Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A Need for Practical Actions

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

05 694498/ pericle925@yahoo.com

When the euphoria of political activities beclouded the country in 2005, we did not only see myriad of political candidates, and parties; we also saw documents in the forms of project proposals and research papers dubbed as platforms. With nearly 800 persons vying for 94 seats in the legislature and 21 battling for the presidency of the state, each plying street corners and villages with poster of all kinds; all had something to say about the emancipation of the Liberian people from diseases, illiteracy and poverty-the worst state of human socio existence. The most pressing needs of the people had been peace and an environment to reconcile and live safely. Giving peace and better lives to the people meant social security that will improve their status from poverty, barbarity and violence to a symbiosis of mutual coexistence. The elections would have drawn the divided line between the days of the past when the nation’s wealth and resources were in the hands of a club of mischief makers, and a new day that will awaken patriots to national services for the amelioration of all and the state. This in the minds of the downtrodden can only be achieved with strong-hearted and courageous people who can translate the natural resources and the people’s labor into consumer goods and services accessible to all. Yes indeed, the elections were successfully held, but had the divided line been drawn, had there been any socio-economic transformation besides the one being experienced by the presence of a UN peace Mission? Are the people seeing or experiencing any radical or revolutionary changes in their lives as they expected when they sang and voted in 2005?

As it had usually been in our electoral history, our post-election lives have been literally the interpretation of our campaign slogans. In 1997 as a little boy growing up in Monrovia, I witnessed activities of the 1997 elections. I can still remember two slogans: ‘the oldma is number five, she will play her defend’, and ‘You kill my ma, you kill my pa, I will vote for you’. Being so inquisitive, I began to ask for the meaning of these slogans. The first one was interpreted as Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is on the fifth position on the ballot paper, therefore if elected president she will defend the Liberian people in all aspects of life. For the second slogan, I was told that the people are tired of war, and the only way for peace was to elect Taylor as president. They were prepared to live with him and his attributes, whether he is cruel or barbarous. I still pondered on the rationalities of the latter interpretation.

Surely, the elections were held with Charles Taylor winning about 85 per cent of all votes cast. I interpreted his victory as nearly everyone was willing to accept him and swallow the pills associated with him because by endorsing him, they were at peace. Taylor was president and the slogan began to transform into practice with gross incompetence in public service, armed robbery and secret killings. Yet all accepted it, because it was endorsed.

In 2005, two popular slogans came again: ‘you know book, you na know book, we will vote for you’, and ‘when you up, you up’, “UP” up, we will go Up’. By experience, the Liberian people were prepared to live up to any of these slogans. With Weah becoming president, illiteracy and ignorance would have loomed at lunatic rates. He will have no reason to improve the education system because he had ascended by the appreciation of the people to his limitations and ignorance in governmental affairs. To the people then, the state needed someone that just ‘have the country at heart’, it did not matter who understands the calibration of ideals and the machination of policies for transformation thereof into social benefits. With this anti-education slogan saturating every political gathering, the illiterates and those who had earlier opportunities to learn but refused began to appreciate their statuses. Surely, they got the highest vote in the first round of the elections, and it was more time to appreciate and celebrate their statuses with more justifications been provided by some people from the intelligentsia. This made the elections to be dubbed as the ‘Educated Vs. the Uneducated’. As many pundits observed, the peoples’ vote were in protest against the deplorable states of affairs of the country and its people caused by those ‘educated ones’ who had led the country for decades, but dumped all in turmoil and agony. Unfortunately, for them the canoe somersaulted on November 8, 2005 in favor of the ‘Educated’. This victory was the result of numerous promises not to repeat the past, but set a new pace for peace and sustainable development.

To fulfill these, a lot has to be done. The slogan, ‘when you up, you up’ represented the peoples’ popular desire to see Liberia regaining its political and economic status on the continent of Africa. Despite the incinerated state of the nation, the people enthusiastically assumed that a leadership under a former civil servant, a vociferous activist from the 1980s, an international economists, and humanitarian worker, could champion that cause. Thus Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected and inaugurated as president on January 16, 2006. She had brought to the presidency a team of officials with monumental experience from international organizations, and voluminous policies relative to poverty reduction, female education and empowerment, and the provision of basic social service to the people.

The skills of these experts and the brilliant works of their hands need to go beyond policy writings and delivering platitudes to the economically traumatized people. The experts need to effectuate radical changes that the regime can not end without the people practically experiencing the fine economic policies and theories propounded to them. Transforming the electoral slogans sang by the people means to give them the opportunities to build their lives as they felt then when they envisaged and brilliantly coined the wordings. Effective regulations to control prices of basic commodities that the minimal salary of a civil servant or a private employee can graduate from a mere state of eating to a state of maximizing benefits from his and build a future for his descendants is paramount to the process of practically interpreting the victorious slogans of the 2005 elections. Currently, it has become difficult to understand the economic effects and benefits of the past two increments made in the civil servants salaries during the last two fiscal years because as they are announcing the increment, prices of basic commodities are proportionally increasing. As a result, one can not easily identify any tangible benefit or good that a civil servant earning USD 55.00 can accrue after purchasing a bag of rice for USD 30.00 and still having other liabilities of purchasing clothes, paying tuitions in thousands, and regular home maintenance and feeding.

The vision and interest of a government to deliver the anticipated results are different from its will to enforce its policies. But the two can be juxtaposed with a set of committed and determined officials who understand the people’s plights, and are courageous enough to alleviate them. For the people to go ‘up and up’, there must be an effective deterrent to stop public officials from stealing from the people, and at the same time recycling those resources to retain power. Public stealing or corruption is a major virus that have stagnated the people of this country in poverty by keeping them down. For the people to go ‘up and up’, this government must build in itself a determination and an inner army to fight corruption, and begin to set the examples by exposing and prosecuting those who may see themselves as untouchable members of the kitchen cabinet, but are by themselves corrupt.

A Well informed and educated citizenry are essential in the building of peace and durable democracy. Vibrant and prosperous nations are also the products of their existence. The pillars of constitutional democracy- freedom of speech, transparency, elections, equal rights, etc, are more applicable in an informed and educated society. The people’s will and their inalienable right to freely express themselves through public media or any other means available must be sacred and respected to the fullest. Paramount to the observation and protection of these rights is the availability of quality education to the people, and a laissez fair policy on the exchange of information amongst them. Thus, the need for the people to be informed and educated needs not be underestimated if their lives are to progress proportionally to their aspirations of ‘going up and up’.

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