Opposition Vision for Liberia Transformation Party (VOLT) political leader Dr. Jeremiah Z. Whapoe says Liberians killed President William R. Tolbert for the wrong reason because they have not been able to solve the problem for rice roughly four decades after their dissent for the staple escalated into a bloody conflict.
While turning over to local farmers a farm cultivated on an estimated over 200 acres on Saturday, 18 July in Kitoma, Sanniqullie, Nimba County, Dr. Whapoe argued that those who killed Tolbert for rice since 12 April 1980 are yet to have on the market a bag of rice marked: “Produced in Liberia.”
“They still go to the Chinese people, they still go to the American people, they go to Indian people to bring rice that they plant on their soil to bring it here to feed you. Does that solve the problem? So was there any good reason we killed Tolbert for? No. We killed Tolbert for the wrong reason,” he says.
Dr. Whapoe strongly believes that going to the soil can transform people’s lives, adding that if at least US$24 million is invested into Liberia’s consumable products, in two years the country can stop importation of rice and be transformed through agriculture by working with local farmers in four agriculture districts.
Though he speaks against the killing of President Tolbert, Dr. Whapoe doesn’t agree however with Tolbert’s approach of importing rice at that time in addressing Liberians’ protest for the staple because that didn’t solve the problem.
“Tolbert did that. They went [and] they brought the rice, right after the rice finished again, Liberian people got angry. They say oh, the rice finished … the best thing we can do is let’s kill Tolbert. He’s not feeding us, let’s kill Tolbert. April 12 came…,” Dr. Whapoe explains.
“The question is since we killed Tolbert April 12, 1980, have you seen those people that killed Tolbert, have you seen anybody – all of them that killed Tolbert, did you see any bag of rice on the market, they say produced in Liberia?” he asks.
Judging from a historical context of how Liberians make decisions, Dr. Whapoe believes that God is angry with them because the citizens here dance for bad things instead of good things.
He suggests that when Tolbert was killed for rice, women here spread their lappers to celebrate their leader’s killing, and then Liberians subsequently gave the land to imprisoned former President Charles Ghankay Taylor “so he can kill us,” vowing at that time to vote Mr. Taylor even if he killed their parents.
“Because we were acting wise in our own foolishness, God turned his back on us,” he adds, recalling that Liberians experienced wars on three occasions after voting Mr. Taylor as president because they had not learned sense.
Additionally, Dr. Whapoe recalls that Liberians voted to the presidency a candidate that had argued that education can’t develop the country, and demonstrated their support for such an argument with a slogan that said: “You know book, you [don’t] know book, I will vote for you.”
“We voted for him. Y’all see how Liberia looks like today? Y’all like the Liberia we get today? I want y’all to sit down small and look into [the] view mirror … and see where y’all coming from and where y’all going,” he says to men, women and children on the farm at Kitoma.
“If the place [this] country [is] going … satisfies y’all, y’all must not think about [a] man like me because that’s not the place I want [to] carry y’all,” he says. According to Dr. Whapoe, he wants to carry Liberians to a place where money will not be their problem and the food that their children will eat on a daily basis will not be a problem.
Through his Optimum Agriculture Projects in Nimba, Bong and other parts of Liberia, Dr. Whapoe says he is trying to exemplify what it means for a nation to be sustainable and he intends to transform Liberia through agriculture.
He says he has cultivated little over 200 acres of land for the project in Kitoma town alone, Sanniquellie of Nimba County, costing him a few millions of Liberian dollars on the farm which creates jobs for the locals.
He says proceeds from sales of produce from the farms are intended to be used to address the health and education needs of the farmers’ children by making deposits into the hospitals and schools’ accounts while farmers also get food from the farm. According to Dr. Whapoe, he also has farms in other parts of Nimba and Bong Counties and he works with others who have their individual farms in other places.
Dr. Whapoe indicates that investing in agriculture will help address issues of health, education, engineering, technology and road network here, noting that donor funds will not develop the country. “But our government has ignored that,” he says, telling the farmers that the more the government suppresses them, the more it goes high up.
The opposition political leader reminds farmers that current and past governments here have been doing this, but he wants to become president of Liberia to put money into the people’s pocket rather than take money from their pockets. “Yes, I want to become president of Liberia. But I do not want to be the president that will take from your pocket; I want to be the president that will put into your pocket,” he says.
Continuing, Dr. Whapoe says he sees the farming initiative and other opportunities to help the locals reach their maximum potential because it will not be possible for him as an individual to put money into the pockets of every citizen in the town. He urges them to take care of the farm and protect it, saying it is intended to take care of them and take away hard time from their town.
By Winston W. Parley