We can fix Liberia and we intend to fix Liberia, Says Varney Sherman

Inaugural Address Of Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman
As Standard Bearer of the Liberia Action Party


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 24, 2005

At the National Convention of the Liberia Action Party held at the Unity Conference Center inVirginia, Liberia (May 13 -14, 2005), Varney Sherman became the first presidential candidate to be elected by a registered political party to contest the ensuing October 2005 presidential election under the party's banner. Below is the full text of Mr. Sherman's Inaugaral Address

My fellow Liberians,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

Photo copyrighted by The Perspective
Cllr. Varney Sherman
One of the well-known propositions on which this nation, Liberia, was founded, is that people of the Black race have the capacity to govern themselves. Yet, after nearly 158 years of independence, we have failed so miserably in the governance of this country. Another proposition on which our country was founded is that all men are born equal, with certain inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, throughout most of our years of independence politics of exclusion, marginalization and opportunism have been practiced in this country. Continuous misrule, abuse of power, nepotism, corruption, uninhibited greed and inordinate ambition of a few, culminating with divisive civil conflicts over a protracted period of time, have now reduced us to abject poverty, misery, degradation, deprivation, and sufferings of the magnitude that many of us never dreamed about before we experienced it. We are here to today to change things around; and we make a clarion call on all Liberians everywhere to join the enterprise of transforming our native land to a safer and better place for all Liberians.

I will never forget that afternoon in Accra, Ghana in 1990, while I was in temporary exile from the NPFL-led civil war, when the Bulk Challenge, a decrepit, un-seaworthy vessel, took off from the Free Port of Monrovia, with hundreds of our fellow citizens, seeking refuge from the cruelties and miseries of our civil war. As the Bulk Challenge took off to the high seas, some patriotic Liberian on that vessel started to the sing the battle song of our Republic: “The Lone Star Forever”; Liberians on deck joined in the singing as they waived good-bye to their beloved country.

Right there fleeing from destitution, depravity and suffering, even as they left the shores of their home for strange lands, Liberians not only showed their love for our country, they re-committed themselves to something bigger than themselves - that our country and people will endure and overcome the tragedies of our civil war. And so they sang:

The Lone Star forever!
The Lone Star forever!
O long may it float
O’er land and o’er seas!

In the passion of the moment, those Liberians on the Bulk Challenge rekindled my faith in our people and my hope for my country; they rekindled my love for country in the final words of the refrain of our battle song:

Desert it, No never!
Uphold it, forever
O shout for the Lone Starr’s banner – All hail!

Even today when I recall the images of the departure of the Bulk Challenge, tears come to my eyes. You can then imagine how openly I wept that afternoon for my people and for my country. It was then that I decided to read the “Lone Star Forever” and for the first time, I really digested the words of our battle song, especially a part of the last stanza, which reads:

Then forward, sons of freedom, march!
Defend the sacred heritage!
Where’er it sounds ‘neath heaven’s arch,
Wherever foes assail
Be ever ready to obey
Gainst treason and rebellious front,
Gainst foul aggression in the brunt.

From that moment, I quietly vowed to myself that if there is anything that I can do, either singly or in conjunction with other Liberians, to ensure that never again, never again, would our people suffer so terribly and our country be so utterly destroyed, I would. And it was then that I decided that I would leave the comfort of my successful law practice, get involved with politics by seeking elective office and help steer my country out of the “mess” that it had been plunged into by evil, rebellious, misguided sycophants of our times. True to my vow, I was a candidate for the Liberian Senate on the ticket of our beloved political party, the Liberia Action Party, and ultimately, our coalition, the Alliance of Political Parties.

In campaigning for the Alliance of Political Parties in 1997, many of you will recall that I put in my “everything” – my time, my energies, my financial and material resources, and my intellect. I need not repeat the conduct that several other speakers at this Convention have alluded to as the reason why the Alliance of Political Parties failed and one of the protagonists in our civil war became the victor in the 1997 Special Elections. I need only say that even as we strived to organize the Alliance of Political Party, that victor, (a warlord, who now stands indicted by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone and who brought so thick a “darkness” over our county), warned that the egos and inordinate ambitions of certain political leaders would break the Alliance up. Those political demagogues were not even noble enough to prove the warlord wrong; yet, today, some of those same persons whose conduct landed the 1997 Special Elections into the hands of that warlord, have come up again to ask the Liberian people for their votes. We stand here today to oppose them; we stand here today to challenge them; we come here today to offer ourselves and all that we are as an alternative to them.

Worse than those political demagogues of 1997 are those Liberians who collaborated and cooperated with the destruction of our country and campaigned to place state power and governance of our county into the hands of warlords – people who persisted and marveled in the destruction of our country and literally enjoyed the abject poverty and misery they subjected our people to. They too have come, pretending to have changed with the passage of years, carrying the Bible in one hand and perhaps in the other hand, a fist covered with iron spikes, asking our Liberian people to forgive them today and give them state power tomorrow. We stand here today to oppose them; we stand here today to challenge them; we come here today to offer ourselves and all that we are as an alternative to them.

And there are those who collaborated with the dictatorship of the 1980s – a dictatorship, whose very conduct of the affairs of this country made the soil fertile for rebellion and anarchy – who have also come back to ask our people for the mantle of state power, hoping that our people have forgotten their misdeeds and their collaboration with dictatorship. We stand here today to oppose them; we stand here today to challenge them; we come here today to offer ourselves and all that we are as an alternative to them.

And then there are those who chose to abandon Liberia and seek their good fortunes in other parts of the world, secured in their person, their possessions, and their profession or business endeavors, dining and wining well, while Liberians ran from the fires of bullets and from the difficulties of war and the uncertainties of a tomorrow. Then as the storms have calmed down and the fires are out and there is light in the tunnel, those who abandoned our country for the comfort of other countries have now come and asked for the leadership of our country. Even for them, as insignificant as their conduct may be for our political future, we stand here today to oppose them; we stand here today to challenge them; we come here today to offer ourselves and all that we are as an alternative to them.

I believe deep inside that those who destroyed our country with the level of wantonness and recklessness we have experienced in our recent history and those who helped or assisted in such destruction have neither the capacity nor the commitment to rebuild this country. They just don’t have the moral fiber that is required for the challenges of our times, especially the need to transform our society. It is this conviction and my personal vow to never again let our country be so utterly destroyed and our people undergo such unnecessary suffering that have propelled me to seek the high office of President of Liberia. Following the calls of the battle song of our Republic, we are here to defend the sacred heritage “gainst treason and rebellious front” launched against it by some of our fellow citizens; we call on you to join us to defend the sacred heritage “gainst foul aggression in the brunt”, which has destroyed everything, including even our values as a people. We come here committed and dedicated to change things around – “ever ready to obey” the wishes of our people.

I pray to God for his continuous blessing on this enterprise that we have embarked on; I thank you, my fellow partisans, my friends and family, especially my wife, Joyce, my sons, Zoeluma and Zuanna, and my old mother, Theresa Jande, for your support so far; and I ask you to continue to support me in this process.

As I stand before you today, my fellow Partisans, I recall the prophetic consolatory message of our first Standard Bearer, Jackson Fiah Doe, when the Military Regime of Samuel Doe rigged the 1985 elections that LAP had resoundingly won – “Around and around we seem to go – but one day soon the Rooster will crow”.

The Rooster, my fellow partisans, will crow only if men and women who worked with Jackson Fiah Doe, Harry Greaves, A.T. Nah, E. Seku Koroma, Edgar Sie Badio, Vulate Tate, Gbarmie Sahn and so many other senior partisans of the Liberia Action Party in 1985 were to take on the mantel of our Party, rise to the challenges of our times, and bring the “dawn of a new day” to our beloved country and its people. And I am most honored this evening by the presence in this conference hall, sharing the stage with me, two of these great and courageous men of yesteryears in persons of A.T. Nah and Gbarmie Sahn. I give you my word, Sirs, and I take an oath before man and God, that I shall never, ever betray the confidence of our Partisans nor shall I ever depart from the core values of our beloved Party.

Fellow Partisans, we, who have offered ourselves to be your political leaders know that our country is at its lowest in every respect and in every regard; but we believe very deeply that given the enormous wealth of our country, coupled with the resourcefulness and resilience of our people, we, with good management, can rebuild our country and make it a land of justice, peace, prosperity and opportunity for all. We also believe that bringing the dawn of a new day to our country would require transforming the system and processes of governance. It would require some level of political decentralization and capacitating our political sub-divisions through a combination of both “revenue-sharing between the central government and county governments” and “independent sources of revenue for the county governments”. It would also require a new vision of promoting both self-reliance of individual counties and fostering competition between counties. It will require enabling all Liberians to participate fully and actively in the economy of our country, re-tooling the Liberianization policy and program as an effective mechanism for capacitating Liberians and providing all Liberians with opportunities for self-enhancement and self-actualization. And with that combination, we will be able to unleash the tremendous energies and resourcefulness of our people, directed at the sustained balanced development of our country.

We can fix Liberia and we intend to fix Liberia. “Good governance” will not be only talk and no action; accountability and transparency will not only be a dream; they will be a reality and an experience that all our people will benefit from. We shall fight corruption with all our might; we shall restore discipline and responsibility in every aspect of our country; and the rule of law shall abide with us in everything we do in this country.

My fellow Liberians, I have been a lawyer throughout my professional life, accounting to my clients for the conduct of their affairs, and being transparent with them in how I manage their affairs. I don’t know how else to do business or how else to conduct myself. The values and virtues of private sector governance, which have been my entire professional life for more than 25 years, can be brought to bear on public sector governance to make government and governance in Liberia, in the words of our illustrious Chairman, D. Sheba Brown, “respectable and admirable”. And I am committed to this principle.

We have a commitment to look again at the propositions which form the basis for the founding of this Country; we intend to adhere to those propositions both in words and in our deeds, as our guide and as our focus. So let me assure all of you who are listening to me today, let me assure all Liberians all over the world that the Liberia Action Party has the capacity, the competence and the moral obligation to make our country a far safer and better place than it is today. Certainly, when the time of our generation is over, we intend to hand over to the generation after us a baton of hope for a safer and better Liberia; we must turn over to them a country that is safer and better than what we met – certainly not an abjectly poor, traumatized, war-ridden, destroyed county, as it now is.

Our Political Party has a moral obligation to show to the world that those Liberians who destroyed our country, those Liberians who advocated for the destruction of our country, and those who assisted in the destruction of our country are a small, insignificant and inconsequential fraction of the Liberian people, who by the use of military force, overwhelmed us and destroyed our country. They do not represent the aspirations of the Liberian people; they have never ever represented our values. The Liberia Action Party must reveal to the world the true nature and character of the Liberian people – that we are not an inhumane, ruthless, uncouth, uncultured, ungovernable people; we must reveal to the world that, as a matter of fact, we are truly a civil, cultured, enterprising and resourceful people.

Our country may be “down” and “low” today; but we are not “out”. Let the word go forth throughout the length and breadth of this Republic, from the mountains of Nimba and Lofa to the swamps of Sinoe and Bassa, from the Cape of the East to the Cape of the West, that a different kind of Liberians have at last risen to the challenges of our times – to take our country from the brink of self-destruction, revive, renew and transform it into a safer and better place for all of us. Let the word go out to our fellow Liberians that while we are aware that the task of transforming our native land appears daunting, we are nor perturbed or discouraged by its enormity or difficulty; we will work every moment for the rest of our lives to make this country a safer and better place for all Liberians; and we shall succeed. Yes, we shall succeed.

Success in transforming our country calls for proper and strategic planning and implementation, hard work, commitment, dedication, sacrifice and discipline. The success of this Convention and the manner in which it was conducted is the first evidence of the kind of government that LAP is offering to the Liberian people.

Success in transforming our country calls for firmness of purpose and conduct; it requires consistency in the conduct of the affairs of state; but it also requires fairness in all that we do. So, the Liberia Action Party will give to the Liberian people a government that not only subscribes to the tenets of good governance, but also a government that is firm, consistent and fair in the conduct of the affairs of state.

Fellow Partisans, as you leave here tonight and begin your return journey to your various homes all over Liberia, I encourage you to sleep well tonight and dream about a vibrant, prosperous, fair and respectable country – our homeland. I call on you to start making your dream a reality by working hard for our success at the polls in October. I call upon you to roll up your sleeves, put on your boots or slippers, take your walking cane, if you must, and go out there to canvass for the votes and support of the Liberian people for us and your beloved Liberia Action Party. I call upon you to work so hard that you sweat; work hard so that Jackson Fiah Doe’s prophecy of the crowing Rooster will be a reality in October. I call upon you, my fellow partisans, to re-dedicate and re-commit yourselves to the core values of our Party – liberty, in all its social, political and economic ramifications for all our people; honesty, in all of its dimensions, for the conduct of government; and justice, with all its implications, for the governance of our people.