Liberia, Africa’s oldest independent Republic, turns 169 tomorrow. This milestone is an opportunity not so much for celebration as for sober reflection and resolute resolve.
Surely we have something to celebrate. We celebrate in thanksgiving to Almighty God for sustaining us as a nation for well over a century and a half in the midst of so many difficult and dangerous challenges.
There were the deadly diseases, malaria and yellow fever, which could have wiped out our entire population, but merciful God did not permit that. In the same way he again in 2014 prevented the deadly Ebola virus from decimating tens of thousands of Liberians as was predicted.
The imperial Great Britain and France grabbed huge chunks of our territory. But thank God, we were left with 43,000 square miles, rich in green acreage, minerals, 350 miles of Atlantic coastline, wildlife and other resources. We also have a small, very manageable population that has now reached over four million.
They say where there is life, there is hope. We, all four million of us, have life, so we have HOPE. Those of us who are eternal optimists believe that with Hope and Faith, the Almighty can still empower us to turn our country into an educational, agricultural, scientific, tourist and industrial paradise.
The pessimist, who may also call himself a realist, would say this is impossible because we are too far behind, having lost too many years.
The Kenyans, South Africans and Zimbabweans could have said the same thing, for they were for decades swallowed up by the all-powerful imperial master, the British Empire, which ruled over three quarters of the world for more than a century. But when the people of Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa got ready, they waged fierce liberation struggles against the racist imperial powers and their surrogates (proxies), the white racist minority regimes in those countries. These countries are all now fast approaching a half century of independence.
Today, we Liberians are called to reflect on all of this and on our own history of survival, which gave hope to all the other African peoples under colonial rule. Look at what they have accomplished. Who says we cannot do the same and even better?
The future, fellow Liberians, is in our own hands. Backed by the same good Lord who has sustained us for over a century and a half, we can develop the resolve to do as well or better than all these countries, and even Singapore. Rwanda emerged from the ashes of a bloody civil war to become what it is today. Singapore came from abject poverty to become one of the world’s richest nations.
We wish at this point to refer to only a few persons to whom Liberians can look—persons who inspire hope, persons who, having risen above their own lowly circumstances and achieved greatness, can reassure us that indeed it is not too late for Liberia.
Take tomorrow’s Independence Day Orator, Dr. Dugbeh Nyan, a poor boy who went to school right here in Liberia, and is today a renowned medical doctor who is competing successfully among many of America’s leading scientists. Dr. Nyan is even an inventor. So what is impossible for Liberians? Nothing!
Another is Jallah Barbu, a young graduate of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), where he studied Machinery, and went on to study Law, becoming the first Liberian to earn the PhD degree in Constitutional Law. Jallah became a highly distinguished first, and is today running for President.
Kolahun-born Augustine Ngafuan who, in his entire academic career had no equal, went on to become the first BWI boy to head Liberia’s two leading Ministries—Foreign Affairs and Finance—and is now running for President. Who says there is anything impossible for Liberia? There is nothing!
Milton Weeks, who wanted to study Journalism, but his father, Dr. Rocheforte L. Weeks, first Liberian President of the University of Liberia, told him Journalism might expose him to jail or persecution; so teenager Milton, in obedience to his father, studied Finance. He became, at 25, Treasurer of the Liberia branch of Citibank, the global financial institution. Today he is Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia. Who says anything is impossible for Liberia? There is nothing!
Boima Kamara like Ngafuan, had no equal in all his student days but this poor boy from impoverished Suehn District is today Minister of Finance.
Alex Cummings who, after graduating from CWA, spent a year at Cuttington, then earned American degrees in Finance and Management and rose to the topmost position in Corporate America, CEO of the global industrial empire, Coca Cola. Today he, too, is running for President. Who says anything is impossible for any Liberian, or for Liberia itself? There is nothing!
Joseph Mills Jones who, like Ngafuan and Kamara, had no match in his entire academic career. After only three years at Cuttington, he was called to the Dean’s office and told, “We have no more to teach you; you can go!” He later earned the PhD in Econometrics, and later worked in senior positions at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In the past 10 years he served as the most highly successful CBL Governor and completed Monrovia’s most modern high rise building. He also extended microfinance credit to the nation’s marginalized Liberian business people. He is a presidential candidate. Who says anything is impossible for Liberians? There is nothing!
Joseph Boakai, a poor boy from Foya, Lofa County, who paid his way through the College of West Africa (CWA) as a janitor, is today Vice President of Liberia and recently endorsed as the presidential candidate for Unity Party. Is there anything impossible for any Liberian—or Liberia itself? No, nothing!
We concede and know all too well that academic prowess is not all that counts. Strong moral character, patriotism, the protection and strict adherence to the constitution and the tenacity to solve problems and achieve results for the benefit of all, are some of the key attributes of excellent leadership.
A country’s most important asset is its people. Liberia has many extremely talented people. So let us have faith in our people and next October elect the best one to lead in changing the direction of our country towards achieving the greatness God has destined for her.