Tomorrow, Thursday, May 14 is National Unification Day. This Day was set aside by the National Legislature in the 1960s to commemorate the National Unification of Liberia, which was spearheaded in 1964 by President William V.S. Tubman.
National Unification was one of President Tubman’s greatest achievements. Before he became President in January 1944 the seriously country was divided along tribal and ethnic lines, with the occurrence of frequent tribal conflicts among many of the nation’s 16 major tribes. In addition, there was also the long-running conflict and suspicion between the nation’s indigenous tribes and the settler elite. Up to that point and for many years later, the leadership of the country was firmly dominated by the settlers and their descendants.
President Tubman saw this as a major obstacle to national peace and harmony. He began to tackle this problem in the early 1950s by convening Executive Councils in various parts of the country, beginning with his native Maryland County, where Paramount, Clan and Tribal Chiefs from the three Provinces—Central, Western and Eastern—as well as Superintendents and other leaders of the then five counties original counties—Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Maryland and Grand Cape Mount gathered every year to discuss the urgent issue of national unification.
These Executive Councils led to the formation by President Tubman and the National Legislature in 1964 of four new counties—Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh. These new counties were headed not by people from Monrovia, as had been the case in the Provinces, but by indigenous leaders of each respective province. For example, President Tubman appointed as the first Superintendent of Bong County, James Y. Gbarbea, who hailed from Sanoyea; Robert Kennedy, a son of Voinjama, as Superintendent of Lofa County; Gabriel Farngalo, son of Sanniquellie, as Superintendent of Nimba County; and Moses Poka Harris, son of Tchien, Superintendent of Grand Gedeh County.
Each of these four new counties immediately assumed the full political status of the five original counties—with the election of their own members of the House of Representatives, commensurate with their respective populations; and their own two Senators, as is the case with all the original five counties.
Many Liberians were disappointed when President William R. Tolbert, Jr., who succeeded President Tubman on his death on July 23, 1971, did not choose as his Vice President an indigenous son of Liberia. Instead, Tolbert chose James Greene of Sinoe County, one of the original five counties dominated by the settler elite, as Vice President.
Tolbert choose another son of Tolbert’s own county—Montserrado—as Vice President, upon the death of Vice President Greene in 1975. Bennie Warner hailed from Lower Careysburg, a stone’s throw from Tolbert’s birthplace, Besonville (Bentol). There are many who believe that, had Tolbert been bold and wise enough to choose instead of Greene and Warner, Jackson Doe of Nimba County as Vice President, the April 12, 1980 coup d’etat, in which Tolbert and most of his top officials lost their lives, would never have taken place.