By Elder Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr.
I am reminded of an article published on July 15, 2002, in ThePerspective.org by Nat Galarea Gbessagee. The article titled: “Liberia: ‘What Is Wrong With Us Is Us’ Not Peter Pan Syndrome”. According to him, “Back in the 1970s, Liberian speechwriters and politicians popularized the phrase “What is Wrong With Us is Us” in an apparent effort to remind the Liberian government and people about the pandemic nature of institutionalized graft, social injustices, political repression, rampant corruption, inept national leadership, misdirected socio-economic development programs and policies. It was the somewhat complacent and passive attitude of ordinary Liberians that allowed them to be mere onlookers while they endured these injustices and failed national policies. The phrase preceded the 1980 coup that formalized charges of rampant corruption and misuse of public office on the deposed government. And, ironically, one proponent of the “What is Wrong with us is us” phraseology was the deposed vice president who earlier abandoned his flocks and religious duties as a church bishop to ascend to the political position of vice president because of an alleged “vision” by the sitting president in selecting him (the bishop).”
Most Liberians, including me, know that the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government of President George Manneh Weah inherited a government that was not only bankrupt, but plagued with many socio-cultural systemic problems. We know, too, the government needed to put people in place that could credibly assist in finding workable solutions to these problems. Instead, the President kept the partisans of the outgoing Unity Party (UP) in place to serve as advisors to help with the day-to-day affairs of the government; and some of them were given key positions that they knew nothing about.
Honestly speaking, one doesn’t have to be an ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat) doctor to be able to distinguish between the smell of a rotten fish and the smell from someone who just farts (to expel intestinal gas from the anus). Come to think about it, the new Liberian leaders have not learned anything new. They are repeating what previous governments did — with impunity — such as: widespread corruptions, disrespect for the rule of law, abuse of human rights and violation of the Constitution. But, how can one expect much from those who are turning the country into “One nation, divisible, without liberty and justice” that would rather spend all this money to celebrate July 26 while the majority of the Liberian people barely can afford a cup of rice? “Wonders shall never cease!”
Walter Lippmann, an American journalist, defined the word ‘custodian’ as “a keeper, a guardian, or a caretaker. It is a proactive word that implies action on the part of the bearer. Custodians hold something in trust on behalf of others. It is not a behavior motivated out of self-interest”. Those of us who were born in Liberia are custodians of the country, and nobody but Almighty God put them in charge; and there’s nothing anybody can do about it – not even the present leaders of Liberia.
Liberia has too many resources to be begging the international community like some ‘Old Man Beggar’ for handouts. If our leaders plan right, by first cutting 15 to 20 percent out of the annual budget allotted for government employees’ salaries; traveling allowances from the budget, employ government officials based on qualification and integrity; cut other wasteful spending from the budget, then government will do better, and we will not be going from country to country begging for money to run the country.
As custodians of our native land, no leader or their political trolls can prevent some of us from speaking or writing about the wrong policies and practices that are undermining our country’s progress.
Our children’s future is at stake. Therefore, we must do something about it because if we don’t, nobody will do it for us. Yet, I often hear others say we must not disturb the 12 years of PEACE the Ellen administration brought us. The question we should direct at them is, “What benefit can we show for these past 12 years when the Liberian people are still in worse shape?”
Weah’s CDC Pro-Poor government needs to learn from Tanzanian’s President John Magufuli, whom his people affectionately called ‘Bulldozer’. Like President Weah, he inherited a bankrupt country. Instead of asking government officials to voluntarily reduce their salaries and other matters, Magufuli made decisions about immediate problems which were within his power to solve like budgetary spending, unemployment, services provided by government, especially in the area of health, work ethics, the number of people who go on foreign trips and the environment.
Liberia has become a Magic Show with the Magical Act of Missing Money. The word ‘Abracadabra’ best describes the act. Abracadabra is derived from the Hebrew word: Ha-b’rakah, which means “the blessing…” The question is who in Weah’s CDC government or the previous government has benefitted and blessed by these missing monies? Secondly, the Liberian people need to know who these Harry Houdinis and David Copperfields are that performed these magic tricks on them. This is a serious problem! The Liberian people need to find these magicians in order to retrieve their missing monies. There is too much money missing that cannot be accounted for. The question on the mind of every Liberian is — has our country turned into a magic show that is being performed by Harry Houdini and David Copperfield’s Abracadabra? People need to know!
There is nothing new about missing money in the Liberian government! It started during the JJ Roberts Administration, and subsequent administrations are following the norm. Incidents of money missing in the Liberian government are too numerous to list in this article. Many government job seekers see the government as BIG ELEPHANT MEAT; therefore, every official wants to have their share of the meat. It has become so rampant that the Liberian people, too, are partaking in the Magic Show.
Let’s be for real! Now, the government wants to go after those they suspect took the missing money. To retrieve missing monies from those the government suspects; President Weah must declare his assets first, and that would be the RIGHT THING TO DO.
Using Facebook to go after government’s critics
It is morally challenging today to speak of virtue when ‘Facebook’ and ‘social media’ display any kind of virtue denoting honesty and kindness as weakness. Also, Virtue which is “conformity to a standard of right” has been reduced to a matter of personal taste, emotional preference or even personal choice. But how can choice based on enlightenment become the means by which “right” is determined from “wrong”?”In order for Virtue to be cultivated, we need a reliable standard of “good” and “bad.” We need standards by which a certain act, attitude, or quality may be judged as right or wrong; rather than based on a set of standards established by a few or for that matter – the leadership of our country and their new foundation trolls who are determined to continue the same old practices.
Political Trolls in Defense of Bad Government Policies
According to Merriam-Webster, a troll is “aperson who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content.” This scheme is being used by those who exploit the Systemic Socio-Political Culture that was birthed during the so-called founding of Liberia. These Political Trolls use it in defense of their benefactors.
However, I am reminded of a proverb used in one Nollywood movie that says, “Conscience is an open wound, only the truth can heal it”. It is a MUST for True Liberian Progressives of 70s and 80s, to remain the conscience of our country in order to expose the mismanagement of government resources. The Pro-Poor CDC government is mismanaging the country’s resources at an alarming rate; but their supporters continue to use Social Media to falsely attack concerned Liberians, the press, students and opposition leaders in the country as ‘Enemies of the State’ because they express their disagreements with the policies of the government which are not in the interest of the people. Instead, they engage in making oleaginous speeches praising government policies by writing exaggerated and distastefully complimentary comments on Facebook.
Why should the government shy away from engaging in open dialogue with us? In order to come up with a solution(s) that could be of mutual benefits to all of us, we need to dialogue with each other, rather than the Legislature resorting to denying us our birthrights and to tell us to stay where we are in the Diaspora. Yet, when the government is in trouble with the international community, it comes seeking for our assistance. One such example is the illegal use of the funds we transferred to our relatives; the government takes it under the pretext of using it for its foreign exchange.
Religious leaders in the country need to speak truth to power instead of in some way or the other condoning the corrupt policies and practices of the government. To which I suggest they experience a similar Damascus Conversion that transformed Saul into Paul the zealous, intoxicated defender of the Gospel of Christ. But there are others too. One of which is a Poster Boy in defense of the government’s bad policies at all costs!
Liberian Poster Boy
The Poster Boy that subscribed to “We Liberians are our own worst enemies” is brother Dortu-Siboe Doe, a man who harbored profound hatred for those who speak the truth to power. This man is capable of accusing Lucifer of LYING when Lucifer complained to God that those who continued to say “The Devil made me do it” were LYING on him.
Find below Dortu-Siboe Doe’s response to the 172nd Independence Day Orator Leymah Gbowee. This is a classic example of one who criticizes for the sake of tautology. He wrote:
“Blasting even Imams, and Pastors as praise singers, and lashing out at the opposition and the incumbent, but PRETENDING NOT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE ABUSES AND WRONGS OF THE FOURTH ESTATE THE PRESS and its umbrella or affiliated associations, as THEY HAVE parted ways and parted company from their original nature, character, spirit, and tradition of neutrality and objective reporting, and now than ever before, bent on politicized and advocacy yellow and rogue journalism simply to do the biddings of those politicians rejected by the voters at the last elections, proves that your oration is simply another oratorical ritual from another chief culprit of patriotic pretense!”
Isn’t the above statement tautological — simply a useless restatement, or saying the same thing twice using different words?
The Poster Boy is joined by Arthur Doe who wrote: “My Noble Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, my Sister and supposedly truth patriot of the Homeland, you have divided us more than uniting us. You’ve deepened the disunity in Liberia!! Your Speech was a complete Showboat and will ignite more division than Unity. To cause more division, you left out Liberians in the Diaspora! Are Liberians in the Diaspora, who contribute (Sid) more to their Country’s development and growth not part of the body polity of the homeland? Why missed an opportunity to UNITE US than dwelling on a divisive path, a contradiction of the Theme of your Message? Why engaged in partisan politics under the canopy of UNITY?
“Sister Gbowee, you didn’t do good at all, and we hope in the next few days you will take to all communication platforms to discuss Peace and Unity for all Liberians, including those in the Diaspora!!”
Liberian politics have become tribal, not ethnic
Some current Liberian opposition leaders have jumped ship. Many are lining up to follow the ruling party. This is a classic example of ‘Political Tribalism; whereas, ethnicity is based on birth relations.
According to Prof. Amy Chua, “Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. In many parts of the world, the group identities that matter most – the ones that people will kill and die for – are ethnic, religious, sectarian, or clan-based. But because America tends to see the world in terms of nation-states engaged in great ideological battles – Capitalism vs. Communism, Democracy vs. Authoritarianism, the ‘Free World’ vs. the ‘Axis of Evil’ – we are often spectacularly blind to the power of tribal politics. Time and again this blindness has undermined American foreign policy” (Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, 2018)
Due to GREED and SELF INTEREST, leaders and their collaborators choose to accomplish their objectives by any means necessary. According to them, the means justifies the end. To which Tony Lawrence says:
“Too many people are only willing to defend rights that are personally important to them. It’s selfish ignorance, and it’s exactly why totalitarian governments are able to get away with trampling on people. Freedom does not mean freedom just for the things I think I should be able to do. Freedom is for all of us. If people will not speak up for other people’s rights, there will come a day when they will lose their own.” (Tony Lawrence – 1995)
How true these words are today! There are individuals who have sacrificed their professional careers and even their lives in order for many of us to become what we are today: students, community activists, human rights advocates, teachers, parents, etc. It is these sacrifices that made it possible for us to have the opportunities we enjoy today.
No matter how individuals or a group may try to justify their reasons, human tragedies cannot be camouflaged or forgotten. Age and longevity are relevant to the cause for which truth will expose selfish and evil deeds. The Liberian People’s Struggle was directed at the small ruling class who for many decades repressed, suppressed, and exploited their fellow countrymen and countrywomen. Those who dared to oppose the ruling class were imprisoned, harassed and killed. The chambers for peaceful constitutional change were all closed.
In this case, pressure should be brought on the Government from home, the Diaspora and the international community to expose and bring to justice those involved in broad daylight stealing of the Liberian people’s money. None of them should get away with any of it! Remember “Not knowing the truth doesn’t make you ignorant; not wanting to know the truth is what makes you ignorant”.
Finally, in order to change society, the citizens must first change; because it is the citizens including the government that make the rules by which society is governed. (Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. – paraphrased)
Weah was elected to carry out its Pro-Poor Agenda. Now it is time he makes the difference, and Stop blaming others for the failure of the country! “If you are a pineapple, show your juice”. In addition, “Mr. Talk is Fine, but Mr. Do is better”, says the late Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman, former President of LU.
The Liberian people’s future is at stake; something needs to be done. It bears repeating: if we do not do anything about it, nobody will do it for us. We are tired of hearing “We must not disturb the 12 years of PEACE the Ellen administration brought us.” The question still needed to be asked is what benefit can we show for these past 12 years when the majority of the Liberian people go to bed HUNGRY? What kind of PEACE is that?
The Opposition & the By-Elections
If the CDC Pro-poor government is to succeed, it has to be governed in the interest of the greater good of the people, and not on the basis of friendship and partisanship. In fact, it is no secret that most elections conducted in Liberia always favored the party in power; and this one is no exception. There seems to be some indications that suggest the Senatorial/Legislature by-elections could be unfair; yet, opposition candidates and their supporters are not apprehensive about how the results will turn-out. Instead of protesting against the manner in which the National Elections Commission (NEC), for example qualified a CDCian candidate who still owes the government money he illegally used; they are going along with the decision of the NEC.
The truth of the matter is the opposition should have challenged the decision in court; instead of the opposition candidates knowingly “engaging in the same practice and expect different result”. This behavior is the Liberian way of doing things. The question that requires answer is when are we going to stop being “Our own Worst Enemies”?
In short, there is an Ibo (Nigeria) proverb that says, “What an old man sees sitting down, a young man cannot see standing up”, to which Kikuyu (Kenya) added: “An old man sitting on a stool can see further than a young man who has climbed a tree”.
Yor wake up my people, enough is enough!
Gwe feh, Kpeh! (The struggle continues)
About The Author:
Elder Siahyonkron Jglay Kpa-kay Nyanseor, Sr. is a life-long activist (*troublemaker) in researching the true history of Africa, the people of African origin in the Diaspora. He had dedicated his teaching of African culture; spent over 48 years advocating for human, civil and constitutional rights of all people, especially, the Liberian masses. He is a Griot, poet, journalist and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. To keep TEH’S legacy and memory ALIVE, Elder Nyanseor joined other writers and became BLOJU TARTY TEH’S 2012 SCHOLAR. BLOJU TEH is the late Liberian Literary Genius, Writer, Storyteller, Human, Civil and Constitutional Rights Activist who hails from the village of Pallipo, River Gee County (1946-2012). You can read about Bloju Tarty Teh at http://blojlu.wordpress.com or contact Griot Elder Nyanseor at: firstname.lastname@example.org.