Ghana : The Way I See It

By: Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 21, 2003


Now that we are about to install an interim administration to run the affairs of government In Liberia, I join many of my fellow citizens who breathe a sigh of relief while catching glimpses of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Given what we’ve gone through, any decision reached now, hopefully, will be an improvement over the defunct Taylor government - it is hard to argue otherwise.

But there is a wide-spread feeling of ambivalence among many Liberians. Happy, on one hand, to see the ushering in of a new administration, but equally frustrated and dismayed at the process and conclusion of this long-running conference in Ghana.

There are those among us who believe that the various groups attending the Ghana conference - many and diverse as they are - do not truly represent the Liberian masses democratically. The principal charge is that many of these so-called leaders are self-appointed and have no actual constituencies, either in Liberia or abroad. These self-appointed leaders are said to have high-jacked the system to advance their own interests.

Some are quite dismayed that the warring factions (LURD, MODEL and the Taylorites), were given so much latitude to re-chart our country’s course, although it remains crystal clear that these same folks are either directly or indirectly responsible for most of these ugly chain of events.

Let me go on record saying that I think the group that gathered in Ghana to filibuster, ponder and decide our political destiny does not represent the best of the crop, although there are some notable exceptions. As a matter of fact, it is a darned shame that some of the characters there were allowed the honor of being referred to as "delegates".

I am also terribly disappointed that the civilian or professional political organizations conceded so much power to these contemptuous "military liberators". Figure this, you’ve got eighteen registered political parties and a host of civilian organizations and three warring factions – the three warring factions end up heading and controlling about 72% of the government ministries and … How do you call such math? President G.W. Bush of the USA would probably call it ‘fuzzy math’. His father, G.W.H. Bush, would probably warn that we are headed for ‘voodoo’ economics and politics in Liberia; they would both be right this time.

Although I’ve expressed my reservations about the group and process that will move Liberia forward, hopefully, I do unequivocally support the conference and the agreement signed. It is simply time for the country to move forward.

But I’ll like to revisit the source of this discontentment and resentment that many Liberians harbor among themselves regarding the political process. I think it is foolhardy to pick a few culprits, such as those meeting in Ghana, to blame for all our problems. Sure, it is easier to blame others for our own shortcomings – it is a human flaw. But to get to the root and, hopefully, reset the course, we must be more self-critical.

It is my view that Liberians should blame themselves (at least partly), for this political quagmire. I especially refer to Liberians living in the Diaspora, in countries where democratic principles and practice are commonplace. Our reluctance to form viable organizations and become actively involved in the political process got us deep into this mess - so me must attribute some of the blame to ourselves.

In an earlier article, "Liberians in the Diaspora: We Must Unite", I praised the efforts of fellow Liberians for their renewed vigor to discuss and expose the evils of the Taylor regime, but I also cautioned: "As long as we fail to organize ourselves into a viable political entity with clearly defined objectives and leadership, we are doomed; all that effort will be moot".

Following the same trend of thought in a follow-up article titled, "Where Do You Stand?" I wrote, "The masses are simply supinely complacent. Our country is dying slowly but many among us do not seem to have got the message. Some are simply hoping some divine intervention will save our country. Well, in my view, nothing could be further from the truth. Freedom has a price. Liberty has a price. Democracy has a price. Justice has a price. For our country to be a free place where liberty, democracy and justice are enjoyed, we must be willing to pay a steep price. We can begin by bringing about needed changes. We must get involved now!"

I concluded that article with an impassioned plea thus: "My fellow Liberians, as thousands of our countrymen and women including children are dying, is it too much to ask that we get involved? The time for sitting on the sidelines and hoping that somebody else will fight our battle and liberate our country is past. It is time to get involved!"

In yet another article, "A Case of the Peter Pan Syndrome", I revisited the same theme when I wrote: "Too many Liberians are sitting back, doing nothing but to blame Charles Taylor and other professional politicians for the fate of our country. The question becomes what are you doing? Why do you think these few people have all the responsibility to fix your country? We must remember that in a democracy, the people have a responsibility to chart their own course. The initiative must come from the people. That is what Abraham Lincoln meant when he coined the phrase ‘a government of the people, for the people, by the people’. We are the people."

The point here is not to gloat to say "I told you so, over and over", although it is a matter of record that I did. It is my firm believe that we ended up with the caliber of representation we have in Ghana because many of us consider politics either beneath us or an exercise we consider an annoying inconvenience. Well, unfortunately, some other folks took it seriously enough, planned and waited for the right moment to exploit the opportunity. That’s why they’re in Ghana, and we are not.

Take for instance our umbrella organization (ULAA), many call it weak and inept, that may be so, but it is still a relevant and potentially useful organization. My argument has always been that ULAA will be as strong or as weak as we make her. But weak or strong, the organization has the name recognition that extends far and wide. Many self-centered Liberians have ignored the organization to concentrate on local or regional alternatives. It is, therefore, fair to say that ULAA is a very weak organization right now. But when the international invitations came, ULAA was invited and your local brands were ignored.

Many have criticized the ULAA leadership, but is it not fair to deduce that we ended up with this caliber of leaders because they were there and you were not? I am quite sure many will rehash the old argument that ULAA officials are only opportunists trying to wait for the next government job in Liberia and they go running. Yes, that may be true, and we have a long line of individuals jumping ship - from ULAA to a friendly government in Liberia. (Our latest example would be present President Mohammed Sam Kromah who was recently vying for the vice-presidency of the republic). I guess his thinking was, "well, if I can’t fix ULAA, I can fix Liberia."

In closing, I want to urge my fellow citizens that the way to build the kind of society that we want is not to sit and wait and pray that some ‘superpower’ like the USA, the UK, the EU, the UN or even African outfits, like the AU or ECOWAS will fix it for us. We must be able and willing to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps to do the nitty-gritty.

These last few months, when the Liberian crisis reached an apex, a number of well-meaning Liberians came out of the woodwork (closets?) and became "new democrats". They forcefully expressed their views concerning our plight and our direction. Some very good and impressive arguments were made. My advice to the lot is, it is not over. A new regime in Monrovia should not be a signal for you to fold your arms and do nothing. These Liberian organizations world-wide need capable and dedicated Liberians to continue this fight. After all, we all agree it’s our fight, right? So don’t sit back and criticize those about to take power in Liberia. It was probably your silence and your non-involvement that shove them unto the spotlight.