The Test of Friendship

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President W.V.S. Tubman led Liberia for 27 years. After his first eight years, 1944-51, he ran to succeed himself for a second term, which was constitutionally for four years. He won that election. And weeks following the inauguration, people began staging demonstrations asking him to “succeed himself for another four year term of office.”

This went on after each inauguration until 1964 when, now in his fifth term of office, President Tubman announced at the ruling True Whig Party convention in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, that he would be retiring at the end of his fifth term of office.

They told Tubman, “Mr. President, you have brought us into the middle of the sea. If you leave us now, we will drown.”

Were they Tubman’s true friends? Wait and see.

But convinced that they were, the President went on to accept their nomination for a sixth term of office; and in 1971, the nomination for a seventh term, which he won handily.

And then Tubman flew to London for prostate surgery. There, following a successful operation, he was allowed to bleed to death—by whom?

They say some of his “close friends and associates” were involved. But that is yet to be proven. Most of them who were there are now deceased.

But President Tubman’s Personal Secretary, Ambassador D. Dueh Chieh, who was also in London with the President, told a friend following the funeral that something suspicious definitely happened in London. He told his lunch host and his wife, a newly wedded couple, “There is more than meets the eye.”

A few weeks following the funeral, some of the same people who in 1964 had begged President Tubman to succeed himself for “another term of office,” came to the Centennial Pavilion and speaker after speaker blasted the late President, blaming him for all of Liberia’s underdevelopment woes. One of them was former Commerce and Industry Secretary A. Romeo Horton, who only 90 days earlier had delivered the address nominating Tubman for a seventh term of office!

Had he and all the other passionate devotees in Buchanan been Tubman’s true friends? The answer is obvious.

So what, may we ask, are friends for, if not to tell you the truth, or things that you need to hear to help you run your life, a better administration or better organization?

Remember how Jesus flatly rejected any attempt by anyone to flatter him. Remember how, when He told Peter that He, Jesus, was going be killed, and Peter told him never to say such a thing! But Jesus, knowing fully well that it was His destiny to die for the salvation of humankind, told his chief disciple, “Get behind me Satan.”

Do we see in real life what happens to people who thrive on flattery? They set themselves up for grand deception by surrounding themselves with yes men and women, people who tell them only what they (the leaders) want to hear.

Who can guess what a most senior government official and close confidant of the current President of Liberia told a Daily Observer executive? This executive had been pleading with this government official to pay the substantial sum of money her Agency had been owing the newspaper over several years.

The close Presidential confidant bluntly told the Observer official, “You don’t see all those bad things your husband has been writing against the President in his newspaper? I will not pay you one cent until he stops; and until the palava between these two good friends—your husband and the President—is fixed.”

But once more we ask, what are true friends for, if not to tell each other the truth? Must we continuously flatter to reap the attendant benefits—job security, influence, power privilege and wealth? Is that true friendship?

Who remembers what P. Clarence Parker, Chair of the National Investment Commission (NIC), told the Tribunal after the 1980 coup? “President Tolbert was a crazy man.”

The Tribunal, shocked perhaps by what they had heard, threw two follow-up questions at Mr. Parker: “And you continued serving a crazy man? Why didn’t you resign?”

Mr. Parker did not answer the question.

A close friend and associate of one of our powerful decision makers presented a highly competent and honest candidate for an important GOL vacancy. Who can guess what this powerful official told the presenter?

“I am not looking for competence, but loyalty.”

Horton, Parker and so, so many others were “loyal”—or so they and their seniors—the Presidents of Liberia—thought. But what happened when the day of reckoning came?

Go read in the Daily Observer library about Albert Porte and how he tried, for over a half century, to save Liberia by speaking truth to power and suffering severely for it. And because all these leaders did not listen, look again at what happened four years after Porte’s death in 1986, and subsequently.

All ye who are running for President, are ye listening? Are ye reading?

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