April 21, 2017
The hour is becoming late. The clock of history is ticking out. The electoral syndrome is seen everywhere, in the bodies of previous voters and first time voters. It is seen in the slums and ghettoes of our cities, towns and villages. It is seen on the faces of market women and shoe-shine boys. It is seen in the words and actions of the poor and the rich, the strong and the week. One thing that is inevitable is that this syndrome will somehow dwindle on October 10 this year, the day that marks the beginning of the end of our problems.
There has never been a time more crucial in our history than the 2017 election. It is crucial because it provides a cutting-edge opportunity for Liberia to prove to her sister nations that democracy is about the people, by the people and that the people’s will must never cease to exist. Liberia will demonstrate to the comity of nations that the ballots are powerful than the bullets and that human society is only helped when people choose their own leaders. This will be a resounding message to the world that Liberia is still one of few African countries that has, and probably, will never surrender to dictatorship or one party rule. However, democracy may exist in Liberia, but sometimes the people too make misinformed decisions regarding leaders to elect.
Liberia’s ability to run her own affairs was experimented 12 years ago, an experiment that brought in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first female President. Not only that, there also evolved a kind of “optimistic majority”. Soon, they became the “unhappy majority” and finally entered an era of the “noisy minority”. Of course, I had not attained the voting age by then. Few months away, this ability of Liberia again will be placed on the beam balance of governance, to test whether we have become of age. I am doubts-free we will pass this test with ease and this record shall be entombed in the memorabilia of human politics. As we prepare for this test, we must never forget that it serves as the last, once in a lifetime chance to solve the problems we have been faced with. We are the examiners and takers of this test; it is with us to make it a good one or choose the opposite. It is the test to make corruption a true enemy in actions not mere pronouncements. It is a test to part ways with poverty, declare hunger a scourge and confront disease with prevention.
For too long, our country has been lagging behind. Liberia, nearly 170 years of independence, ranks number four (4) amongst the poorest countries on earth, according to Global Finance Magazine 2016 study. Despite the flow of international donors, too little things have been achieved. With many of Liberia’s population dependent upon agriculture and use of “outdated farming techniques, overall living standards remain amongst the world’s lowest, with 85% of us (the people) estimated to be living below the international poverty line”. The question is, how long will this continue? The question is, will Liberia remain, as Tony Blair put it, “the scar on the conscience of the world”? The question is, are we even prepared to move forward? If we are, then October 10 or November 8 is the only day we have to do so.
Sometimes, I wish Liberia was the last nation in Africa, if not, the world, to declare her sovereignty. This, could, at least justify the level we are at now. Health care in Liberia is amongst the world’s least, to an extent that even our Health ministers have no faith in the health sector including our doctors. Over a century and half, our education system is in a state of carnage, that our Education ministers would never dare send their families to our high schools and universities. These are the saddened conditions and many others we must strive to change as we head to the 2017 polls.
This election is about improving our lives and increasing life expectancies. It is about building our infrastructures and strengthening our institutions. It is about eradicating child labor and providing economic opportunities for parents. It is about ending rape and making our criminal justice system fair. It is combating inequality and creating an equal society. It is about jobs-creation and unemployment reduction. Importantly, it is about continuing the peace in the face of difficulties!
By Abraham M. Keita