FATHER TIKPOR’S SOBERING MESSAGE TO LIBERIANS BUT WILL THEY GET IT?
By : James W. Harris
September 13, 2010
When he recently delivered the July 26 Independence [?] Day oration in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, Father Tikpor clearly laid the groundwork by going into his country’s troublesome history, giving accounts and explanations as to how Liberia got to where it presently is. Please note that I deliberately have a question mark after independence, because Liberians seemingly don’t behave like they’re “independent” in the true sense of the word.
Seriously, the setting couldn’t have been more appropriate for the occasion. It was reported that Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was there in person with members of her cabinet and agencies heads in tow. The Diplomatic Corps were also present as well as thousands of Nimba residents and citizens, who had returned to their home county to help welcome their guests.
The scene? Historic Sanniquellie, where the now failed OAU (Organization of African Unity) was born in May, 1963. As it is well known by now, Libya’s erratic dictator, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, who allegedly supplied arms to the now jailed Liberian President, Charles Taylor, to destroy the country, has since turned it into his private club under the banner of the so-called African Union (AU). Thanks to President Sirleaf and others who supported his sly take-over of the organization.
I’m sorry folks for digressing a little bit here, but real African patriots, nationalists and staunch Pan-Africanists, like, the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana; Sekou Toure of Guinea and Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, among others, who initially founded the OAU, must be turning over in their graves. The Colonel and the likes of President Sirleaf would be daydreaming to think that he (al-Gaddafi) could ever fit into the shoes of any of the far-sighted sons of Africa that I’ve mentioned above.
Now that I’ve gotten it off my chest, I’d like to go back to the matter at hand here. It’s worth noting that Nimba County was also the home of the late charismatic and legendary Liberian General, Thomas Quiwonkpa, who unfortunately met his untimely death while trying to unseat his old buddy, the late Liberian President, Samuel K. Doe, back in 1985.
Up to this very day, some Liberians strongly believe that a few unscrupulous and power-drunk Liberians for their own wicked ends misled the late General, but that’s a completely different topic for another day.
The right orator, the right time
Interestingly, Father Tikpor too has spent a good bit of time in the iron-ore rich county and knows the people there very well. So, choosing him to be the orator for the day wasn’t a bad idea after all. It provided him the bully pulpit and the history to back up his words. He was definitely the right person, in the right place, at the right time and with the right message, buttressed by his moral authority to deliver it without fear.
In his powerful and thoughtful speech, the Catholic prelate eloquently spoke about the various challenges the nation had faced in the past and is still facing today. He lectured about the brave attempts by some to find a common ground that would bring everybody the early settlers and indigenous Liberian tribes they met there together to no avail.
As he recalled while addressing the issue of Liberian citizenship just to put things in their correct perspectives, he said, “When the Founding Fathers had tested all they knew and that a national language does serve as the first missing link, they then tried Blood Relationship. That too was found to be one of several missing links. If every Liberian could say I love this man or woman because they are my blood-brother and blood-sister, these then would be the missing and ever illusive links” [Frontpageafrica.com, 07/28/2010].
“That was why Edward Blyden’s proposal to the settlers was a wise, far-sighted one, to inter-marry with their neighboring African tribes in order to secure their survival. This was in 1850 when he joined the Settler community in Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa County”, the Father said.
He continued, “Liberian citizenry could be slowly, but permanently, integrated and assimilated by marriage with the surrounding tribes. On the contrary [he, Father Tikpor, argued], the elite ruling mulatto group subsequently charged Blyden with being a womanizer and drove him away to Sierra Leone where he took refuge.” Sad ehn, isn’t it? I mean, the man was simply trying to find a way to unite all Liberians, giving them a common bond, but again, selfishness as well as short-sightedness prevailed.
As time would have it, there have been numerous inter-marriages between the Settler and Indigenous tribes in Liberia since Blyden’s days, yet the nation continues to be bitterly divided along various lines ethnic, tribal, economic, social, etc. So, I’d argue that the Blood Relationship link is actually there right now, but Liberians still haven’t formed a bond of unity as Blyden had envisioned.
Therefore, it could be said that the Blood Relationship link certainly isn’t a key factor dividing Liberians today as it may have been during the early days of the nation’s founding.
So-called elite Liberians
Again, like in Blyden’s days, the present group of so-called Liberian elites seems to be resistant to change for obvious reasons they want to continue plundering the country for their own selfish ends.
When I hear Liberians saying, “ay my man…things will be alright…it will be okay”, I usually respond by saying, yes, right! How will it be okay when the “system” is still rotten, corrupt and grossly inefficient? There’s absolutely no basis for saying the country will be okay or alright unless you see Liberians en masse coming together for a common purpose - to remake their country, that is. Please note again that I didn’t say, “rebuild”. I said, “remake” and there’s a big difference between the two.
For example, they could come together collectively and force their government through mass action to move quickly in the right direction - tackling entrenched corruption head on through the rule of law without favor as compared to just spewing the usual sickening rhetoric we hear so often or be pushed aside for the greater good of the Liberian nation and people.
Like their earlier counterparts, the powerful Liberian elites of today seem to be determined to have it no other way. They’ve vowed to reap the maximum benefit they can get from the country’s curse its vast natural resources, including, gold, diamonds, rubber, iron-ore, among others, leaving their fellow countrymen and women in abject poverty with no remorse. Is this the kind of nation Liberians want? Is this why more than 250,000 Liberians lives were wasted recklessly? Where’s the human spirit within the country’s elite circle? I guess there isn’t any!
“Insidious poverty” stalling growth
But in his speech, Father Tikpor, observed that “insidious poverty” was also a major factor stalling growth and development in the war-torn country. I’m sure that many Liberians would agree with him on this, but they’re too cowardly and selfish to say it openly. It should be mentioned that poverty could be adequately addressed if the government was really interested in doing something about it.
Liberians should know that it’s very rare that a sitting government would do the right thing on its own. In many cases, it has to be forced into action by various pressure groups, such as, students, labor unions and the clergy, among others.
As the prominent and fearless Catholic Father warned in his closing remarks, “[Liberians] have [their] national reputation and integrity to restore, [their] economy to strengthen and stabilize, and finally [their] moral consciences to reexamine and reform. Corruption, like an unwanted weed, must be uprooted out of [Liberia]. Or it might cover the whole land.” These are very strong and sobering words.
I wonder what was going through the minds of the President, the Justice Minister, the Chief Justice (or should I say injustice) and other members of the Sirleaf administration as the Father delivered his honestly stern warning? Nothing new, I guess. His words were probably just going through one ear and coming out through the other without any visible sign of real embarrassment. I guess they’re immune to it [embarrassment] by now or maybe they just need a dose of rude awakening to force them to straighten up while they still have time.
Father Tikpor’s speech should be a must read for all well-meaning Liberians. In this article as you can see, I touched on just a few things he talked about. He surely has a lot of meat in it. However, my deepest fear is that his entire message may fall on deaf ears again as other similar messages have in the immediate past.
My own experience
Frankly, many of the same issues addressed by him have already been discussed in various forums so, his message is nothing new. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that Liberians just don’t get it.
In my own experience, I’ve spent sleepless nights pounding my laptop keyboard with bruised fingertips at times trying to enlighten Liberians and give them something to think about. One of my earlier articles, “Selfishness, Greed, Corruption undermine Liberia’s Development” is a case in point. It was published long before Father Tikpor’s speech.
Way back in October 2008, I wrote, “My problem with the Johnson Sirleaf administration as far as corruption is concerned, is that her words really aren’t matching her deeds. At best, the President appears to be cherry picking and choosing who to blame or hold responsible for old habits die hard which may seriously be undermining her government.” That perception is true even today.
The future will surely tell
Only the future will tell, though, whether or not Liberians finally got the message and heeded Father Tikpor’s sobering call to mass action. Or, will it end up being just another usual case of “water wasting on a duck’s back” as they say in Liberia? Indeed, only time will surely tell.
In the main time, if Liberians are truly serious about fighting their failed nation’s three big cancerous problems - corruption, ethics in government and the lack of morality - then they need to demand of the Sirleaf regime, particularly, those responsible for law enforcement, like the Justice Minister, Cllr. Christiana Tah, to explain why it’s taking so long to prosecute high-profile criminal cases involving the theft of huge amounts of public funds.
I have no doubt that they’ll get some kind of answer if they continue to put fire to the Unity Party administration’s feet. If they fail to act now, then they should have no one else to blame but themselves. No one can save Liberia, but Liberians. And that’s the sad fact.
In conclusion, it goes without saying that the country’s rise or fall will greatly depend on what Liberians do today. Digesting Father Tikpor’s Independence Day message and acting upon it immediately, therefore, would be a good place to start going forward.