“Forward Ever, Backward Never”


By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 29, 2005


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Universal suffrage confers on the people full participation in government; it transforms the populace into “masters of their own destiny”. That should be a given; what is not, is the statement that follows. Freedom to vote must carry with it the inherent commitment to remain forever engaged in the affairs of society. If we can harness the energy expended during these campaigns, and apply same to keep watch over how we are governed by those we vote into office, we will be well on our way to getting our nation back, and arguably, in the best shape ever. That is to say, vigilance must become a national attitude.

Moving forward, we must fine-tune this (suffrage) long-lost right that we have regained.. We must strive to put all citizens in a position to exercise this right in an informed capacity for the common good. This requires a massive education agenda. Given our current level of education, it is a big job. Nonetheless, it is the only way forward. We are not talking about “voter education” here. We mean formal education that empowers the individual to make sound decisions, and hence informed choices when he/she prepares to vote. Let Formal Education rank high on the list of national priorities. It is time to phase out illiteracy!

It should be evident that winning elections is not the most important thing to a nation determined to undo the past and move forward. Getting a group of leaders (winners of the elections) with a clear vision of what needs to be done does only one thing; it simply makes the road to recovery more error free, and ultimately shorter. But at this juncture in our history, that is left to chance only, a chance that we all hope falls in our favor.

What is important, that which cannot be left to chance, is a determination to rally as a nation and share the common vision. That supercedes all else. The VISION ranks in importance higher than any group of people chosen to drive the vision. Let us keep the vision in sight, as we vow to move forward.

Sharing a common vision must become a national attitude. Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sums it up rather nobly, "Let me be clear and unequivocal. In the unlikely event that I do not win, I will remain in the country and will work with any government that is in the national interest …” ( The Analyst, all Africa.com , September 19, 2005 ). Thanks, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf.

Ours is neither a government of a particular leader, nor political party; it is a GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE. All the people do not belong to the same political party, and never will; all the people do not vote for the same leaders, and never will. However, the people must always remain engaged in the affairs of state regardless of who becomes entrusted with the head of government, and/or who sits in Parliament.

The prevailing sentiment is that our governments veer left because we fail to engage them ‘to do the right thing.’ Who would argue that? That is precisely what happens when we sit lethargically and watch our government gravitate towards doing things contrary to the interest of the people. We must remain ever vigilant to ensure that what the government does is indeed what we want. We must look for all early warning signs of bad governance, and immediately impose our will to have them corrected. This is to be done in an orderly manner by channeling our disenchantments through our representatives; that’s why we elect them.

We must not move a step backwards. We want reasonable results to our reasonable demands. Dreadful is being placed in positions to have to use last resorts. Exercising last resort is having the people take their grievances directly to the government, through the streets, through the use of Peoples’ Power. To the extreme, it is people taking up arms, once more, to bring about change. Making last resorts a thing of the past rests strictly in the hands of the leadership. If the leadership adheres to the Oath of Office, and if the people exercise due patience, there will be no reason for this backward step. We dread its resurgence in society.

That one’s party did not win should not be a signal to divorce from government. It is not a loser’s position that one winds up in; one now becomes the opposition. To maintain checks and balances, opposition is a necessary stance in any society. The only caution is to oppose in Good Faith. Keeping a sitting government honest is a patriotic thing to do. From this vantage position the following are questions (discount order) that ought to be constantly asked.

Has the government prioritized services? This involves, among others, scrutinizing national budgets for reasonable allotments to various line items. For a good example, skewing funds in disfavor of priorities, like the last time when the NTGL appropriated “waiter-market change” for Agriculture, while earmarking “mega bucks” for personal security, should raise a flag.
What is the government doing to stop corruption?
Is the Judiciary bringing corrupt officials to justice?
Are individual human rights being respected?
Is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (GRC) fully functional?
Is the government attempting to muzzle freedom of speech and the press?
Are we operating under the rule of law?
Is the government moving towards decentralization?
Is GEMAP being followed?
Plus all other right questions that need answers for the common good.

In these special times, let it not be the vote, let it not be the vote-getter, let it be the VISION that rises above all else. Let us all embrace the VISION “In union strong”.

It is only with that national attitude that “Success is sure”, that in the end, “We will o'er all prevail”. Let us make a Forward March, No Left Turn, A Right Turn if need be, No About Face.
All Hail, Liberia, Hail.
All Hail.