Leadership is about service, and not self-enrichment

By Martin K. N. Kollie
Youth Activist

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 22, 2016


The Promised Land Promised By Africa's First Female President: West Point, Bussy Quarter, Doe Community, Clara Town, PHP, Chicken Soup Factory, Logan Town, Soniwen, New Kru Town, Red Light, etc., etc.

If anybody deserves better, then it is the PEOPLE. Regrettably, the ‘leaders’ of the people have become lords and demagogues unto themselves. Instead of becoming servants, they have become kings and queens living in opulence, while the people decay in poverty. If anybody deserves quality education, better health care, electricity, safe drinking water, improved housing, and other basic social services, then it is the PEOPLE. Since all power is inherent in them according to Article one (1) of our Constitution, then it means that the welfare of the people must be an indispensable national priority.

Today in our country, only few citizens sleep under air-conditioners, while vast majority of the citizenry has no choice, but to battle with mosquitoes, rats, flies and cockroaches during night hours. Today in our country, only few citizens ride luxurious cars, while majority of the people are compelled to stand under hot sun waiting for uncomfortable buses and taxis.

Today in our country, only few citizens drink imported mineral water, while vast majority of the people drink from unsafe wells and creeks. Today in our country, only few citizens have absolute authority to seek foreign medical treatment with tax-dollars, while our people die every day from curable diseases, as a result of a broken health system. Today in our country, only few citizens have the economic strength to build mansions and own palaces, while our people live in shacks and huts.

Today in our country, few citizens misuse our resources to send their family members abroad to obtain foreign education, while thousands of struggling Liberian students are exposed to a messy educational sector. Today in our country, only few higher-ups (big-shots) have security, while our people live in fear and panic due to insecurity and the rising rate of mysterious deaths. Today in our country, only few citizens are given huge salaries, allowances and benefits, while civil servants remain underpaid.

Is this the kind of country we intend to pass on to the next generation? A country that gives hope to the minority and render the majority hopeless. A country that guarantees the security of few citizens and render the masses vulnerable to peril. A country that provides better health services only for government officials and their immediate families, and abandons peasants to die from minor illnesses. A country that turns its back on the underprivileged and marginalized. A country that suppresses the voiceless, powerless and choiceless. Is this the kind of country we anticipate to leave behind?

US President, Barack Obama is paid $400,000 a year even though the United State of America is the World Superpower. He also receives an extra expense allowance of just $50,000 a year. This means President Obama receives less than half a million (US$450,000) in 12 months even though he is the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

The federal budget of the United States is US$4.0 trillion, but the first citizen is earning just US$450,000 per annum. This speaks volume about what it means to serve with passion and vision. Leadership is about service to the people and not pocketing astronomical salaries and allowances. I hope African Presidents can begin to adopt this approach.

Under President Obama’s leadership, 14 million jobs have been created for Americans with an unemployment rate below 5% for the first time in almost 8 years. A Patriot cares more about the general welfare of the people. His or her interest does not supersede the interest of the nation. In his or her agenda, the wellbeing of the state remains supreme. At least the American people can reap the benefits or dividends of the taxes they pay to their government.

They have access to basic services such as safe drinking water, quality education, health, good roads, improved infrastructure, better housing, electricity, clean environment, job opportunities, social security, etc. In America, a huge portion of the budget is used directly on the people. In Liberia, a huge portion of the budget is used directly on those in authority only, especially higher-ups. They (higher-ups) live in luxury and extravagance, while poverty strikes vast majority of the citizenry.

We are yet to see the 20,000 jobs Madam Sirleaf and her government promised to provide for Liberians on an annual basis. Outgoing Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara Konneh was never wrong when he said in 2015 that “US$3.1 billion has been collected in revenue since President Sirleaf took over, but sadly, 60% of this amount has been spent on government administration, which represents just 40,000 people, as against 4.1 Liberians”. With this shocking revelation, we can reasonably conclude that Liberia is far from getting on a path towards inclusive national development.

No wonder why the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) died a natural death. The pillars of the National Decentralization Plan of Liberia have crumbled as a result of the lack of a genuine framework to practically pursue these plans. The Vision 2030 is just another big fiasco and dead dream. Projecting unrealistic and impractical public and economic policies creates a fertile ground for violence, insecurity and public discontent.

According to Liberia’s Labor Force Survey, 1.1 million Liberians are counted as employed in Liberia. However, there are only 195,000 paid employment positions. The other 850,000, which consist primarily of the youth population, are considered vulnerably employed, meaning they are self-employed mostly in the informal economy on unsustainable jobs. After almost 12 years under Madam Sirleaf with vast natural resources and huge foreign support available to her disposal, only 195,000 Liberians out of a population of 4.1 can boast of employment. Except for few, most of these ‘employees’ are not well paid in line with labor standards.

The escalating rate of unemployment and economic misery in Liberia is contributing to violence nationwide. Youth unemployment is especially a threat to our fragile democracy and volatile peace. The government must do all it can to derive a lasting remedy to this prevailing predicament; otherwise, we stand to risk a lot as a nation. It is time to eschew greed and corruption in public service, and focus more on empowering the people. The people were never wrong to have stood in long queues to cast their ballots in 2005 and 2011. Unfortunately, their ultimate desire to defeat hardship has been let down by those they thought would have done better.

In 2005, Liberia had an annual budget of US$80 million. In 2015/2016 fiscal year, our national budget is US$622, 743, 420. Why must our people severely suffer when we now have a budget of more than half a billion? The real fact is that those who allot and appropriate our resources careless about prioritizing public interest. You need to take a keen look at the annual budget of the President, Vice President, Speaker, Senate Pro Tempore, Deputy Speaker and other government officials. You maybe provoked!

While citizens in West Point, Doe Community, Clara Town, PHP, Chicken Soup Factory, Logan Town, Soniwen, New Kru Town, Red Light, and other slum communities across Liberia struggle to survive every day, those they elected 10 years ago have become multi-millionaires amidst extreme difficulties. The story of our people has to change if we are serious about consolidating peace, maintaining security and sustaining national unity. It requires public transparency and accountability! The way forward now is to ensure equal opportunities for all through inclusive national initiatives. Education, Empowerment and Employment are paramount!

About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, student leader and a young writer.  He is currently a student at the University of Liberia reading Economics and a member of the Student Unification Party (SUP).  He can be reached at martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com

sylvester moses
Martin, your Promised Land pictures capture the essence of a favorite phrase in Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago – “our cursed capacity for suffering”. It didn’t surprise the literary world that this well – wrought rendition of betrayal of the Bolshevik Revolution in his 1957 novel netted him the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. In President Taylor’s video - taped testimony at The Hague, he implied that EJS was the “revolutionary” who put together the nut and bolts of the two military juggernauts into Liberia. Nonetheless, Stalin – like, the envisioned utopia morphed into a dystopia because all along it wasn’t about opportunities for the suffering people but for the self – aggrandizement of the spears of the revolution. And why not: they conceived, shepherded, and executed its execution.

Yet, Martin, taking umbrage isn’t enough; outrage is futile exertion, and so the only solution for change is to encourage opposition parties to coalesce around a candidate of their choosing. The question is: do they have the courage to think beyond self, and imagine a Liberia savoring the benefits of sustainable stability, and positive peace? Or in furtherance of selfish goals, are they going to resurrect clichés such as “concomitant”, “correlation”, “advantage on the ground” etc. which were bandied to delay ceasefire agreements during the peace talks, never mind children, the old, and sick were dying in the streets? Thanks again for the fervent advocacy to ensure a safer happier nation. We admire you, Mr. Kollie, usually guys your age pen love sonnets to some beautiful lady; we really need many more Martins.

sylvester moses at 05:21PM, 2016/02/24.
Sylvester Moses
I meant they ensured its execution, not "executed its execution".
Sylvester Moses at 07:42PM, 2016/02/24.
James McGill
Mr. Sysvester Moses

You hit the nail right on the target when you suggested to Mr. Kollie about “coalescing” around a candidate.

This brings to mind about the infamous 1985 presidential election when the late Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe betrayed the nation and threw his hat into civilian politics. The late Gabriel Baccus Matthews of the United People’s Party (UPP), who was a master political strategist, and a man of strong intuition and insights, realized that the prevailing negative sentiments from the public against the military regime were very high and so he summoned all the opposition party leaders to a conference; and during the discussions he advised the opposition forces that the best way to defeat the tyrant was to rally around one candidate instead of forming splinter groups.

Baccus ended his remarks to them in these lines,“…If we are not careful we will all end up like the monkey who did not heed to the hunter’s whistle.” And as fate would have it, the opposition parties discarded his suggestion as every group wanted a piece of the presidential pie.

You know the rest of the story. Master Sergeant Samuel Doe won in a very controversial election in which the late Mr. Jackson F. Doe of Nimba who as the rumors circulated like bush fire was supposedly the winner.

Similar episode is gradually unfolding again. Too many political parties weaken the ethos of the opposition as a whole.

This dynamic is also occurring right here in the American presidential race this year. The Republican Party political machinery is mesmerized by the rise of Mr. Donald Trump, an ultra-conservative and an outsider. Many political experts are suggesting that the only way to stop the onslaught of Mr. Trump is for establishment politicians to unite against him. Remember the old saying, “United we stand, divided we fall?”

The hand writings are on the wall again. In the words of the late Gabriel Baccus Matthews “…If we are not careful we will all end up like the monkey who did not heed to the hunter’s whistle.”

James McGill at 09:56AM, 2016/02/25.
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