Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Next Liberian President Must Make Education A Priority

Source: The Liberian Dialogue
TQ Harris Jr.
www.tqharrisforpresident
Also see www.friendsoftq.org
Ellen Johnso-Sirleaf
As information technology and the forces of globalization reshapes the political landscapes of governments and world economies, the role of the president in aligning the domestic agenda with the international environment is becoming even more complex. Therefore, education as one of the essential elements in preparing an individual to meet the critical challenges of this all-important office must be underscored.

Many in our society today, believe that the presidency is a realm of commonsense, and that it requires no formal education. Upon one’s ascendancy to the rein of power, an individual could only depend on others for the smooth functioning of government. Notwithstanding, in this day and time, this proposition is dangerous, incredibly absurd, frightening, and at the height of myopia. I say this because of the complex nature of the office.

With the advent of information technology and the forces of globalization, every major decision-making including budgetary appropriations and expenditures, and policy pronouncement and execution must be carefully planned and weighed against a backdrop of many external factors and forces.

Permit me to cite two case scenarios to support this position.

Case in point: Quite recently, the Internet and other major news outlets were filled with information concerning the International Monetary Fund (IMF) dropping Liberia’s debt burden in the tone of $4.6 billion. According to the news story, Liberia was reaping this benefit, as a result of the efforts of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Mr. John S. Morlu, II, Liberia’s auditing general. As the news continued, they and other astute personalities at the Finance Ministry have proven to the IMF and other multilateral organizations that in the midst of the budgetary dilemma, they are determined to tackle the fiscal insanity, fraud, waste, and abuse that have run amok in our country for decades.

Another case in point: The issue of human rights cannot be ignored. An expert speaking at a recent conference stated that information technology is changing the world at a pace that it seems like we now live in a “Digital Democracy.” This is because governments that are committing crimes against humanity and concealing them are now being exposed by reconnaissance satellites. Moreover, with the introduction of broadband technology, the work of watchdog organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Democracy Now, and the United Nations has become less hectic, since these organizations can receive information from remote Internet bloggers instantaneously.

Bloggers are capable of reporting crisis, conducting video-conferencing and web casting, as well as transmitting and receiving humongous documents and images stored in gigabytes. Moreover, cell phones and other mobile devices are now retrofitted with Internet capabilities that enable them to transmit and receive videos and documents from anywhere and at anytime.

What are the lessons? The lessons here are that any government that desires to acquire loans to undertake capital projects nowadays must demonstrate to the international community their ability to tackle fiscal profligacy and the prudent use of its nation’s natural resources, and must respect the human rights of its citizens. Governments that behave to the contrary will stand to face the wrath of multilateral organizations in the form of sanctions, embargoes, and loan denials. Sanctions are not foreign to Liberia, as their imposition during the Charles Taylor’s regime brought absolute paralysis to the development of that country.

Nevertheless, there are opportunists, who would often pretend to promote the president’s agenda or interests, whereas, they have their own political dreams in the pipeline. To be real, it is impossible in this day and time when education is constantly evolving to expect an aspiring presidential candidate to specialize in every discipline. On the other hand, this cannot be used as an alibi for the individual not to have the requisite education, the analytical and critical thinking skills, which equips one to delegate authority and effectively monitor the roles of appointed ministers and government bureaucrats.

A legend that has circulated within the Liberian society for over two decades says that the late President Samuel Kanyon Doe was ill-advised by a renowned economist to raise the wages of soldiers by 100%. According to this legend, the president yielded to the advice without ascertaining whether such policy implementation would have been sustainable, because he (Mr. Doe) was uneducated and inexperienced.

In a rumor-based society such as ours, it would be fruitless to dwell on the veracity or falsehood of a legend. Notwithstanding there are definitely valuable lessons to be learned from it. The presidency is a position that calls for an individual of high intellectual caliber and cognitive flexibility, who is able to diagnose as well as comprehend the synthesis and analysis of complex issues, problems, and challenges which may be of profound significance to the nation.

A president who lacks this level of sophistication and depth of knowledge is extremely gullible, and is usually a victim of some defunct economic theory or demagoguery.

A speaker at a major commencement address once said years ago that our society was tittering on the brink of breeding its own Frankenstein. He was relating to our educational system and the need for government to invest in the improvement of schools and incentives to train and attract qualified instructors, because a multitude of Liberian youths were either socially promoted or graduated with dysfunctional education.

We can say today without a shadow of doubt that his words have become a prophetic implication, as we see individuals vying for the highest office in the land who do not have the least superficial insight on the perspectives of constitutional law, economics, political science, or finance, as the nation is now harvesting the crops of a degenerated educational system. One of the major challenges of the 21st century facing Liberia is illiteracy reduction. According to the latest statistical data, Liberia’s illiteracy rate is 75%, which is alarmingly high!

Another story that circulated during the 2005 presidential election was about a particular football star, who became a leading presidential candidate. The football star was asked whether he could debate then-presidential candidate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the time. As the story goes, he designated the late Gabriel Baccus Matthews as his proxy. This event sparked rumors that the football star’s refusal to participate in a debate was due to incompetence and a lack of education.

Furthermore, there was a prevailing belief that his political ambition did not register well with the university students and ‘educated elites.’ This belief added to the deep-seated apprehension and fear that if he had clenched power, his improprieties would have made him vulnerable, and consequently an easy target for predatory and insidious politicians to exploit his inadequacies. This chain of events would have then reverted Liberia to the dark and ominous days of the military dictatorship.

Nevertheless, debates play paramount roles in the vetting processes of democratic societies, as candidates must prove that they can both “talk the talk, and walk the walk”. Critics of presidential debates say that the media often demonstrates biases in favor of certain candidates. Nonetheless, most electorates feel that it is a good exercise. For one thing, it gives the voters the opportunity to understand an aspiring presidential candidate’s level of tolerance, temperament and judgment, because nobody wants to elect a president who would eventually prove to be an iron-fisted dictator or a megalomaniac.

Next, the responses from the candidates clearly give voters the chance to know who is knowledgeable, enlightened, and has the grasp of the contemporaneous issues. Last, electorates do not want to buy “apples in the bags”. Therefore they regard debates as a way of checking whether candidates for the office possess the mental capacity or ability to articulate a vision, and execute the extraordinary duties and responsibilities that are required of the office.

What most members of the informed public would like to see today is for the Elections Commission of Liberia to craft a new paradigm shift within our political dialogue. Such a paradigm shift should be devoid of character assassination, ethnic discord, exaggeration and sarcasms. Instead, it should set the tone for debates and social discourses that are issue-oriented. The debates should engender the viewpoints of all Liberians including those on the other side of the political spectrum.

For example as the country prepares for another election in 2011, Liberians who are concerned about the direction of our country might want to know from the standpoint of an opened debate the stance of the presidential aspirants on issues like:

• Improving the dysfunctional educational system,

• Overhauling the abnormal legal system,

• Reducing poverty and ensuring an equitable distribution of wealth

• Assisting our farmers in developing cash crops and boosting agricultural yields,

• Combating crimes,

• Improving the health care delivery system,

• Aligning the Liberian economy to be in sync with the dynamics of the global economy

• Reshaping the military to become capable of engaging in civil construction and being responsive to disastrous situations,

• Confronting child prostitution,

• Reconstructing our economic infrastructure,

• Revisiting the eligibility requirements for elective positions,

• Combating corruption,

• Improving our farm to market roads, etc.

The 2011 election will be a litmus test of how well Liberia proceeds through this decade and into the next. Most importantly, it will depend on the participation of all Liberians irrespective of their social class, political indoctrination, ethnic background and religious affiliations, etc. The tasks of restoring our country back to a level of respectability, and projecting her once again among the comity of nations as a beacon of hope in Africa will depend on the courage we summon, and the vision we cast in electing a president with the education, breadth of experience, moral character, and the will and tenacity to lead.


Written by: Paul Jeebah Albert,
North Carolina.


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Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah



Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah

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