By T. Mark Slak Korpu (email@example.com)
My fellow Liberian youth! The time has come again for us to vote for another corps of president, vice president and representatives for the 73 districts in Liberia. This is our civic duty as citizens of Liberia to ensure the continuity of our democracy.
While it is true that Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic and second independent state, history will also tell you that we have been the most immature. For a country founded on democratic principles, we have consistently failed to show to the rest of the world that we have come to terms with our position on the continent and the world.
The history of voting in Liberia has always been a one sided affair. It started with the new arrivals totally disenfranchising the indigenes they met here. From that foundation to the point voting became an all inclusive affair, the whole process has been manipulated to uphold and maintain the status quo: propping the settler hegemony to the detriment of the entire populace.
Even after the bloody coup that was supposed to see the end of the stranglehold the so-called ‘Congaus’ have on the country did not produce the expected results. Rather it led to where we are today, the poorest, poorly educated and one of the most backward countries on the continent. The cause of all these problems really lies in the power of our votes. The people of Liberia have always voted for the wrong leadership, and for the wrong reasons.
In the past, we would be right for blaming our mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts. They formed the bulk of the voting population then. But today, that power now lies in the hands of the youth. That is why I, as a youth, am addressing this commentary to you, my fellow compatriots.
According to NAYMOTE, the youth of Liberia forms over 60 percent of the current pool of eligible voters. And for that reason, certain concessions are due us in line with the power we have to decide on the next corps of leadership of this country. No, I am not talking about the ten dollars and a t-shirt. I am not talking about a bag of rice and school fees. I am talking about a partnership with whoever we choose to truly transform Liberia. We are just three weeks away from October 10. That is 21 days left for the biggest decision in our young lives that would have far reaching implications on our collective future.
The question remains then, what do we do with this remaining time? How do we use this time to come to the decision on who to become our future leaders? This is what this commentary is about. Forget the crowds they pulled at their campaign launches, the dancing, the singing, blocking traffic and the like. Let us for once take an aside and look at the facts. This calls for us to set aside all emotions and deal strictly with the facts.
While it is true that you should like the candidate that you want to vote for, it is also certainly true that you should know facts about what he or she stands for. This is the much talked about political platform you hear this newspaper calling for from all political aspirants and incumbents. On this document, your preferred candidate spells out in detail what he or she plans to do about every issue that should be of concern to you the voter.
Things like crime, education, healthcare, immigration, employment, infrastructural development, international relations, the disabled, sports, arts, entertainment and culture and the like are dealt with in this very important document. Do you know what your preferred candidate stands for on the real issues? Remember that politics is about interests, so the person that represents your interest is the person to vote for. Once again, this goes beyond emotions, beyond the small money they will give you, the t-shirts and the like. It would be a shame on you to elect someone who stands the potential of making over US$1 million over the next six years because they gave you US$20 during a campaign stop. Your vote should mean way more than that.
Apart from your preferred choice of candidate’s platform, another critical aspect that a voter should look at is the individual him or herself. What do you know about your candidate? What is his or her history in leadership? For the incumbents, the ones who are hoping to be reelected, what has he or she done for you or your district that you are a direct beneficiary of? Can you point to one or several development initiatives that he or she has carried out in the district? What were his or her campaign promises, and how do they match up against what they have delivered? Look at this person’s family, friends or business interests, how do they fare? Has he or she done a good job based on your estimation?
For the aspirants, what do you know about them? What are their track records? What are they currently involved in or with that you can point to and say ‘I know that, given the opportunity, he or she can do much better’? Have they lived in the community long? What have they been doing to show that they have the community, hence the county and country, at heart? Like I have said, this is no time to be sentimental; it is rather time to be realistic.
How you vote sets the stage for your future, even the future of generations to come. We have been at this democracy business going on two centuries now, with little or next to nothing to show for it. With the youth forming the majority of voters in the country, the time has come for us to turn things around for the better based on how we vote.
As a youth activist I care about those who care for Liberia. I am voting for the person who I believe, based on my research that has the potential to maximize my hopes and vision for this country. We need better education, roads, healthcare, security, deals with other countries, businesses and so much more. Let your vote count for something.