Monrovia’s blind beg at intersections, but see better than the leaders in big jeeps with eyes.
Be it a snapshot or the cinematic view, it neither feels nor looks good. Citizens and donors have despaired over corruption. Recycling technologies have combined with steep price drops in Liberia’s traditional exports to cancel investments in risky frontier markets. Iron ore and rubber aren’t easy options anymore. Last week Liberia’s oil company sang the national mismanagement anthem and went belly-up. Agriculture, Education and Energy languish behind, and Ebola arrived to offset the Sirleaf Economy and Development Era in blinking red lights. In the 2018 wings there’s an oversupply of candidates-without-leadership-ability towing huge deficits of viable plans.
Is Liberia a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma?
Why do we get generalized pessimism and national inertia after debt-relief, record-breaking budget supports and Foreign Direct Investments, unprecedented international goodwill and Sirleaf’s scintillating prize collections on the global stage? Are Liberia’s problems more intractable than those of her advancing African sister states? They are not. Aren’t there enlightened catalogs of new laws? There are. Doesn’t our democracy possess the commissions and tools to check transparency and sustain accountability? It does. Hasn’t ‘Democracy’ endowed Liberia’s leaders with more expansive appetites for their own interests over their electors? It has.
How did we get so far up the wrong road?
Mrs. Sirleaf changed how Liberia is perceived in the world, and has made quantifiable achievements in important sectors. They pale, however, when compared to other Liberian Presidents with whom Mrs. Sirleaf worked, and then successfully undermined. Sure, Liberia now is better than war, more repaved roads, running water and Electricity. But like Sisyphus she has accomplished far less with much more. That is the crux of our national frustrations. Where subversion catapulted Mrs. Sirleaf to the top of the greasy pole, it has proven more effective in undoing than a tool for getting things done.
The buck doesn’t stop at the president’s desk alone.
Enter the ‘Good Governance’ remedy of one size fits all for failed states. It’s more about appearance and process than results. The legal and administrative frameworks for checks and balances are in place. So is decentralization. We have Civil Societies and NGOs for everything, and there’s a free-wheeling media landscape. ‘Good Governance’ also got us to HIPC completion and debt relief, and the resource commitment of International Donor Communities. Yet, corruption flies vampire high, students flunk exams en masse, rape ravages unabated, most food items are imported, healthcare barely exists, the DV youth and brain drain continues, and impunity persists at all levels of the society. We have the highest per capita energy cost on earth! Can it really be true that Governance Reform leads to rapid social and economic inclusion and development? Or, has it led us away from real solutions to our citizens’ most pressing problems? Where are the products of reform? Why do we need more time for Governance solutions to work? Wasn’t this why Ebola caught Liberia naked with its Development shirt off and its healthcare pants down?
Jump outside the box.
It’s cultural. That’s Liberia’s problem. Good Governance has no solutions for that. We live in a crisis of inverted values which poisons everything. We have a decrepit, disjointed culture which exalts unthinking imitation over native creativity, laziness in place of hard work, lies over truth, social hatreds over one-country unity, foreigners over Nationals, crooks and murderers above Samaritans, loud aggressive talking before solemn thought, and breezy shows above concrete substance. There’s reward and celebration for deviance and perpetrators of industrial crimes.
Liberia’s people are its most valuable resource. And the solutions to our problems are less in Governance fixes with statistical benchmarks than they are in direct, rubber-meeting-the road investments in the people. It’s about productivity and priority, and we need an urgent rethink about Food, Homes, Schools, Genuine Peace and Security in the land. There are no substitutes for Boldness, Leadership, Patriotism and a National Plan.
The good is not the enemy of the perfect. Ebola’s onslaught united us into one ferocious fighting family. Despite our shortcomings and Leaders in big jeeps, there’s resilience, talent and heroism in Liberia’s blind who’ve survived decades of bad choices by fake politicians making false plans. But in Liberia it’s the street-working blind that deserve the right of way.
The blind have less complicated needs and clearer vision than the big jeeps with eyes.