Liberian History: 66 ½ Degree True Whig Party
By Kaazogon-gbay Geekan
August 19, 2002
Geographers teach as that the earth is tilted in such a way that the farthest point away from the equator at which the sun’s rays strike the earth is at an angle of sixty-six and half degrees.
Hence the uneven patterns of weather, climate, and other atmosphere phenomena throughout the world. To the geographically UN-schooled person, the particular condition obtaining in his or her locale is all there is about weather and climate.
After reading the True Whig Party Chairman, Cllr. Rudolph Sherman's response to a statement of support and loyalty, published in the July 31, 2002 edition of the INQUIRER, one cannot help but think that the honorable TWP Chairman and Collaborating Political Parties leader has a differentiated interpretation of Liberia's political history that holds his party at a positive constant while all other political individuals and institutions vacillate between worse and ridiculous.
If Chairman Sherman's historical analysis is anything to go by, then he has a fairly good grasp of the historical evolution of our nation-state. Or so it seems.
But while we might entertain no doubt about Cllr Sherman's knowledge of TWP history, we must firstly dissect his rendition of history on a point-by-point basis before making this concession. And since he gives the impression that the TWP represents the "good era" prior to 1980, then the we will also assume that his party takes credit for the pre-1870 period as well. We will therefore base our response on the premise of 1822 to 1980.
Cllr Sherman says that in 1980 it was a fearful thing to be identified with the True Whig Party. But he also needs to admit that before that time it was not only fearful but abominable to be identified with the Progressive Alliance of Liberia, Progressive People's Party, Movement for Justice in Africa, and other political challengers of the then dreaded TWP.
While we accept the argument that TWP members were victimized in 1980, the party's current leader has a keen memory of what happened to True Whiggers in Clay-Ashland, Crozierville, Bensonville (or Bentol?), Careysburg, Congo Town, White Plains, and Arthington.
But for northern, central, and southeastern Liberia, it is just a sweeping "elsewhere all over the country". From the linguistic, literary, or whatever point of view, it is clear that by naming seven towns in only Montserrado, the Chairman's focus is squarely on this county.
Yet how I wish he could ask all those chiefs, elders, and lawmakers elsewhere, whose position were acquired at the price of TWP membership, how they too fared in 1980. Well, for Cllr. Sherman, those were mere "branches" grafted onto the tree whose roots were deeply entrenched in Montserrado. They were the cannon fodder in the TWP’s war of “civilization” against “native” heathenism. It was of little consequence whether they prospered or perished.
What else could explain his joining the NDPL, the party of the man who booted the TWP out of the mansion?
On the question of security, the TWP should be the last to talk about it. Creating a professional, patriotic, and nationalistic security system was never a serious concern during their marathon hegemony.
Once they were on the right side of the cold war, there was nothing to fear without; and so long the mass of the citizenry were kept in feudal ignorance there was no fear within.
The degeneration of security that began in 1980 was only logical for a society where personnel of the services were supposed to be servants in homes and garages and not protectors of the people and state.
Therefore, the coming of foreign security forces was just another, howbeit more complex, dimension of the state collapse and lack of trust in the state security, which began as early as the overthrow of the TWP’s first standard-bearer in 1872.
Every change in regime has always witnessed a reconfiguration of the security orders.
If the ghosts of DidwhoTwe, David Coleman and son, Tuan Wreh, Fredrick Taylor, the 1979 protectors, and others could be heard, they could surely testify that they too had security concerns under the TWP regime that Chairman Sherman is aping to resurrect.
Cllr Sherman raised the issues of Liberia's economic decline. He places the responsibility at the doors of those who came to power in 1980. I am no apologist of the 1980-'90 arrangement. But I am not prepared to succumb to the nostalgic fever that the TWP was a better economic manager either.
Who ran repeated budget deficits in 1912-26, 1945, 1963, 1968-69, and so on? (see Jacob Pereira-Lunghu's article in the Liberia Studies journal vol. XX no.2, C 1995 by the Liberian Studies Association).
Much of this at the time when Liberia's growth rate surpassed any nation under the sun, and was receiving the highest amount of foreign direct investment on the continent! Who built well-furnished houses for themselves while their government could not house its own agencies?
Moreover, who operated an economy for over a century without a central bank, a national currency, a development plan, and without economic goals? We need to know the names and training of the economic managers between 1870 and 1980 (including those who got that infamous British loan) and what they established before we can get on to those who took over from them in 1980.
We may not need to look too far to understand their greatest economic achievement. It was the anomaly of growth without development. Ah, there goes the TWP chairman talking of feeling disgraced in 1984 to see soldiers collecting taxes! What’s new about this to the TWP, founder of the fear-inspiring Liberia Frontier Force more than sixty years earlier for the primary purpose of tax enforcement in the "uncivilized" hinterland?
The honorable Chairman was taken aback probably because in those days the LFF did not employ similar tax enforcement methods in the “civilized” coastal settlements as they did in the countryside.
In fact tax payment was not a serious concern for the civilized people on the coast.
I don't know who led the TWP in the Frontier Force days. But if they were around today, they would agree that the floggings Chairman Sherman saw in 1984 was simply a carryover from those by-gone periods when the dreaded khaki-clad, red beret LFF soldiers raided whole communities and placed delinquent individuals and their chiefs in shackles. As late as 1979, my late grandmother, my mother, and my aunt were doused with cold water and placed in the sunshine for hut-tax arrears-a good catalyst for malarial fever.
And what did the TWP do with the taxes the LFF collected? Nobody knows, for had they done something meaningful, they would not be so desperate for money to the point of selling people to Fernando Po.
One sentiment of Cllr Sherman that I accept at face value (not necessarily in context) is “A lot of what is happening in Liberia today stems from the activities of individuals who now refuse to accept responsibilities for their activities”(emphasis mine).
On this count, we can face the TWP bull squarely in the eyes and say that Liberia descended to its current depths because this party never thought favorably of other Liberians outside of its own narrow confines.
Even within those narrow confines, there were layers of prestige and privilege under-girded by a rigid social pecking order.
This social stratification was founded on the presumption that the True Whiggers were like the ancient Israelites who were sold into slavery by their kith and kin. Their return to Africa was much like the exodus of the Hebrews to Palestine under Moses.
This analogy holds only under the presumption made by those making the claim. But unlike the Israelites, however, they were not willing to forgive their brothers as Joseph did. And unlike the Israelites, they were not sold off from this part of Africa, because this is the Grain Coast and not the notorious slave coast between Ghana and Angola.
Notwithstanding, they regarded Liberia as their promised land, their heritage, and their manifest destiny to capture, conquer, and subjugate. They did so without due regard for the “civilizing” and “christianizing” mission they claimed to have come for in the first place.
So Cllr Sherman's latter-day lamentation that his party has been isolated is a logical outcome of the bad seeds it sowed in the past. When so large a majority was alienated from their common heritage by so tiny a minority for so long a time, what did he expect to be the attitude of the majority when they regained their freedom?
It is the TWP that must make amends and take steps towards reconciliation. The first of such steps is an open and unreserved apology to the people of Liberia for 110 years of misrule.
It is only then that the scenario that he sweepingly paints about South Africa and Sierra Leone can be enacted here in Liberia. Otherwise the people of this country will shun you into oblivion.
Further on, Honorable Sherman exhorts Liberians to stop shifting blame. Surely, this is a sound advice except that his entire speech was carved up as a blame-shifting exercise. He cries over what the TWP lost without wanting to know why it lost it in the place. What ever happened to TWP, though very regrettable and sad in many respects, was a reaction to its actions over more than a century of bad governance. To excuse or absolve the Grand Old Party of its failures by blaming those who succeeded it in power is like blaming AIDS-infected children for the irresponsible behavior of their parents. I believe the party chairman was well aware of this fact when he opted to represent the NDPL as Grand Cape Mount Senator. Now the NDPL is gone and the NPP is in, who knows what’s next for the Counselor? But from where we stand now in Liberia, the TWP, the NDPL, and many, many political, military, and civil actors have got to accept the reality of a truth and reconciliation conference to make apologies. Otherwise, Chairman Sherman of the TWP should not expect any quick return into the political limelight.