When Nimba County Superintendent, Mrs. Edith Gongloe-Weh, sounded an alarm bell, barely a week before the official July 26 celebrations, that all was not going well in the preparations, she may have succeeded in lowering expectations when visitors thronged Nimba for the event.
The occasion emerged, arguably, as the most successful July 26 celebrations the country has witnessed in recent years. Questioned why the outburst, which bore all the marks of failure, an understandably elated Superintendent said, “We wanted to ensure that the occasion achieved maximum success.”
Well, thanks to the collective efforts of all individuals and institutions tasked with the implementation of projects and programs befitting the occasion, officials on the local and national levels rallied their collective energies, working virtually every minute of the day. The United Nations and international partners weighed in as well, in a unique spirit of progress that can be achieved when all hands are on the deck, a principle acknowledged by an equally impressed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a message marking the occasion.
“Thank you, Nimba County,” the President, beaming broadly, proclaimed. “Thank you for the very warm reception and your gracious hospitality everywhere we have traveled. The people of this County have turned out in record numbers to welcome us, and to proudly show all the many development projects – all solid evidence that Nimba is definitely on the move. We don’t know if it’s raining somewhere else in Liberia, but we know that in Nimba County, the sun is up!” the President observed, to thunderous applause by the audience.
The hosts of the 163rd Independence Celebrations, the people of Nimba County, are today, undoubtedly, walking with their heads held high. Indeed, they withstood the challenge and embraced the occasion. They put aside their difference and were determined to show to the rest of Liberia and the world that Nimba County, despite its differences, could pull off a success. It is a fact also acknowledged by the President when she reminded the world that “the issues that divide the people of Nimba are the same ones that divide us as a nation: ethnic and other social issues tensions related to land disputes, and, sometimes, religious schisms.”
It is these tensions, the President noted, which have prevented us from finding sustainable solutions to pertinent political, economic and social problems. The President, nevertheless, underscored her belief that the people of Nimba could take the lead in promoting diversity, given the number of tribes that are found in the County.
And, indeed, they did, albeit for the moment, as dozens of projects were dedicated in major towns and villages to mark the anniversary, with events punctuated by the warm welcome which greeted the President and entourage at every stop of the way, starting first with Sokopa, a border point between Bong and Nimba Counties, where the President and entourage received a hero’s welcome.
In the interest of brevity, space and time do not allow for a complete listing of all the development projects of which the people of Nimba are today beneficiaries. There are, nevertheless, a few notables worth mentioning, among them, the new 100-bed hospital in Tappita, named in honor of the late Jackson Fiah Doe, a prominent son of Nimba. Constructed by the People’s Republic of China, in keeping with a campaign promise by President Johnson Sirleaf that a hospital would be built in Nimba during her tenure as President, the US$10 million state-of-the-art comprehensive and referral hospital will serve the health needs of citizens from all over Nimba and beyond.
Also presented as a birthday gift to Liberia by China was the University of Liberia’s Fendall Campus and the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center at the Central Agricultural Technology Institute (CARI), at Suakoko, Bong County.
Nimba County can also boast of a Community College, in Sanniquellie, which will make higher education accessible to the people of the area; the Liberia National Red Cross Society’s Disaster Management & Guest Center, in Sanniquellie, as well as the newly renovated African Bible College University, in Yekepa, and a Prison Compound in Sanniquellie. “Our return to resume activities at this College,” its President, Dr. Del Chinchen, said at the dedication of the facilities, ‘is a tribute to your stable government, good leadership and the sustained peace which can be attributed to the progress ABC University has made.”
Other projects, including schools, markets and administrative buildings, were also dedicated in Ganta, Saclepea, Tappita, Karnplay, and Bahn where, in addition to the dedication of an administrative building, the President performed symbolic dedications of Centers for Concerned Women and Youth. Earlier there were also symbolic dedications of an elementary school in Gayea Town, the Glan’s Town Clinic and the Zekepa Radio Station. The President also launched an Agricultural Fair, where Liberian farmers displayed a variety of agricultural products.
The dedication of projects and the “meet and greet” stops were so frequent, one may have lost count. It is, however, worth noting that the President made stops and interacted with villagers all along the way, including in Kitoma and Towee, Gbedin and Zodewee, Soplay Farm and Tohndee, Dengamu and Gbahesala, Gbahn and Yarcenun, Karnwee and Loyee. The President also stopped at Howard Village and Lorseh, Graie and Zuolay, Dan Village and Korlay, Zoeghein and Volay, Miller’s Town and Duopu Village, and Harris Town and Yreah’s Town, among others.
The message was consistent at every stop: that there can be no development without peace. “Whatever we have done is because of the peace you have kept,” the President reminded the people everywhere she visited.
The leadership of Nimba County, including its Junior Senator, Adolphus Dolo, and Superintendent Gongloe-Weh, seemed overwhelmed by the support their County is enjoying, and were understandably also on message, urging their countrymen to look at the bigger picture and continue to chart the path of development.
“You have seen what this President has done in this short period for not only Nimba but for the entire country. You have eyes to see, use them wisely.…Do not attempt to fix that which is not spoiled,” Senator Dolo urged his people, who seemed to have grasped his message, judging from the great response, battle cries and traditional folk songs which greeted the messages.
It is no doubt that spirit of the “bigger picture” the people of Nimba have so effectively embraced that many will agree produced the success of the 2010 July 26 Celebrations, a spirit that even the controversial land issue in the county could not dampen. Because without their support, whatever resources pumped in the celebrations by the national Government, whatever manpower imported into the county to spur the preparations, the event could have fallen miserably short of expectations.
It is this spirit of oneness and putting aside the individual differences for the common good which Liberians from all walks of life must emulate and embrace. It is a belief that if the people of Nimba could pull it off in such grand style, the rest of the country, more particularly Lofa, which will host the 2011 celebrations, would carve a page from the Nimba Story and do likewise, perhaps even better.