By Bai Gbala ( September 23rd 2005)
|"...Wisdom (the reservoir of all knowledge) = Training + Experience + Age
Wisdom is taught at NO college or university; it is acquired over time on a foundation of sound Training and applied Experience...."
In an article entitled “Lebanese Demand Liberia Poll Rights: A Rejoinder” I argued that, indeed, the Lebanese and other non-negro nationals residing in Liberia should be granted Liberian citizenship, if they desire and are qualified in all other respects; and that they should and must not be denied citizenship solely on the grounds of race.
Mr. K. Koiquoe Wilson, a young Liberian Computer Engineer, in an article so named set out to rebut, disprove or deny the validity of my conclusion.
These comments are in response to Mr. Wilson’s analysis and conclusions.
In the Rejoinder, I argued that the basic, fundamental reasons for the granting of Liberian citizenship to the Lebanese and other persons who are of the non-Negro race and residing in Liberia, lie in socio-political change consistent with changing and changed conceptions of political thought and practice, in respect, particularly, of prevailing conditions and realities regarding race, respect for and observance of political, civil and human rights and the human condition”.
Throughout human history, the pursuit and perfection of human freedom, justice, equality, fair-play, including, of course, the condemnation and abolition of human slavery, have been and are a function of change, change in terms of the evolution of ideas. So it was with the revolution/renaissance of the Age of Reason and Enlightenment of the 18 th century in the realm of socio-political thought; and Globalization and Information Technology in our 21 st century that drive both, but mostly pronounced in matters of economic progress.
I showed also that the very founding and establishment of the Liberian Nation-State was basically in defense and pursuit of racial justice – human, civil, and political rights; justice or rights denied the founders of this very land. Moreover, it was on the basis of race-related denial/abuse of the rights of Negro citizens of the-then Caucasian-dominated Republic of South Africa that the Liberian State took that nation of “racist” South Africa to the International Court of Justice. Is it not then a blatant contradiction to deny others that which socio-political morality impels one to hold dear for oneself and institutionalize?
I concluded by the assertion that “…our current constitutional provisions – particularly Article 27(b) and those that bar law-abiding persons of good character (resident in Liberia) from (attaining) Liberian citizenship only on the grounds of race, and the resultant treatmentof persons of non-Negro race – are clearly outdated, insensitive, injudicious… I strongly believe and suggest that Lebanese nationals and other non-Negro persons resident in Liberia and desiring Liberian citizenship should and must be granted their wish, if qualified, without consideration of race. I also …recommend that Article 27(b) and other constitutional provisions that bar Liberian citizenship and other rights – civil, political, and human – on the grounds of RACE should and must be REPEALED”.
Mr. K. Koiquoe Wilson’s Rebuttal
As a public person and a student of public policy, I welcome, in fact advocate, frank and un-restrained exchange of views; because that approach informs, educates as well as it entertains, irrespective of one’s level of academic/intellectual achievements, experience, age, socio-economic and political standing. However, one who comes to the marketplace of ideas for the interplay and exchange of views, should and must abide by the basic rules governing the exercise.
If, for example, the encounter takes the form of a debate of different conclusions of a common premise, as in the case at hand, then it is very important for one to confine arguments/analysis to the central theme of the common premise from which conclusions follow. Additionally, civility is a critical requirement in teaching/learning; for, this process of an exchange of ideas is, in fact, teaching and learning, in my view. It is in this context, in my judgment, that Mr. Wilson failed miserably to dislodge my argument/conclusion.
Firstly, like a lawyer without rebuttal evidence who seeks to discredit the testimony of a damaging witness, Mr. Wilson sought obliquely to call my person into question by the use of such worn-out, emotional and sentimental phrases as “the likes of”, “antiquated thinking”, “borders on treachery”, “steeped in hypocrisy”, “former officials of government”, et cetera, without coming to terms with the premise/conclusion of my argument. Let me remind Mr. Wilson that it is NOT Bai Gbala who is on trial, but our basic, public policy pre-disposition in terms of our belief-systems or socio-political philosophy that dictates our law-making. Let me repeat in simple, unequivocal language at my level of understanding: the denial, by law, of Liberian citizenship to the Lebanese and others, any person, of non-Negro race solely on basis of race, is not only an abominable act, but also a patent contradiction as well as a violation of our own socio-political code and written promise. That law, I hold now and henceforth, barring any unforeseen development to the contrary, shouldand must be repealed.
Secondly, Mr. Wilson talks about “ambiguity” with reference to land ownership for Ghanians, Ivorians and Guineans. There is no ambiguity here because (a), our argument is about persons who are not of the Negro race and barred from Liberian citizenshipsolely on the basis of this reason – race; and (b), as Africans who are of the Negro race, they are eligible to acquire Liberian citizenship and, therefore, own land. Today, there are thousands of naturalized Liberian citizens from these countries who are prominent in Liberian society.
And lastly, in his final attempt at (my) personal vilification or denigration, Mr. Wilson posed these two questions: (a), will the Lebanese of Liberia “reciprocate in kind” by having Liberians to purchase land in Lebanon and ( b), how many Liberians did the Lebanese “provide sanctuary for” during our distress of the civil war? The search for answers to these questions, Mr. Wilson holds, will provide a “pause” for me, for sober reflection on the possible impact or “total, big picture”, if you will, of my “proposal” which grants Liberian citizenship to “his (my) people”, the Lebanese and others of non-Negro race.
But then at this point, Mr. Wilson says that he posed these questions although with “profound dubiety” or uncertainty, reservation and disbelief in my intellectual capability to decipher and comprehend, since “it is axiomatic of the old adage” that “you can not teach an old dog (here Bai Gbala) new tricks”. Well, Mr. Wilson, please permit me to leave with you my “old dog” perception by this equation:
Wisdom (the reservoir of all knowledge) = Training + Experience + Age
Wisdom is taught at NO college or university; it is acquired over time on a foundation of sound Training and applied Experience. I lack none of the above!!
Bai Gbala is the Co-founder & Director of Political Affaire of NDPL