Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
There are certain words of phrases that are self-explanatory that one does not need to consult a dictionary or seek other means to determine the meaning of such words or phrases, one of which is “unification,” which on the surface, one can deduce that it derives from the verb, “unify,” which as a transitive verb means, “cause to become one; make into a unit,” with synonyms- consolidate, merge and combine.” Also, as an intransitive verb, it means, “become one.” As for unification, it means, “the act of unifying; the state of being unified.
Based on the definitions of the two key words, “unify,” and “unification,” one is not left to wonder or be in a state of bewilderment as to the actual meaning of the words. And so when one speaks of unification day, it is clear that it denotes unity, oneness and brotherhood. Apparently, it was in this light many years ago that the administration of the late William V.S. Tubman, Liberia’s longest serving President initiated what is known as the “National Unification Day,” to be observed the 14th of May each year as a national holiday to rekindle in the people the essence and significance of unification.
Accordingly, in keeping with normal protocol, the sitting President always declares this day as a national holiday in an official proclamation. In this year’s official proclamation, President Sirleaf, in line with this tradition, declared tomorrow, May 14, as National Unification Day to be observed throughout the country as a national holiday and ordered all public buildings and business houses closed during the observance.
The proclamation said the observance is in consonance with an Act of Legislation enacted in 1960, declaring the 14th of May of each year as a National Unification Day of Liberia and recounted that since the Unification and Integration Policy became an integrated part of the National Development Plan, the Nation has seen marked progress and improvement in all spheres of national endeavor, particularly in the economic, educational, communication and social fields.
The proclamation also recalled that the wisdom of the Unification Policy has found expression in the national fabric through the representation of all sections of the country in the Legislature and every other branch of government thereby prompting conditions of peace and unity in the country. The proclamation, noted that the “Government of Liberia adheres to the principles of justice, fair-play and equal opportunities for all regardless of tribe or clan, section, creed or economic status so that Liberians might be united in a consolidated whole.’’
As we observe this day tomorrow, the million dollar question is whether or not the essence of this day has been accomplished over the years, or that it is only being observed because it is a law that must be respected. Furthermore, if this policy had brought about “marked progress and improvement,” then, why all of these conflicts over the years that balkanize the country, resulting to unimaginable deaths, wanton destruction and displacement of thousands of its compatriots?
The framers of this policy had good intention, perhaps based on the state of affairs at the time, but the issue is that are we as a people and nation, achieved those things intended for this policy. Today, there still conflicts, among some of our people, perhaps for land; there is this issue of poverty, there is this issue of the lack of infrastructures in parts of the country such as hospital, schools and other facilities. How can we as a people and nation speak of unification when the bulk of people complain on a daily basis of lacking the basic necessities of life?
Also, how can we talk of unification when some of the people feel neglected like in the case of the people of Gbi-Doru District in Nimba County and District Number Two in Grand Bassa County? Similarly, how can we talk about unification in a country which is endowed with enormous natural resources, but is not impacting the lives of the people?
Indeed, as stated, the idea of this policy might have been good, considering its purpose and rationale, much has to be done. We cannot speak of unification if some of those basic needs of the people are not solved; we cannot talk about unification if poverty is yet to be tackled significantly to improve the living standard of the people; we cannot talk of unification, when the decentralization policy of the country, which is crucial to this day, is yet to gain ground. Don’t ask me about the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
As the word denotes, “UNIFICATION” refers to “the act of unifying; the state of being unified,” it means that to achieve the goal and objective of this, and so to achieve the real meaning of this policy, we, as a nation and people, must review this policy to ensure that those things such as equitable distribution of the resources of the country; the issue of social responsibility on the part of concessions in the country, intensifying the war against corruption; tackling the issue of land disputes in parts of the country, and more importantly, the issue of poverty must be prioritized.
As we observe this day, without any official program, let me say that much needs to be done to justify the existence of this policy, so as to move this country from backwaters to prosperity.
Until we realize that a policy is only good when its intent is realized as it is not in the case of this National Unification Day, I Rest My Case.