Aspirant DJ Blue Envisions a ‘Youth-Driven’ Liberia

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Senatorial aspirant for Montserrado County, Bernard Benson, Jr. (also known as DJ Blue)

By Judoemue M. Kollie and David S. Menjor

When someone describes the man known as DJ Blue as ‘heavy’, they are most likely not talking about his 300+ pound figure. His most well-known claim to fame is his prowess as an entertainer who transcended the life of stagecraft to the helm of a media company with nationwide reach.

But three years ago, he pulled a move that no one expected, yet one that many surprisingly embraced — he ran for senator. And though he did not win, he came in as a dangerously close first runner-up. Ever since that senatorial election in 2017, having seen the level of hope that he inspired from the voter response, Blue, also known as Bernard Benson, Jr., has been carefully weighing his options. In 2019, he had the opportunity to run but opted to wait and plan better, he told the Daily Observer once.

If social media numbers are anything to go by in an election, the man has clearly been building a footprint since then. No wonder his performance in the 2017 senatorial election earned him respect among more experienced Liberian politicians. Now that he’s having a second go at the same senatorial seat, he appears more determined than ever, that he will make it.

DJ Blue’s Facebook group has over 9,000 members and his personal Facebook account has friends more than half that number. But Team DJ Blue, his official campaign page on Facebook, has over 32,000 followers — a “mass based movement of patriotic Liberians with a youth-driven agenda,” the page description reads. “It’s driving goal, which is highlighted in the catchy tag #LiberianYouthMatters, is geared towards the empowerment of the youths of Liberia.”

According to him, youth empowerment remains one of his top priorities if elected, stressing that Liberian youth are still lagging behind in terms of opportunities since the end of the country’s civil war. When given the opportunity to serve, Benson promises that he will create more youth programs to empower many young people.

Youth empowerment remains a crucial issue in post-war Liberia. Young people (up to the age of 24) account for over 63% of Liberia’s 4.8 million people, according to Index Mundi. However, the country’s youth dependency ratio stands at a whopping 77.6%. The dependency ratio, according to the United Nations, “highlights the potential dependency burden on workers and indicates the shifts in dependency from a situation in which children are dominant to one in which older persons outnumber children as the demographic transition advances.” Although Liberia’s youth dependency ratio refers primarily to children between the ages of 0-14, many young Liberians remain unskilled by the time they reach employment age, rendering them a national security risk, it has been observed.

Mr. Benson, whose media and entertainment industry platforms reach thousands of young people across Liberia, believes the country needs more creative and attractive youth programs to empower the young people.

“We are coming up with programs that I think that can empower the youth,” Benson told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview earlier this week in Monrovia. “There is a need for Liberia invest in infrastructures like recreational centers and public libraries to develop the minds of the young people.”

He criticized the Government of Liberia for not doing much to improve the lives of the youth.

“The biggest investment the government can make is to empower the young people. But nobody is taking about it. We must create programs for the youth, but the government is placing more expenditures on cars to live luxurious lives,” Benson said. He alleged that from 2015 up to 2019, the Legislature has allotted and used over US$70 million on purchasing cars, fueling them and maintaining them. “If we do not empower the youth, we will be having some serious problems in this country. This is why most of my investment is done for the young people.”

The Liberian businessman said for Liberia to succeed in making more young people to become decision makers that would lead to national development, there is a need to copy modules from nearby countries that are succeeding.

“I visited Ghana and what I saw there really touched me. The government has built ten regional youth training centers. There are Information Technology Centers (ITC), vocational and entrepreneurship centers for youth development. That decision is changing things around for Ghana. We can do it here too. All we need is to forget about robbing the country of what it has for our selfish benefits,” Benson said.

He said all over the world, not everybody has a college degree, but everyone can learn something to depend on for life and contribute to national development.

“If the youth get the opportunities to learn carpentry or masonry well, they come back and help build homes or government offices. This is why I am contesting, to work with would-be fellow Senators on drafting policies and directing finances to implementing these sorts of great ideas into realistic actions,” he further explained.

Tourism

As the proprietor of HOTT FM, a twenty-four hour entertainment-based radio station, Benson said Liberia is lagging behind because tourism has been ignored, even though it is the most viable medium of improving economies and expanding the employment pie in any country.

“It is not about how soon we can get money for ourselves. This is the wrong perception our Legislators and the rest of our national leaders are running with. We need short, medium or long term plans in order to attract investment in the tourism industry. This will change the narrative and increase in huge amount, our national fiscal budget,” he said.

Benson added that Liberia has more tourism destinations in Africa than any other country and taking advantage of the available spaces to invest in tourism will fast track national development, including road connectivity, provision of electricity and safe drinking water.

“When Lake Piso, in Cape Mount County, for instance, is operating as a tourism site, money will come and the road leading to that part of our country will be paved. The residents there will have access to electricity and their lives will improve because many of them will get employment,” he continued.

Some of the aforementioned US$70 million that was used for cars, Benson believes, should have been used to develop a few tourism sites.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Youths empowerment without education. Right now, the only youths empowerment as it relates to youths employment in is POLITICAL RELATED STONES THROWING. For 5 Liberian dollars the youths in that country can throw stones from Camp Johnson Road to the Executive Mansion. They can do that. Or to district 10 in Montserrado County . They can do that, whenever they are employed to do that.
    But one thing though, does DJ Blue understands that are actual educational courses in college for tourism ? Has he ever sat in one to understand and know what it takes to develop tourism ? Tourism starts with hospitality, which does not exist in the culture of that country, that is full of anger. Tourism is a service oriented business . DJ Blue wouldn’t not that. The education concerning the development of tourism is in the BOOKS. DJ Blue wouldn’t know about that, because Johnny can not read. It is the mindset, DJ Blue. The mindset. The class struggle in that country has created a different kind of angry people in its culture. For now, the talks about tourism and youths empowerment are blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. The climate does not exist. Your go to school and learn something. The reputation of the country has to change. It was not easy for Ghana that saw over five thousand African Americans trooping into that country. They worked hard at it, backed by some sorts of tourism education. It was not done by blah blah blah blah blah blah . They promoted Ghana as a tourist attraction and destination . Even your big people go to Ghana for vacation and pleasure. Go to school DJ Blue and get some education.

  2. In my opinion I think that Mr. Bernard Benson, aka DJBlue makes a lot of sense in his analysis of the plight of the youths of Liberia. We are talking here about a youth population that was traumatized during 14 long years of a senseless war, a war that we seem not to have learnt anything from, a war in which warring factions recruited child soldiers, and introduced them to drugs and violence, and left them to fend for themselves after the war, now we label them as “Zogos and Zogees”, while those that recruited them as child soldiers, have not had the slightest interest in their plight after the war.
    In an ideal society, the governments after a protracted civil strife, in which the youthful population was vastly recruited, and introduced to harmful drugs, and violence, would make youth rehabilitation a priority, and would concentrate on constructing the Kind of educational youth learning centers that Mr. Benson mentioned in his interview.
    What the youths of our country needed after the civil war, in my opinion was a kind of a psychosocial rehabilitation, infused with drug rehabilitation, to cleanse them from the drugs that was a way of life during the war years. Instead of concentrating on a robust functional literacy program for our youths after the war, our leaders concentrated more on quick impact programs; like soap making, cosmetology, and the like, but not anything in the long term, as a result we have a vastly none functional illiterate youth population, that knows only violence to solve problems
    Our under funded education system was completely devastated, and there has not been any serious concrete steps taken to bring it to par of the pre- war years. We have high school graduates teaching high schools students.
    I also agree with Mr. Bernard Benson that our government spends way too much money to purchase expensive vehicles to drive on unpaved, and potholed roads. Instead of putting money into building libraries, and functional youth learning centers; our leaders are more interested in building universities, when there are no concrete learning foundations built at the pre-school and elementary levels, to produce the kind of students that would attend these universities; as a result, we have the most dis-functional elementary schools in the sub-region, no matter way our students fail miserably at the WASSEC every year. Can you imagine a university that does not have a 21st century functional library, equipped with the latest research tools? In order for us to empower our youths for the 21st century learning environment, we should be thinking about elevating all of our elementary, Junior, and senior high schools to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), school levels.
    I just wish the Liberian voters would vote the likes of sound minded thinkers like Mr. Bernard Benson, aka DJBLUE Benson, but they will be massively voting for people like Hon. Thomas Fallah, who is only interested in power to enrich himself more at the expanse of the down trodden youths of our country,
    as he is going around bribing them now.

    Tolo Bonah Corfah

  3. I can’t vote for you, Bernard!

    Everything you’ve said is campaign rhetoric. When voted, you will do nothing better than the other people there. You do NOT know the ills of Liberia.

    Listen to James Davis, you can NEVER talk about tourism without hospitality; it means stable electricity and beautifully constructed infrastructures, not forgetting the conducive road networks (not Renford Walsh’s motorcar roads, NO!)

    We need a new breed of leaders that can think BIG and positive. You are setting examples on Ghana and how you can do the same in Liberia, but you did not take your time to do a feasibility study of how the Ghanaians successfully came up with the Information Technology Centers, the vocational and entrepreneurship centers. Go back and do your feasibility study before preaching rhetoric.

    You first need to tell the GOL to devise strategies to make the country business friendly, capture the flows of goods and people by effectively collecting inherent taxes and duties, then heavily invest in education over 10 years, improve the quality of education and make it free and obligatory with enticing incentives to both teachers and students, the rest will be added unto Liberia.

    This can NEVER be done with a Grade 9 president, Bernard. Stop spoiling yourself to Liberians. They will put you in the same shoes as others, when elected!

  4. How is he empowering the youths now? You don’t have to be a senator before empowering the youths. You will forget your promise when you win. Politicians always do. Hello!

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