After emerging, by the grace and mercy of God, successfully through one of the most grueling and traumatic years in our history—2014—the challenges we face as the Liberian nation should be pretty obvious. Yet, we can take nothing for granted. We should use the dawning of the New Year to construct carefully, consciously, holistically and decisively our National Agenda for 2015.
The country is in crisis and faced with many challenges; and President Ellen Johnson, as our leader, should point the way forward. But as a Liberian newspaper, we feel obligated to help, not just sit idly by and wait for her and others to think ahead.
The first thing we want to tell the President is that she has exactly three more years in office and that is enough time to fix some of Liberia’s basic problems. The first is corruption.
One most senior Liberian lawyer, a former Supreme Court Associate Justice, called us last Friday to say that the government’s first challenge is to cut corruption in the judicial and criminal justice system. “Unless there is transparency in this system,” he said, “we will never be able to get bonafide foreign investors to use their capital to help in our development process.”
This is indeed an urgent and critical requirement IN EVERY SECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AND NATIONAL AFFAIRS. Liberia is a rich country, and unless its resources are consciously and effectively mobilized to benefit the vast majority of the people, they will remain impoverished and the country undeveloped and backward.
For who is it that does not see everyday our able-bodied, strong, hardworking and patient young men and women, boys and girls in the streets all day and into the night selling chewing gum, towels and “kill the rat, kill the mosquito” medicines, when they should be learning a trade and preparing themselves for more useful employment, or working on the farm? We are talking about harnessing the national resources—agricultural, mineral, petroleum and all others to educate and train our people and make them all efficiently and productively engaged in national development.
This fight against corruption must begin with the President herself, her family and her inner circle—all her officials. Just as last Tuesday we advised the Legislators—the incumbents and the newly elected—Ellen’s government officials must put their people and country FIRST, before self.
These three remaining years are enough time for the President firmly to establish her legacy. There are many aspects to that legacy, but the first and foremost is curbing corruption, not only in the judicial system, but most especially in the accountable and transparent use of our national resources, most especially the latest—petroleum.
We feel it is our compelling duty to tell the President that the Liberian people are not happy with the way the last four oil blocks were negotiated for and leased. The people feel they are in the dark as to what really happened. WHO are the Liberians that now have a share in these oil blocks? Is it true that the agreements affecting these oil blocks were hurriedly passed by the Legislature because money changed hands there?
There is a direct link between the Liberians who owned part of those oil blocks and those mentioned in paragraph six of this editorial. For if our natural resources are not used are not transparently and accountably mobilized, but are secretly shared only among the friends and relatives of the people in power, then there is absolutely no way those in paragraph six—or any of the millions of impoverished Liberians—will benefit from these resources.
That, Madam President, we have to tell you, will cause trouble.
We shall mention only briefly—to be revisited in due course—other major challenges: fixing our educational system, nursery through tertiary, including vocational and technical; revamping the healthcare delivery system, including health and medical training at all levels, by first taking seriously the offer by our Chinese friends and the Americans, too; ensuring that paved roads reach Harper, Maryland County, Vahun, Lofa County, Belle Yellah, Gbarpolu County, Robertsport, Grand Cape County; ensuring that the Mount Coffee Hydro Electric Plant is fully functional by early 2016 and mini hydros are planted throughout the country; reaching all parts of Liberia with safe pipe-borne water; reaching all our people with modern housing; ensuring that we fix Agriculture and become self-sufficient in rice, meat, vegetables and fruits and expand our citrus, coffee, cocoa, rubber and other tree crop production; and rebuilding the National Cultural Center and launching the Tourism Industry to create jobs and to modernize every part of Liberia.
Admittedly, Ellen may not be able to do all of these, but she has enough time to make a serious and substantive beginning. Should she dare to do so, the people will bless her for honestly and earnestly trying.