The Daily Observer published a story last Monday that Didier Drogba, the celebrated Chelsea striker, now a United Nations world tourism ambassador, “helped his birthplace strike gold.” Drogba has assisted in collecting memoranda of understanding (MOUs) for a total of US$15 billion in commitments to back Ivorian tourism.
This breakthrough came ahead of the United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) forum that took place in Abidjan last February. It also came just in time for another major investment conference, the influential Forum de l’Investment Hotelier Africain (FIHA), scheduled for Abidjan this March 23.
FIHA, the story said, is known for its ability to link new investors with developers, consultants, contractors, hoteliers and political leaders.
“Didier was part of a successful global push to promote the rising success and attractiveness of the country’s tourist economy,” the story said.
The story highlighted two things big and impressive about Liberia’s next door neighbor: Cote d’Ivoire “boasts a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate of about eight percent; and, as a tourist destination,” the country “is in third place in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 2 million international visitors, behind South Africa, Zimbabwe; and ahead of Uganda, Botswana, Kenya or Mauritius, according to the UNWTO data.”
We are glad the story included these impressive statistics about our next door neighbor, who got its independence on August 7, 1960, exactly 113 years AFTER Liberia!
These are some of the things our people should KNOW — all of us Liberians, but most especially those who say they want to be our leaders, even our presidents.
Three questions arise: 1) What do you know about the history of Liberia? 2) What do you know of Liberia’s neighbors and about Africa as a whole — countries that are far, far younger than ours? 3) You say you want to be a Liberian leader? What do you bring to the table? In other words, what vision do you have for your dear country and how can you help her — and us — to catch up with the rest of the world, most especially other African nations far younger than ours?
What happened to us? Why are we so far behind the rest of Africa? Former Vice President Bennie D. Warner attempted an answer in the 1970s—“What’s the matter with us is us.”
Observer daughter, writer and editor, Lindiwé Khumalo, a few years ago wrote and published a think piece entitled, “Africans are Stupid Because They Are Selfish, and Selfish because They Are Stupid.”
Lindiwé was trying to write from a global perspective, but she could well have narrowed it down to Liberia. For the description she scripted fits us perhaps far more than it fits any other African country. Just think of all the Liberian people who have traveled all over the world and returned with very little to offer, after all they had learned, seen and accomplished elsewhere. Some of them have even been Presidents, and left the landscape just as they met it — or worse.
We cannot, should not put the blame on one or two persons. All of us must share the blame for Liberia’s continued backwardness.
For example, how come we all sat here and permitted the last government walk away without renovating a single of the many of the landmarks in the capital city — including the ace — Ducor Intercontinental Hotel, West Africa’s first five star hotel? Others are the E.J. Roye Building, Hotel Africa, the recently built but not completed National Housing Bank Building? What about the National Cultural Center? Why could not a few of us have got together and mounted sustained and unrelenting pressure on the past government to relocate and rebuild the National Cultural Center? We think it grossly selfish for all of us to have sat here supinely and watched this national treasure abandoned and done nothing about it, only the next day or year to blame one person for the loss of this national icon (ideal, symbol).
We have constantly blamed one person — be it our former Presidents — W.V.S. Tubman, William R. Tolbert, Jr., Samuel K. Doe, Charles G. Taylor or Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — for the country’s continued abject failure in the midst of all Liberia’s riches and the magnificent success stories in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and in our own West African neighborhood, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana.
Take Tourism, a serious money maker throughout the world. Even Sierra Leone is doing far than we — not to speak of Ivory Coast, the subject of this Editorial. Yet it is we, Liberia, which had the initial opportunity — in 1964! Read last Friday’s Daily Observer Editorial.
We cannot blame anyone or two of our leaders alone, rather ourselves, for permitting successive Liberian leaders to shortchange us and our country by their selfish, shortsighted and sycophant-encouraging leadership that has kept Liberia perpetually backward.
Albert Porte, the veteran Liberian writer, used to say Liberians were afraid of Tubman’s eyes, Tolbert’s smile, Doe’s guns — and we can now say Taylor’s guns and money — money he threw out generously to his sycophantic supporters — and Ellen’s cronyism, nepotism, selfishness and badness in abandoning her own Vice President and turning the country over to a man whose only credential was football — the same football that made Didier Drogba — like George Weah — a superstar. Drogba has now turned out to be a patriot and visionary.
This Editorial calls on all Liberians to compare the two men. Weah chose politics and in the first six months of his administration, went after public money — US$25 million and LD16 billion missing — and building mansions, etc. for himself!
We end this Editorial with this question: what does this contrast between Didier Drobga and George Weah tell us about us Liberians and other people?