LIBERIA: The Dynamics Of A Transforming Society
By Francis W. Nyepon
The real problem with injecting change in Liberia is the lack of new ideas and boldness amongst government functionaries, the press and civil society groups to inspire and stimulate change in behavior, attitude and mindset amongst the majority of our people. Significant Social Transformation must first and foremost remove social rejection as a daily reality for the majority of our people. Secondly, improvements in sanitation, water, hygiene, health, education and livelihood must not remain stalled. Thirdly, it is immoral to continuously subject ordinary Liberians unnecessarily to conditions of abject poverty given the enormous amount of mineral resources and wealth our country is endowed with.
Our society cannot and will not change unless and until we ourselves fundamentally change. By change, the author refers here to social makeover, improved livelihood and provision of basic services to improve standard of living. The idea here is that if in fact Liberian leaders desire real change, then the livelihood of those living at the bottom of the social strata must fundamentally and strategically be improved. In other words, the conscience of our people must be appealed to in order for real transformation to occur. Our society needs to be injected with appropriate new thinking with bold new policy formulation to basically root change in the people from the bottom up. This author does not see Change necessarily as building fancy hospitals and school when there are no sufficient personnel to run them properly or set the roadmap for restructuring the social order within which they must operate.
In order for Liberia to fundamentally change and go through this kind of significant transformation that the author is pointing towards, the government must first engage in some fundamental restructuring of its own and lead the charge. The government must strategically and methodically take the lead in lifting people out of poverty, misery and hopelessness. Those whose focus is based upon using the government as a spring board to acquire personal wealth must immediately be castigated and internally exiled, and the government must became the escort in a massive campaign to castigate such individuals by confiscating ill-gotten property and wealth. If this isn’t done and we are not careful, disenchantment could undermine the huge support base that President Sirleaf has vigorously championed over the past three years. Liberia cannot and will not and must never again allow itself to be seen as a war-ravaged country ruled by thugs, or governed by authoritarian or autocratic leaders.
This author is of the firm belief that if nothing is done to fundamentally change Liberians from the bottom up, then the country could be faced with the reality of hope being turned into despair. In other words, if we are not careful, our post-war hopes and aspirations could be turned into despondency, with corrupt, incompetent and divisive individuals claiming the higher ground once again as they successfully did for over 20 years. The creeping in of a democratic framework of governance, and rearranging the socio-economic order after decades of burdens under debased tyrannies and autocracies must not be silenced. If nothing else, transparency, accountability, respect for the rule of law, decentralized democratic practices should be our guiding policy if stability and growth are to be sustained and sincerely rooted in the social order of the day.
The new political dispensation, which elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as President, was intended to change and evolve into a democratically driven society where the personification of integrity, honesty and a deep sense of purpose and nationalism would be achieved. But what went wrong with the excitement and enthusiasm with which Liberians embraced the roadmap to change and the beacon of hope which President Sirleaf personified? Did the cadre of intellectuals and technocrats become visionless? Did the new administration get duped? Did Recycled Politicians overwhelmed the process and offered no new ideas to transform the society?
Except for the President and a handful of committed and dedicated individuals, the majority of policymakers and bureaucrats have not produced much in terms of creativity and innovation over the past three years. The author believes that is the reason why ordinary Liberians have seen little in terms of progress. What has most of those who have lead ministries and public agencies done in the past 3 years that have assisted in the Dynamics of a Changing Society? Many seem very comfortable riding around the countryside in SUVs with tinted window and trying to make every effort to impress the little people with their temporarily acquired influence and power.
Over the past three years, there have been revelations of gross misuse of public funds at a time when Liberia needs every dime for the monumental reconstruction. The majority of our policymakers seem all too ready to rely exclusively on the ideas of President Sirleaf without offering any of their own. The President is one person, yes she is the visionary, but where are all the progressives who for decades wanted to root fundamental is social ideals?
No public official, past or present, has the right to squander public funds and get away with it. Liberians must stand up, speak up and be counted on the side of real change. For example, property obtained by ill-gotten wealth must be confiscated; officials who knowingly rob the national treasury or the coffer of a public agency should not be allowed to keep stolen loot and walk around the society displaying illegal and ill-gotten exploits. What sort of example would that set for younger generation who make up over 46% of the population? Could this be the reason why ordinary Liberians call their public servants, ‘Recycled Politicians’?
The time has come for all to work together to raise our expectations and transform our country into world-class, high-performing communities, not just for some, but for all our people. This author believes that Change is illusive unless and until it touches the lives of real people making them socially upward mobile. The author believes that introducing multi-party elections at the county, metropolitan, municipal and district levels would ensure the election of competent people to manage the urban, rural or local communities. This belief is premised on the assumption that electorates become informed and would vote for competent persons base upon their dedication and commitment to uplifting, advancing and improving livelihood, standard of livings, health and basic services.
Because good local governance and democratic decentralization has not become widely broadcast or implemented by the Sirleaf administration, our people are not fully realizing their social aspirations. According to the UNDP, Sustained Poverty Reduction requires equitable growthbut this author would suggest that it also requires poor people to have political power that allows them to decide their future given applicable resources and political will. And the best way this author believes that Liberia should achieve significant social transformation in a manner consistent with human development objectives is by building strong and deep forms of democratic governance at all levels of society, especially at the local and rural levels.