The Suffering Is Unbearable And Its Perpetuation Unconscionable: What do we do about it?
By Gbe Sneh
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
In the heat of the 2005 Presidential Campaigns, a few people used this one-phrase argument, “They will do the same thing.” Teetaa was right! These words have proven prophetic about this administration, much to the chagrin of many, knowing how strongly it was argued that a Sirleaf led government was the best for Liberia, given the candidate pool at the time. This “thing” is no stranger; it is known to most people; it is engrained in the psyche, polity, and very soul of the Liberian nation. CHOPPING is the common name.
Is this “thing” so enshrined that, even when we choose our own leaders, we are still unable to nip it? We have another one, just right at the corner, O! Maybe, we can make the correction in time to VOTE WISELY in the coming mid-term CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONTIONS. Time to boot-out the looters!
This “thing” is also a warmonger; we are not fear-mongering; just putting it in perspective, before you start crying out loud! We just concluded a series of civil wars because of this “thing”. Nobody wants to go back there, and precisely why we must find a permanent solution to this “thing”. This is why when the Sirleaf Administration made this “thing” “Public Enemy No.1” at its inauguration, hope rose very high, hope that is fizzling very fast!
So it is, that this “thing” has kept us poor. There is absolutely no reason why a person living in a four million population country endowed with so many natural resources and vast fertile land should be poor. OMG, NO! We are talking about a nation that during its trying times, practically the whole world deemed “too nice a people to fail”, and responded with record billions of dollars to see Liberia through. All Liberian affairs, from its security to economic well-being, were propped by the world community. Yet, this has been the case in Liberia, forever that entire generations have been born into, and have died in poverty. Greedy looters have been keeping us poor. Earlier governments out rightly forced it on us through tyrannical rules, but this time around, we, “ourselves”, chose these looters at the ballot box. TIME TO BOOT THE LOOTER OUT!
To right this immediately, efforts must be made in putting together a viable Congress, one that will actually be abreast of the issues and possess the credentials to truly lead, and one that will follow the rule of law and absolute accountability to the people. Did anyone care who ran for Congress in 2005? No. Well, we better start caring, if we are to avoid this “thing”. Don’t anyone sit on the sidelines; use any of these social forums – Facebook, twitter, online publications, and smart phones. We must all get involved. In Kru, we say, Bitie Due Kli; SCHROOOH! BA_MEN!
I beg to make a pertinent diversion. At St Laurence Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, a few Sundays back, the Epistle, the Gospel, and the Sunday Bulletin were in sync, as paraphrased, “You are guiltier, when you only stand by and watch.”! I whispered to myself, ‘Theo, the Scriptures just quoted you’! I applaud Theo Hodge for his article asking, “Where Are They Now?”, in reference to yesterday’s Freedom Fighters, now “dormant volcanos”. There is every confidence a new and stronger group is on the horizon, but needs the tools to take up the challenges on the ground. This group needs a unified medium; it needs a TV Station! Let’s start raising the MONEY!
The very first chance we got in our political history to choose our leaders, see what we came up with, looters! O, how I wish I could translate my mother’s Kru saying for this one. “Mahneh Nynefon”; the Grebos say, “Jobloken Work”. Yes, we chose the leaders, but see what we got for it – more than nothing, worse! Just, look at that!
Our infant Democracy is experiencing serious growing pains, and the reasons have been abundantly presented in several analytical and critical writings across a wide spectrum of media. These articles and comments all point to a system collapse brought on by a betrayal cursed with mismanagement and a corruption of all time. Yes, there are those bent on “doing the same thing”. Their fad now is “bite and blow”, like big rats do, when they take chunks of your heel in the middle of the night, to keep you snoring. These wise guys take the people’s money, use small to do small, small things for them (giving-back to the people projects…lol!), and then, with “dry faces”, they declare that they are “running” for higher offices! Se! We need these guys to run, alright, but to just keep RUNNING OUT OF TOWN!
When a serious effort was mounted to conduct audits of government entities, in attempts to inch towards keeping this “thing” in check, it was rather unsettling when this administration started kicking back at audit findings, with an altercation culminating in the firing, perhaps squeezing-out of Auditor General Morlu. This, arguably, emboldened looters who were already raiding funds in their areas, given the current levels of corruption! Confronting auditors became the “new normal”; audit inquiries and findings were being met with growls and barks, respectively. Not a single embezzler or tax cheat implicated in any audit has been brought to justice to date. A few high-profile cases were spurred on, but we all know what became of all of them. One notable case, Liberia vs. Edwin Snow, fell to a hung jury. All the effort in mounting the necessary public pressure to bring on these trials was thwarted by a weak and adjudged corrupt judicial system. Now, you tell me how things will get better!
After these judicial failures at the heels of audits challenges led by the administration, the floodgates opened for trashing audit findings. The Ministry of Finance, under Ngafuan, had several big expenditures – over US $50m worth – that did not have the requisite, authorized back-up documents. Very ironic that Ngafuan touts his accounting prowess in his recent feud with Theo Hodge. So, it looks like the big Finance boys and girls went to “Mammie”, crying, “But Mammie we did not do it.” The President followed through by publicly vouching for their trustworthiness. Wow! But, “Mammie”, we are also your children! Why have you let them get away without telling us what they spent all that money on! How we will not be poor! Here we are today, begging for money for EBOLA, and we can blow fifty million dollars on paw-paw pies, just like that?
What if the world gets tired of our nonsense one day, and no more help is pledged? Does that make anyone squirm? I do! EBOLA would have wiped out a huge chunk of Monrovia!
The consolation is that “numbers don’t rot”! We have several well-meaning Liberians who understand, and know how these numbers work, and in due time they will ply their expertise to aid justice, for the benefit of the people. There will always be a tomorrow!
What we do about this “thing” is what we have to start working on now. It is unlikely that the president will resign in the face of pressure from an inner circle that would be facing an uncertain future, should she do so. Remember this administration was to rule just one term? So what happened? With the turn of events, it can be argued that a second term may very well have been orchestrated by the inner circle to allow more time to loot. Thanks to term limits, 12 years is not eternity!
Broad areas to be addressed in attacking this “thing” should include thorough checks on all public candidates, with public media leading on this. Trying to paint the same picture with several brushes is not working my people. How about chopping the canvas into 15 Pieces and painting them by COUNTY! Then we will meet at the National Level to put together a carefully vetted team (CONGRESS). Each county needs to take stock of its representation in Congress. They had NINE YEARS to get it right, or at least, put it on the RIGHT TRACK! What is the record of our current Representatives and Senators? Have they done what we sent them to do? Have they kept their promises? Have they worked to create jobs? And above all, to check their honesty, or perhaps their CHOPPING SKILLS, let’s take a look at their NET-WORTHS. In order words, are there glaring changes in their lifestyles that raise a flag? We have to do better than rating candidates on HOW MUCH THEY HAVE GIVEN TO THE COUNTY. We all know what kind of money is being used to do these programs. OUR OWN MONEY! Let’s forum at the county level to come up with “promising candidates”, candidates that we will all confidently put heavy weight behind to replace those that have let us down, so woefully.
The past for any candidate is fair game, as we want to weed out shady characters. Anyone implicated in any past audits will be exposed and the reasons so presented to the public. The information is just a google away! Let’s stand firm on ASSETS DECLARATIONS by all political candidates and all the president’s men and women. Is NEC (National Election Commission) doing its job to collect this key data? So far, a mockery has been made of this process since it was suggested during the 2005 presidential campaigns, in anticipation of the current fight against corruption by public officials. I once looked at a few declarations by some big guys posted at the NEC website. It became obvious some of them were immediately in trouble, when one combines current events at the time, with their declarations. We found declarations that did not match what the public knew at the time! UN sanctions on some were a wealth of information. There were some foreign bank accounts cleverly left out on some declarations. We quickly pounced to bring that fact to light. We need an official form for all declarations. Looking at the before-and-after to update these declarations is an invaluable exercise in combating this “thing”.
Term limits should be revisited. Let’s curtail presidential term to four-years, two-term limits. Congressional term limits ought to be made rather volatile, since we have a budding democracy. The more we turnover Congress, the more mid-term elections, the more fresh minds we attempt to throw at this “thing”. Media should do a performance report card for everyone in Congress, highlighting attendance, how they voted, bills introduced, etc. The people pay more than their salaries; Congress must produce periodic report cards!
We need to poll the people about the outrageous compensation level of Congress. We hear anywhere from ten to eighteen THOUSAND US DOLLARS PER MONTH, for being in the House of Representatives in the Republic of Liberia! OMG! Here is a country where the average civil servant is reportedly earning less than TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS per month! If there’s anything to be done to adjust for this disparity, it must be explored, NOW! A referendum on the issue does not sound bad at all.
I dream of this as the ultimate effective weapon for this “thing”: “PerspecTV” sounds so good! It is way overdue! We need to put this project on the front burner. Maybe, we can have a poor boys/girls version of my beloved MSNBC. Yes, that is the only way we can get to the people MASSIVELY and EFFECTIVELY! Now, you would be talking about big “boots on the ground” to finally kick some dents into this “thing”. Then we shall see how “They Will Do The Same Thing”!
PerspecTV. Fund it, people!