By Aagon F. Tingba, Jr. (December 21st 2005)
Note: This speech was delivered on Saturday, December 17, 2005 at the 9th anniversary of the Nimba County Youth Association of Pennsylvania, where Mr. Aagon F. Tingba, Jr. served as the Guest Speaker.
Mr. Anthony Kruah, President of the Nimba County Youth Association of Pennsylvania,
The Vice President, executives and members of the Pennsylvania Nimba Youth,
The President of the United Nimba Citizens’ Council –UNICCO, Pennsylvania chapter – Madame Annie Saye,
Distinguished former presidents of UNICCO, elders,
Well wishers, friends of Nimba County, fellow Nimba citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me hasten to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to you, Mr. President and your able staff for my preferment to serve as your Guest Speaker at this all important occasion.
It is an open secret of the 14 years of turmoil, deaths, loots and infrastructural destruction our nation (Liberia) continues to suffer due to the protracted civil unrest in our dear country. These acts, without doubts, continue to plague the socio-economic, political and educational enhancement of the Liberian populace - approximately 80% of whom are illiterate. On November 8, 2005, Liberians voted overwhelmingly in a run-off presidential election and elected the first democratically elected female president of Africa – Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Many of those who made this historic verdict are predominantly youth, who without doubts, have been grossly affected by the shameful Liberian civil unrest. They voted with faith and hope to chart a new course of their seemingly tainted future.
As Liberia prepares to induct her first democratically elected female president on January 16, 2006, many are concern about both the future of the state and that of the roles of its youthful generation. Considering the epoch of evolutionary tides that blanket Liberia’s unique history, one can only dream of what role Liberian youth would play in contributing towards the nation-building and human empowerment Liberia needs so dearly at this time of our rebirth. And where does Liberian youths locate themselves remains alarming, paramount and a top priority.
Consequently, my fellow Nimba citizens, friends of Nimba county – against this background I have decided to speak to you tonight on the topic: “ The Tides of Reforms in Liberia: a closer look at the roles of the youth”.
These tides of reforms could be classified under four headings for our discussion tonight:
1) The era of the Liberian bourgeoisies – the beginning of the spoil system-nepotism, tribalism, sectionalism and political patronage
2) War on waste- emphasize the economy and forensic reporting
3) Watchful eye – Liberians are becoming critical of corrupt officials and how the nation’s wealth is being distributed.
4) Free at last – Liberians are now fully involved in participatory democracy, government’s performance and a duly merit system and accountability.
These are the four tides of reforms that I intend to expeditiously take you through tonight.
Borrowing from the father of modern scientific management, Frederick Taylor, the first tide of reforms in Liberia –the Liberian Bourgeoisie - could be attributed to the scientific management theory of Taylor. However, unlike the era of the Liberian bourgeoisie, this theory focuses on bureaucratic structure and implementation strategies. It talks about buzzwords like Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting and
Budgeting (POSDCORB). This era was marked by control, where decisions were handed down from top-to-bottom to qualified individuals to implement. However, some participants of the Liberian bourgeoisies’ era with inadequate planning and incompetent staffing only perpetuated themselves in power marked by pageantry, wining, dining and exhibiting their bourgeoisie status to the detriment of the nation and state. Most of the youth saw some of these Liberian bourgeoisies as role models in what could be termed as “buzz politics” and decided to imitate them. Hence, the culture of perpetual institutional incompetence was passed on to a succeeding generation. Interestingly however, many of these Bourgeoisies were not adequately educated, competent, qualified and thus deserving the merits of those positions they found themselves. They were being compensated as a means of a political patronage, nepotism, favoritism, tribalism, sectionalism – hence the birth of the Liberian spoils system.
Indeed, Liberia still has some of these incompetent and unqualified individuals from the spoil system of the Liberian bourgeoisie; many of who are booking flights and parading the streets of Monrovia wanting to revert to doing things to old ways. But they’ve yet to realize that this tide of reform is now aged and a dawn of a new era has besieged Liberia. Liberia now needs competent, qualified and yes skillfully educated citizens that would contribute meaningfully and lift Liberia from the ashes of war. The question could then be - are you prepared to be a part of the post-bourgeoisie tide? Do you have the skills necessary when you are called upon today? What are you doing with your life as a young person here in America – the glorious land of infinite opportunities?
The first President of United States, President George Washington, once told a friend seeking appointment “ you are welcome to my house; you are welcome to my heart…my personal feelings have nothing to do with the present case…As George Washington, I would do anything in my power for you. As President, I can do nothing”.
The need to avoid particularistic demands (hire my brother, my tribesman, etc) and put on a competent and competitive cap in the new Liberia can not be overemphasized.
When I received your letter requesting me to serve in this capacity, I immediately asked my junior brother, Mr. Mewaseh Tingba, to give me a list of the members of this youth who were either in college or who had a first degree. I see this room fill but I must admit that the results were discouraging. Nimba county youth has only eight active college students in Pennsylvania to boast of as of Fall, 2005: Tinnue Barclay, Kou Saye, Mansa Paye, II; Edward Paye, Jr., Edashall Konah, Louise Dahn, Mewaseh Tingba and Madam Massa Kpahn – the only proud recipient of a bachelors degree. There are many “heavy weights” within the Nimba youth whose names are surprisingly not on this list. Nimba County deserves better!
Let me add that I have come to respect and admire Miss Louise Dahn, a member of this youth and a very close friend of my junior brother, Mr. Mewaseh Tingba. Louise is a student at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). With barely a semester into her studies, Louise conceived with their first child. I was devastated and annoyed to say the least; because like any senior brother would, I did not want any hindrance to derail their pursuit of higher education. And as I sat with my junior brother, I pondered over the need of both of them to continue their education no matter the given circumstances. It would amaze you to note that to her pledge, Louise was still boarding Philadelphia trolleys at her 9th month to Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). And barely a week upon her delivery, Louise was again boarding trolleys to CCP. To admit, she surprised me and never gave the excuse that many would have given in such situation. Louise is determined not to be a mare bourgeoisie depending on the spoils of political bosses, nepotism, tribalism and sectionalism but rather she would like to compete in a merit system based on competence in Liberia. Do we have more Louises among you (in Nimba youth) that would take the baton against all odds? Nimba County deserves better than the current number of college students as of this Fall semester.
Second, due to the ever growing technological advancement and quest for a change, Liberians are growing increasingly critical of private and public servants. A visit to Liberia now would indicate a wide range of change. The evolution of the cell phones industry is sporadic and widespread; the Internet cafes are astounding. It amazes me when I receive a call from Liberia and the caller is requesting for my Email address. Oh, I am thrilled to learn of how fast and informed Liberians are becoming back home when right here in America many of us do not even have email addresses. Hence, armed with the knowledge of these technologies and sharp intelligence, the era of war on waste takes into account the gross mismanagement of public funds with impunity, would no longer be accepted. Consequently, with this vital information, Liberians are now requesting forensic reports, detailed auditing and microscopic background checks of would be public servants. Many Liberians are even calling for the judicial prosecutions of economic criminals who have betrayed the trust of the public -The war on waste of public resources takes priority in this tide.
The case of former Police Director, Mr. Paul Mulbah is a vivid illustration. When Mr. Mulbah was name a member of the ad-hoc transitional list that was charged to liaise with the Interim government of Gyude Bryant for smooth transition to President Elect, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, there were outcry for his removal due to his alleged human rights records during the Taylor’s administration from across the nation and abroad. Mr. Mulbah’s name was immediately removed and a complete review of the list was ordered by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Indeed there are evolving tides of reforms blanketing our nation like wide fire. The lesson from this is not difficult to discern: stay away from organization’s fund; you must learn to act ethically and be morally responsible for your actions for it would serve as a metric to measure your competence, contributions, norms, ethics and values in the new Liberia. Be adequately educated and morally responsible by increasing the number of Nimba youth in colleges here in the U.S. You have absolutely no excuse because the opportunities are astronomical to say the least.
Third, the watchful eye in Liberia’s geo-political landscape is a critical moment of the tide of reforms. This tide emphasizes fairness and openness as a public servant. You might have read or heard of various whistle blowers ranging from the Federal Bureau for Investigation (FBI) to WorldCom, and to the once corporate giant- Enron and across corporate and political America. Liberia, a case in point, have seen the proliferations of various media outlets, interest and pressure groups, students unions, women organizations, human rights groups and other youths organization playing key role in protecting the general interest of the public. Your actions should be transparent both as a pubic servant and as a private employee.
Where Nimba youth locates herself remains paramount toward this end. In exercising openness and fairness, and having a watchful eye in this tide of reform, you need to take a position on critical issues concerning Nimba county and Liberia in general. Do not sit and think “neutral” or “that’s the people thing”. You must locate yourself on either side of history and seize the moment and realize your leadership traits and potentials. What good would it do you as an individual or an organization when you allow evils, corruption, violations of the rules of laws and disrespect for our National leadership (UNICCO) by a handful of disloyal individuals in Pennsylvania without any further overt position? These kinds of defensive avoidance mentality fertilizes vices and bury one’s moral principles and values that would have saved an institution like UNICCO from the claws of few non-law abiding individuals. Nimba County deserves better!
If the student community, the media, the press, human rights organizations and other individuals did not exercise the watchful eye – Liberia would still be doomed in mayhem, death and destruction. It was great men and women, institutions like Nimba youth, who spoke and took positions when the Liberian constitution was being violated so that you and I may live peacefully. You have to step up when these situations come about and continue the race “for the cure” with the democratic baton.
There are increasing concerns about the position of the Nimba youth in the ongoing UNICCO – PA election dispute. No matter what position you take as an organization, there is a need for you to do so – so that history will judge you for either protecting, defending or negating our noble institution called UNICCO. How do you intend to stand as a unifying institution when the pillars upon which you stand are falling apart? How do you intend to be respected and honored by other county youths when you are keeping silent on such issues of vital importance to your existence? How do you intend to be respected as leaders when the National Leadership of the United Nimba Citizens’ Council (UNICCO) under the guidance of Mr. Miamen Wopea as President and Mr. Frederick Norkeh (Board Chairman) are being disrespected by some individuals right here in Pennsylvania? Where’s your leadership – Nimba youth? I wonder! The need to hear from the Nimba youth of PA concerning UNICCO-PA election debacle is now and can not be stressed any further. You must act to protect UNICCO and its leaders, you must act to defend UNICCO’s constitution, you must act to enhance the rule of law, and yes you must take a position because you would want the same to be done for you when your house is on fire! Research, analyze and take a position as an institution – with a watchful eye for fairness and openness in UNICCO. That’s leadership!
Fourth, the last of the tide of reforms in Liberia is what could be termed “free at last”. Liberia emerging from the tide of the Bourgeoisies era characterized by spoils and political patronages, graduating to the war on waste, where we are witnessing a national call for forensic reporting of public institutions and including the era of the watchful eye, where we are charged to be whistle blowers and take positions on issues of burning national concerns…we are now “free at last”. The days of dictating to Liberians seems to nearing its end. This is a new era. Indeed, a new tide, where Liberians are now involved in participatory democracy, technologically enlightened and demanding better performances and accountability of officials. This seems to be an era of no more doing things the old way. This is reality democracy based on merit and what you can produce.
My fellow Nimba youth, my challenge to you is take advantage of these tides of reforms in Liberia and locate your bearings. In the words of PLATO, the great philosopher, “Know thyself”. Be strategic, have a year, two, three or fours years plan. Map out how you would like your life to change in 2 years and work towards it. Write them down in your dairies, your note books, or place them on your refrigerators or study walls. Whatever way you prefer, just map out your goals and constantly review it to locate your current –yes-bearings and use it as a guide to the new Liberia. As early as possible make SMART decisions:
S – Specific and precise task and action in achieving your goals
M –Meaningful /measurable goals – how does your goal connect and measure success?
A – Attainable not abstract or stretch goals – want to be an LPN and not yet in school?
R – Realistic and reasonable – consider the resources and time – opportunity cost
T - Timing to complete task – specify a completion date or benchmark time to graduate.
Indeed, make SMART decisions and the time is now!
Fellow Nimba citizens and friends of Nimba County - in summary, I would like to urge you to seize the moment, look in the mirror, and reflect on how long you’ve been here in the U.S., retrospect on your accomplishments and goals and be the best judge. Be decisive, get back in schools, get educated, have a skill, improve your careers and be a good role model for Nimba and Liberia. Make your parents proud. And you know what? It’s Nimba County and you can do it! You can not challenge Nimba County easily but tonight I am challenging you (Nimba County youth) to perform a 360 degrees revision of your objectives, contributions, metric and time to see whether your parents would be proud of your accomplishments thus far. During your tenth anniversary, let me see the number of college students in this youth increase by at least 200%. With this hope, Nimba will rise above the bourgeoisie era, nepotism and the spoils system and take on a more meritorious and accountable good citizenry role in a competitive Liberia and global community.
In final conclusion, if I would add, I have an eleven years old daughter, D. Adrienne Tingba, who is a seven grader at the Saint Cyprian Catholic School in Philadelphia. I love her so much and I hope and pray that Adrienne earns her Ph.D. at age 28. Because like all of you, she has unlimited opportunities here in the U.S. And as I judiciously guide her, I have offered a challenge to Adrienne about being academically competitive. And since her arrival here in the U.S. and her subsequently enrollment at the Saint Cyprian Catholic Middle School, she’s been bringing home certificates of academic achievements. And on her November, 2005 academic excellence certificate, there read an inscription quoted from Pamela Starr, that I would like to share with you and I hope that you ponder over every wordings and break the codes of its meaning. “Reach high, for the stars are hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal”. My fellow Nimba youth, this is a very short, beautiful and powerful quote that I would like to leave with you tonight.
Go forth and breed more Nimba scholars. Congratulations on your 9th anniversary!
I thank you for your rapt attention!
Copyright© December 17, 2005 Aagon F. Tingba, Jr.; NOGAA Financial Group
Mr. Aagon F. Tingba, Jr. holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at the Catholic Jesuit Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He is also a candidate for a second Graduate degree (Masters of Public Administration – MPA) from the Catholic Augustinian Villanova University in Pennsylvania. He works as a Senior Financial Analyst for the 66th ranked fortune 500 –E.I. DuPont De Numoirs Company in Wilmington, Delaware. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.