“I won’t steal money”: A Reaction to Chairman Bryant’s Response to LU Students

By Tukus Ama Wrehyonnah Harris

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 5, 2004

All my life if there is one office I have had the highest esteem for and respected, it is the Presidency, not because of the pomp and pageantry that is normally associated with it but due more to the fact that the future of 6 billion people worldwide is directed by only 193 people representing the 193 countries of the world who bear the title of President.

Therefore, if a man or woman at any point in time in his or her life is privileged enough to be called to lead his people for whatever period of time, under whatever circumstances, this person should consider himself or herself blessed and privileged and should do all in his or her might to justify the confidence the people placed in him or her.

This is the case of the present Chairman of the National Transitional Government, Charles Gyude Bryant. His case is even more peculiar in that he has been chosen to lead not only his country Liberia but ultimately the entire West African sub-region out of one of the darkest period in its entire history. We now have the full support of the entire world and have been presented with a golden opportunity to right our past wrongs and return to those once glorious days. Dear fellow Liberians for once let’s put the devil to shame.

I must say that like most Liberians, I was shocked when I heard about the government’s intent to purchase a fleet of luxury cars, but being one never in haste to criticize, I sat back and listened to the justifications and the condemnations and I must say that in the end I have sided with those who have condemned this decision but I tell you not even that was enough to compel me to put my pen to paper.

Then it so happens that while searching through news articles on Liberia on the Goggle website, I came across an article from the IRIN website describing recent events at the University of Liberia campus; it was then that I got my shock of the year. The final words of Chairman Bryant to the students gathered at LU caused me to wince and God knows it was the last thing I expected to read coming from a man like Chairman Bryant. Now excuse me but for someone whose parents were teachers in the MCSS School System and for someone who knows the value of education I can’t help but feel outraged.

Dear Chairman Bryant, How could you?

I have always told people that running a government is not much different from running a family and that a good father makes a good president. Let’s compare this to the typical family situation. What kind of father even if you are going through the most strenuous financial difficulties when asked by his children for school fees that he can’t afford it at that particular point in time would tell them “Do you expect for me to steal to provide you with school fees?” When in fact three months back this same father had just ordered brand new Land Cruiser Jeeps to replace his fairly new Mercedes Benz? Chairman Bryant of all people is fully aware of the benefits to the country of having the University of Liberia reopened and I am not even going to go into that. What irks me is that in addition to the fact that the government has not met up with its responsibility to these students while prioritizing other non-essentials, the Chairman goes on to respond to these students who are only reminding him of his obligations.

When will our politicians begin to learn that having constitutional powers does not give one the right to say what he or she wants and at will? When will they learn humility? When will they comprehend that they are called to serve and not be served and begin to show respect to the citizenry?

Dear Chairman Bryant, I hope you won’t consider my remarks as an insult if speech wise you were compared to the likes of ex-president Charles Ghankay Taylor? I certainly hope not. When he was questioned about his government’s inability to provide electricity to the populace his response was “If you want light buy generator”, and when you are asked about your government’s inability to open the University of Liberia your response is “I won’t steal money”. It hurts me to make such comparisons when we should be going into a new era but this is reality.

This article is not a condemnation but an admonition. There is still room for change. What happens in Liberia concerns every Liberian and we cannot sit by and watch our country once more go to nought.

I’m not a social critic nor do I hold a degree in one of the sciences, I am simply a 23 year old female Liberian living at present in the Ivory Coast whose only hope of obtaining a college degree in this life is to return home and attend the University of Liberia.

Mr. Chairman, please don’t kill my dream!