Prior to and after the National Elections Commission (NEC) declared the political campaign open on July 31, Liberians have continually witnessed many political maneuverings. Among them are defections from party to party, hate messages, tearing down of posters, arguments about the Code of Conduct, political endorsements and quests for running mates from counties, especially voter-rich ones. Defections are not based on any explicable political ideology, but mostly on losing in primaries or failing to be selected as a running mate. The Code of Conduct was hastily passed into law in 2014, signed by the President and declared ‘constitutional’ by the Supreme Court on March 3, 2017, and interpreted last July, bringing more controversy than consent.
The foregoing should caution voters to be cautious of politicians. Voters are strongly advised not to follow politicians’ deceptive rhetoric, but consciously make decisions based on three things: who the candidate is; what is his or her background; and his or her track record in terms of his relationship with his or her people.
Second, does the politician have a platform? What does it say? Does it speak to all the relevant issues affecting the region which the politician seeks to represent? If a presidential candidate, what does his platform say about the burning national issues—the economy and its foreign dominance; how can we move from dependency on iron ore and rubber?; how can we develop or improve Liberian entrepreneurial capacity?; how do we enhance the Liberian control of business in the counties, such as we see in Nimba and Grand Gedeh?; how can they be encouraged to expand their businesses into supermarkets, modern hotels, as well as modern farms, especially rice, coffee, cocoa and vegetable farms and meat production, including poultry and eggs, cattle, goats, sheep and pigs? In other words, what is the candidate’s agriculture policy?
What do these platforms say about other national policies—the economy, education, health and medicine, culture, tourism, libraries, adult literacy? What is the candidate’s commitment to making Liberia 100 percent literate?
What else do the platforms say? Are they dreamy or realistic? One of the testing points the people should be asking is, How does the candidate intend to carry out his/her plans, given the dire economic constraints that Unity Party-led government is leaving power, with the national economy in the hole? Third, what are the various platforms saying about corruption? What is each candidate’s track record on this malaise that has plagued the country for generations?
International partners and some Liberians have recently been cautioning citizens against hate messages and violence. Bartholomew Colley, Acting Chairman of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, has recently warned against hate messages. In issuing this warning, Atty. Colley urged Liberians to reflect on their past and avoid actions that would stimulate violence. Remember, he said, the anarchy the country went through years back. In like manner, a group under the banner “Center for Promotion of Intellectual Development,” issued a statement last week urging Liberians, especially the youth, to conduct themselves peacefully during the election and put Liberia first as a common denominator. This leads us to work for Liberia’s stability and prosperity. What happened to us when we fled from here during our civil conflict?
Refugees in Ghana will narrate stories about soldiers and police going to the Buduburam Camp and firing at the refugees, killing scores of people. Liberians in the Ivory Coast have told how they were regularly chased out of the streets by Ivorian police for Refugee ID cards. Liberian refugees in Guinea, despite tribal and marital relationships that exist between our two peoples, still remember how they were insulted by Guineans, refused accommodation and in some instances jailed just for being strangers. Liberians can never forget the hunger they encountered in those lands in which they sought refuge. Though Liberians in the United States have greater opportunities for work and better living, the threat of deportation still hangs over them each year as the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) expires. No Liberian, with the exception of convicted criminals, can be denied of free speech, food and accommodation. Liberia is the only place that no one can ask any citizen for an ID card. It is a country in which every Liberian is free to move and reside in any part thereof. Liberia is the only heritage that all Liberians are entitled to. Do we now see why it is so important that we preserve our peace and live as a united people, putting our country first above self?
Many people are highly moved by the loyalty they think they owe to some political candidates. For example, grass rooters that comprise the huge membership of the Congress for Democratic Change (otherwise Coalition for Democratic Change) have persistently demonstrated loyalty to George Weah and the party, and voted any legislative candidate that ran on CDC’s ticket. Even though most of the elected candidates badly disappointed the electorate, they (CDC members) have remained persistent in identifying with their party, which means true loyalty.
Now, let past experience teach us Liberians to put our country first in our decision-making and elect people who love their country and are prepared to work honestly and sacrificially for her progress and advancement.