DR. TOGBA NAH TIPOTEH, ONE OF LIBERIA’S GREAT INTELLECTUALS REFLECTS
As we are in the 2018/2019 Season, let me wish for all the People of Liberia a Happy New Year. Any New Year can only be happy for you when your mistakes are recognized and corrected so that they are not repeated in the New Year. Mistakes can only be recognized and corrected when you criticize yourself and when another person criticizes you so that you can understand and correct the mistakes that you are making. Whenever you understand and correct the mistakes that you are making, you win because you are helping to make not only yourself better but also to make other persons better. Winning is not about getting a title because many persons get titles and do not correct their mistakes. Whenever you correct your mistakes and get a title in the process, then you win and become a winner.
Let us try to become winners. Let me start with myself. For half a century, I have been working to convince myself and as many other persons as possible about the fact that God blesses the People of Liberia. When the People of Liberia use the blessings of God, then they become winners. My working with the People mainly through Susukuu, the 47 years old poverty-alleviation NGO and the 45 years old Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA), has produced some successes, as seen in the longstanding and widespread peaceful mass action for justice, the ending of the Civil War
and the ending of the Ebola epidemic. However, this work must continue because nearly all Liberians remain poor and with this longstanding and widespread poverty, especially the among young people, poverty-driven frustration leads to wrong decision-making and violence. This frustration is even rising because national decision-makers continue to make promises that cannot be met, but expectations keep rising with the attendant frustration. The promises cannot be met because longstanding and widespread corruption has turned into a vampire, sucking up at least half of the national budget, during donor acquiescence and fatigue.
This wrong decision-making from the family level to the local level to the national level is seen in the lack of appreciation of the role of human resources, the number one asset. Instead, the national decision–makers view money resources as the number one asset. Give any dishonest person a billion dollars and give any honest person one thousand dollars, the honest person will do far better for Liberia than the dishonest person. As there is no merit system in Liberia’s national decision-making, amid longstanding and widespread corruption and almost all the cases from the integrity institutions remaining unattended to, in terms of prosecution,there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This absence of the merit system continues to place emphasis on the domination of the poverty-generating production of natural resources for export. In this dominant production system, national decision-making adds value to the production in foreign countries at the expense of the production in Liberia. This is precisely why Liberia is compelled to take the prices of the exported natural resources and pay the prices of the imported products made abroad from Liberia’s exported natural resources.
Many people are wondering why the People’s Republic of China continues to have high economic growth rates with falling mass poverty, especially while the United States of America, the world’s biggest economy and other industrialized economies were struggling to get positive economic growth rates after the global financial crisis of 2008, the worst financial crisis since the great depression of the 1930s. China continues to do far better because of the emphasis placed on value addition on the production in China, where the poverty rate has declined from 75 per cent to less than 5 per cent in the past 40 years of the Opening-Up of China and China is now the world’s second largest economy. China places value addition on local production, as seen in the manufacturing portion of the gross domestic product of China, which, at over 30 per cent, is the largest in the world. China is now the second largest economy in the world. This puts China in the position to influence the prices of what is sold to others by China and what is bought from others by China. Imagine that forty years ago, the gross domestic product per person for China was less than that for Liberia!
This growth without development experience for Liberia is not surprising when we observe that education in Liberia is a MESS. Education in Liberia is a MESS because it is western or American and not Liberian. Education in Liberia is based on the understanding of American culture rather than on the understanding of Liberian culture. Therefore, it is impossible to understand how to solve problems in Liberia with an educational system based on understanding the United States of America. Liberia has become over-Americanized, as was publicly observed well by the late Leader of Liberian Journalists, Mr. Stanton Peabody, to the point where we should not be surprised that the exchange rate between the Liberian dollar and the United States dollar remains high and rising because there are too many Liberian dollars running after the available United States dollars. This comes from the valuing of things American far more than the valuing of things Liberian and therefore no one should be surprised at the dismal relationship between the Liberian dollar and the United States dollar, as seen in the high and rising foreign exchange rate.
Hopefully, what is happening in the United States of America now will help national decision-makers in Liberia to think about making a “U-Turn”. Reference here is being made to many wrong decisions that are being made in the USA, especially the decision to build a Wall at the border between the USA and Mexico to keep refugees away from entering the USA. This United States of America government should know that the previous version of the same government played the main role in the breaking up of the Berlin Wall that led the Late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy to make the expression “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner in the German language) when he visited Berlin. Now, the USA government is looking for USD5.1 billion to build the Wall, as the government has shut down because the money is not forthcoming and the USA Stock Market just had its worst Christmas Eve crash since the Great Depression of the 1930s, as the Dow Jones index fell by 650 points. My only tweet to date remains instructive: The United States of America was a symphony orchestra called democracy; now, I hear only one “Trump-et”.
There are Liberians who managed to acquire education that helps them to understand and solve Liberia’s problems. However, without a merit system in determining the choice of public personnel, there is the situation in Liberia where a carpenter is often chosen to do the job of an auto mechanic. In this non-merit system, personalization prevails above institutionalization, as seen in the decision by the House of Senate of Liberia to confirm a senior government official who does not know the definition of the job assigned to the official. Now, when the first branch of the government engages in such wrong decision-making, what can be expected from the other branches of government?
The poverty-oriented hardships with their violent-content continue; but ways must find to prevent them continuing in order to save Liberia and make Liberia a better place for all of us to live in. The solution to the hardships is not violence. The solution to the hardships is the election of persons who have public records of working in the interest of poor people by helping the poor people to help themselves. This election can happen only through a fair election process. But the election process in Liberia remains unfair. Right now, the Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC) is a citizen of the United States of America, a situation that is in violation of the Constitution of Liberia. Additionally, NEC has no credible voter registration role, as the NEC Chairman took a unilateral and illegal decision indicating that a voter registration role was necessary for voting. NEC Commissioner Jonathan Weedor was the only NEC Commissioner who disagreed with the NEC Commissioner. Furthermore, election machines are needed to have a fair election and the election machines donated to NEC by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for use in the NEC-conducted elections were spoiled but were used anyway in the elections. The case against the NEC Chairman was taken to the Supreme Court of Liberia but not a single government entity, not a single political party, not a single civil society organization, not a single religious organization and not a single business organization gave support to the case. In fact, they all supported the violation of the Constitution because they did not act to uphold the Constitution. But the good news is that some good people are standing up for Justice because the Lawyer for the person who took the case to the Supreme Court, in the person of Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, was just elected the President of the Liberia National Bar Association. The Justice for All Campaign is moving forward for the better although the Supreme Court said that it was not prepared to make any ruling on the case against the NEC Chairman at this time. The Supreme Court is in effect saying that the Rule of Law cannot prevail at this time. Can you imagine that! Without the Rule of Law, Liberia is placed under the Rule of Outlaw, which leads to chaos and violence!
The struggle to end Ebola teaches us that the main guarantee now for saving Liberia and moving Liberia forward for the better is Community Ownership. When communities around Liberia took ownership of the anti-Ebola process, then we could see the candle at the end of the tunnel and the Ebola virus was pushed into the dustbin of history. This push only took place to end the Ebola epidemic when the anti-Ebola message was carried by HONEST persons! So, let me call upon the HONEST People of Liberia to stand up and work together to let the Rule of Law prevails, as the Lone Star stands forever! All hail Liberia, all hail!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Economist, Educator and Politician; Board Chairperson of Susukuu & Founding Leader of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA).
"Togba-Nah Tipoteh is a rare breed of human being who you don’t see quite often in Liberia. He’s principled, disciplined, smart, humble, uncorrupt and consistent in his politics, the way he lives his life, and the seriousness he has shown since he arrived in Liberia in the early 70s, to contribute to the development of his homeland. Those traits are admirable in a country where politicians always want to get over at the expense of the citizens and the nation. Those traits are also admirable for anyone who aspires to work in public service. And if Liberia can get many more Tipotehs to lead, inspire, and teach Liberians how to carry themselves gracefully in their politics and their daily lives the way he has done for decades, we all could be better humans and Liberia perhaps could be the prosperous nation we all want it to be. As usual, however, people like Tipoteh don’t always get the respect they deserve either, because they are misinterpreted, misunderstood, and seen as an oddity. For Tipoteh, however, that mischaracterization has had an unfavorable impact on a man who has lived an exemplary life, and has given his entire life to the pursuit of justice, democracy, and the rule of law in Liberia." (Dr. Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh. Political Commentary and Reflections on Liberia. Providence, Rhode Island: Kiiton Press, 2014, pp. 317-318)