The publisher and managing director of the Liberia Observer Corporation (LOC), publishers of the Daily Observer, Kenneth Y. Best, says Liberian political leaders have lost their focus and are unable to do the people’s business.
“The Executive Branch of government, instead of focusing on the people’s business, has focused on family, friends and cronies and has not been faithful to the people’s business,” he told the first graduates of the Brilliant Communication & Leadership School (BCLS) last Friday at the ceremony held at the Church of God at ELWA Junction in Monrovia.
Speaking on the theme: ‘Three Principles Media Practitioners Must Embrace: Integrity; A Struggle for Excellence and Hard Work; Focus,’ Mr. Best drew the attention of the new graduates to the sorry state of Liberia and some of the many reasons Liberia is at the bottom of the economic and social ladder in every world development index.
As a result, he said despite “all our natural wealth in Liberia, and all the billions of dollars that have since 2006 poured into our country in investments and aid…our education is in a mess, our health and agriculture sectors are in a mess. So where is Liberia today?”
“Worst of all, our children, our future, from age five and up, are selling on the streets instead of being in school. Pray tell me, where is any country headed if its children are denied an education? In this very week we have seen our education crisis deepening,” Mr. Best lamented.
The graduates are 17 in number, with 13 completing a short term program of nine months in broadcast journalism and four in a short term course of three months in radio production.
He told them that “Many of our leaders, even the ones today, have lost their focus and are now finding themselves scrambling for relevance and legacy.
“Our legislators have gone after money and power and won only the scorn and disrespect of the people,” he emphasized. Although most Liberian government officials are Christians, Best said they have forgotten the answer Jesus Christ gave when one of his disciples told him
“Your mother and your brothers are out here to see you.”
“Jesus quickly asked ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ Jesus immediately detected the bewilderment—puzzlement and perplexity—on His disciples’ faces. ‘How can the man ask us who is His own mother?’ they wondered. So he quickly helped them out. He told them,
‘He who does the will of my Father, he is my mother, my sister and my brother.”
The Daily Observer publisher said the fact that the basic needs of Liberians are not met by the current administration demonstrates why “our leaders have gone wrong, having focused not on the people’s business, but on their own and on the business of their families and friends.”
Mr. Best reminded the new graduates and those present that “you are citizens of Africa’s oldest independent republic. It is therefore your duty, your calling, to be first in everything you undertake, to demonstrate to the world that you are special because you are the first independent citizen in Africa. How I hope all of us Liberians could think and act that way!”
He regretted that for over a century “we (Liberians) have fallen behind, and nations far younger than Liberia have come and surpassed us—Why? Because we have been too lackadaisical in our behavior! The Liberian expession for that is ‘don’t- care-fy.’”
To fight to change those things that have caused Liberia to lag behind in politics, economics and every aspect of development, Mr. Best told the new journalists to firstly be men and women of integrity and not allow themselves to be bought by anyone.
“You are bigger, stronger and more reputable than that. Do not wait around after any press conference for a handout. For once you accept it, you demean yourself and the one who gives immediately loses respect for you because he thinks he can get you to say or do anything for him or her because they can buy you.
“You are God’s creation and no one can buy you; in the same way you cannot buy God’s blessings. They are freely given and freely received, and that is because God loves you and wishes the best for you. None of us can repay God for His goodness and mercy towards us.
But we are required to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, body and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves,” Mr. Best admonished.
“Secondly, as broadcasters, as communicators, strive for excellence and be hard working. Never forget the name of your school that has given you your professional proficiency—it is called Brilliant Communication and Leadership School! You are now called to go out and be brilliant communicators, to go out and be leaders in journalism and broadcasting. You are called to be exemplary in everything you do, and it means: in addition to being people of integrity, you should be hard workers. News and information will hardly come looking for you. You must go looking for them and find them. There are all kinds of news around here, only waiting to be gathered and exposed.
“But to be a journalist, whether print or broadcast, you must have initiative. Never be a sitting journalist. Always be on your feet, walking fast in search of news and features.”
Continuing, Best said that as the new graduates go out, they should “be determined to cover effectively the coming political season. Look for every political candidate you can find and interview and scrutinize him or her and expose all of them to the people. Let the people know who these candidates really are, so that the people are never again deceived. Help the people to make the right choices in the selection of their leaders.
“ You must search for, broadcast and write about the grave problems afflicting our country, most especially in those sectors already mentioned that underscore our failure—the problems with our education, our health and our agriculture. Without a radical improvement in these fundamental sectors, our people will remain ignorant, diseased, poor and hungry. So go find the problems here and write and broadcast them to the world and to Liberia itself,” Mr. Best challenged them.
Earlier, the head of the Liberia Media Pathway – operators of the school – Mr. George Stewart, recounted the history of the institute from a year ago, and the decision to adopt new approaches to develop effective communicators and journalists in the broadcast arena to build the country’s capacity in the sector. He said the school provides a hands-on learning approach to ensure learning by practice.
Stewart said leadership is a core value that is not yet at its best in all its facets—from the home to the community up to the national level—and that the big gap comes with integrity.
He said BCLS is consolidating efforts with national leadership technicians and institutions, like the National Leadership Institute, to soon launch a mass leadership teaching program on radio.
“We think public education on leadership virtues and values is the way to go,” he said.
In his presentation, Mr. Myer Cooper, head of BCLS, said the leadership training element of the school is designed to contribute to the solution of the efficient and effective leadership gap in our society.
“The National Leadership Institute (NLI) in Liberia, headed by Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Reeves of Providence Baptist Church, is willing to support a framework for running this program as a boost to BCLS’s academic plan,” he said.
Mr. Cooper said the BCLS now enjoys full accreditation from the Vocational, Technical and Special Education Department of the Ministry of Education. He narrated the school’s brief history and made mention of an aptitude test administered with extreme rigor, so much so that out of 57 students only 23 students qualified to start the program. The next academic program, he said, will include print and electronic media, social work, video shooting and editing, graphic design and comprehensive computer software training.
The school’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Rev. J. Emmanuel Z. Bowier, stressed to the graduates the need for quality performance and pointed out that integrity must guide them in their endeavors. He recounted his life story where opportunities came knocking at his door because whatever he did was done with commitment.
The names of the graduates of the nine-month program are: George A. Harris; Joseph N. Bryant; Linda T. Gleplay; Saa S. Blama, Sr.; Shadrick T. Nyon Jr.; Chiney M. Reeves; Daniel M. Sirleaf, Esther D. Daku; Russ N. Mason; Princess S. Tamba; Esly M. Samah; and Daguwor K. Dennis.
The names of the those graduating from the three-month program are Claudius T. Greene, Jr., Clarence S. Wamah, Sr., Oladosu J. Okedara and Telo W. Flayou.
Six special honorees who received plaques for their immense contribution to the school are Rev. Emmauel J. Giddings, CEO Liberia-Ghana Mission Inc; Rev. Dr. Samuel & Mrs. Alice Reeves, Providence Baptist Church; Elder Moses T. Nyantee, Media Services Director-Station Manager ELWA. Other honorees were Mr. Edwin M. Fayiah, lll, Senior Reporter, Daily Observer; Rev. A. McGee Jallah, Station Manager, Radio Bethel 103.5 FM; and Rev. Benedict Nagbe, ELWA Eduation/ELWA Academy.