Jones Nhinson Williams is a Catholic educated Liberian philosopher, a public policy, labor market information and workforce development professional, and advocate for strategic governance and refugees.
Liberia, a West African nation is, without a doubt, a failed and struggling state in terms of political, social and economic governance. Besides, the country continues to degenerate into further disunity and unending poverty under the current Unity Party-led administration which, of course, is led by Africa’s and Liberia’s first female president, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
While the ruling Unity Party-led administration’s failure to provide good and strategic governance, reconcile the nation and unify Liberians around a common purpose is extremely disappointing to various stakeholders (western nations, regional and international organizations including the United Nations, European Union, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States that have invested so much resources) with interest in Liberia’s future and prosperity, it is intensely heart-wrenching to the forgotten elderly, the women, youth and children, especially young girls in both Liberia and Africa.
More importantly, it is markedly dejecting to a nation of 4.5 million people whose hopes and aspirations as well as votes have been taken for granted through a wasted process of missed opportunities under the current president. That said, President Sirleaf leaves office effective January 2018 due to term limits but her party (the ruling Unity Party), which has failed the nation, is seeking continuation of her rule.
In short, Liberians will hold presidential and legislative elections in October 2017 to elect new leaders who are expected to change the direction of the country from failure and corruption, nepotism and social stratification, bigotry and economic paralysis to socio-economic prosperity and political decency, accountability and transparency, the rule of law and meaningful human development.
The expected new leaders come 2018 will have the opportunity to transform Liberia by using good public policy that must be what Mr. Annan describes as, “best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not.” For this reason, it is crucial for Liberian voters and Liberians in the diaspora to know the visions, platforms, qualifications, and experiences as well as the characters of the candidates that are running for public office so that when elected, their policies will not be based on what Mr. Annan termed as “common assumptions and popular sentiments” which, according him, “can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions” perhaps in solving Liberia’s numerous problems.
Liberians want change in the way they are governed; they also want progress in the country’s economic development, and improvement in their living standard––they demand a change that will be based on a clear and distinct national vision, not the status quo.
In view of the change Liberians want and the gloomy failure of the current ruling Unity Party-led administration, I and a host of other good-intentioned Liberian citizens established a political institution that has produced one of the best vision documents in the history of Africa, according western political commentators. Besides, we bring an unmatched and unique qualification, experience, admirable character, and passion to our collective quest to change Liberia from a nation of poverty to one in which we can have investment in science, technology, engineering, and math as well as in advanced manufacturing, agricultural-food production, education, workforce training, and infrastructure development while adhering to the rule of law, and simultaneously advancing transparency and accountability.
These candidates, I believe have good intentions and the character, qualifications, experience, and vision required to become president of Liberia. Notable among current field of presidential candidates are current Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP), Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, leader of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), and Mr. Alexander Cummings of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) party. I know these three respected Liberians. I have talked with them and I know their true passion and plans for Liberia. Their hearts are in the right place and they all mean well. Besides, these three candidates bring impeccable records to the Liberian presidential race, and they unquestionably remain some of the best options so far in the 2017’s presidential electoral process.
For his part, Vice President Boakai, who happens to be the presidential candidate of the current ruling Unity Party-led administration, is an honest man. He is, perhaps, one of the few individuals in the Unity Party-led administration that is not only uncorrupted, humbled, and caring; but remains a dignified leader who wants a Liberia where everyone will have a place and be happy. Moreover, the vice president has pointed out and can still draw a clear distinction between his style and understanding of leadership from that of his boss, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
However, instead of the vice president be given the chance to tell the Liberian people about his vision for the country as well as explain to the Liberian people why the Unity Party-led administration, in which he is the second most powerful official, miscarried the Liberian people so gloomily, some unsolicited surrogates acting on his behalf are doing his candidacy a disservice by advancing a faulty theory: using identity politics––by espousing a non-existent reality, the so-called “Congo” and “Country” appeal.
This entreaty is the wrong prescription for the kind of Liberia we want after jailed president Charles Taylor’s 14-years of ruining our nation and after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party-led administration 12-years of inopportune letdown.
For anyone, especially informed voters, in their right mind, to forget about the inability and gross incompetence of the Liberian labor force to adequately compete in the global labor market due to a lethargic educational system, disorganized governance process and the lack of investment in workforce training and development, but instead think, believe and promote that someone with a surname name Williams, Cooper, Jones, Cummings or Brumskine is “Congo,” or just because someone like Cummings, who is a native-born Liberian citizen that has excelled at a global corporate level no Liberian in history has ever reached, is a “non-Liberian citizen” is astounding and reckless.
Like Vice President Boakai, Dr. Mills Jones, Alexander Cummings and Charles Brumskine bring impeccable resumes to the 2017’s presidential race. Both Cummings and Brumskine, in particular, have visions and platforms that aimed at creating a level-playing field in Liberia where economic and social prosperity will be the measurement.
For his part, Alexander Cummings built Coca Cola’s Africa markets and expanded its global profitability. He also led the global corporate giant overall’s administrative apparatus that covers worldwide operations, marketing, corporate governance, legal affairs and more. He understands the world market and human capital development. Besides, he is a Liberian who, like most Liberians from humbled beginnings, attended public schools, lived, and worked in the country before taking the leap of faith to seek external employment outside of the confines of the Liberian government, which is sadly the largest employer in the country. With such a distinguished personality, the best we can do is to demand to know his vision and plans for Liberia rather than categorizing him within the limitations of our individualized personal thinking.
For his part, Cllr. Charles Brumskine brings a wealth of private sector experience and a record of accomplishments in government’s leadership that is exceedingly admirable and clean. He is perhaps, one of the few persons who has served in the Liberian government (past and present) without any tainted record of corruption, or a record of the abuse of power. As president Pro Tempore of the Liberian senate under a dictator, Charles Taylor, Cllr Brumskine is on record as the legislative leader who championed policy and statutory changes including regulations that increased the type of businesses that are solely intended for Liberian citizens. Record revealed that he also led a senate that not only frown on corruption, but that set an example by expelling a sitting Liberian senator for corrupt acts.
Besides, he has remained in Liberia and in the private sector despite threats and attempts to falsely disparage his character and person. Moreover, Brumskine has a clear vision that seeks to make Liberian politics civil just as he wants to ensure that every Liberian citizen and resident enjoys economic prosperity through employment, access to healthcare, good roads and more. With such a remarkable track record and achievements, the best we can do as Liberians is to demand the right to further understand his vision and plans for Liberia and why he thinks he can make a better president than the rest of the field. Instead, some have and continue to deny the voters this right by insinuating irrelevant matters that have nothing to do with Liberia’s progress.
The Consequences of thinking tribal
Just yesterday, there were some Liberians (many still do today) that believe that anyone with a Mandingo or Muslim name is not a real Liberian citizen. In fact, when the late Dr. Edward Binyah Kesselly founded the Unity Party, there were people (including some officials who are grossly benefiting from it today) who opposed him not because he was a dishonest person, or a bad manager, or an uneducated individual; they opposed him simply because they thought he was a Mandingo man, or had a name that is common in Guinea, Mali etc. Others opposed him simply because he worshipped differently from the way they do. The question is: is this what Liberia needs?
I have also seen and heard from people who once accused and strongly believed that people like Dr. Amos Sawyer is not a true Liberian – falsely arguing that he is a Sierra Leonean. In fact, one prominent Liberian lawyer with whom I once had a stern political and policy dissimilarity, covertly told some people that I am a Togolese by heritage when in fact my parents are Grebo from River Gee County. His intent was to spew fear and hate against me as someone who had no true loyalty to Liberia knowing full well that his thesis was categorically untrue.
n 2012, when floated the idea that I would like to see a future political ticket with Kofi Woods and Tiawon on it because I admired their advocacy, I sadly listened to a Liberian with a graduate degree telling an audience that both Kofi and Tiawon are not true Liberian natives. The individual shamelessly went further and argued that Tiawon’s ancestors descended from the Nzerekore forest region of Guinea. While these kinds of secretly perpetrated claims are misleading, tribally-bent elements toe this myopic line because that is the only case they can make.
When lawyer and veteran Liberian communications professional Kwame Clements expressed his interest to run for president two year ago, despite his intellect, all I heard from many of these tribally-bent campaigners who opposed him then was not whether he was truly qualified or experience, but that he was not Liberian enough. The same has been said about my Cape Palmas brethren, the Verdiers brothers. James and Jerome Verdier who, out of love for decency and fairness, constantly advocate for fairness, justice and transparency have been branded by some people as not Liberian enough. Like they have branded me, they accused both Marylanders as Togolese too. The question is: when will this childish mentality stop?
This naivety is so embalmed in the mental construct of the tribal-sentiments campaigners such that falsehood has become a norm. In the same vein, I have heard people accusing the vice president’s current chief of staff, Sam Stevquoah (a decent and intelligent brother) as being a non-Liberian citizen simply because they (campaigners of tribal sentiments) intuitively believe that his ancestors are said to have Ghanaian heritage. To them, nothing about Stevquoah’s qualifications and competence nor the invaluable services he is rendering to the Office of the Vice President and the Liberian people matters. What matters is the shallow view they share about what being a true Liberian constitutes.
This display of tribal instincts must stop because if we do not stop this folly simply because it is not personally affecting some of us now, there will come a time that we will all be impacted gravely when it is too late. As former Kenyan president Moi Kibaki once characterized it, tribalism is a cancer. It can and has the propensity to tear a nation and people apart. Therefore we, as Liberians and Liberia as a nation, should have no room for dizzy individuals who thrive on identity politics and the campaign of fear and hate.
The reason is, these tendencies and form of discourse are the hallmarks of identity theories, and we all know that such views are dangerous to our unity as a nation and prosperity as a people. We cannot build better communities in our country and a better Liberia by playing tribal and divisive cards that benefit no one, not even the campaigners themselves.