It is now well established that the current government and the Liberian people have failed in their fight against corruption.
Heaven, help us to know why, for we vividly remember that upon taking her oath of office on January 16, 2006, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received the longest applause of her entire inaugural address when she declared that corruption, the monster that has kept Liberia backward all these decades, would be considered, during her administration, “public enemy number one.”
What happened in the intervening years? Why is Liberia still considered one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt nations?
We truly do not know why. Two things we can conjecture (guess) are that this failure is due first, to the President’s lack of personal commitment to the fight; and second, to the Liberian people’s rigid and stubborn attitude against change.
Why do we say that? First, because of the biblical principle, “Charity begins at home” (paraphrased in 1Timothy 5:4).
Why do we invoke this principle? Because when the President failed to confront head on and stop her family from interfering or becoming involved in governmental affairs, most glaringly very close family members, that is when she lost the battle. For as she herself has time and again admitted, “Corruption in Liberia is endemic.” So people are prone to engage in it, whether or not they have an excuse.
But what a grand excuse or opportunity people would seize if they suspected the leader or anyone one close to the leader who is even perceived to be engaged in corruption with impunity!
That is why nepotism, most especially in public service, is frowned upon and strongly advised against everywhere.
What is nepotism? It is the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs or unfair advantages in business and other areas of national life.
As endemic as corruption is in our country—and in most countries—a leader engages in nepotism at his or her own peril. For that is the grand excuse people are eagerly waiting for to do their own. That, secondly, is what has emboldened Liberians to continue engaging in corruption, instead of standing up to their leaders and demanding integrity, accountability and patriotism in the discharge of their public responsibilities to protect the Liberian people, their rights, interests and assets.
Do we remember Lee Kuan Yew? He was the founding father of modern Singapore. He transformed it from a poor city state, which in 1960 was at the same poverty-stricken development level as Liberia, into one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Among Singapore’s achievements are over US$25,000 per capita income; a major manufacturing hub; 100% adult literacy; and 100% computer literacy.
But unlike Liberia, Singapore has no natural resources, except for its people and a waterway which is a major international shipping route.
How did Lew Kuan Yew do it? He waged an uncompromising and highly successful battle against corruption. No one working for his government dared to engage in it. Those who did, no matter who they were, went to jail—period.The people got to understand that their leader was serious and committed, so they fell in line.
On her ascendency as the first woman president of Liberia and in Africa, President Sirleaf was the “darling” of nations. She was showered with offers and opportunities that would have greatly strengthened her hand in steering her ship of state into prosperous waters. Little did we realize that this Harvard educated and highly experienced “iron lady” lacked one important attribute: Resolve. Without this link between intention and action there can be no accomplishment.
Liberia, with all its forests, mineral resources, vast tracks of arable land and a relatively small population has lost a great opportunity to develop and free her people from ignorance, poverty, disease and backwardness. Our per capita income is still under US$600.
We as a nation have lost our way.
That brings us to the National Elections Commission (NEC) and its challenge in 2017—to conduct Liberia’s elections in a free, fair and transparent manner. The courageous and erudite Counselor Tiawan Gongloe has plainly recalled all the bad elections that for nearly a century robbed Liberia of good leadership. Let us muster all in our power to do far better in the ensuing elections. NEC, the nation is depending on you to make this happen, to free the forthcoming elections of corruption. We all know now where corruption has led us—to a bloody coup that led us to civil war. Corruption not only leads to trouble, but it is NOT sustainable. NEC Chairman Jerome Kokoryah and his colleagues, we hope, will do their best to make the ensuing elections free, fair and transparent.
There is a plethora of political parties and presidential candidates lined up for the ensuing elections. Despite this unfortunate, unwanted multiplicity, we can say that we have a few bright stars among those running for president. But we cannot allow them to get by with the usual promises and purchase of our votes. We must require of those we are looking to hire for the leadership of our country clear explanations of HOW they intend to fulfill those promises we long for our leaders to deliver and their track records to show capability and competence to do so.
We hope that these candidates and their parties can choose patriotic, mature, upright, unselfish and intelligent legislative candidates. NEC’s challenge is to give each candidate running for president and legislative office a free, fair and transparent chance. NEC should not allow itself to be unduly influenced by anyone to interfere with these elections and deny Liberians the opportunity to choose their leaders—presidential and legislative.
We call also on Liberians to take these ensuing elections very seriously, and choose leaders not for our own selfish agenda, but who we believe will help, at long last, to carry Liberia forward and bring her into an era of genuine self-reliance, self-economic control, peace, development and prosperity.