~ by John Narrold Sunday, B.A. (Hons) Econs; M.Sc(Finance) (January 16th 2006)
"...The Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Presidency represents an opportunity for yet another transition – a genuine transition. In the hands of all of our elected officials, especially in the hands of President Johnson-Sirleaf and the Executive Branch of government, lies the unique opportunity of making the tough decisions to move the country in an entirely different direction....”
There is no gainsaying the tremendous task that our new government faces. However, the excitement occasioned by this inauguration is almost universally palpable. You can hear the cocks crow. It’s morning again in our Liberia. A new dawn has emerged. After so many years of war and its attendant obscenities, we finally have a chance to begin again and move our country forward. At least, so we hope and think!
We have to hope. It is a fact that for far too long in the history of our nation, Liberia was led by the Americo-Liberian elites. However, given our most recent history, the preceding phrase has almost degenerated into a cliché in ordinary public use. In my view, the setback with Liberia has been that people who have led the government have not been sufficiently committed to the nation – whether it is Americo-Liberians or natives. This lack of commitment can be seen in the continuing high level of public corruption in the system.
The Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Presidency represents an opportunity for yet another transition – a genuine transition. In the hands of all of our elected officials, especially in the hands of President Johnson-Sirleaf and the Executive Branch of government, lies the unique opportunity of making the tough decisions to move the country in an entirely different direction. Obviously, our economy wails for help and the moral character of the nation deserves a new direction. Every Liberian has a role to play; but the burden falls disproportionately on the government. I hope this presidency represents a transition between the politics of naked greed and the politics of accountability.
I hope it represents a move away from economic policies that enslaved our people to policies that encourage Liberians themselves to acquire increased stakes in the economy and promote social justice. And yet, I hope it also represents the twilight of an older generation of political leaders that have both fostered the quest for democracy in some respects but ironically moved this country backward.
I come from a generation that I refer to as the bridge generation. Now in our mid 30’s & early 40’s, we are the generation of Liberians who were between the ages of 18 and 30 at the onset of the Civil War. Most of us were just old enough to be University Students or were fortunate enough to just be entering the workforce. Ill-equipped, some of our colleagues joined warring factions and have served in subsequent transitional administrations for better or worse. There are others too who are part of various pressure groups and political parties working to foster democracy and there are still others who are preparing themselves and contributing in many other ways. With very little economic opportunities, many of our colleagues must now fend for and support their aging and often times ailing parents. We serve as the bridge between the younger generation and the not too distant future of Liberia. Unlike the younger generation, some of us have been fortunate enough to have acquired the requisite knowledge for leadership but lack the experience that such leadership requires which the older generation has. In some respects, the failed presidency of George Weah (who is part of this generation) indicates that we are eager to assume responsibility for the future in which we will be aging but must prepare adequately to assume the arduous tasks that lie ahead. I predict that this generation will be assuming the leadership of our nation after this transition and will have responsibility for its stewardship.
We welcome the Presidency of Mrs. Sirleaf. Having failed us, her generation through her, has one last chance to redeem itself. We have a chance to learn from the political elites of her generation. President Sirleaf in tackling the challenges facing the country must not only use affirmative policies but must also teach. In one of her interviews with the press, Mrs. Sirleaf, in response to a question about her role model as far as the office of the presidency was concerned, referred to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere because of his disregard for the “pomp” and “pageantry” of the office. That’s great. “Mwalimu” in Swahili means “teacher”. Nyerere was a teacher. I love teachers. My dad has been a teacher for over 40 years. In addition to his disdain for pomp and pageantry, Nyerere defined a set of priorities and sought to lead his people in that direction by constantly teaching them through his bully pulpit and by his examples.
This is not to necessarily suggest that Madam Sirleaf should adopt Nyerere’s priorities (though there is a lot that may be useful), but it is imperative that she formulates and promotes key sets of values. These must be values that can be embraced by Liberians of all walks of life. She must constantly remind the nation about these values and why she thinks they are best for the country. She must also lead by her own examples and those of the members of her administration. These are the ingredients of the teaching I refer to.
In Liberia today, we are in dire need of solidifying and showing fidelity to the values established under our constitutional/statutory scheme and establishing a very broad consensus on what our economic priorities or values ought to be. Shouldn’t we, for example, be able to establish, that for the sake of Liberia and Liberians, it is absolutely important to foster and promote growth and development of an indigenous capitalist middle class? Shouldn’t the government by its examples and policies teach us that regardless of one’s position or station in life, the law will be applied in all respects, especially in instances of public corruption? And shouldn’t we strive to weave such values into the fabric of society such that reactionary forces organizing against them will not be considered mainstream?
I congratulate some in my generation who are actively participating in the political process and in prominent positions in society. Fr. Andrew Karnley (acting head of the Catholic Church), Eugene Nagbe (CDC’s Secretary General) and Fumba Sirleaf (son and confidant of Ellen Sirleaf) – all of whom I know well -are but a few examples. For the sake of our country and our own future, it is important that we pressure this administration to teach us and teach us well. Let them teach the entire country by their example. We must learn and be law-abiding as well. Let us hasten the day when politics in Liberia is not driven by personality cults. We must put the interest of our country first and coalesce around key sets of political and economic values. We have a shared destiny. We must be committed to our community – our Liberia. We can no longer afford to toddle while others run. It is dawn! Those who still want to sleep must step aside.
About the author:
The author resides in Maryland, U.S.A. and can be reached at