Who remembers what happened following the University of Liberia’s Baccalaureate Service in 1981?
Of course, most Liberians living today were not yet born.
The Baccalaureate Preacher, the Reverend Christopher Kandakai, a retired Episcopal priest, urged the Graduating Class to stand for principles because principles are what God is all about. “He is the God of truth,” Fr. Kandakai went on, reminding the Class of the critical question Jesus asked his disciples: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” By soul Jesus meant by a person’s integrity, which means honesty, honor, truthfulness, uprightness.
Show a person who maintains his or her honor and we will show you someone that everyone, even his or her enemies, respects.
Fr. Kandakai then admonished the graduates, “Be prepared to say NO,” in case they were ever called on their jobs or elsewhere to do wrong.
The Daily Observer, which covered the Baccalaureate, carried as its Monday headline, “Be Prepared to Say No—Fr. Kandakai Tells UL Graduates.”
Little did we know that that headline put the goodly father into big trouble. By 8:30 o’clock Monday morning security cars showed up at his Gardnersville home demanding that he come with them because “Head of State Doe wants to see you!” The bewildered priest wondered why, but asked no questions. He donned his clothes and answered the call.
On arrival in Doe’s fourth floor office, the Head of State angrily asked him, “You preached that sermon yesterday?”
“Yes, Sir,” the aging priest responded.
“The next time you preach a sermon like that,” Sergeant Doe told him, “I will have you arrested and locked up in the Post Stockade!”
Does this help people understand why over 2000 years ago they killed Jesus? There are people who are still prepared to kill him today—Him or anyone else who dares to stand up for principle—who dares to say “No” to the powers that be.
That is what Harry Greaves was talking about in his Daily Observer “Let’s Lecture” column last Wednesday.
Commenting on the tens of millions of United States dollars that have suddenly vanished from the accounts of the National Oil Company (NOCAL), Greaves blamed this financial catastrophe (upheaval, ruin) on that company’s leaders, notably its Board Chair Counselor Seward Cooper and President, Dr. Randolph McClain, who failed to say NO to the powers that be. Of course, most everyone knows that neither Seward nor Randolph took one cent of that money. They are not that kind of people. But saying No is another matter, which, if one fails to do, may get him implicated one way or another. Remember what happened to Clemenceau Urey? He was advised by his NOCAL Board and by Justice Ministry lawyers and others in power to pay money to the Legislature so that they could “pass” an oil deal. He did, only years later to be blamed—he and a few other Board members. But though they sent him to court, the GOL itself felt too weak to prosecute and the case was withdrawn.
Mr. Greaves said that as Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), he, too, often faced such demands for money and often had to say “No.”
There are always, of course, consequences facing people who dare to say no, or those who try to stand up for what is right. Christ stood up to all the Pharisees and even the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council and tribunal, and you see what happened to him. There are right here in Liberia many who during administrations past and present, including current President Sirleaf, who have suffered in one way or the other because they dared to say “No” or to expose or criticize the wrongs in government and society.
The President recently told one of her cabinet ministers that he “dared to disagree with me”. But she went on to praise the famously outspoken Dr. Walter Gwenigale as one of her best cabinet ministers whom she could rely on for sound advice as she awarded him one of the nation’s highest distinctions upon his retirement as Minister of Health. “He has never shied away from the principles that guide his sense of judgement…such principles have always been informed by fairness, hard work, free will, free expression, honesty and bluntness,” said the President of Dr. G.
And yet, those who love justice and good governance and who refuse to compromise their principles are often condemned to suffer—and suffer they will, until the day of reckoning comes.
But we are doing what we are doing in the interest of peace and progress, which we hope and pray will, at long last, come to the beleaguered, often betrayed yet beloved country, Liberia.