Reviewed by Prof. Augustine Konneh, PhD
Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
In his book, From Foya to the Capitol: His Excellency Joseph Nyuma Boakai Sr., Vice President of the Republic of Liberia” (published by Africana Homestead Legacy Publishers Inc. Cherry Hill, New Jersey), Dr. Sakui Malakpa chronicles the life and leadership of V. P. Joseph N. Boakai, Sr. Malakpa begins by tracing Boakai’s early life, from his humble beginnings as the beloved child of his mother Ma Lusu Kumba Kpetu to his barrier-breaking enrollment at the then elite College of West Africa (CWA), a remarkable achievement when one considers that Boakai is the product of a lower class family in Liberia’s highly rural Lofa County.
The author proceeds to discuss Boakai’s matriculation at the University of Liberia, from which institution Boakai earned a degree in Business Administration. The rest of the biography presents a detailed account of Malakpa’s professional sojourn: his entry to public service and main stream politics, and his connections to subsequent dispensations during deferent regimes and political eras, including the Military regime of the 1980s his career in public service. This career includes his stints at terminal levels of administration—as Director of the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) and the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC)—and his tenure as the 30th Vice President of the Republic of Liberia.
The author, Dr. Sakui Malakpa, is a Professor at the Department of Early Childhood, Physical and Special Education, at Toledo University, USA. As Coordinator of the Vision Program, Dr. Malakpa teaches all Vision courses, in addition to other courses at undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Malakpa has published extensively in the areas of special education and international studies. One of his captivating must-reads is “Problems in the Admission and Retention of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education,” published by the Journal of College Admission, (n156 p.12-19, Sum. 1997).
His academic pedigree is outstanding, and his writings are far reaching. He has earned for himself a first-rate reputation among scholars, one that has elevated his considerations for positions of trust in the academic world, as is illustrated by the fact that he heads The Liberian Studies Association, a non-profit, scholarly organization created to provide a means for effective cooperation among persons interested in furthering scholarly research.
His autobiography of V.P. Boakai authenticates the notion that the lives of public figures should be inspirational to current and future generations. We may not know exactly what changes Bokai’s career will motivate but Malakpa’s account suggests that the life of V.P. Boakai is exemplary of good, practical virtues and displays the truest form of integrity. Therefore, those who red this book should be enriched by the experience.
Readers will also be deeply impressed by the praise given to V.P. Boakai in her foreword to this book. Indeed, Her Excellency—acclaimed Head of State and Government of the Republic of Liberia, Former head of ECOWAS, and Africa’s first female President—heralds that V.P. Bokai has demonstrated remarkable qualities of leadership, effective communication skills, deep respect for colleagues and for the people of Liberia, and selfless determination to accomplish goals and objectives regardless of who claims credit for these achievements.
True, the launching of this book on the eve of Elections activities in Liberia could be seen a political seduction. However, a much more important consideration is whether or not the content of the book aligns with the author’s quest to encourage the kind of selfless, humble leadership style that culminates in the social, political and economic improvement of Liberia and improves the quality of Liberia’s collective consciousness. Without a doubt, the book passes this test with flying colors. In fact, the publication of this book on the eve of the Elections can be regarded as mere coincidence since the kind of virtues and talents recounted in this or any other book should play well for anybody who is associated with it—not only, as in this case, the V.P.
The book has the soft power to inform and inspire a wide range of struggling young people by increasing their faith in their abilities to achieve their dreams even in the midst of limited opportunities and challenging times. In this regard, the book deserves comparisons with Nelson Mandela’s No Easy Walk to Freedom and The Struggle Is my Life and with Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope.
By drawing on experiences from private and public life, the book records real-time accounts typical of day-to-day living in Liberia. In this manner, the book may be spotlighting a hinge on the door of glorious Liberian possibilities, a door that others are encouraged to walk through.