The English dictionary defines integrity as “moral soundness.” Being morally sound means or says a lot of things about a person. Such a person is conscious of his/her daily activities, ensuring that he/she avoids anything that would bring about character assassination. Controlling your ego not to dishonestly take what belongs to others; avoiding actions that will hurt others; speaking the truth; being faithful to duty; and impartially rendering justice are all values associated with integrity.
A man or a woman with these attributes needs no maneuvering, whether political or social, to gain people’s admiration or respect. Beyond admiration and respect, any such person will build trust and be trusted in a family, group and country at large. But where are the people with integrity that can be trusted with public office in Liberia today? This scarce value is what this country needs in its leadership.
Why do we say this? It is an open secret that many Liberians describe the country’s resources as “elephant meat,” implying that anyone getting into power can butcher his/her share to maintain that person when his/her term in public office expires. On the basis of this selfish, inhumane and impious (wicked, bad, immoral) philosophy, Liberians enter into government, and in some instances, the private sector, with the mindset of cheating and stealing to satisfy their personal desires. Even at the level of the judiciary, justice is for sale to the extent that only the rich and those from the same cult can get it.
The high degree of anxiety exhibited by both young and old, women and men to contest a single seat for the House of Representatives from a district, and the establishment of many political parties centering around financially potent individuals leave no doubt in the minds of many astute observers that people are seeking these public positions to enrich themselves to the detriment of the country.
Besides government, there is a high degree of dishonesty in a lot of ordinary Liberians. Without fear of challenge, we can boldly state in this editorial that a lot of Liberians will credit from a bank or an individual, and will fail to pay. Last year the Bankers Association published in the Daily Observer and other local dailies the names of debtors who have failed to settle their obligations with most of the banks. Research shows that many people will use different identity (ID) cards to dupe banks of huge sums of money. Some Liberian construction engineers will think of nothing more than stealing building materials, including cement, when awarded contracts. Such a behavior was demonstrated by engineers of the Ministry of Public Works on the Jallah Town road project, under the stewardship of former Minister Luseni Donzo. When a non-governmental organization is awarded a contract to distribute food and other assorted materials, those same materials will be seen at marketplaces the next day. At both public and private hospitals, nurses and other healthcare workers without conscience/integrity will steal drugs to fill private drugstores and pharmacies, leaving those hospitals empty, and subsequently referring patients to these drugstores.
Nowadays in Liberia you will note that people do not choose a profession because of passion, but with the intention of acquiring quick money because that field is considered to be lucrative. It is on the basis of this belief that many Liberian students enter into the Business College, Law School and even the Nursing field. This mindset of entering into a profession, especially in finance, to steal is cited as the alleged reason First International Bank (FIB) was taken over by GN Bank.
We reference all these incidents because they are the ills affecting our daily interactions as a people and nation. Now that we are fast approaching elections, there is a need that we thoroughly evaluate the many political candidates that are saying the same thing over and over, to weed out the good ones with a minimum record of integrity.
We want to thank the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) for initiating and launching the “2017 Integrity Platform” to track political candidates that are coming into the races. It is our ardent hope that this project will liaise with media institutions to bring the candidates/politicians closer to the electorate to hear and examine their platforms in order to give voters the right information to enable them to make the right choice of leaders for the future of Liberia.