why are they silent? Is it that they want to give the new government some breathing space? Could it be that they are silent because they themselves know that they are incapable of doing anything for the people and, therefore, it is better for them to just shut up? Or, still, are they silent because everything is okay now? Even if they reason that keeping silent is the best way to go, why are they not implement projects and programs in this village, this town or that city?
We are aware that having a position in government gives the elected official some advantage to implement certain projects or push specific agenda, but does one necessarily have to be in government to effectuate the construction of a primary school, a clinic, a community well, and so forth? We don’t think so. If they are interested in leading the people, in winning the people on their side, this is the time to implement Liberia 4:8, which says, “Draw nigh to the Liberian people non-election time, and they will draw nigh to you election time.”
In conclusion, as we talk about the conspicuous absence of the 2011 presidential and legislative aspirants, we wish to present the words of Rev. Leo M. Sampson of the Haywood Mission School, as they were recently penned in an article written by him: “Preparations for the 2017 elections must in earnest commence now. Let us not wait until the beginning of the election season to start campaigning. All presidential hopefuls must crisscross Liberia building schools, hospitals, clinics, among others, so that when the next election season rolls around people whose votes are being sought will know who is who.”
Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.