By Ansumana Konneh
When the Liberian people voted for Charles Taylor in 1997 under the slogan: "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him", they did not realize that the consequences of that decision were at the expense of the future of their children and the fabric of the Liberian society. They failed to realize that Taylor was an egoist who wanted to enrich himself at the expense of the masses of our people.
Had they known that Taylor was a warmonger who would have sponsored war in neighboring Sierra Leone, they wouldn't have voted for him. Had they thought that Taylor's atrocities would have ranged from the illegal mining of our diamonds to the witch-hunting of their own children, they wouldn't have voted for him. Had they thought for a moment that this was the same Taylor who founded the so-called National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and broke war in Liberia like a downpour of rain that killed so many of our martyrs, they wouldn't have voted for him.
In 1997, we made decisions before contemplating the consequences of that decision - a decision that jeopardized the fabric of Africa's oldest independence republic, and dragged our country into bloodletting, and destroyed the little infrastructures we had, and crippled our educational system. These were the consequences of a decision that is made not calculating the outcome.
Fast forward today, once again, we stand at the crossroads to correct the mistakes of the past by keenly retrospecting on where we've come and to where we're heading in order that we prevent the occurrence of any such mistake for the prosperity of succeeding generations. In less than a year, we shall go to the pool to make a decision that would affect us either positively or negatively; and to once again decide the faith of our country for better or for worse.
Retrospection and consciousness matters in the 2017 election; for it's coming in a time when Liberians still find themselves in horrible conditions such as living in slum communities like New Kru Town, Vai Town, Buzzy Quarters, West Point and the list goes on.
The certainty of the 2017 elections is visible as the light bequeathed us by the Supreme Being. But what remains uncertain is the true alternative leader to the Unity Party-led government under the watch of her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
As 2016 winds down, we're left filled with many doubts as to whether or not our people will make the right choices and not repeat the mistakes of 1997. As the shadows of the elections approaches, I'm more and more worried about the future of Liberia. The gullibility of the ordinary masses of our country concerns me the most in the approaching crucial times of our nation.
Will Liberians vote for a value-driven leader or the one that claims to be sent by God? Will they vote for a leader that preaches unity or the one who advocates for a Christian State to win the votes of our people? Will they vote for a leader that financed war or the one that claims it's his tribe's time to produce a president?
These are the questions that bother me each and every day that passes. Why can't we for once base our votes on the ideals that seek to lift us out of the cesspool of poverty and agony- to lift us to a better place in the world? Why can't we endorse a platform that will annihilate this system that considers the people us "expendable cannon-folders"?
The 2017 election is a clarion call to all Liberians, regardless of your social affiliation, to make a decision that would have sustainable impacts on the future of our country. Posterity will definitely “hold us in contempt” if we fail to adhere to these calls of our nation and those that died making it what it is:
The economy - As we speak, our economy is in shambles and is controlled by a few people who have captured the state because of their power and influence. I'm sure, if data is collected, 5 out of 7 businesses are foreign-owned and managed. The economy of our country is approximately 60% controlled by Lebanese and foreign nationals. Sadly, not many Liberians have been empowered to compete in the market. Most of our mothers who have the passion for business are limited to operate only in Water Side or Red Light etc. Some have to crush rocks for survival or die in the hands of poverty.
The Educational System - The current model of our educational system is not designed to allow creativity and innovation to grow. In fact, due to poverty, not many of our high school graduates attend Universities. Those opportune-lacks requisite skills, which prevents them from being immersed in the job market. Consequentially, most of them end up as commercial intellectuals under palaver huts or are used by politicians! Only a few escape this tragedy!
The Law - The justice system in Liberia is selective and biased. It's meant to protect few people who have been able to make it to the top at the expense of the masses. We need rigorous enforcement of the law with the right justices appointed by the right president.
National Development - After 169 years of sovereignty, about 80% - if not 95% - of our government agencies and ministries are in rented buildings when we have more money in our national coffers to build state-owned buildings. Regardless of the few buildings in Mamba, Sinkor, and Central Monrovia, there're not enough attractive buildings in Monrovia - except the few that are owned by Lebanese. Liberia needs a president that'd take us from privately owned buildings to state-owned ones.
The stance we take in 2017 will affect every segment of the society; that's why we must not vote on the basis of:
Religion - Religion is one's faith and belief which I personally believe should not interfere into state matters. If we are to be the nation Blyden, Porte and others fought for, we must consider every segment of our society as an integral part of the forward march of Liberia. This country does not need a Christian, Muslim, atheist or traditionalist to become president, it only needs a Liberian that is honest enough to undertake genuine reforms and democratize our justice system.
Region - Where one was born in Liberia does not qualify him/her by birth in any way to be president of our beloved nation. Being a Bongese cannot make me vote for a Bongese when he's not qualified. People should be voted on the basis of merit. Therefore, Liberia needs a president who is a nationalist, value-driven and honest to forward the march of people.
Tribe - The simple fact is: no one determines his tribe. It's God's decision. I didn't write a letter to God to make me a Mandingo; that's why people must be trusted not because of the tribe they come from but based on the "content of their character" as M.L. King would say.
Social affiliation - People must not be rendered guilty by association. The fact I associate with someone who steals the country money does not make me a rogue or an enemy of the state.
As we analyze these things, I pray and hope that we will make the right decisions in 2017 and also be mindful of some of our politicians that aim to divide us. There must be cross-examinations and critical reviews of candidates seeking our presidency.
As I use my personal pen to write these words to our people, I'm cognizant of the 65% of young people in Liberia, most of whom lacks capacity building and employment opportunities. I speak on behalf of our sisters that has been forced into the streets; for they've fallen prey to the poverty of the society. I also speak on behalf of the hundreds of children who are out of school selling cold water because "mama and papa" cannot afford to send them to school.
Furthermore, I speak for my friends in the Lift Liberia Scholars program who want to see this country prosper. As I speak, I think of the future of my friend Jerrut K. Kulah who wants to be an orthopedic surgeon to solve our bone disorders in Liberia, because Liberia lacks bone specialists. I'm worried about the future of my friend Naomi Willie who regained her sight with the help of some missionaries and has vowed to be an ophthalmologist to help people regain their sights as well. I'm worried also about my brother Lassana who wants to be an IT specialist so as to revolutionize technology in Liberia and make it accessible to all. I'm worried about the future of our people. My worries are only solved when we make wise decisions in the 2017 election.