“What an old man can see sitting down, a boy cannot imagine even if he climbs to the top of the tallest tree”, my grandfather will whisper to me in our native Gola as he swings in his hammock, forked between two kola nut trees in our home village, Kamay Town in Rural Montserrado. “The forest holds many secrets, but it only reveals them to those with the discipline and commitment to earn its trust”, he continues.
The memories of my ears ringing from the echoing drumbeats of the harvest festivities as we kids looked on in awe as the ceremonial mask dancers transformed into Yhay-fieh and Gbae-tu, mesmerizing the crowd with their magical renditions, bellowing fires from their mouths and heads, spinning the dust as if to awaken the ancestors! The women sing and dance in one accord in celebration of a successful harvest.
There is still that nostalgic feeling from my childhood where common sense was so common! Oh, how I long for those days when Liberia had meaning and common sense, respect for established norms, and immediate punishment for offenders who dared to challenge the ancestral spirits. Society was maintained in a structured and constitutionally balanced way to serve all and not just a select few. Where have our senses gone?
There is now a total disintegration of the family unit and all we held dear, a disregard of the teachings of the elders; we have sidelined every custom and tradition that held our society together! Liberians have allowed unsolicited, defiled outside influence to distort everything that is sacred – our entire society has fallen apart. Nothing of value carries any weight including the most important of them all: THE RULE OF LAW! Liberia has become a lawless society mainly because we continue to give power to vagrants and kleptocrats.
We shun upright and accomplished men but give positions of trust to criminals and murderers. Virtues such as integrity, loyalty, diligence, chastity, prudence, fidelity, etcetera are no longer encouraged but rather these traits have become abstract concepts far from the appreciative understanding of nearly all in the country! The clergy is no exception. In fact, so-called “Men of God” are more egregious than most!
The population spends its productive hours in quasi churches/mosques waiting for miracles from vain men masquerading as pastors/imams! Our entire society has been turned on its head because criminal politicians are placed in positions of trust by mostly gullible voters who sell their votes for rice but remain hungry when these greedy politicians are “dishing up” the country’s resources! Where is our common sense?
- The all-powerful president continuously circumvents the constitution, lies and steals from you, tells judges how to rule, destroys the very fabric of the country and yet you wallow in your slumber. Where’s your common sense?
- The Speaker of the Liberian House of Representative refuses to release a document that the entire house voted on and approved for the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court to remedy some of the injustices in the country and yet you are silent while this walking contradiction single-handedly hijacked an entire country! Where’s your anger?
- Women and kids are raped every day; our young people are killed at high noon and denied the necessities of life without any redress and yet you claim to be Christians and Muslims. Where are your religious principles?
- Incompetence is now misconstrued as leadership, 95% of you are unemployed, airport and seaports are barely operational with a total collapsed of nearly every governmental institution, yet you sit feeling sorry for yourselves. Where’s your Ellen Johnson Sirleaf thunderous fist pump?
- The legislature and the entire government rob and keep you in bone-crushing poverty, and yet you sit shivering under your leaky tin roof shack and claiming to “leave it to God” while your children die from hunger and disease. News flash: God will not descend from the Heavens in all His glory to come solve your problems after He has given you dominion (God-like powers) over all things on earth. Where is your God-given vengeance?
Know that everything rises and falls on leadership, especially presidential leadership in a unitary state such as ours – national command is not a child’s plaything. One cannot make a babbling idiot your king and expect the fruits of leadership. Liberians must open their eyes and employ their God-given common sense if they want any future separate from what we currently have.
People cannot make crucial national decisions entirely based on feelings, religion, tribe and “liquor table” affiliations. Granting someone the authority to execute in your name must be weighed with full consideration of the totality of the issues to include the person’s capacity to deliver that which society seeks; his past experiences and whether or not s/he has a proven track record of delivering at a high level, have they shown that they understand the essence of leadership and how to employ those tenets to get the desired results, what is this person’s socio-economic standing in society and whether or not he gained that standing in observance of the highest, integrity standards? Use your common sense to gauge who you give power – it is a matter of life and death!
Your poverty-stricken lot in this life will not change until you come to a full realization that for society to work and bear the fruits of development, i.e., clean water, adequate sanitation, quality healthcare, proper shelter and stable family units, national infrastructure, etc., it must be guided by certain strict standards with the rule of law being the center piece! None of this is possible unless the people aggressively force the issue using every political means available to them. Stand on Article I of the Liberian Constitution as your guarantor. There is no other way.
Common sense compels you to do things in a rational way if the intent is to get rational outcomes. But understand this one cardinal issue: logical outcomes do not usually come about simply because it is a part of a leader’s job responsibilities, or simply because you wished it so – such outcomes are forced by the pressure and will of the people. There is a greater duty after voting; the people cannot negate this responsibility and still expect the change they desire. It doesn’t work that way. Every developed country had to force the issue; we too must do likewise if we also want the results others are getting.
The people must bring to bear unrelenting pressure on officials to actualize a national vision that serves all. Liberians, especially those over the age of 21, must get involved wholeheartedly with a national purpose and put on the full armor of political agitation to drive the growth and developmental agenda of the society. Put everything on the line to see this come to fruition, yes, including your lives and the lives of all those who stand in your way of a higher standard of living for you and your children. This must be non-negotiable! Dynamically confront and neutralize those who try to undercut the people’s agenda.
The people must ALWAYS ensure that their leaders fear them; always making that angst real, present and uncompromising. This dread must be routinely manifested in removals and barring from political office, forfeiture of properties, imprisonments with hard labor, and judicial executions if this is what is required to build the society that serves all. Anything short of this, you will continue to experience the outcomes you presently see in Liberia: a lawless society, uncontrollable and celebrated corruption, pillaging of a nation, innocent murders, child rape, countless injustices from government officials with full impunity! Why haven’t the people gotten angry? Where is your common sense?
Re-center your national aspirations and create a balanced leadership structure that serves all – society should not be about one person who controls our collective resources and occasionally drops crumbs and behaves as though he’s doing the people a favor. The people must end this wickedness by whatever constitutional means available to them.
Push for equitability in the system and ensure the lion’s share of our resources do not continue to go to multinational corporations that circumvent our corrupt system to avoid paying taxes and get our raw materials on the cheap, corrupt officials who facilitate this theft and their family members who are the direct beneficiaries of all this looting that disadvantages over 95% of the country! The people must pay attention, use their common sense or forever remain in their current deplorable state. Common sense can only benefit you if you use it in a united, but wholesome way. Never make your push about an individual, but rather for our collective wellbeing.
Moreover, remember no government official gives you anything that is not already yours – you’re given a penny for every thousand he steals from you not because he wants to help you but simply to keep you pacified so he can continue his stealing in peace and without hindrance. To gauge this, compare their lives before and their lives after taking political office. The better their lives (the more they steal from you) the poorer you become. There is a direct correlation between their theft and your socio-economic condition.
Embrace your compatriots in the diaspora without limitations and rediscover our customs and traditions and have a higher degree of reverence of who we are – let’s realign the Constitution to common sense and see the laws truly enforced without fear or favor. We must revert to who we truly are and lay a new societal foundation where common sense becomes common again.
Know that you live in a very rich country and none of you should be living like “zogos” (vulnerable without hope) in one of the most blessed places on earth! Seize the moment and demand what is truly yours: life, true freedom and your God-given rights to be happy, self-actualize and totally dominate all forty-three thousand square miles of our territory, from the skies above to our waters and everything under our feet! You have a fundamental right to be secured in all your glory in your own country, and if your leadership cannot provide that security, you’re under constitutional mandate to immediately replace such government. You must categorically refuse to be only servants in your own country. We must selfishly guard what is ours and let it benefit us in a way that brings us the joys in this life, not the one after.
Your kleptocratic leaders have led you to believe that living on less than two dollars per day is normal in The Digital Age, and you have been convinced that that is the best they can do! You’ve been lied to. You live in a country that is one of the richest in the world, yet we die from basic illness, have almost no electricity and can barely eat a full square meal per day! Imagine in all this darkness and chaos, each of Liberia’s five million citizens “light a candle” and shine a spotlight with the combined illumination of us all. We could literally light up the country and eradicate all that is keeping us from developing. Given the resources our country has been endowed with and with the right leader, strict adherence to a modern constitution, aggressive enforcement of the laws and proper planning, the average Liberian could be living on nothing less than US$30,000 per year in 25 years! This income will continue to rise as we solidify our government institutions that guide the process.
All we must do now is to forcefully demand what is rightfully ours with all our might and without equivocation. Always keep this in mind however, all powers to bring about the change we need is vested in us! Exercise those powers at your will and pleasure, use your collective common sense and see Liberia transformed right before your very eyes. Ensure common sense always guides your decisions and not superficial, political emotions.
About the Author
Ansu O. Dualu is the author of a series of articles on how to change the failed conditions in Liberia. Some of those articles include “A Guide to Picking Liberia’s Next President”, “The Liberian Dilemma”, “Institutional Governance is the Only Hope for Liberia” and “Why Diaspora Liberians Matter”. The author works as a financial professional out of Massachusetts.