Liberia: We can Create our Own Sweet Christmas

Dear Liberia,

What a festive November it has turned out to be! In this month of gratitude, Liberians have expressed the highest appreciation for the freedoms our constitution affords us. We cast our votes and ended the reign of a despot. Congratulations!

My family alone, stalking me on Facebook as they do, may have noticed my silence of late. I am far away, but have never left you. Suffice it to say I respect you too much to have made my voice redundant, during this elections cycle. You knew the needful and you did it! George Weah, his (alleged) harem and henchmen are out!

I have made my misgivings known about all the leading cars in this race. My feelings have not changed. And, though I am impressed to find Mr. Weah so ready to concede defeat to Mr. Boakai, it is not his ouster that moves me most. It is you, Liberia. It is your agency and resolve.

You have never lacked this power. No one had to hand it to you. This authority to decide your own fate is a ball you passed to some player with two left feet, who fumbled over it, tripped, fell, broke his ankle, and had to be hauled out on a stretcher. Here are my questions now: will you keep the ball, this time, and score your own goals? Or will you let this new Old Man tuck it under his arm and walk around the pitch, like he's taking an evening stroll? That is not even how you play American football. He who holds the ball must run towards the right goal, expecting and evading interference.

A common misconception about democracy is that the public are spectators watching the elected and appointed perform. But the role of the people is to apply educated pressure for said performance. We cannot do so from the bleachers. We need to show up, every time, not just at the polling station. It is our job to read closely, ask thoughtful questions, and demand sustainable results.

So, here's our work load for the next several months:

1. From January to March 2024, our legislators will vote in the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, President Pro Tempore, Committee and Caucus Chairs. We can analyze the names in the running, call our legislators, lay out our policy priorities, and demand they make the right choices to fill these positions. Or we can cry, in 2025, that this new crew is as corrupt and incompetent as the last.

2. From April to July 2024 (or starting much earlier), the new Minister of Finance will submit a draft budget for House debate. We can attend public hearings, read the draft, call our Representatives and demand substantial allocations for education, health, etc. We can put pressure on them for the budget's timely passage through the House. Then, we can start all over again with the Senate. This will give the Executive Branch legal power to spend into a starving economy. Or we can cry, in 2025, that money ain't flowing and our streets and schools are still a mess.

This list is not exhaustive. This same level of engagement is necessary in every policy area. That is how our system of government is designed to work. It has failed because we the people have failed it. But we can recover quickly, if we choose to.

As we say each year, "If the Christmas will be sweet, you can know it from the eve." Well, guess what, Liberia? You are the eve. You are the energy. You are everything you have been waiting for. So, take that money from your bra and put it in your phone. We got plenty calling to do! No Senator will sleep, no Representative will rest in Royal Hotel, until our hospitals reach global standards and our schools start teaching robotics. They work for us, and they must show value for all their successive pay raises!

Love always, I miss you.

Lilian L. Best