All Liberian Party (ALP) Presidential hopeful, Benoni Urey, says Liberia’s real challenge is not infrastructural development but, changing the mindset of Liberians to demonstrate patriotism to the nation.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer on Tuesday, Urey emphasized that every Liberian in whatever political and social orientation must join forces and work together to ensure that the minds of Liberians are changed from hopelessness to development.
He reminded Liberians at home and abroad to critically examine political and economic issues in the country and develop the spirit to resist negative feelings about the country.
In no specific terms, Mr. Urey’s statement appeared to buttress what President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said when she bemoaned the attitudes of Liberians toward their country’s development.
Upon her arrival from Kigali, Rwanda in July this year where she attended the 27th Ordinary Session of the African Union, President Sirleaf described the tremendous economic and infrastructural transformation Rwanda and Ethiopia had made since the days of their respective national crises, especially Rwanda, whose civil war of 1984, recorded Africa’s worst genocide.
She recalled that she had the opportunity to work in Ethiopia and Rwanda earlier in her career and that, “The people” of those two countries “have good work ethics, discipline and are patriotic… But ah, Liberians,” the President lamented. But then, taking it personally, she also said Liberians are “not appreciative” of all she is doing to lift Liberia, “and at times it is disappointing.”
Urey appears more optimistic. He believes that changing the Liberian attitude involves truly reconciling the country, something he believes President Sirleaf has failed to do. “She even admitted that she has a problem forgiving people,” he noted, “how then, can she reconcile an entire country?” There was however no clear answer from him as to how true reconciliation would be achieved if he were elected President. He did proffer that the attitudes of Liberians could change if Liberians are gainfully employed, especially through agriculture.
President Sirleaf came under some criticism for her remarks, with some suggesting that, as President, it was her job to inspire the people of the country towards transformation.
Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe a former Labor Minster and former Solicitor General in the first administration of President Sirleaf, said the President “is acknowledging failure that she led Liberia for more than a decade and expressing disappointment a the slow pace of development. Who is to blame? She should start blaming herself.”
Gongloe recalled how, under President William R. Tolbert’s administration, a self-reliance policy was introduced, which led to the construction of roads, schools and clinics. “It takes a motivational leader to lead the people to transform the country but she must not attribute the poor state of Liberia to the attitude of the Liberian people,” he said.
Urey, in the interview, cited as an example, Liberia’s once enviable healthcare and education systems that were beacons of standard in the subregion several decades ago, have nothing much to show for such past glories.
“Guineans, Ghanaians and Ivoirians brought their citizens to Liberia to seek medical health, but sadly today, the story has changed; our education was also sought-after thirty years ago and it was literally free,” he said, lamenting that things have changed for the worse today.
He said owing to the kind of infrastructure that was in Liberia, the country was rated as one of the best nations in the subregion.
As for the party’s vision concerning the country’s road network, Mr. Urey proffered what he called a systematic approach to the development of Liberia’s road network. “If several miles of road are constructed on a yearly basis in our country,” he suggested, “in a few years our country could be connected with better roads,” Mr. Urey stressed.
Speaking of Agriculture, Mr. Urey, who owns a farming enterprise, says all the cooperative societies must be revived with funds to smallholder farmers.
“We must first of all work out programs in the agriculture sector that would help our farmers to be able to market their produce in every part of our country,” he said.
He stressed the need for smallholder farmers in the cocoa and coffee sectors to rehabilitate their previous farms and provide technical training that would increase their output.
He noted that agriculture from all indications would indeed stimulate Liberia’s socioeconomic growth and that would ensure stability and peace in the country.