Since the lead up to the 2005 presidential and legislative elections, one buzz phrase which has continued to make the rounds in the country is youth ascendancy to executive power in Liberia.
It was the proponents of this argument, among other ill-timed advisers that led Mr. George Weah to want no other job in the country but the presidency. Unfortunately the fellow is still bent on getting this job, though it might only eventuallyspell disaster for the country.
In 2005, the argument was that, older people and educated people had consistent failed the country, so it was best to rally behind someone with very little educationwho would, through some magic, provide the kind of leadership that would move Liberia from its sorry state to prosperity.
Despite the relative level of progress that was recorded over the last six years, it is disheartening to note that some people are still toting this crazy argument of old people versus young people.
Over six years later the same argument is being reenacted by other characters, using different words. The new buzz phrase is now generational change. Advocates of the generational change argument all mean different things when they use the same words.
For those who think that they are in poll position to succeed Mrs. Sirleaf as president, the phrase means passing leadership to people of their age group or themselves. The people in this first group are guys who are mid-forties and early fifties, who are closest to the president. They hardly qualify as young people, though.
For the other group which is using the same words to make the same argument, the point is that political leadership must pass on to people who are genuinely young people. People in this category are early forties and below.
Both of these groups are delusional and generally clueless as to what they actually want to do with this country other than creating clouts of personality and perpetuating the patronage system that has bedeviled Liberian politics since the inception of the country.
The question then arises as to whether a country’s future leadership should be determined simply on the basis of someone’s age or should it be based upon the person’s competence?
Because they lack any clear plans as to how to proceed with the country, they’ve embarked upon this crazy scheme that would keep people debating a concept that has zero bearing on improving the lives of the Liberian people.
None of these people has advanced ideas for de-personalizing politics in the country and creating real political systems that favor progress. Most of them are henchmen of the current political system, while at the same time they all purchase the loyalties of belly driven young men and women who are willing to serve as their useful idiots and praise singers.
Why not Discuss Equity?
None of these highly paid current officials of government ever speak to the inhumanity of the huge pay packages they receive while others wallow at the base of the social scale. Real leaders and people who have love for country would be advocating for fairness in the distribution of the national wealth, if not at all levels of the country, at least among those who work in the public sector.
As things stand, the annual salary and allowances that each legislator and senior government official receive can go to paying the salary of between 60 and 120 lower level civil servants that earn a base salary of US$100 a month. This calculation doesn’t include senior level people working at a place like the Bureau of Maritime or National Port Authority.
Why should anyone working for the Liberian government, in this kind of economy, make US$144,000 or more a year? No amount of education or experience justifies that kind of salary in this economy.
The government has set the minimum livable wage to be around $100 for the lowest civil servant. That suggests that anyone in this country can survive on $100. If this is so, the question that arises is how can some government people living in this same country receive about two hundred times this livable wage from the government?
If these people clamoring for generational change were really interested in change, they would be proposing equity in the distribution of state resources within the governmental circle. That should be their first port of call on their way to national leadership. The Liberian people will know that they are serious possible leaders, when they start proposing pay cuts at their level so that people at the base can receive better incentives.
Need for Genuine Alternative Political Voice
As Liberia moves into the next stage of its political and social development, well-meaning persons in and outside the country have to make it their business to start considering the need to start a fresh discourse aimed at providing a genuine political direction for this country.
There is a need to avoid all the distractions of kids who would form cheering squads for government ministers and then give them a guard of honor to their job sites simply because they spread around some of the ill loots they get out of being ministers.
The debate on how this country progresses has to start now. It would be late for Liberians to await the end of Mrs. Sirleaf’s current lame duck administration before embarking upon that discourse.
The plain letter interpretation of the law is presently clear that Mrs. Sirleaf cannot succeed herself at the elections of 2016. Hence the lame duck nature of her current administration. During this current term of hers, she’s under no obligation to perform. She’s also under no obligation to please the electorates, though if she’s actually interested in perpetuating her party in power, she would have one eye on doing that.
Waiting for this lame duck term to play itself out would only provide an opportunity for charlatans to use the backdoor to get center stage and misdirect the serious political discourse that is to happen in the country.
Anyone who wants to be taken as a serious player on the political stage must start discussing substantive issues, instead of this inane generational change issue. How old a leader is should really not matter. What the person is capable of delivering should!
Just like the discourse that surrounded the elections of Charles Taylor in 1997, and the near travesty of electing George Weah in 2005, this generational change debate will serve as a major distraction if well-meaning Liberians do not work quickly to nip it in the bud and steer the debate to more substantive policy issues. Liberian people have to wake up and demand a proper political debate in the country.
Anyone who decides to discuss generational change as opposed to actual policies that would better the lives of the Liberian people must be consigned to the dustbins of political history and their discourse should not be entertained.
The future of Liberia is, now, more than ever before at a very crucial stage. The country stands the chance of well and truly solidifying its democratic credential or slipping back into the cycle of bad governance already creeping in.
Youth Empowerment and Generational Change
During her inauguration address and her subsequent state of the nation address in January this year, President Sirleaf, laid emphasis on the government’s intension of providing solid educational opportunities for the country’s youth.
The president’s policy on this issue is extremely laudable, but what it fails to consider is the inverted nature of the Liberian educational sector. Over the past 30 years or there about, this nation has paid only lip service to education.
Instead of having the best and brightest getting the best of opportunities, people have to rely on contacts to make it in many circles.
Most people don’t go to school and then become successful. They become high profile people in the society and then go to school to legitimize their positions. Our governments, starting with President Samuel Doe’s highest honors achievements from the University of Liberia in the 1980s has been replete with such over the last 30 years.
In more recent years, Sen. Isaac Nyenebo made the same high honors from the University of Liberia. Others are Rep. Edwin Snowe from the same university, while more recently Sen. Jewel Taylor was graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law with magna cum laude. How did these busy people ever find the time to go to school, let alone study to make such grades?
Why the University of Liberia has failed to take steps to expunge the Samuel Doe travesty from its records is anyone’s guess, but for the school to continue graduating people of high status in the society with high honors speaks volumes!
The writing is on the wall and President Sirleaf has less than six years to either establish herself as the leader who brought sanity and progress or lapse into being remembered as just another president of Liberia whose memory fades into obscurity.
Lamii Kpargoi is a 2011 US State Department sponsored Community Solutions Program (CSP) fellow. CSP is run by IREX USA. Mr. Kpargoi is the author of numerous political commentaries. He’s never shy of making his views known on serious issues. He’s also a licensed attorney-at-law in Liberia. He can be reached at email@example.com.