The Power Is in ‘We The People’, Not The Government

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Dear Liberians,
I greet you with peace, love, and above all else, the chi of oneness. I have been deeply confounded on what my next piece to you would concentrate on, considering there are series of issues affecting our country Liberia. I have given it some thought, and resolved to submit this op-ed as a baseline instrument to streamline our habitual political character in the upcoming 2017 elections. I would like to begin by explicitly stating that the intent of this paper is not to cast bad judgment(s) on governments of the past, neither our present leadership.

I begin by stating that the exercise of true democracy lies not within the confines of the government, but in its citizenry. Thus, the vesting of our power through which we consciously or unconsciously give to our leaders via the casting of our votes, is a clear indication of what our standards, beliefs, and expectations are and/or should be. At this point, I am reminded of an adage that categorically sums up my prologue, and further projects a meaningful outline of the subject matter: “You’ve sold your land and accepted payment; therefore you must live with the consequences”. This metaphorical phrase is core to the reality of us accepting and living with the vices of the decisions we make. Amidst the everyday debates, the naming and shaming of our government leaders, I am inclined to mention that we fail to see ourselves as the problem we seek remedy for, when in fact we are the best remedy. If the government fails, it’s because we the people with the ultimate power have failed in the delegation of our national duties, and living with the ensuing effects can only be considered a fair judgment.

Before Liberia today, our country could boast of men with moral up rightness, grit, and resilience; and the acuity and passion with which they served in lifting Liberia to a precipice amongst the League of Nations, remains unmatched in today’s Liberia. In Liberia today, a contrast in the protocol of service is drawn against history by our politicians, when instead they should use the past as a benchmark to challenge themselves against the marks upon which our forbearers have made.

Circa July 2014, during the Ebola era, I departed Monrovia with a team of colleagues traveling to five (5) counties in Liberia: Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Maryland.

This tour aimed at identifying problems rural inhabitants were (or are) faced with. We explored the ‘nooks and crannies’ of electoral districts with a designed questionnaire which set out to probe the social vices faced by rural Liberians. Our findings were quite appalling, as we for the first time came in full sight with poverty in the eyes of children; maimed by mal-nutrition and poor health facilities, a dying quest for quality education, and lest I forget to mention, the depressing roads, given that we had to sleep along the way several nights. We visited the shrines of town chiefs, schools, worship places of
Pastors & Imams, hospitals/medical institutions; held meetings with youth groups, went to market places and listened to market women tell their stories about the ebb and flow in their businesses as a result of the road network. They looked at us so sternly as if we’ve brought the panacea to their problems.

I looked at them and saw depression, pain, frustration, and a struggle to accept their conditions as they distastefully told their stories. The children hung around watching their mothers play advocates for them. After collecting our information and before leaving our sites for the day, my colleagues and I would buy and share rations of bread with the children, hoping that they too will go to bed with something to eat.

However demeaning this picture I paint might appear, there are existing realities from which I find reasons to draw inspiration; knowing that we can make positive impacts in our children’s lives, even though we have to some degree failed ourselves as a people. I am vividly reminded of two (2) towns we visited, that left an indelible mark on me to which the underpinning of this publication is mostly credited; the towns of Zolowee (Nimba County) and Sentrude (Grand Gedeh County) respectively. I refer to them as the “Ghost Towns”.

In the town of Zolowee, which if I am not mistaken is “à côté de” Guinean border, has a population of about 100 people or more. When we initially arrived, the few people that were there came out to greet us. As we approached, they welcomed us with traditional songs and offered kola nuts. During our usual Q&A routine, something caught my attention. In the house where we sat were pictures of every presidential candidate from 2011 elections glued on the wall. Some still wore T-shirts of candidates they supported whilst expressing their grievances.

The stories told by each person interviewed converged at a central point: they have lost hope in their leaders. Yet I could not bring the ironies in their stories to a rational conclusion for which they still kept pictures of these politicians who they claimed have caused them a great deal of distress and failure.

Along the way to the town of erstwhile president Samuel K. Doe, we made a stop in a town called Sentrude (Grand Gedeh Co). We were given a tour of the school and facilities there. It was a half painted blue and white building, built with mud blocks; windowless, with no seating and instructional materials, as was the clinic which was completely inactive. The women from the town informed us that when someone is sick and needs medical attention, they’re carried on the shoulders of two of the town’s men walking for 2 hours before reaching the next town to be treated. Then there was a child, I noticed, sitting in the dirt crying. I reached to pick him up and was warned not to, then realized he was handicapped. I asked the whereabouts of his parents, the townsmen informed us that they were both deceased, and the lad was left uncared for. This was one out of the many cases we dealt with, all sharing similar attributes.

Given the above life altering experience, I am obliged to say that in order to determine the direction of our country, “WE THE CITIZENS” must first realize “WE ARE” the keys to the powers. Hence, any decisions made in our stead that do not incorporate the interest of Liberia, only underlines our incompetence to properly discharge and/or call to order our power. If we must entrust our sovereign power into the care of a person, he/she must primarily meet our demands. They must prove themselves worthy of attaining our power. But contrarily, we denigrate ourselves as a people when we, for a petty amount, auction a thing so valuable as our votes and consciousness.

The power is in us, the people, and not the government. Hence, let the exchange of our power be an investment we make for ourselves, our children, and importantly for our country Liberia. Let it not be based on reasons of temporary gains, and tiredness of the problems we ourselves have in fact created; for we could only tread the path of recidivism if we do not apply ourselves to painstaking decisions that must matter to us as a people. Let us be driven by stories as such that dare us not to be selfish but selfless, not political but patriotic; knowing that a child without a chance at a decent education, medical coverage, and a proper nutrition, is a much greater campaign than the politics of bitterness, greed, and envy that continue to imprison and set us back as a people.

Authors

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