If the Opposition Does Not Merge, NPP Could Win in 2003 Elections

By Bodioh Siapoe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 25, 2002

A Trip to the Future

Take a mental trip with me into the future, for a moment. Two Thousand Three is the future. Elections had just concluded in Liberia. Twenty political parties and independent candidates took part in the recent elections.

Over the airwaves, a mellow radio personality at the Liberia Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) declares the National Patriotic Party victorious, followed by Radio Veritas and DC 101 FM in Monrovia. Charles Taylor and his rebel movement under the cloak of a political party have been re-elected for another six years. Liberians abroad are getting telephone calls from home about the recent political victory. Doubting Thomases would prefer to verify the development with either "Focus on Africa," or "Voice of America." Sure enough, those stations also joined Liberia's local media institutions to report Taylor's triumphant re-election as president.

In postelection rhetorics, meanwhile, the opposition cries foul about the process neither being free, fair nor transparent. Opposition politicians quickly discount the reality occasioned by their arrogant superegos way before the elections.

Few weeks after those elections, some participants in the electoral exercise had already decided to flirt with the victors for jobs with Monrovia's criminal empire. Others will rush back to the United States to seek gainful employment until the next elections.

In the Cause of Themselves, the Struggle Abates

The masses, once again, have been dealt a deafening blow. A few they reasoned would have been an alternative to the killing machine in Liberia are themselves surviving on blind chance. Those the masses thought would deliver Liberia from want and beggary have always been unfocused -- a classic example being their unwillingness to merge for Liberia's sake.

If individuals and political parties cannot see reason to consolidate than compete, they are no different from any man who marches into an abyss by evading responsibility: the responsibility to put country first. Like Taylor, many of the aspirants are closet dictators capable of surviving, not by means of reason, but by means of force. Meanwhile, the caterwauling of selfish individuals lingers months after the elections of 2003.

In Real Time

The above scenario could be inevitable. It might be because more than ten Liberians in the United States claim to be alternatives to the NPP administration. Of the ten, the George Kieh-Alaric Topkah and the Marcus Dahn 2003 campaign committees, respectively, assert they have crafted national strategic plans to move Liberia forward. They are courting Liberians, therefore, to give them a chance to lead.

What is very disturbing, however, centers on how the Atlanta, GA-based Kieh-Tokpah Camp has come to label itself "the leading political voice in contemporary Liberia … because the existing political parties, movements and organizations are ideologically and programmatically similar: all of them simply want to use the Liberian people as pawns, acquire state power and then use it to promote the continual pillaging and plundering of public resources for personal gain..."

Could this be rhetoric or reality? By what yardstick has Dr. Kieh and Mr. Tokpah gauged the masses to determine such leading role in contemporary Liberia? If the statement is true about New Deal Movement's popularity, then it ought to be congratulated, by all means, for being the people's choice. The New Deal Movement is pretty young; it was organized in January 2000. Their success rate, therefore, would be laudable among its peers in Liberia's political arena.

Conversely, the New Deal should be cautioned about false advertising if the assertion leaves much to be desired. A substantial number of the New Deal Movement's membership in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s participated actively and freely in progressive entities, such as the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA). In its promotional literature, the Deal (which prides itself as putting "Liberia First,") forgot -- hopefully through an oversight -- to credit its assumed political prominence to MOJA or the Liberian People's Party. It would have been prudent for the Deal , at least, to have acknowledged Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, Ambassador Dew Mayson, among others for the daring sacrifices they made to the Liberian struggle for democracy and social justice.

Are there other national strategic plans?

To date, one has yet to see any plans from the rest of the foreign-based presidential aspirants. Do they have any to share with potential voters before the 2003 elections? Or, are they spoilers waiting in the wings to hustle whatever crumbs might fall off Taylor's table? Time will tell.

Political Nadir

Quite recently in Philadelphia, PA, five Liberians declared their desire to merge their political groupings. That concept entices, and should be an eye-opener for others to follow. It is an excellent idea whose time has come. This is a beautiful opportunity for Liberia to be redeemed from the clutches of anarchy and mass destruction.

This could be a beginning for the Liberian People's Party, the United People's Party, the New Deal and other equally well-populated parties to merge. They should merge because their political philosophies and ideologies are similar. The Kieh-Tokpah Campaign Committee has a point there.

Better yet, the five parties that have declared the would-be merger could also consolidate their bases with the Liberian People's Party, the United People's Party, the New Deal Movement and others that might have an interest to save Liberia from its current state of disrepute and disrepair. After all, few of those parties are renegade distractions of the major parties, including the True Whig Party. Liberian politicians must consider the amalgamation proposition if they truly believe in saving the country of further banditry. This is time they wear the "rationality." For long, they have worn the expensive suit of irrationality.

Reason versus Ego

Liberian politicians and their followers should keep their egos in check now, during and after elections. They should heed the voice of reason. They must be rational in deciding what's good for Liberia, and not for their selfish whims.

Pols should denounce collective vice, which is the source of their defeat every election year since 1985. This time around, the opposition should consider "the bigger picture" as opposed to the suspension of their consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know what Liberia truly needs.

The opposition easily rejects its ability and sincerity to construct Liberia because of this ubiquitous irrationality. As a result, they commit to a course of blind destruction and play the blame game where everyone is wrong and the each of them is right.

Moving Forward

As Liberia prepares for the 2003 elections, her sons and daughters must be reminded that rationality is the recognition and acceptance of reason. The urgent need to amalgamate to save the nation must take centerstage this election season. All Liberians - politicians and the common Joe Blow in the streets -- should be rational this time around in whatever decision they make to redeem their country. Rationality should be their only source of knowledge, their only judge of values and their only guide to action.

What Liberians should expect in Presidential Candidates

For well over a decade now, Liberians face two states of mind: happiness and chronic suffering. They dreamt of happiness when elections were scheduled in 1997. They hoped someone decent would be elected to provide some degree of successful state of life. The elections result of 1997 teaches them the warning signals of failure and death, not hope nor happiness.

What Liberians have as a government is a cabal of men who lead, not by means of reason, but by means of force. The country, therefore, must seek a moderate nationalist aligned with a correct set of principles; a leader that is optimistic, positive and upbeat; a leader that is enthusiastic and hopeful. Liberia demands a leader who perceives the unseen potential of other Liberians; a leader who is willing and able to provide a truly democratic opportunity for all Liberians.

Liberia's new leader should have the courage to focus on ideas and issues, not demagoguery, sectarianism, ethnicity and personality. He must have the capacity to discuss issues so as to chart a striking evolution of contemporary ideas, moving toward a political analysis of multiethnic democracy and social justice.

Liberia's new president must be a noble personality, a balanced character and a beautifully integrated individual that is disciplined and visionary; a functional product of personal decisions rather than external conditions. He must be able to choose his responses to situations based on remarkable courage and unbridled principles to redeem Liberia and not for his selfish gains.

The new leader must be committed to adopting a more critical and revolutionary posture that will engage Liberians in a rational process of transforming the country into a sensitive nation dedicated to the well being of all Liberians.

The presidential victor - assuming the opposition merges and wins -- must have the capacity to unify ethnicities for peace; provide education for all Liberians; induce the private and public sectors of the Liberian economy to provide jobs; and take politics to the people. He must have an achievable plan to educate and train Liberians so that they may become productive citizens. Only when Liberians have jobs can they have dignity. So, Liberians must be able to support themselves and their families first under the novel leadership. And this is not simply about radical politics; it is equipping people to move progressively easily through this Digital Age. It is about "walking" people literally into the future - a splendid opportunity and a collective mutual responsibility.

With such community of purpose, Liberians shall have empowered themselves to act. The Liberian Nation must afford its citizens the power, the strength and courage to accomplish anything and everything politically correct and humanly possible. We essentially believe Liberians have the vital energy to make great choices and decisions about what is in their best interests.

Who has the vision to lead Liberia? There are many recycled politicians and potential mindless brutes that could be worse than the proverbial "devil we know." Nonetheless, there are many good men and women "on the ground" who could step up to the plate and assume redemptive responsibilities in the collective struggle of Liberians to reconstruct and reconcile themselves.

Whether the leader envisaged resides overseas or is on the ground, Liberians need a leader who radiates positive energy, an individual who believes in others; whose attitude is optimistic.

Can the Opposition Defeat the NPP in 2003?

Yes and no. Yes, the Opposition can dethrone the NPP administration in the elections if and when its members see reason to get off their high horses. All parties must field one presidential candidate; the rest should seek legislative, state, municipal and local government offices. They should also encourage their protégés to vie for other positions of trust and power. With this formula, it just might be possible for Liberians to achieve some sort of representative democracy, on one hand. On the other, the opposition could be trashed once again if it eschews any reasonable merger proposition. The NPP government would enjoy a shoe-in victory were the opposition to replay the egocentric game of 'me-too-ism."

A Critical Link is missing

The critical missing link within the opposition is the sincere desire to merge. This is the possible nexus to winning the 2003 elections. Consolidation of the major political parties would pose a formidable challenge. It would be better to merge all of the opposing parties to defeat the Liberian dictatorship. But would anyone listen? Would the LPP, UPP, New Deal Movement and others agree to merge? Are "top dogs" willing to suppress their egos for national salvation? I think not. No one will be willing to give up his false pride because each craves the Liberian presidency at all costs. And this sad degree of irrationality will deepen Liberia's woes at all levels..

Major Barriers in the Camps

Time, political, ethnic, technical, fiscal and bureaucratic constraints are live and well in many of the presidential campaigns operating from a distance. Most opposition politicians lack sustainability planning. Fiscal resources crucial for outreach programs are zilch. Aspirants are not open to building partnerships that could foster collaboration rather than competition. By virtue of their distance, these presidential hopefuls appear to have little or no civic responsibility and connection to the greater Liberian Society. Most, if not all, have expressed high hopes but have no fiscal resources. And that is a throwback for critical freethinkers who could have voted in the pending elections.

Where we are

From the look of things, Charles Taylor is bound to get re-elected for six more years. Let the grand opposition prove me wrong.

Bodioh Siapoe is the National Chairman of the Coalition of Progressive Liberians in the Americas (COPLA)

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