In an earlier editorial in the Daily Observer, specifically April 3, 2017, we defined platform and gave its significance to politicians and electorates.
We defined it as a statement of belief, philosophy, plan, policy or strategy. We also mentioned that platform during a political season, is one which the candidates state in essence what they pledge to do for people in their particular constituencies and in the broader national spectrum.
Yes! A platform is very important for a politician and to the people, and its significance will be well felt if it is clear, understandable and identifiable in accordance with the needs of the people. Since we commenced our post-war democratic process in 2005, many aspirants for positions of public trust have used the same flawed format for their so-called platform or none at all.
As crowded as the political field can be amid the nation’s high illiteracy rate, many voters remain confused as to which candidate is best for a position because platforms are not clear enough. This fuels voter apathy, which is not good for the politicians, the people or and the process as a whole.
As a result, voters are left to choose their candidates based on superficial qualities, such as nepotistic (family, tribe) or sectarian (political, religious) connections. Moreover, for lack of clarity in some misguided platforms, especially those of legislative aspirants, Liberians usually end up disappointed at those voted into office.
And why not? We do feel deceived because many of these politicians have not told the truth. Campaign statements over the years have been, “When you vote me as your Representative or Senator, I will build your bridge, your school, road, hospital, clinic, and provide you scholarships,” failing to realize that the job of a lawmaker is not to build all these things but to make laws, conduct oversight of public resources and represent interest of their respective constituents.
Such campaign promises have caused many lawmakers to indulge in corrupt activities to even partially fulfil those promises, for fear of being voted out in a subsequent election. Even those who made such promises, yet truly performed in line with the actual job description, risked being flushed out in subsequent elections as well, because they did not ‘live up to their campaign promises.’
To graduate from this retrogressive political strategy, let our politicians learn from the ‘STOP’ strategy used by teachers to develop their lesson plans, to clearly define a political platform for the upcoming election. In a short and concise lesson plan, a teacher uses ‘STOP’ to represent Subject, Topic, Objective and Procedure.
Connecting this to a political platform, the Subject and Topic will identify the general and specific needs of constituents, respectively; while the Objective will state how these needs can be met, and the Procedure will state the measures and processes through which the solutions to said needs can come.
Implementing such a plan does not only require the aspirant alone, but the constituents as well.
Many Liberians do not know their responsibilities in national development, but rely wholly on political leaders to do for them what we must do for ourselves. This is partly because politicians have always presented themselves as “Know all” and “Do all,” leaving the citizens out of the entire plan.
At this time of election in our country, we hope politicians have done their ground work, lived and interacted with their constituents in accordance with time limits provided by the Liberian Constitution for specific elective positions. We hope they have identified the needs of their constituents to set realistic, specific and implementable platforms that voters will understand and use as tools for accountability. Liberia is the only country for Liberians; therefore, let political candidates set clear platforms instead of making ambiguous, incomprehensible and rhetorical statements that will confuse voters.