Liberia: Lucky People

Former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai and Alexander Cummings are the two leading opposition figures in Liberia.

Benoni Parsons

Our General Elections will be held in October of this year. That is not so far away, and I believe that we are not preparing for it as we should be. Those elections will be held and we will have to live with the results of our choice for another six years. Some candidates for the presidency are already standing out.

We already know that Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai and Alexander Cummings are at the forefront of those who would like to take the job of President of the Republic of Liberia from the incumbent, George Manneh Weah. Each of them is telling us that he wants to be President of Liberia. None of them is actually telling us why his presidency would be the best for us.

Why does each of them believe that he is best suited for the job? 

The President of Liberia is seeking re-election based on his record of performance during his first term and he needs all the luck he can get. 

Ambassador Boakai is also running on his record; that of holding high positions in several governments. Starting with Managing Director of LPMC, his other big jobs were Minister of Agriculture under the PRC, MD at LPRC under Amos Sawyer, and finally, Vice President of Liberia under the Sirleaf Government. He needs his share of luck too.

  Yet, it shouldn’t be too hard for him for as he points out his record, he can surely remind us of the capacities that were improved by his stewardship of LPMC, a prime agricultural agency with an exemplary record of support to farmers, which (support) ended with the demise of William R. Tolbert Jr. on April 12, 1980. He should also be able to tell us how he improved our agricultural practices while he was a minister and who destroyed all the good things that he did there and at those other places that he was in charge of. 

Cummings too is running on his record. He needs more luck than the others because most of his record is out of Liberia. Yet, he should be able to point out how his vaunted managerial expertise qualifies him for our presidency and how he will use it to the benefit of us all. 

So far, we, the voting population, have not had much luck. That is our own fault and no one else’s. Here, we have people ascribing to the most important and impactful job in our nation and they know that the rest of us are not listening out for ideas. There is no candidate that is running for the position and presenting an ideology or belief that he is sharing with the rest of us.

There is no candidate who is sharing any plans with us that we can find hope in, but we encourage them to run because they are family, friends, or fellow tribesmen. I’ve heard it said that “Politics is interest!” I agree but I always remember that interests do not have to be narrow and individual. The greater interests are shared by us altogether.

But all of those still do not describe our real bad luck! 

We see how the public employees of a poor country like ours can display unexplained wealth, how our judiciary is an uncharted maze, and how our Legislators and Cabinet Officers are paid salaries higher than those received by their counterparts in countries that have more resources than ours do.

We see how we have failed to ensure quality, relevant, education of our own children, how people we pay to use their new-found wealth to seek medical treatment outside Liberia when those same people are the ones hired by us to bring improvements to health and other essential systems in our country.  

Our real bad luck lies in the fact that we ourselves are not articulate about our desires or of our expectations of results from our government’s performance, so the candidates do not have to address the issues that are important to us all. Yet, all is not lost. We can start having the conversation now. 

Three concerns come to mind; agriculture, education, and governance. 

For agriculture, the candidates should answer two questions:

1. What will you do to improve farm and farmer support? 

2. How do you plan to approach the issue of food security leading to the reversal of our dependency on imported rice.

For Education, one question only: 

1. Describe a school? (Please reply in 1,000 words or less.)

For governance, five questions:

1. Legislature – how will you improve representation?

2. Judiciary – How will you improve judicial services?

3. Executive – 

a. how will you ensure investments in essential services and the reduction of waste in 

government spending, at the same time? 

b. How will you guarantee equal opportunity in all areas?

c. What are your plans for the Liberian economy?

I hope they would address those issues. If they did, we would be so lucky.