“There is nothing more dangerous for our collective wellbeing than ceding the assurance of our safety to men who take pleasure in our suffering.” These words were uttered by a Gola chief, my great, great grandfather during the wars with the settlers on the mighty Hills of Montserado. A coalition was formed between the Golas, Deis and the Bassas; they all had a common enemy, and to ensure their way of life was preserved, they came together to stand as one. As the story goes, it was the mightiest gathering of men that they had ever seen! I first heard these words from my grandfather who would tell us stories of wars as passed down through oral history – there were even sound effects and drumbeats to his storytelling. It was so evoking we could feel the chills and the cries of fighting men; in fact, he was so vivid sometimes we felt thrust in the middle of an active war! He called it the wars to stay righteous. Nevertheless, the wars we now face are no longer just amongst ourselves over petty differences, but against more cunning and much more powerful forces whose single aim is to always tower over us in our own homeland if we continue to cede and subordinate our interests to theirs.
I could not wait every December to go up to the interior to spend every waking moment with the man; he knew Liberia better than any man. He understood the intricacies of politics, the importance of domestic social policies and sovereign positioning, even though he was uneducated and has not served a day in national diplomacy. Call me biased, but I believe our fathers have passed down wisdom that we continue to foolishly ignore to the detriment of us all. In fact, we think irrationally; and dangerously formulate fallacies that continue to put our country on paths that are sometimes irreversible!
Moreover, I cannot fully understand why our current leadership and those before it continue to make the same mistakes, over and over again. Is there a rational reasoning for their mistaken beliefs? Maybe. But I will like to know. Have we ignored the lessons of history to the detriment of our children’s future? Have we ceded the assurance of our country’s wellbeing to foreign actors and expect proper care to be given to “Mama Liberia?”
Let me remind you, however, that countries have interests, not friends! Learn this and develop; refuse and get stuck in present day Liberia! The argument that countries act in their best interests is not sometimes true or true when the time is right; it is always true. Always! Sovereign interest is the driving force behind every decision a responsible country makes with another country. Yes, even if the case appears to be strictly humanitarian! Ever heard the phrase soft power?
It seems Liberia’s numerous administrations have failed to grasp this very basic concept of sovereign positioning. And their refusal or failure to adhere to this simple, but vitally important rule of governance has been one of the biggest reasons why our country is always taken for a ride, from conditional negotiations with foreign governments to lopsided agreements with profit-seeking multinationals, and being outmaneuvered by every Tom, Dick and hopefully Tamba, who claims to be a businessman. Liberia always gets the short end of the proverbial stick.
Furthermore, and because we have not learnt to put our interests first above all else, we continuously make decisions that subordinate our interests to others while at the same time expecting others to be moral and equitable. News flash: The world doesn’t work that way. A country will have everything and still take the little that a poor country has – it is the way of mankind! Greed and self-interest are the driving forces.
Only you can protect your interest. This brings me to the asinine beliefs that most officials of government and some regular citizens hold to be true, but flaw in every way:
1. “The International Community will not let Liberia go back to war – they have invested too much here and will always come to our aid.” Nonsense!!! Open your ears. Relying on another country’s army to provide security for you when they have their own security issues is not just naïve, but dangerous dependency. The International Community’s stay in Liberia was not for Liberia alone, but rather to ensure security in the region. It doesn’t matter what lieutenants on the ground tell you, the United Nations cannot pay for our security in perpetuity; Liberia is not the only disorganized country in the world! They must take their services elsewhere. Let me remind you: We are a sovereign country; International Laws forbid them to always meddle in our business. Do you remember how long it took the International Community to get involved in our brutal civil war? Get your acts together or remain as is! Liberia must assume the responsibility of its sovereignty. Aren’t we sovereign? Or should Liberia be place under United Nations’ stewardship?
2. Agree to lop-sided deals with profit-seeking, multi-national corporations; foolishly believing they will behave responsibly, provide jobs for the population because they show you an embellished balance sheet of billions of dollars. Do not properly vet them, be very lazy and leave them to police themselves. My friends, these are not just dangerous fallacies but unconscionable decisions made by the most incompetent of officials. I am not going to spend a lot of time explaining how ridiculous such governance practice is, but rather remind you of the so-called $16 billion of investments brought in by this administration that were supposed to provide thousands of jobs. Those opportunistic outfits were left to their own devices. I am sure we all know where we stand after 10 years of total lies! Oh yeah, before I forget, 85% unemployment is where we are after all these years. There are a few things more dangerous than a population that is mostly unemployed and uneducated. This thinking is not just flaw, but creates serious sovereignty risks.
3. “Yes, I hold government position, but I am an American Citizen; my kids are all out of this God-forsaken country! I am educated and can get a high-paying job anywhere in the world. My passport is always ready; I will just steal as much as I can and go to the West and live in comfort!” There is only one thing I will say to such near-sighted kleptocrats. You are not Liberian because you were born in Liberia; you are Liberian because Liberia is born in you. Understand this: YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE LIBERIA! Let me inform our people of this one fact: there is not a single high-ranking official in the Republic of Liberia, the current president included, who was earning half of what s/he is earning in Liberia anywhere in the West! Not a single one. And here’s a wager: if any high-ranking official, from director level and above – this also includes the entire legislature, who can prove to Liberia that s/he was legally making more anywhere in the world than what s/he currently makes (inclusive of all benefits and “privileges”) in Liberia, I will personally donate LD$500,000 (US$6,000) to any charity of their choice in Liberia. Let me be clear, we will take the average of your income for the 5 years prior to assuming political office. I will only exempt Sen. George Weah if he invested his millions. There is a caveat, however. If you take up the challenge and cannot prove you made more, you must equally donate similar amount to a charity of my choice in Liberia. All the noise about leaving their high-paying jobs in the West is a complete fallacy. The reality is they don’t want to go back to the West; most of them were living like third-class citizens and working from hand to mouth. In fact, most have nothing to go back to because they had nothing there to begin with. They all want to keep their cushioned jobs here in Liberia so they can continue their thieving ways, despite what they say. Have you ever heard a single one of them resign because they wanted to go back to the West? This fallacy is only in their heads; it’s a way to feel self-important. I only pray that our people smarten up soon so the chickens can come home to roost.
4. “I rather give the government contract to a foreigner because they are easier to deal with; the foreigners always give me a cut (usually a US$5,000 on a US$1 million contract), deliver on time and now I am friends with them.” Really, idiot? Do you think you can get a $10 dog poop scooping contract in Lebanon, China or in any other country over the locals, even if the locals are less qualified than you? How can you hate yourself this much while at the same time believing someone else will love and respect you when you illegally awarded them a contract because they paid you table scraps? There are a few Liberians I will call nationally stupid. Such person is one of them. When kleptocracy and inferiority complex have a love child, the result is a Chinese suit-wearing official who believes himself part of self-proclaiming elites because they are giving him scraps. He disadvantages his countrymen to buy favors from a passerby. Such people hold the most dangerous fallacies of all. They do not just take food off the table of Liberian contractors, they stifle national development by denying Liberians the opportunity to sharpen their expertise and develop a locally-based firm that insures our money stays right here in our country. Have your disagreements with fellow Liberians, but always protect the national interest by protecting his interest. We are all in this together. Liberia must rise and only Liberians can do it!
5. “Every country is corrupt. Corruption will never stop in Liberia, at least not in our lifetime!” This is the biggest misbelief held to be true in Liberia. Let me put it this way, the easiest crime against the state to stop in Liberia is corruption for four reasons: (a) most Liberian government officials are way too unsophisticated to hide huge sums of money; any stolen monies can be easily traced; (b) the typical embezzler fears shame and ridicule more than he fears death; capitalize on this (c) most monies that are stolen are personally delivered to a waiting official to be allocated with little to no oversight; we always know who has the money – follow the money; (d) the vast majority of corrupt practices in Liberia are demanded bribes from the public. Set up an undercover investigative unit with secret cameras and actually prosecute without fear or favor. Be a leader, not friends or “society” buddies or Auntie Jenny’s first cousin six removed. Solution: suspend all jury trials for any stolen amount above US$5,000 (please no idiot should come tell me it’s against the constitution. Men wrote it; un-write it! Societies evolve, so too must our constitution); institute a court with 5 judges, strictly dedicated to hear corruption cases and nothing else. Confiscate all properties of those convicted and ensure lengthy jail time without presidential pardons. Make auditing any governmental entity national law, not even the president should have the power to interfere with the General Auditing Commission and other anti-graft entities. Give them all prosecutorial powers. Truly, and this is the most important one, allow the chips (laws) to fall where they may. Furthermore, where the laws are weak amend them to reflect current state of affairs. Corruption problem solved!!
6. “If I leave the government officials alone and allow them to steal as much as they want and cause no problem or chaos, by demanding what is constitutionally required of them and what they have sworn to, I will live in peace and the government will leave me alone.” Complete lunacy!! Actually, the opposite is true. What will you prefer? A quick death or a very slow one over a short life span filled with pain and suffering for you and your generations? I personally prefer the former. A temporary civil uprising to hold public employees accountable and transparent is a duty of every citizen under our constitution. Exercise your rights and save us all the pain of a slow death as we have experienced for almost 200 years! Moreover, no government in history has ever changed to reflect the wishes of the people without being forced to do so. None!! Think the French Revolution; the United States’ “Give me death or liberty”, Kenyatta’s Mau Mau, South Africa’s removal of Apartheid, etc. Hungry people must not just think this but be fully willing to die for their national aspirations! There should be no compromising the rights to your God-given humanity and the opportunity to self-actualization! Understand this; government will not change for you. It’s a fallacy. You have to make them change.
7. “God will leave the Heavens and come rescue me; He’s my deliverer, I will wait on Him!” You will be waiting a very long time. I am a Christian and a few members of my family are Muslims, and there is nowhere in the Bible or Koran where it states that God or Allah will come down and take care of your responsibilities for you. You are the only being who was not spoken into existence – you are way too complex and majestic for that! You needed more crafting. God got on his knees, molded you with his hands and blew breath (life, himself) into you. Yes, God is in you! Thereafter, He gave you dominion (overlord) over all things on earth. In essence, you are a god here on earth. You can literally do everything Christ did when he was with us. Use your mind. Want to walk over water? Build a bridge. Want to move mountains? Get a few bulldozers and clear a path. Got a new disease? Set up research institutions that’ll ensure it does not kill you and your countrymen. What am I trying to say? You have all the tools to do everything you want to do to make yourself as comfortable as God intended! Your reluctance to function as you have been designed coupled with your refusal to fully execute the dominion bestowed upon you discredits the very God that has so diligently made you! Why wait for God when He lives in you? Couple you faith with actions as the Holy Books instructed.
In the end, our leadership must understand and appreciate the realities of governance. This responsibility cannot be delegated or outsourced to people with no stake in the wellbeing of Liberia. It doesn’t matter what your philosophy is on Liberia, or whether or not you plan to live in the country that made you who you are. The truth is, you cannot kill Mama Liberia; she was here long before you breast fed at her bosom and she will be here long after you are gone. She is way too mighty to be brought down by one wicked person.
Remember this, you must be a king in your homeland for there is nowhere else you will be allowed to hold such lofty title. Let me conclude with wisdom from my grandfather: “The giant Dwalu Trees of the Gola Forest are not giants because they are tallest, they are giants because they ensure it remain so.”
He continues, “They regulate how much water and sunlight are allowed on the forest floor below, thus ensuring the rest of the trees never get to their heights.” Liberians must be those giants in Liberia, not foreigners!