By J. Kpanneh Doe
In Theodore Hodge’s article, “The Great Liberian Drama: The Leading Lady and her Supporting Cast” that was published in The Perspective’s August 22, 2014 edition was short on specifics. Hodge wrote about President Ellen Sirleaf, Amos Sawyer, Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr., Mary Broh, and Togba Nah Tipoteh. A good writer that he is – did not do himself justice. Perhaps, he was too anxious to paint everybody with the same brush, which is dangerous for a fine and experienced writer like him to engage in. Since Hodge seems not to be aware of the activities of Korwreh Duwree Togba-Nah Tipoteh is involved in with Liberians on the ground; perhaps, I could be of help to him – I know him too well. That’s all I intend to do in this article. This is not a rejoinder, rather a presentation of FACTS that can be readily obtained by anyone who wants to present a balanced view of the person he/she is writing about.
First, the analogy of ‘supporting cast’ doesn’t fit Tipoteh. Tipoteh’s advocacy and work with the Liberian people since the 1960s is an open book. Having made this point clear, let’s look at the reference he made of Tipoteh’s lack of activities in Liberia. The critique started of sarcastically:
“Then there is Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh. No, he's not an active member of the official circle, but he plays a key part, anyway. It's like a great actor in a movie. He doesn't have to deliver great lines or play a great role, all he has to do is make an appearance in a scene. It was the late great Dr. Martin Luther King who said, "In the end, we will remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." And so it is with Dr. Tipoteh. The silence from him is deafening.”
Find below a partial list of Tipoteh’s engagement with the President, government policies, the general public and the Liberia people:
(1) “Talking with the President: Poverty Reduction: The Case of One Poor Liberian” – The Agenda, October 3, 2008.
(2) “Talking with the President: In Praise of Teachers” – The Agenda, October 10, 2008.
(3) “Talking with the President: Leaders and Crisis” – The Agenda, October 17, 2008.
(4) “Talking with the President: The Obama Victory” – The Agenda, November 2008.
(5) “Talking with the President: The Kakata Retreat” – The Agenda, November 1, 2008.
(6) “Talking with the President: The DRC Crisis” – The Agenda, November 13, 2008.
(7) “Talking with the President: The Food Problem” – The Agenda, November 27, 2008.
(8) “Talking with the President: The Case of a Lost Child” – The Agenda, December 4, 2008.
(9) “Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh’s Message to the People of Liberia” – The Agenda, December 23, 2008.
(10) “Togba-Nah Tipoteh: Misunderstood and Misinterpreted” – The Liberian Dialogue, April 25, 2010.
(11) “Presidential Aspirant 2011: Tipoteh’s New Year’s Message” – by Tipoteh, 2011.
(12) “Tipoteh: I’m Back and Prepared” – The New Republic, June 26, 2013.
(13) “Sirleaf Sends Out Peace Message – But Tipoteh Differs” – August 20, 2013.
(14) “Liberia: So, So ‘Lies’” – The New Republic, February 7, 2014.
(15) “State of the People: Liberia Government Must Take Action for ‘Growth with Development’” – The Perspective, March 18, 2014.
(16) “Tipoteh on Correcting GOL Budget Short Fall” – May 2, 2014.
(17) “Tipoteh Presents Action to Make Economy Strong” – The Analyst, May 30, 2014.
(18) “What the UMC’s Big Tent Looks Like in Liberia” – United Methodist Insight, June 4, 2014.
(19) “Tipoteh Cites More Reasons for High US Rate… Names American Citizens in Gov’t as One Factor” – The Inquirer, July 3, 2014.
(20) “Tipoteh Says President Sirleaf Breaks Laws - - Calls for Due Process of Law” – The Analyst, July 11, 2014.
(21) “Ellen Takes Side In Nimba Protest” – The New Republic, July 13, 2014.
(22) “On Gov’t Decision On Violent Protest in Nimba: Tipoteh Disagrees with Ellen… Says She Breaks the Law” – The Inquirer, July 14, 2014.
(23) “High US Rate Causing Price Hike” – The Inquirer, July 14, 2014.
(24) “Tipoteh Calls for New National Elections Commission” – The Analyst, July 22, 2014.
Having missed the proof provided above, Hodge continued:
“Sadly, there are those who still believe he has fought the good fight. After all, he was a teacher and teachers have a way of embedding onto the minds of impressionable youth certain ideas or images it is difficult or impossible to erase. He shall, therefore, always remain a good memory to his faithful students, but to the rest of us he shall remain less glorified. In fact, he will remain vilified. To rage all that hell and then turn silent and complacent in subsequent administrations is an abomination.”
The question is, where was he when the Editor of theperstive.org wrote the introduction to Tipoteh State of the People’s message titled: “Liberian Government Must Take Action for ‘Growth with Development’” (thepespective.org March 18, 2014 edition). The introduction reads:
On February 3rd, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, founding leader of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) and Presidential Candidate in Liberia’s 2011 Elections, delivered his annual ‘State of the People’ message to Liberians at an event organized by the Fiamah Future Intellectual Discourse Center. Delivered a week after President Sirleaf’s 2014 Annual Message to the nation, Dr. Tipoteh’s speech clearly outlined the serious economic problems (particularly the deepening mass poverty) plaguing the people of Liberia.
Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh ,a development economist by training, professor Tipoteh explains that contrary to what the President declared in her annual message, Liberia “is not stronger, safer, securer and steadier than in the past”. Liberians, he notes, are still trapped in a “growth without development” syndrome or nightmare, mainly because of a chronic lack of commitment on the part of the present and previous Liberian governments to take action for “growth with development”. Below is the full text of Dr. Tipoteh’s speech, which demonstrates his classic style of elegant simplicity of language.”
Dat it there - oh! As Liberians are fond of saying in case like this!
I need not bother you any further with Hodge’s quarrel with the man he knows nothing about. Now, let me share with you how involved Tipoteh is with the ordinary people. The story is about “The Case of a Lost Child;” published in the December 4, 2008 edition of The Agenda:
Talking With the President: The Case of a Lost Child
“Madam President, once again Happy National Agricultural Fair (NAF) Day. My Commentary for NAF Day was made last Friday and so it will not be repeated here. However, as we celebrate NAF Day it would do us all some good to reflect on the plight of our children. In this Commentary, attention is drawn to the plight of a lost child, who was selling in the streets of Monrovia for her family to get money to buy food and send her to school.
“Two days ago, on my way home at about 6 O’clock in the evening, I observed that a crowd had gathered at the intersection of Broad and Johnson Streets, closer to the Johnson Street side, between Broad and Carey Streets. I parked my jeep and asked what was going on. I was told that a little girl had come to the city center to sell some home-baked biscuits in a covered white plastic bucket, but could not find her way back home.
“Then, I heard someone say that the girl lived in Duala, near the Duala market on Bushrod Island. There was a lot of talking and even some shouting with some people in the crowd quarreling with the child while others were making suggestions about how she could get home, wherever that was. When the little girl emerged out of the confusion, stopped crying and seemed clear about Duala as being the area of her residence, I intervened and promised to drive her to Duala to conduct a search for her home.
“Most people in the crowd approved of my intervention and allowed me to take the little girl into my jeep to begin the search for her home. In the jeep, I began a conversation with the little girl and she told me at the outset that her name was Nyonohn Wleh. Nearing the Gabriel Tucker Bridge, she said that her parents lived in Duala and she could identify her home when we reached Duala. Approaching Logan Town, little Nyonohn Wleh changed her story, saying that she was going to Duala to see her Uncle. By that time, she had told me her age, mentioning that she was 11-years-old.
“When we arrived in Duala, Nyonohn Wleh, holding on to her nearly empty biscuit bucket, could not identify any place in Duala as being her home or that of her Uncle. Then, I said that I would take her to the St. Paul Bridge Police Station so that the police could assist in the search for her home. When the little girl heard what I had said about going to the police, she then started appealing to not take her to the Police Station. Suddenly, she said that one of her Aunts lived near the St. Paul Bridge.
“Thereupon, I drove towards St. Paul Bridge and asked her to identify her Aunt’s place. About 300 yards from the Bridge, Nyonohn Wleh yelled “that’s the place to the left with the bright lights”. So, I drove to that place and parked off the highway. When I asked her for the name of her Aunt, she replied “Aunty Felicia”. Looking for someone who knew Aunty Felicia, I had to wade through a lake of boys, in their low teens, playing pool on make-shift pool tables under a lighted tree.
“My worst fears began to show when no one showed up who knew Aunty Felicia. As a crowd began to gather around my jeep, greeting me with the sound MOJA, MOJA, I took advantage of the friendly disposition and asked some of the greeters to go deeper into the nearby community and ask for Aunty Felicia. I asked Nyonohn Wleh to described Aunty Felicia. She said that her Aunty was dark and fat and she sold farina. Two women were brought to the jeep, but each of them carried a name other than the Felicia name. But the greeters persisted in their probe, which went beyond 7PM and the persistence paid off as a fair and medium sized lady came by the jeep, saying that her name was Felicia.
“I put the inside light of the jeep on and asked her if she knew the little girl in the car. Before I could finish my questioning, she yelled “Nyonohn, what are you doing out this late?” Relief in “my disposition began to glow on my face, as this was the first sign of evidence regarding the family of Nyonohn Wleh. I told Aunty Felicia how I came across the little girl. Then Aunty Felicia told me that Nyonohn Wleh lived in Virginia, near the Deaf and Dumb School, with her Grandmother. Aunty Felicia volunteered to take the little girl home if we could arrange taxi fare, to and fro, for her.
“As I wanted to see the end of this sad but regular or daily story in our country, I told Aunty Felicia that I would drive her and the little girl to the Grandmother’s place, despite the fact that I had been on this case for more than two hours. Sure enough, when we reached the rear of the Deaf and Dumb School, we met the Octogenarian Grandmother exhibiting at once disbelief and relief upon seeing her Grandchild. In fact, the Grandmother could not take it all, as she began to sit on the bare ground in the yard, near the jeep, and began to cry with her hands on her head. The Grandmother had sent out a search party for Nyonohn Wleh, but returned empty-handed. A family member there whispered to me saying, that Nyohn Wleh’s Aunt in the United States of America sends money on a monthly basis for the upkeep of the family, but the little girl is sent out daily to sell biscuits, right after school. When asked about the little girl’s parents, I was told that the parents are alcoholics.
“Madam President, I thought to bring Nyonohn Wleh’s plight to your attention because it is representative of the plight of our children in our country. We should, can and must do better. Starting this week, I will show the family how the money from the USA can be used so that Nyonohn Wleh stays in school and sells no more.”
This is a fraction of Tipoteh’s involvement with the Liberian people; those who do not know him have all sorts of fairy tales about him; “He’s too tight-fisted (mean); too honest. Whenever he travels abroad on government’s account, he usually brings receipts and returns the money he did not use. He lives a simple life; his automobile might be 20 years old, and his wife must see something in him that the Liberian people are missing.
According to the longtime social and political activist and publisher, Mr. Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh of The Liberian Dialogue:
“Togba-Nah Tipoteh is a rare breed of a human being who you don’t see quite often in Liberia. He’s principled, disciplined, smart, humbled, uncorrupted and consistent in his politics, the way he live his life, and the seriousness he has shown since he arrived in Liberia in the early 70s, to contribute to the development of his homeland.
“Those traits are admirable in a country where politicians and the person at the lowest end of the totem pole always want to get over at the expense of the citizens and the nation, and are also admirable traits for anyone who aspires to work in public service. And if Liberia can get many more Tipotehs to lead, inspire, and show Liberians how to carry themselves gracefully in their politics and their daily lives the way he has done for decades, we all could be better humans, and Liberia, perhaps could be the developed and prosperous nation we all want it to be…
“However, for a population that needs a complete overhaul in their standard of living, and a country that needs serious transformation and infrastructure development, one would think Togba-Nah Tipoteh is the overwhelming ideal choice to lead a nation that needs serious attention.
“As it is now, and because he is often misunderstood and misinterpreted, Togba-Nah Tipoteh will never get a chance to be the president he always wanted to be.
“What a shame!”
(The Liberian Dialogue’s April 25, 2010 edition: “Togba-Nah Tipoteh: Misunderstood & Misinterpreted”)
About the Author: J. Kpanneh Doe can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org