Liberia 2023: Choosing What Is Right Over What Is Easy
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this commentary are solely of the author and do not necessarily represent that of the Daily Observer newspaper.
By Lewis G. Brown
My fellow citizens:
In 2023, we will mark the 20th Year since we signed the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended years of wars in our country. A signatory to the Agreement, I continue to believe that the experience would strengthen the bonds of our nation, and that the painful chapters it ended would encourage all of us to do the right things the right ways.
Since the signing in 2003, thankfully, we have not fallen back to war, and hopefully will never choose wars to settle political disagreements or economic disaffection.
Notwithstanding, with threats of violence and retributions against those who dare to publicly disagree, suspicions of weaponizing the courts against perceived opponents, a growing wave of crimes and insecurity, mysterious deaths, high unemployment, deepening divisions, and worsening economic conditions; it is safe to say that our nation’s cherished peace is under stress. The credible conduct and outcome of the elections in 2023 is, therefore, a critical test for the future of our country. I encourage the government and all of us to undertake this crucial test responsibly.
My fellow Liberians:
Leadership matters. The Holy Bible instructs that the people will perish where leaders have no vision. People suffer, kingdoms fall and nations fail when leaders cannot see, do not hear, or will not change. Therefore, the decisions we make in 2023 about who will lead us, will also decide, at least for a generation, if our nation will rise or fall - if we will move backward or forward. It will determine if we achieve our individual dreams, or if our businesses will fail. Who we choose to lead us in 2023 will decide the condition of the hospitals we will go to when we get sick, and what the quality of the classrooms will be, in the schools our children attend.
Who we choose to lead us will decide if we will continue to be scared to walk our streets, even during the day, and if we will continue to sleep restlessly at night, fearing the worst for ourselves and our loved ones. Who we elect will decide the prices of food, the salaries of workers, and whether there will be jobs for those who are unemployed. The people we elect will decide if it will be ok to worship as we choose, and express our thoughts freely, or whether our rights as citizens will be restricted because of our religious beliefs, or other perceived differences.
2023 is a critical turning point year for Liberia. At 176 years since independence, we will have no excuses for our mistakes. Therefore, the election will not be the time or place to gamble our lives and the fate of our country. It is the time to rescue the country and reset how we must live with each other.
If a leader shows us that he cannot change in six years, we deceive ourselves into thinking he will change in 12. We cannot therefore put our country’s progress, and indeed, our own lives, and the lives of our children, on standby, relying on false hope. False hope is, really, no hope.
My fellow citizens:
Throughout our history, we have rightly resisted the dominance of one tribe over other tribes. We must continue not to accept the effective establishment of one-party rule in our country, however disguised. Too many have suffered, bled and died so that our country can be better. To varying degrees, we have all shared in the birth pains for a new society of inclusion, broader participation and democratic governance. And yet, even today, we still lead by dividing, excluding and witch-hunting each other along lines of tribe, gender, religion and political association. This is wrong.
It dishonors the sacrifices that got us here. And importantly, it sets us up, again, for inevitable collapse. We are wise to learn from our past rather than justify repeating them.
We must do better than this. Doing better necessarily begins with a new mindset in the leadership of the country. I have had the privilege of serving in many positions in the Liberian Government. I know that setting the right examples from the top will inspire good behaviors at the bottom. I also know that the power of the President is extremely impactful in determining how the government performs, and what our nation is capable of becoming, and achieving.
Let there be no doubt: If we are to become better — if we will do better — it will matter who becomes our president, senators and representatives in 2023. It will matter, and must seriously concern us, what their work habits are, what their temperaments are, what their values are, what their experiences, competencies and grievances are, what their views of other Liberians are, and importantly, we must truly understand and be convinced about why they truly desire to lead and or represent us.
This is why, for the next President of our country, although I am a member of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), which is a member of the ruling coalition, I endorse, and have decided to support, Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings (ABC).
As a contest, I note that ABC is sandwiched between a former and current ruling party. Being former and current ruling parties bespeaks enormous political, institutional, human capacity, and economic advantages, for which, I understand that the choice of ABC may not be the easiest, today. However ABC is the right choice for the changes we must make to realize the tomorrow we seek.
There are times in the life of nations when it must choose what is right over what is easy. And so, I am hopeful that in 2023, we will be citizens, choosing what is best for our nation, before we let ourselves be partisans, fighting for what is best for our parties.
I borrow from President Abraham Lincoln in saying: We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to live by the light that we have. We must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.
I stand with ABC because he is right. He has the character, temperament, depth of understanding, integrity and leadership credentials to move our nation into the future we seek. I stand with ABC because he inspires a new mindset not just to have us accept what is wrong with us, but to courageously try to push us into doing what is right for all of us. I stand with ABC because his examples motivate all of us to draw new standards for ourselves, so that all of us can do better for Liberia.
I stand with ABC because of the boldness of vision, the freshness of ideas, the courage to continue to fight when it seems easier to surrender, and the quality of leadership experiences he has achieved to get things done.
I stand with ABC because we must change our dysfunctional and discredited system of governance rather than continue to manage it.
I stand with ABC because in 2023, we must elect a leader to be President rather than elect a President we hope might become a leader.
Even when we believe change is difficult — which it is — we can look to our history for inspiration. When the founding fathers and mothers ventured across the rough oceans to find a home along the West African Coast, although they did not come to necessarily form an independent nation, they were motivated by the need to change the circumstances of their lives. They were right to believe themselves to be deserving of the right to be the masters of their destiny.
When indigenous Liberians gallantly fought and resisted policies and programs of oppression, domination and exclusion, they did not do so to replace one dominant tribe with another system of tribal dominance. They did so to compel change so that the new and independent nation of unity, equality in citizenship and opportunity, which were declared and promised, would be available to all Liberians.
Throughout our history, notwithstanding attending difficulties, taking risks for change did not only inspire the birth of our nation, but also, it flavored the course of our nation’s journey.
Today, that historic duty to confront difficult circumstances, including to make personal sacrifices, so real change can happen in our nation, is now ours to undertake. We must do this today so that our children can reap the rewards of a changed and better society, tomorrow.
I know that both individually and collectively, we have not often lived up to the need for change. We can all point to marks of public and or private failures. But we can all act to influence a better future even though we cannot change the past. We have a citizenship duty, and a generational obligation, to do so.
The truth is that Liberians are not afraid to change. Unfortunately, too many of our leaders have viewed change as diminishing of their powers. But democracy is not about making powerful leaders. It is about empowering so-called powerless people.
This is why, important as they may be, it does not really matter how many roads, bridges and buildings we may construct; if Liberians continue to remain poor, dependent, and without quality education, we embellish the body of a stained soul. We thereby lose our way, undermining democracy, and risking the future peace and security of our nation.
ABC understands this. He understands that we must fix the dysfunctional system that lifts leaders up and keeps people down. We must lift Liberians up, and offer the chance for all to improve their lives.
In 2023, with ABC, we must stand up for Liberia. We must stand up for real change. We cannot lose hope. We cannot be frightened.
Wherever you are — whatever your tribe, party, gender or religion — now is the time to get involved; together, we can win for Liberia.
However difficult the tasks ahead may be — whatever sacrifice we must individually and collectively make — the cause to change the direction of our country is a historically just cause, for which we cannot and will not fail.
For the cause of real change — for the cause of Liberia — I stand with ABC, and so should you.
God bless you. May God continue to bless Liberia. I thank you.