Liberia being one of Africa’s oldest independent countries is no longer news. What matters now is, what can Liberia show after such long period of independent existence? This is a concern for us all, but one person who raised it on the eve of the Independence Day is former Finance Minister and politician, David Farhat.
According to him, Liberia as Sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest independent country can boast of little. The lack of better infrastructures, poor education and health systems, accruing huge debt, etc., are factors that mar our existence. What Mr. Farhat did not state, however, was the way forward to meeting the aims and aspirations of Liberians—what are those things we wish for our country?
Who is responsible for our woes? Who should have done what and failed to do, the result of which our country is the way it is? This question will drive more people to blame national government for almost everything. But let us take some cues from the National Independence Day Orator, Cuttington President, Rev. Dr. Herman Browne.
In his explicable, splendid and intellectual Oration at our 170th Independence celebration, Dr. Browne underscored various factors affecting the country and provided some ways to deal with them. By looking at some of these factors, each Liberian can decide whether or not a single institution, individual or group is responsible for our current state.
Among vices he mentioned that have adversely affected the country are injustice, hypocrisy, lack of integrity, dishonesty, failure to teach values, corruption, selfishness, tribal and sectional discrimination, ingratitude and the failure of media practitioners to write and report the truth.
Dishonesty as one of the issues emphasized in the speech is virtually found in all Liberians; whereby people will find pleasure in lies to deceive others. Even in workplaces and homes, Liberians practice dishonesty to their bosses, wives and husbands. This is an everyday activity in telephone conversations, at the workplace and in business transactions.
Everyone knows that Liberia’s justice system is one of the most corrupt, where judges are enticed by bribes to deny the poor justice. In fact, this is one reason a lot of Liberians are studying law; because they can easily dupe people to get accursed wealth at the expense of the poor.
Many Liberians today do not care about reputation, but have the mindset to abuse public offices by stealing what is entrusted to them.
Equally, others have the habit of evading taxes, while some do not pay taxes at all.
Dr. Browne emphasized that instead of Senators, Representatives and other top government officials allotting high salaries to themselves, they should see public office as areas not for profit, making but sacrifice.
There is no doubt that the theory of “Me, myself and I” is highly evident in the Liberian society. Therefore, a poor man or woman with no hut in the beginning will have a skyscraper as soon as he/she is gets a public position. In a case where a senior official remains content with what he/she has, the same is referred to by spectators as “stupid.” Many parents now wish children to respect only them (the parents) and no one else, and any disciplinary action by a teacher or school may result in court action. As teachers put students under pressure to pay for grades, so are parents giving money to their children solely to bribe teachers.
The media is no exception to the ills that are affecting the society. Instead of presenting truth and balance in their stories, many media institutions are inclined to ridicule government through the influence of a wealthy politician that gives them money.
As Dr. Browne observed, talk show hosts will not objectively bring out a topic for discussion, but a proposition that is meant to discredit government and insult public officials, including the President, under the guise of free speech.
It is glaring today that tribal and sectional discrimination is playing key role in national politics. For example, a politician will say if Bassa people want development, they must vote a Bassa man, says Counselor Charles Brumskine who, yet and still, must rely on a Gio running mate from the vote-rich Nimba County to supplement his constituency base. Even VP Boakai and his Unity Party have lately been on record fueling the dangerous ‘indigenous versus Congau’ rhetoric. This has proven itself in recent days with the selection of three Gio men as running mates to politicians, leaving Vice President Joseph Boakai apparently hopeless in the acquisition of Nimba votes, now that he has chosen Margibian as his running mate.
But see and see how ordinary citizens who cry foul all day long are behaving no better when it comes to the exercise of their civic responsibilities! The same people who bitterly complain about our dirty streets and public places are the same ones who think nothing about throwing garbage from their cars or dashing empty water bottles or plastic bags on the streets, or urinating in public.
True! Liberia has achieved little or nothing since independence in 1847. But who is responsible? The answer is: We are all responsible. Until we change our attitudes toward the country and toward one another, treating one another fairly and honestly, as suggested by Dr. Browne, our desire to build and develop a better country will continue to remain a distant dream.