Celebrating 26 or 20-Sick?

174th Independence Anniversary of the Liberian Nation

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July 26 is Liberia’s Independence Day that every citizen is compellingly obliged to celebrate in the spirit of patriotism and nationalism. It is the day that Liberians sit and boast of freedom from colonial suppression or other forms of suppression that may have impeded their peaceful existence.

Considering the rationale for celebrating July 26 as an Independence Day, many people including me wonder if this day is really worth celebrating, or if we are celebrating like others who have similar days in their respective countries do.  Based on the way each of us feel about this day, one can choose to say that we have reasons to celebrate ‘26’, as we call it, while others also have the right to their views to choose the opposite.

Whatever we choose between Yes and No to complement our feelings about the day; let me reflect on a few lines in our National Ode. Liberia, as I have noticed at several diplomatic functions in Liberia where national anthems are played, has one of the melodious anthems in Africa. Composed by Liberia’s third President, Daniel B. Warner and musically toned by Omstad Luca, a German Immigrant, the ode puts Liberians in high spirit of patriotism, but how some of the wordings in the anthem support our patriotism remains a major concern to me.

All hail Liberia hail: This clause commands every Liberian to lift Liberia up as a virgin land and modern country emerging in the world.  However, how do we hail the green land endowed with so much natural resources?  Squandering the resources and leaving the country in a poor state of infrastructures? Brushing down the economic species of our vegetation and exposing us to the consequences of climate change? Or dumping and littering garbage all over our cities and making the environment hazardous for our health?

This glorious land of liberty shall long be ours:  No doubt that the land is glorious, but who is the antecedent for the pronoun “Ours?”  The foreigners who are protected by state security to exploit the gold, diamond and other resources here?  Is it a tribal group that feels it is in power and enjoying all the privileges in terms of employment?  Are we speaking of top government officials who preside over state resources and leaving the majority poor with perpetual inequality?  Alternatively, are we referring to the group that feels it is more civilized and educated than the rest and therefore owns Liberia as reflected by their economic status?  The economic and social reflections on the Liberian population, can give one the option to see if he or she fits in “Ours” in possession of Liberia.

In union strong success is sure: Article 8 of the Constitution confuses me as to the meaning of the word “Union” in the phrase.  Article 8: “The Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment.” I am bewildered by this constitutional clause for what appears like misleading information, especially emphasizing, “All citizens without discrimination,” leaving me to wonder who are the members of the Union as mentioned in our National Ode.  Are we speaking of a tribe or a ruling party in state power, the region from where the President hails or officials of government in control of state resources?

I was misled by the connotation and denotation of the word Union.  By then I thought it was referring to the whole nation with all citizens combined since the National Ode says “All hail Liberia hail,” but later I got to know the true meaning in the Liberian context that Union means a group of people in leadership positions, a group of illicit sex mates who assemble to wine and dine, churches whose bishops are close to the President, and fraternal organizations that perform the same rituals and have influence in government.      

We meet the foe with valor: Who are the foes?  Are they people whom the settlers met here through the power of the love of Liberty, or the settlers themselves?  Are they subsets of a group, wherein the favored enjoy privileges and right for being associative, while the rest are only remembered when it is time to vote?  Are the foes the Christian believers who are not well connected to the church’s hierarchies? 

From the days of the founding fathers of this land, we have had social and economic discriminations with an adverse impact not only on the people affected by discrimination but the country that we must all hail.  Thanks to the Heavenly Father who beautified it with green vegetation and running rivers and an ocean.  Apart from being the first nation in Africa to declare independence, can Liberia boast of anything that other Sub-Saharan countries have done to make them proud?  It still stands half naked among nations of the world with just a single lappa that has been overly washed in caustic water and fading. 

It began with the founding fathers when they and their descendants ruled for over a century.  The one-party rule came to an end in 1980 when it was toppled by the so-called “People,” and they killed government officials on light poles here, accusing them of corruption, nepotism and economic discrimination.

During the regime of the “People’s Redemption Council,” one tribe suddenly became a national tribe in this country, wielding all the privileges and rights, and it was compelling for others to speak this tribe before passing through a checkpoint sometimes.  After repeating all of what it toppled another administration for, it ended in the midst of brutal civil war in which tribes turned against one another and formed warring factions to wage war against one another.  Liberians turned against one another as enemies and invited foreigners to help kill them.

After 14 years of war, a post-war regime took over in 2006 with a high impression of recovery.  While none of these regimes cannot be totally discredited, this post-war regime was expected to make the greatest positive mark amid massive international support, but again, Liberia experienced another dispensation of the worst forms of corruption.  Privileged officials stole enough while members of the first family made off with riches that will only be inherited by their unborn descendants.   

The post-war regime then handed the reins of power over to a regime that the people hailed as theirs, and this new regime brought the policy, “Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD)”.  The big question now is, who is to prosper and develop?  Is it the Legislature, whose members made a law to take budgetary allotments of US$30,000 each for re-election campaigns?  Is it members of the Executive who determine consumers of the national cake and have built palaces for themselves and their dead?  Or is it the Judiciary whose members are selling justice to the highest bidders, claiming rights to the detriment of the poor? 

The meanings of the words and clauses pointed out here create the conditions for jobs to be cosmetically advertised to befuddle the public while the beneficiaries are pre-determined.  These meanings ignore competence and qualifications, and students are left with the option to accept to go to existing schools for the matter of spending time and not for genuine learning.  Those who cannot be found in the ‘Union’ and ‘Ours’ groups are asked to establish their own businesses after getting college degrees. This is on the excuse that “The government cannot employ everybody.”  

It was Graham Greene, on his travelogue of Liberia during the 1920s, who once commented: “Liberia is a sick country; maybe one day it will get well.” From what I understand to be the true meanings of lyrics and stanzas in Liberia’s National Ode, I can choose to say we are celebrating 20-Sick at 174 years of existence.