By: Theodore Hodge
Dr. Tipoteh & Charles Taylor
The issue before us is not whether Dr. Tipoteh is alive and making speeches; the issue is whether his contribution is significant or not. Further, the issue is whether he has joined the status quo and abandoned his original quest for advocacy for the poor and marginalized. In my previous article in which I questioned the relevancy of Dr. Tipoteh, I made the point that he has departed from his role as a firebrand. We all knew him as an agitator; someone who fought for social justice, not only in Liberia, but on the African continent. Nobody can dispute that “fact”.
President Tolbert was overthrown and in came a military junta. Surprisingly, Dr. Tipoteh quietly joined the ranks of the military (I use the term loosely here, not to imply that he joined the military), but he joined forces with the young and brutal leaders leading the military revolution. Some of us questioned whether Dr. Tipoteh and the military establishment had the same agenda. Clearly, they did not. The military did not protect the rights and liberty of the common citizen. The military ushered in an iron-fisted rule. We went from one brand of injustice to another. Is it not a good question to ask why Dr. Tipoteh compromised his principles and philosophy to work with a group that did not complement his political agenda? Yet we all know that he gladly worked with the military…
Later on, he worked with and praised Charles Taylor. Could any objective-minded person reason that Charles Taylor was a more a democratic leader than William Tolbert? Yet this man was comfortable working with Charles Taylor, even when it was clear that Charles Taylor was nothing but a thug. Were his principles not compromised once more? Charles Taylor was indicted on war crimes and the world was shocked by the revelation of horror stories under the Taylor regime. Wasn’t there a clear indication of bad judgment that the once famous Human Rights activist had collaborated with the human rights abuser?
I hasten to make a point clear here: I am not insinuating that Dr. Tipoteh worked actively with Charles Taylor. But his silence and inactivity amounted to subtle support. Had he not supported Charles Taylor, why didn’t he mount the same kind of resistance he had mounted against the Tolbert regime? Why did he lower the bar? Why did the fight for freedom and justice take a back row?
Now comes the EJS administration. Evidence abounds that corruption rules the day. Our country has retrogressed. By any statistical measure, the country is worse off than it was forty years ago. Corruption and social injustice are more commonplace than they were forty years ago. Yet, it is the silence of the great social rights advocate that stuns the keen observer. That was the gist of my last article upon which I did not fully elaborate for the sake of brevity… but I hope the crux of the matter was not lost on my readers.
Now comes Mr. J. Kpanneh Doe in defense of Dr. Tipoteh. Mr. Doe expresses admiration for my ability as a writer and I hereby reciprocate the compliment. Perhaps we could found a mutual friendship society. But he hurriedly runs to chastise me for having the audacity to critique the role Dr. Tipoteh plays in our national society. He runs on to produce “facts” that run counter to my allegation that Dr. Tipoteh’s role has disappointingly diminished over the years. But do the so-called “facts” he produces amount to anything of substance? We should let the jury decide this one, since the matter has reached the court of public opinion.
In defense of Dr. Tipoteh, and to acquaint the public with the significant activities of Dr. Tipoteh, he presents an archive of subjects addressed by his mentor over the last few years. No details are given, but the readers are supposed to be impressed that Dr. Tipoteh spoke on these topics. What did he say? It doesn’t matter… We have not the slightest clue.
But the defense reaches an embarrassingly low level when Mr. Doe launches into a story that Dr. Tipoteh tells about his rescue and assistance of a child in Monrovia. The child goes out to sell biscuits of the home-baked variety… she wanders far away from home and gets lost. Dr. Tipoteh comes to her aid and doesn’t rest until he gets her home safely.
The narrative is touching. I almost shed tears as I read the moving account. Our great social and human-rights activist and advocate for justice is reduced simply to the role of a Good Samaritan. Okay, let’s concede that the gesture by the Good Dr. Tipoteh was admirable. But what does it have to do with the case under discussion? How does this enhance his stature of Human Rights Advocate? Could this simple gesture of goodwill not be undertaken by any ordinary citizen with a car? Perhaps even a cabdriver? To this little girl and her family, this was a big deal. In the grand scheme of things on the national level, one has to wonder…
In the article to which Mr. Doe responded, I wrote:
“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.”
Mr. Kpanneh Doe clearly falls in that category. He has been a student, or perhaps a kinsman, who is too emotionally attached to the great hero to let go. His young and impressionable mind was molded by the guru and he thinks he owes everything to him. He now considers it his expected duty to defend this old and perhaps fallen hero to the very end. That’s absolute loyalty, but it does nothing to vindicate this man’s honor. My opinion still stands.
For what it’s worth, let me close this piece by a quotation by Mr. Tewroh-Wetoe Sungbeh, brought to us by Mr. J. Kpanneh Doe himself: “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.”
I couldn’t agree more. Didn’t I say the same thing that Dr. Tipoteh simply wanted to be president more than anything else? To answer the question posed in the title, “Is Tipoteh relevant or not?” I answer with an astounding no! And with that, I rest my case.
Author: The opinions expressed here are by Theodore Hodge. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org