By D. Garkpe Gedepoh
In the late 1970s, I was intrigued as a teenager to see a little man who was barely 5 feet tall walking on Broad Street in Central Monrovia with a mat under his arm. From a glance I thought he was a Muslim who was going to the mosque to pray, because was he wearing a plain Vai shirt, long trousers, and a pair of sandals. But I immediately shifted my thoughts when someone spoke to him and said, “Good afternoon Mr. Porte”. Then I realized that it was Albert Porte the writer who was also viewed as a radical; a real progressive Liberian from start to finish; the fearless little man who carried his mat at all times, because he was ready to go to jail anytime for his beliefs and the stance he took against the Liberian Government in advocating the rights and real cause of the Liberian people.
Then came the so-called progressives, infiltrating the political landscape and floundering rhetorics that resembled battle cries – much like revolutionary fighters as if they where ready to lunch a military offense against the oligarchy. They professed to be enlightened with a higher political consciousness, and that they were going to change the Liberian political landscape which was controlled by a handful of political elites to democracy by the masses. So, the destitute masses hailed their rhetorics and slogans, and immediately volunteered to spread the news in anticipation of the so-called revolution just like wild fire.
The Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) was the first to set things into motion, headed by Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh. Dr. Amos Sawyer was also a founding member of this movement. This was followed by another movement called The Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL), which was led by Gabriel Baccus Matthews. The political atmosphere in Liberia at that time (late 1970s) was beginning to heat up much faster than Liberians could handle.
Now, Dr. Tipoteh, formerly called, Augustus Roberts, was much respected and admired among the masses because he seemed highly educated, and appeared very simple – wearing khaki trousers, white T-shirt, and a pair of sandals made from a vehicle tire inner tube. The base of the sandals was made from a half inch thick pattern rubber mat which was cut in the shape of his feet and it held the stripes intact. Many less fortunate Liberians admired Tipoteh for his innovations in creating the sandals. It became popular almost instantly, that the masses began wearing the locally made sandals simply to identify with MOJA or Dr. Tipoteh. They then named the sandals “Tipoteh”. So “Tipoteh” became a household product in Liberia, and I personally began to admire Dr. Tipoteh.
Dr. Amos Sawyer on the other hand, was hailed as a political scientist at the University of Liberia by some students from the political science department. And, like Sawyer, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh was also a founding member of MOJA who spurred the group ideas that resembles socialism; but unlike his comrades, Fahnbulleh was an admirer of Fidel Castro, and cares less about western attire or way of life.
By the mid 1970s some progressive Liberians were beginning to change their western names to tribal names to identify with their ethnic groups, and to show solidarity to the revolution. Thus Joseph Chesson Jr. became known as Chea Chepo, Khasu Roberts – Kona Khasu and the list goes on.
These self-acclaimed revolutionary leaders from MOJA and PAL with floundering rhetorics and masquerading as erudite, intelligentsia, gave us the appearance that they should be in charge of the Liberian government rather than President William R. Tolbert and his government officials.
Words like “native” and “indigenous” were constantly echoed – making one to feel that if you had indigenous blood in your vein then Liberia was rightfully yours. And without investigating the matter some of us began to think of our own entitlements as Liberians. I thought to myself, “My mother and father were born in the village, and they have tribal blood in their veins, and so I’m a bona fide Liberian.
Nevertheless, we children never thought about this type of divisive entitlement before. Instead, we always knew that we were Liberians and appreciated and respected our various tribal groups. This was the inception of the divide that would later result to chaos and anarchy in Liberia for nearly three decades.
In the early stage of their campaign to bring down the True Wing Party Government or the Americo-Liberian oligarchy, the so-called progressives were very ostentatious; they frequently used slogans like, “No more sleeping, our eyes are opened” and “In the cause of the people, the struggle continues”. They delivered grandiloquent speeches in Clara Town, Logan Town, New Kru Town, and other local communities to identify the imperfections and shortcomings of the oligarchy but rendered no concrete solutions to the plight of the masses – only rhetorics!
Then, on April 12, 1980, the Tolbert government was overthrown and the credit was attributed to MSgt. Samuel K. Doe thus bringing down the Americo-Liberian oligarchy, and giving the progressives the opportunity to fix the imperfections that they heralded. But unfortunately they could not put things in order. Instead, they created more problems and made us to suffer for more than three decades.
One of Liberia most popular and well respected traditional musician who frequented the football fields those days, singing inspirational songs like “Tarjay” to motivate team members, also went on to compose songs from the rhetorics of the so-called progressives. I remembered Anthony Nagbe (the famous Tejah-Julu) singing a song that went, “No more sleeping, Liberia, our eyes are opened, the struggle continues”. And later in 1980, Tejah-julu composed yet another song for the revolution, “We say thanks to the People Redemption Council, our savior, our redeemer”.
Young Liberians were highly motivated and made to think that progressive changes were at the end of the tunnel and that the train had reached the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, in 1984, great disappointment surfaced when the so-called progressives dismantled their revolutionary machinery and divided themselves to chase the Liberian presidency. They formed several political parties, and bitterly fought for more than 25 years against one another to grab the president’s seat as if it was a boxing trophy. Some of them even formed rebel organizations when things didn’t go their way, while the rest supported rebel movements seeking to oust elected governments.
Today, they have become failed progressives and are now begging for handouts from their godmother Ellen Sirleaf; opening the president’s door, chasing presidential motorcades and performing police duties such as directing traffic and telling folks where to park their vehicles. Some of them even grumble when younger Liberians occupy positions in government. Lots of them are extremely upset because no one seems to pay them any attention, and that most of them have not been offered decent or well paying jobs in the Sirleaf-led government.
The trouble is that some of these losers prefer anarchy over stability, because they have attained the tyrannical skills of mayhem and will not hesitate to apply it against the masses they claimed to care about. And that they will do anything to remain on Ma Sirleaf’s gravy train.
It is shameful and heart-broken to note that nearly 35 years of our lives were taking for a free ride by these fake revolutionists, who rubbed our nation, plundered into our resources, and helped Charles Taylor desecrate our country, taking us 100 years backwards.
Now, without any compulsion, these losers want us to believe that they still have the solutions to clean up the political mess that they created in Liberia.
Why the progressives failed with Dr. Sawyer?
Among the failed progressives Dr. Sawyer was the most blessed, or one might say the person who was given the most opportunities to make things right in Liberia. And unlike his comrades, this so-called progressive had the international support that was needed to make a difference in Liberia. He became interim president of Liberia, enjoying the support of ECOWAS. He even traveled with Ecomog Guards (ECOWAS peace keepers) by his side, but was unable to prepare the country for general or presidential elections. Instead, he established his own military machine called, “The Black Berets” which was responsible for his share of mayhem in the country. He wasted no time in printing his own currency and gave our people justifications for his actions.
So, I will like to ask Liberia so-called political Albert Einstein this question: Can you (Amos Sawyer) be of any use to contemporary Liberian politics? I’ll answer this for you in the negative not to be pessimistic; but quite frankly, Mr. Sawyer aligned himself just like a sadist, a political con artist, and propagandist. And sadly, he was one of the masterminds of the Liberian genocide that wiped away nearly 500,000 people, but his name was missing from the TRC recommendations for his role.
Furthermore, as chairman of the National Constitution Commission in the mid 1980s, Mr. Sawyer headed the redrafting of the Liberian constitution which created chaos in the country three years after his submission of the completed draft. He then partnered with Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to design war plans for the destruction of Liberia. And when he became dissatisfy with Taylor and the outcome of the war, he went to Banjul, The Gambia, to form his own interim government which he called the Interim Government of National Unity in total disrespect of the Liberian Constitution, while a sitting president was still in office in the country. And after the death of President Samuel K. Doe, he refused to obey the constitution which states that the vice president must assume the office of President of the nation. He got his colleagues to appoint him as interim president, and then made all of them cabinet ministers in his so-called Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), thereby trashing the very law he professed was morally good for the nation – much like his rebel counterpart Charles Taylor. He made sure all his cabinet ministers had their doctorate degrees on their shoulders: Dr. Potatoes, Doctor Eddoes, Doctor Plantains, and he Sawyer was the Doctor Rabbit because he is so treacherous. And we got nothing out of the doctors, they all turned out to be empty shells, the rest is history.
For five long years Sawyer served as Interim Head of State of Liberia and ran a Monrovia-based government. In 1997, he was instrumental in manipulating the presidential elections when he introduced “Proportional Representation”, which states that any presidential candidate who wins the electoral votes in a county gets to carry all legislative seats in said county – Thus making his good friend Charles Taylor the victor. Taylor won about 95% of the Liberian Legislature due to Sawyer’s sinister plan to rob the nation. He knew that Taylor was in absolute control of Greater Liberia during the 1997 elections and no one were allowed to canvass in Taylor controlled territory, so “Proportional Representation” was going to put Taylor’s National Patriotic Party in charge of the entire Liberian Legislature. And though he claimed that Taylor was no friend of his, but it was an opened secret that on many occasions he sat in the Ducor Palace Hotel (his makeshift mansion/office and residence) and clandestinely updated Taylor on activities in Monrovia.
When Charles Taylor lunched his rebellion, Sawyer who was bent on supporting Taylor’s war was confronted about the thousands of innocent Liberians who would lose their lives due to the war, and the consequences of the civil war. But from the conning lips of Sawyer I heard these words, “I don’t care how many people die, once we get Doe”. By his utterances of the word “We” means him (Sawyer), and the rest of the civil war architects didn’t care about the lost of innocent lives in Liberia.
This man doesn’t care about Mama Liberia my people, and he was a political strategist of the Liberian civil war who played his role as advisor to the chief architect of the war (Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf). Should a man like Sawyer be held accountable for his direct involvement in the desecration of Liberia? Why should he be given the opportunity to craft another very important document like the decentralization of Liberia (Governance Commission)? WHY? This is an honorable responsibility that Mrs. Sirleaf has placed in the hands of a treacherous and dishonorable person (a failed progressive). How can we trust him to be responsible for drafting any laws that will govern the operations and elections of local or municipal governments in Liberia? How? Unfortunately, there’re so many Sawyer-like fail progressives masquerading in contemporary Liberian government.
The Story of the Pitiful Monkey (Gbugeelay)
Sometimes when I think of the Sawyer-like mentality or the behaviors of some of these failed progressives, I tend to see our 35 years of grieve in a story my father told me about the pitiful monkeys that destroyed his family rice farm in Bo, Rivercess County when he was a child. He said one year they barely had any rice to eat, because their farm was destroyed by some pitiful monkeys that usually travel in a group of 75 to a 100.
Gbugeelay is the Bassaw (Bassa) name for this breed of monkey. It has white hairy spots on both sides of the jaws and chin, and a small head. And though the face looks innocent as if it won’t do any harm, but this breed is very clever and destructive. People called it pitiful monkey because the face looks so pitiful that you would immediately feel sorry for the monkey the moment you see the face. But in reality, this dangerously clever monkey will thrive on your sympathy while taking advantage of your emotions, and then do damage to your farm. It’s a very treacherous animal. Dr. Amos Sawyer behavior is tantamount to that of Gbugeelay.
By description, Mr. Sawyer do have an innocent looking face just like Gbugeelay, with a charming voice, and knows how to manipulate Liberian politics, and most times able to persuade the masses with conning words. He seems to wear a sort of deceptive mask on his face and a doctorate degree on his shelves to convince you of his brilliance, but a miscreant at heart. Like his colleagues (the rest of the failed progressives), he has become a political leech who refuses to retire and constantly find ways to suck the political life blood of the state. He has also refused to exit the political stage even after failing to respectfully play his role – much like his failed comrades. Nevertheless, leeches do not go away unless one applies FIRE to their backs!
One of Sawyer’s MOJA comrades Boima Fahnbulleh had an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer Online Magazine in a 2005. In that interview, Dr. Fahnbulleh who has served as President Ellen Sirleaf’s National Security Advisor said he did not believe in the election of local leaders (superintendents). He said, “Elected superintendents (county officials) could be just as corrupt and tyrannical as their government counterparts”. This failed progressive who has been working very close to Sirleaf sees nothing wrong with micro managing the counties. He has consistently said that he believes in decentralization but not in the election of county superintendents or local leaders. These are some of the failed progressives working around the president, and playing key roles in contemporary Liberian government.
So, Sawyer and his comrades have become failed politicians. In other words, they are politically unhealthy to emulate. They believe in some sort of peculiar entitlement to the Liberian political waters which makes them to appear as leeches on the country’s political life. So, I don’t think it’s healthy for us to learn failed and deceptive tactics from them. Moreover, young Liberian politicians who mean well for the nation should not allow any of these losers to be their mentors least the nation will fall back into turmoil. What can you learn from the non-progressives, who heralded rhetorics devoid of any substance, and slogans but no pragmatic solutions to the plight of the Liberian masses?
But it appears that these political leeches are determine to play in Liberia political waters and won’t leave until Liberians rid the waters of all leeches, or find clean waters for contemporary Liberia, so that future posterity don’t inherit a failed state. It’s time for these leeches to retire. We’ve waited for more than 35 years for them to deliver on their empty promises, but today we have a failed state and nothing to show for it. Therefore, it’s fair to say that the future of Liberia is in the hands of God, and should also be in the hands of young patriotic Liberians with pragmatic visions of a real democratic society, instead of these failed progressives or losers who lack the solutions to the crisis they created.
We can see that freedom of speech has created a peaceful revolution – A revolution without bullets; one that has the ability to create healthy ideas that can expand on our contemporary intellectual dialogues. So let us receive some benefits from dialogues without bullets. And though Dr. Tipoteh was a part of the failed progressive movements of the 1970s, but I’ve found one worthy recommendation from him that is helpful to a peaceful revolution, “Let there be more Jaw-Jaw instead of War-War”. This should be the way forward for contemporary Liberia. Mr. Frank Sainworla (a Catholic radio announcer), said it best on his radio program “Topical Issues”, which ran a promo that sounded like this, “Let there be dialogues and not bullets, agree to disagree, speak your mind always”.
It’s time for us to correct the wrongs that has kept our nation in a none-productive loop, so that our real progressive citizens don’t loose hope and perish without contributing meaningfully. This is the healthiest way forward; the healthiest of all revolutions because it doesn’t impose or infringe on the rights of the aggressors, but make room for all to be heard, the good and the bad/worthless.
It’s time to begin the palaver hut dialogues to discuss the TRC report to heal the nation and repair the broken Liberian Judiciary. It’s time to train more judges and erect better court houses and penitentiary facilities that can conform to normal human standards, not animal standards. It’s time to train the Liberian police to be the real keeper of the peace, not paid agents with guns who are ready to repeat another November 7, 2011 incident. It’s time to train the Armed Forces to protect the borders and territorial waters of Liberia, and to expand on civil engineering and public works, not just foot soldiering, or as a stand-by force ready for crowd control in the event of a demonstration.
We can no longer sit and wait for things to happen in our country, or grumble at these failed progressives/politicians. The solutions to our problems rest solely in God’s hands and ours. That is why we must seek to motivate all Liberians to get totally and unequivocally involved in nation building in order to transcend our glorious land of liberty to the zenith by God’s command. Though our quest for change in the right direction may seem difficult, however, self-annihilation is not the healthiest solution as was introduced by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her cronies. We know that wounds take time to heal, even though, her administration has yet to begin the healing process, and our wounds are taking forever to heal. Reconciliation has been ignored and some of the domestic terrorists or aggressors who victimized the masses have died without participating in the purging process-unable to purge their souls of killing innocent lives.
Nevertheless, we must always embrace conversation instead of confrontation; more Jaw-Jaw and not War-War; in other words, dialogues not hostilities; embracing free speech respectfully, not slander; and sow the seeds of love for our country which is healthy, not hatred; and correct errors that attempt to stall our nation’s stability, and create an honorable mindset while working in the real interest of the masses. As we focus on giving Liberia a good face, let us also focus on making the nation healthy in every political sub-division. Let us establish and maintain a safe environment, so that our real productive and progressive citizens don’t loose hope and perish without contributing meaningfully to our social, political, and economic well being.
About the Author: Mr. D. Garkpe Gedepoh is the Publisher/CEO of African Panorama.