It is highly unlikely that the misery of the Liberian people will be alleviated following an election and subsequent installation of a democratically elected government post October 2005. I make this dismal forecast because the likes of carpetbaggers, singularly most responsible for the current plight of our country, are once again thriving as advisors and/or key supporters to virtually every Liberian Presidential aspirant. Their lack of conviction makes them readily available to “serve” any and every government in power. For the most part, they are prepared to shower undeserving praises on our leaders with the expressed purposed of cementing their access to power and amassing wealth. I speak of those for whom INTEGRITY is a nine-lettered word which has no meaning. For lack of a harsher description, I’ll refer to this group as sycophants.
To truly comprehend the ills associated with sycophancy, one need not go further than read the story entitled: “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson. This laconic text, which employs a diction primarily geared towards adolescents, should perhaps serve as a must-read for every Liberian presidential contender. A generation, such as ours, that is oversaturated with gutless individuals who do not have the audacity to differ with positions expressed by their leaders would also do well to read this book. The aforementioned story provides an invaluable real world lesson that it is o.k. to occasionally differ with the opinion of the “majority”. Such dissent becomes especially necessary when the so called majority opinion is nothing more than an attempt by wannabes to comply with a status quo. Because of an obsession with fine clothing coupled with an inability to tolerate criticism, an emperor ended up leading a national parade wearing only his underwear. Thanks to his so-called advisors (or should I say sycophants?) who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. These advisors had the emperor living in a fool’s paradise under the illusion that his clothing was so beautiful that only a sophisticated person could see it. The emperor was indeed parading “naked” and it took the courageousness of a child to expose that.
I wonder, - if and when necessary - are there Liberians with the intestinal fortitude to tell “our emperor” that he is wearing “no clothes”? I do not speak of the usual student activists or so-called “professional agitators” like myself. Rather, I am referring to those closest to our current and prospective national leaders. We risk creating an imperial president if in our interactions with these presidential candidates we do nothing more than serve as “blind-followers” i.e. agreeing with anything and everything they espouse. We do not only do these individuals a disservice by ill advising them, we do our country an injustice as well. If Liberia is to be a great nation, then those of us who find ourselves in advisory roles to potential national leaders should under no condition allow the political ambition of said individuals to supercede the collective good of our country. We do well by being reminded that no matter how well educated and/or experienced an individual, he or she cannot possibly be correct on each and every issue.
Whether it was the True Whig Party’s oligarchy of wealth, the military dictatorship of Samuel Doe, the hoodlum reign of Charles Taylor, or the current kleptomaniac interim Gyude Bryant’s administration, what is universally true of all of the aforementioned governments is that most of those entrusted to provide counsel to our national leaders turn out to be sycophants who were primarily interested in self aggrandizement. Notwithstanding the foregoing, we remain very eager to solely blame our past and present heads of state for the shortcomings of our society to the extent that not enough resentment is expressed towards those who helped mold these failed leaders. For example, is our obsession with apprehending the hooligan Charles Taylor accompanied by a commensurate effort at bringing to justice those who were his closest advisors? I think not. At last count, the likes of Benoni Urey continue to flaunt their ill gotten wealth while genocidal murderers like Chucky Taylor and Benjamin Yeaten roam freely and have the audacity to breathe the same air as the rest of us.
The current hoopla surrounding Mr. George Oppong Weah’s candidacy provides yet another example of what happens when sycophants thrive. How does a humble soccer player, WITH NO DEMONSTRABLE RELEVANT QUALIFICATIONS, metamorphose into believing that he has the wherewithal to manage the affairs of an underdeveloped nation as complex as Liberia? The answer is obvious: somebody must have whispered something in his ears. It turns out that the likes of Messrs Dew Mason and Emmanuel Shaw have had their fingerprints deeply implanted in this Oppong Weah’s undertaking. Judging from the notoriety of the aforementioned twosome, one can easily conclude that Dew Mason and Emanuel Shaw’s counseling of Oppong is tantamount to sycophancy of tsunamic proportion. In other words, “this is indeed the mother of all flatteries.” Least there be any misunderstanding, the preceding is not intended as a criticism of Mr. Weah (someone whose soccer talents I greatly admire); to the contrary, the intend here is to demonstrate what happens when well intentioned individuals surround themselves with Machiavellians whose agenda fall nothing short of self enhancement and the accumulation of wealth by any means necessary. If only Oppong knew what lurks ahead of him.
The foregoing provides ample evidence that it is not by accident that Liberia remains one of the least developed nations on the face of this planet. Without sycophants, our leaders are more likely to be presented with the array of problems truly confronting our people. If our current actions are an indication of the future of our nation, then we are in deep trouble. We seem destined to perpetuate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty and scarcity in the midst of abundance. Notwithstanding an abundance of natural resources capable of sustaining our moderate population of approximately three million, we consistently seem to have our priorities misplaced. Nowadays, I am advised that our national leadership seems to think that it is more important to expend our resources on luxurious vehicles and foreign travel expenses for government officials than repair our broken down national infrastructures. Thanks to a corrupt government and its corps of sycophantic advisors, the “liberators” of the people live lifestyles astronomically better than the people they have “liberated”. What a shame!
In concluding, I bring to your attention a quote attributed to the late Halie Selassie of Ethiopia. He is alleged to have said: “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Will the new Liberia produce individuals that the spoils of office cannot buy? Will we have men (and women) with the intestinal fortitude to let our “emperor” know if and when he’s “naked”? I pledge to do so! I hope you do too.
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About the Author:
Theophilus Totee Bettie is a Yale Alumnus and a Fulbright Scholar. He holds a M.A. in International and Development Economics and a M.BA. in Finance. He can be reached at email@example.com