Reflecting On What I Told Liberians In The United States
By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
As usual, during my recent visit to the United States, especially in the State of Delaware I had the opportunity of discussing with Liberians on issues of national concern. At the old timers’ field and at social gathering, issues at home dominated conversations and discussions. Obviously, as humans, given our idiosyncrasy, there were mixed reactions on the issue of government’s performance, especially so in delivering promises made to the people. Some hold the view that the Sirleaf government has not “done anything” to get credit, while others hold the view that her government was “making progress” some consciously said, “ I am disappointed in her; she has failed,” while on the other hand, others said, “the old mom is trying after years of backwardness.”
Prior to arriving in the States, this argument started on Delta Airline while in transit in Accra, when a group of women, who were returning from Liberia to the United States said, “Nothing has changed in Liberia.”’This claim sparked serious arguments on the waiting flight as others disagreed with them, saying, “You have been out for too long.”
For me, I was not surprised over those arguments because they do exist at home, considering the role of citizens in the nationhood, as our new dispensation continues to encourage freedom of the press and freedom of speech, for which, citizens fearlessly speak out on issues of national concerns. During all of these discussions and conversations, I tried to play the role of a devil’s advocate or a twin mother to be able to synchronize all what were being said.
Frankly, these mixed reactions were necessary because they provided the atmosphere to get to know how people feel about the status quo. Whether these discussants were objective or subjective, such was necessary for our nation in its reconstruction process. I still recall during the discussions, my host, Mr. Seton, a former editor of this newspaper, who now holds Master’s degree in Mathematics from Delaware States University, maintaining his point that, “the country lacks better foundation,” something he said is responsible for its backwardness.
It was based on these discussions and conversations that, I, during a brief farewell program held in my honor by my host, Mr. & Mrs Jackson Seton, which was well attended by some members of the Liberian community in Delaware, raised the issue that many of us may not recognize the progress being made today, because “we are doing what we should have done many years ago.” As a result, those who have seen development in other countries, as compared to Liberia, have all reasons to say why they feel about the country’s backwardness in terms of development.
I cited as an example that we are concentrating on building roads which should have been done many years ago. By now, we should be rehabilitating roads, instead of constructing them. Take for instance, the Bong Mines Road, now being constructed, the road from former LAMCO to Sanniquellie, the Grand Bassa County Highway, which has been constructed and dedicated by this government this week, despite the operation of LAMCO, one of the former major concessions in the country. These are all projects which should have been done many years ago.
Another clear example is that we built a state university (University of Liberia) with few classrooms, failing to take into consideration that the population would grow and that there would be demand for higher education. Today, the Chinese have built a modern structure to help alleviate the accommodation problem. The money used by the Chinese government could have been used for another project. Likewise, the Chinese are trying to get us out of paying rent for privately-used buildings as government offices, by building an administrative complex that will house ministries and agencies. Governments in the past should have concentrated on this, but again, personal interest, with some in the status quo, may have prevented this from happening.
Additionally, I cited the issue of structures, without creating parking lots. This is also a major problem in the country. Today, we are struggling with the issue of parking in the city. Even with this aged-old problem, we are yet to learn our lesson, as we are still repeating the past mistakes with “building without parking lots.”
Whenever one speaks of progress in Liberia, one of the issues people raise is that there is ‘hard time.’ Actually, no one is denying this, as people need jobs and that there is a need for the improvement of the welfare and well-being of the people. Undeniably, it will be suicidal to say all is well, but from what we are doing today, by building institutions such as the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), the General auditing commission (GAC), the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC). All of these institutions are necessary in the nation’s drive for growth and development.
Let us take for another example the issue of the Separation of Power or Checks and Balances among the three branches of government. Whenever I follow developments at the Capitol Building, such as the budget hearing, I always say, we are making progress in our strive for accountability, transparency and financial probity. Indeed, we are getting there. Don’t misconstrue me as saying that there is no corruption. NO! This is not the issue; we, as a nation and people are aware that corruption exists, and that we have to individually and collectively combat this cancer.
In all fairness, we should be ashamed that newly independent countries are far ahead in terms of development than us, who have been the METHOSEDIA on the continent. But again, we cannot give up, it takes only Liberians to develop this country, therefore, while we are concerned for lagging behind, we should press forward to move this country from backwaters to prosperity. But from what is obtaining such as the openness of the society, the public hearing and outcry for development, the freedom to speak out, more would be achieved or accomplished.
I rest for now, and see you later on the issue of who will be President Sirleaf’s possible replacement after her term, as we discussed in the United States. Who are the possible candidates?