By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Someone reading the headline above may intuitively see it has been very illogical to suggest that there are two kinds of human beings in the world; one in Liberia and the others in other parts of the world. This may sound right, but this is not the intent of this headline. It is intended to raise issues concerning the way and manner in which we sometimes behave and act. It is in this same light that people always said that there are two ways to do things in the world- the Liberian way and the universally acceptable way, meaning that we sometimes act or behave like others in other parts of the world as being different from us.
Many times we speak highly of the successes of people of other countries, thus creating the impression that those people are in different planets, when, in fact, all of us are on the same planet and are all human beings created by God. Unlike other countries with gigantic population, we are a small people, in terms of population size, and ironically endowed with enormous resources, yet, after over 160 years of independence, we are still battling with poverty. Interestingly, newly independent countries are far ahead of us in terms of development.
But what hurts me most or what sometimes causes my blood to boil in me is the way and manner in which we treat our community, organization and alma mater. In our community, some of us always refuse to participate in projects to lift the community. For example, whenever there is a road project, people only think that this belongs to only car owners, failing to realize that it is for the benefit of all. Also when we are members of organizations, we feel that it’s running and programs are the work of a few, and therefore, stay away. Likewise, when we graduate from institutions, we do not give back to those institutions. Some of us hardly participate in activities of the institutions whenever we are called upon or identify with the project under taken by their alma maters.
Today, I want to specifically bring into the spotlight, the Alumni association of the University of Liberia. It is not a hyperbole that the University of Liberia has the highest number of graduates in this country. Comparatively speaking, considering the years of existence and number of persons who it had graduated, and continue to graduate, a similar ceremony set for next Wednesday, that institution cannot be compared to any other university in this country, in terms of the number of persons who had walked through its walls of knowledge.
Many of the highly educated people in this country, some of whom are in the status quo, are all products of that institution, referred to as ‘Lux in Tenebris (Light in Darkness), and also sometimes rightly called the “microcosm of the larger society.” Regrettably, it is rare, or sometimes difficult to see these individuals, especially those who have gained what we refer to in mass communication as “Status Conferral,” being part of programs organized by the association that is principally intended to bring graduates together. Since I graduated from that institution, three times; first a one-year certificate in Mass Communication; next a degree in Mass Communication and in recent time, a degree in Law, I have tried to identify with activities of the Alumni Association, by being a part of activities the association is involved in. But my regrets had always been the absence of prominent people who graduated from that institution.
As for the university authority, in order to keep the association alive and functional it has made its duty to always include in the graduation activities, a day for the association, known as the ALUMNI DAY,” a day that is synonymous to that of “HOME COMING, a time for graduates to assemble, interact, share jokes, reflect on the past and also share pleasantries. Moreover, because of the importance of such an association, there is even an Alumni Office at the university. But this has not been successful, as only a few, especially those in leadership would always attend.
From my observation of this indifferent attitude or apathy towards the activities of the association, it is not due to the leadership, but the mentality of some of us, who feel that once we hold certain position, we should not look back. Just recently, when I returned from a funeral in Ghana, I hailed the people of Besakrum, a “village’ in that country, who are trying to transform their village by returning home and undertaking meaningful projects.
As I expected yesterday, which was the Alumni Day on the main campus, when I visited there, only recent and young graduates were seen at the program in the auditorium of the university. I had wished that some of the older graduates, and young ones, some of whom are cabinet ministers, managing directors, senators, representatives and heads of corporate institutions would have also been in attendance.
Besides, I had even thought that there would be some former student’s leaders and activists, many of whom are contributing their quotas to the society because of what they got from the university, to share their experiences, in the wake of the recent student protest on the campus. Regrettably, my expectation did not come through. The mentality and notion that once one finds himself or herself in high positions, there is no need to associate with certain group of people, is what is responsible for this. I am even told that there are some people who whenever they get status in society, do not even associate with their friends and even create this cat-and-mouse attitude.
For me, it is nauseating that graduates of this institution, who are in high positions, would stay away or shun activities of the association. They should always remember that their alma mater would always be their alma mater; hence, they should always strive to identity and associate with it through their association. Those of us who went through those walls should always bear in mind that we will always need the university. Our status in society should not make us to detach ourselves from whence came our knowledge.
Furthermore, today, we are where we are because of what we got from this university. Equally so, we have a role to play to make what it ought to be. God created all of us equally. The only thing is that the others in other countries take their institutions seriously by identifying with them, and also by making their earnest contributions for its upkeep. We, the graduates of the university, no matter our status, should always be a part of its activities. We should make a difference through our presence, contributions and interactions; so that people will know that there is no Liberian way.
It is in this light that I certainly agree with the president of the University of Liberia, Dr. Emmett Dennis, who during yesterday’s Alumni Day, urged graduates to give back to the university. During the occasion which was also intended to present the graduating class to the association, Dr. Dennis reminded students that the institution is going through transitional period, and called for the cooperation of all to move the university forward.
As the “light in darkness,” let us continue to illuminate so that people will see the light to emulate our good examples. Let the old and young ones share their memories and experiences while attending as students and their present status in society. How good and pleasant that would be for brethrens to be together. I end by saying, we should never forget the bridge that we crossed to success; or from mat to mattress as well as from backwaters to prosperity. I REST MY CASE.