The struggle for political relevance and, to say the most, ascendancy to the highest office of the land has never escaped the mind of Cllr. Winston Tubman, who recently said his chances of becoming President could have been more certain had he remained in the country and completed not only high school but probably his undergraduate degree.
Cllr. Tubman made the remarks in Crozierville last Sunday at a program marking the 80th birthday celebration of Dr. Kenneth Y. Best, who was his classmate in 1950 at the Booker Washington Institute.
“Unfortunately, I have to say it today, because I would not have said it at any other point in time. I probably missed out on my attempts of becoming President of Liberia because my parents sent me to England for education,” he said.
He said, had he gone further to school with his classmates in Liberia, he could have had the opportunity to know his home country better and build much more close relationships with his fellow countrymen and women, who he could have served today.
Reflecting on his days at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Tubman said Kenneth Y. Best, who is today a great success story in the private sector, mainly the media landscape, helped him succeed in his quest for the class presidency and also motivated him in so many different dimensions.
“But that is the way life is. We start together but we move in different directions. We don’t know where those directions lead us but the friendship remains,” he said.
He said the good that every group of citizens can do is to work with one another so as to be a blessing to the country that each claims to love. “Many of the things I heard about Kenneth today I didn’t know before, but I know that I made the right decision when I asked him way back then, more than 50 years ago, to run my campaign at BWI,” he said, appreciating his companionship with Best.
He added: “Had I stayed close to Kenneth Best, I would have become something more than I became much sooner.” Tubman pacified his heart by noting that it is still never too late for him, apart from the presidency, to regret any of the reasons why he failed along the way in his political career.
He said he wished that Liberia was far better than what it is now in terms of development, but there is still hope that the country can rise above its current state of poor infrastructure, systems, and operations. “We can still use the opportunities afforded us to make some things positive and make positive contributions to our country,” he said.
The self-retired politician continued: “We have worked. Kenneth has worked. You heard all the good things he has done but I am sure no one will disagree that our country could be far further ahead than it is today.”
“On this occasion of his birthday, I am proud, I am honored and happy that standing here on behalf of my brother Robert Tubman, who is in Sweden and couldn’t be here. We extend to our friend Kenneth congratulations for all his achievements, especially for reaching this milestone in his life,” he said.
Winston Tubman was the standard bearer for the opposition political party National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) in the 2005 general and Presidential Elections but, as it went, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (of the Unity Party) snatched the Presidency away from him and a host of other contenders, including football icon George Manneh Weah who currently heads the government as President.
Another attempt by Tubman for the office of President came in 2011 when George Weah (now President) allowed Tubman to run as standard bearer of the Congress for Democratic Change. But, as it was in the case of 2005, the then incumbent President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf snatched the post at the polls.
There was a runoff between Tubman and Sirleaf but, after numerous outcries and claims of fraud by the opposition block, Tubman backed off from the runoff, which saw Madam Sirleaf sail through the run-off election to win her second term.
Another speaker who touched on the meaningfulness of Mr. Best’s existence among his kinsmen was Rivergee County Senator, Conmany Wesseh.
In his remarks, Sen. Wesseh said he and Best, as well as some other strong heads, championed the cause of social justice in the country when President William V.S. Tubman quashed student politics in 1964. “Best has always told stories and those stories he tells always change things around. He is a Best to appreciate and a Best to celebrate,” he said.
Wesseh noted that he, Kenneth Best, Charles Minor, who later served as Ambassador of Liberia to the United States, and a host of other fellows at one time got deeply involved in molding the minds of several young people for the promotion of democratic governance in the country.
He noted that Mr. Best and his family, mainly his elder sister Muriel Best, have always been firm in their struggle for justice and helping others desperately in need to succeed. Wesseh said he was responsible for the first arrest meted against Mr. Best, his wife Mae Gene Best and staff of the Daily Observer newspaper during the 1980s.
The arrest came when three letters from three students were published in the Daily Observer in June of 1981, calling on the People’s Redemption Council of President Samuel Kanyon Doe to release their leader, Commany Wesseh. Doe then ordered the arrest and detention of Mr. Best, his wife and his staff for publishing the letters from the students.
Wesseh, at that time, was banned from interaction with the press and the student leadership for what the Doe regime termed as “the instigation of chaos against the government in the name of student advocacy.”
Best and six of his male staff were imprisoned for ten days while the females, including Mrs. Best, were incarcerated for four days.
Their release came following pressure that was mounted on President Doe, who was at the time attending the Organization of African Unity (OAU, now African Union, AU) conference in Nairobi, Kenya, where Mr. Best once worked for the All African Council of Churches and was well known and respected.
Wesseh, then leader of the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU), appreciated Mr. Best for his contribution to his life, mainly beginning with the publication that saw Best and his people not only imprisoned but their revered newspaper, the Daily Observer, shut down.
Several other persons expressed their gratitude to the Octogenarian (Best) for his positive contributions to their lives.