Speech at the Retreat of the Federation of Nimba Youth and Student Organizations (FENYSO)
By: Emmanuel Dolo
I am grateful to you the leaders of FENYSO for inviting me to be one of your guest speakers on this your first post-war retreat. That delegates came from all over the county to attend this event is heart-warming.
Platform guests, leaders of FENYSO, and all: thank you. I would like to speak to you this afternoon on the theme: Rethinking, Rebranding, and Rebuilding Nimba County.
When your business reputation starts to sink, what do you do? You rethink, rebrand, and you rebuild it. Nimba County should be viewed as a business. Our county is at the verge of “bankruptcy” because it has been blessed with lots of assets, but they are being underutilized and/or misused. The time has come for us to stop the negative tide and revive Nimba County.
Nimba County is not a mere ordinary place. It is an extraordinary homeland. And we must treat it as such. We boast of being the second highest populated county in Liberia outside of Montserrado, which hosts the nation’s capital. We boast of high grade iron ore and diamond deposits. We boast of having some of the most educated sons and daughters that this country has ever produced. Then, how come, only two of our sons: Senator Prince Johnson and Senator Adolphus Dolo are the two names that have catapulted us onto the national stage in recent times?
Please note that this is not a derogatory or political comment of any sort. These men fought valiantly to protect our people when they were in dire circumstances. But in peace time, why is it that the only names that still brand our county are these two people – one a successful businessman and the other a kin maker in our national politics?
The time has come for us to rethink, rebrand, and rebuild Nimba County, and the foremost responsibility for this quest lies with you the young people, although not exclusively. We must create a new visual image of Nimba County. We must project a new future of Nimba County to our citizens and to others. Time has come for us to create a long-term strategic plan for Nimba County that attacks the following vices and gives all Nimba citizens a stake in the county’s development. We need to apply conscious and focused efforts in taking on our:
We must improve the quality of our schools and create a “buzz” around the outstanding performance of our students. We need to assess the quality of leadership and management of all our public institutions. We need to establish a county-bred reconciliation effort. As one of the counties outside of Montserrado that boast of having five ethnic groups, we need to draw on the strengths of our rich diversity rather than use it for disunity.
Our agricultural production is not commensurate with our population and land size. As a largely agrarian people, we need to take advantage of our land size and move from subsistence farming to commercial or industrial farming. We must grow more foods and not go to Guinea to buy food products for our meals and market.
We must create bold entrepreneurial strategies that address the large scale unemployment in the county by developing a Nimba Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to manage our county development fund as well as attract other investments exclusively to our county, whilst creating new employment and mitigating the grinding poverty facing our people.
If you were to enter Ganta, Sanniquellie, Saclepia, Tappita, Bahn, and many of our other so-called cities, it will shock you to notice that our roads are not paved, and there are very few medical facilities and institutions of higher learning. We still have “monkey bridges” in our county when we boast of receiving 1.5 million dollars annually from Arcelor Mittal. How can that be? We must do better.
Our population size, our natural resource endowment, our wealth of educated people, and other assets must be turned into political capital. We must reposition Nimba County to be the place that other counties can measure their success by and not the other way around. This responsibility rests with our lawmakers, our intellectuals, our business people, our youth, our women, our men, our elders. It rests with all of us.
That we boast of five ethnic groups gathered under one auspices mean using our rich diversity of having Krahns, Manos, Gios, Gbis, and Mandingoes to enrich our landscape by saying no to discrimination and our prostitution by political predators for divisive purposes. Ours is a rich county, and we must optimize that wealth.
We are the homeland of Jackson Fiah Doe, whose colleagues unanimously picked to be President of our country. We should stand on his broad shoulders when we are given the national stage. His reputation for leadership, transparency, and unity must be the hallmark of our leaders. Ours is the homeland of two Supreme Court Chief Justices, nationally acclaimed authors and scholars, physicians, politicians, economists, musicians, bankers and many more.
Nimba County must be on the cutting edge and set the trend for all that is good and great in and about Liberia. Nimba County must be a big tent and its citizens must live together harmoniously. Its schools and hospitals must be first rate in education and care delivery. Its roads and bridges must be paved, modernized, and safe. Its economy must be vibrant and its job creation record stellar. Our farms must transition from subsistence to commercial ones in the largest numbers. We must turn our population numbers and big knowledge base into political power.
Let the defining attributes of Nimba County going forward be: “unified, economically self-sufficient, even affluent, politically powerful, and its people intellectually successful.” Let Nimba County supply the brand identity that Liberia as a nation aspires to. Let Nimba set its place in the record books. All things powerful will be added onto it.
In the end, there is every reason to believe that such initiatives will be fully backed by the central government. It is up to us as citizens of Nimba County to take the first visionary, ambitious, and determined steps in this potentially exciting and rewarding journey of rebranding Nimba.
I thank you.