President Tubman Haunting Legacy

By T. Q. Harris, Jr.

Thursday, July 1, 2010 6:01 AM

A  flurry of activity has begun in order to ensure that the 2011 Presidential  and Legislative elections produce a new generation of leaders across the  three Branches of government who will have the mandate, respect and support  of the Liberian people. The transition no doubt will amaze, excite, and  inspire even those who have lost hope. Liberia is being repositioned to  become a powerhouse in the not distant future. It will again provide  leadership and be a voice for justice. The ‘First Among

Many’ shall remain  a beacon of freedom and equality in Africa. The old has passed away and now  all things have become new. More than 200,000 men, women and children have  died that this day may come. Therefore, no one should underestimate the  hunger for change.
We have embarked upon this endeavor knowing full  well there’s a price to pay. Climbing out of the pit of poverty, illiteracy  and disease up onto the pinnacle of confidence, prosperity and respect will  involve pain…much pain indeed; simply, because transitions by their very  nature are painful.
And people generally do not like change or parting with  the familiar, not even that which causes destruction. But change we  must.
The dysfunctional Liberia created in 1847 where for decades the  dark skins battled the light skins and indigenous were the pawns will no  longer exist as of 2012. Likewise the age where a person’s last name  signified position of privilege – though undeserved – also will come to an  end. In the new
Liberia merit will determine how high one rises or how low  they sit. Never again will you be asked this intimidating question: Do you  know who I am? Because they shall be known by their fruit.
Tubman’s  impact on the Liberian society

How do we fix Liberia without first  identifying the root causes of the problem? What is at the root of  Liberia’s problems, you might ask? The answer to this question may surprise  many, considering for a long time emphases have been placed on the symptoms  rather than the disease. To
effectively remedy the nagging ills and alter  Liberia’s current trajectory, the haunting legacy of President William V.  S. Tubman must be completely eradicated. Among its negative consequences is  the assassination of Presidents Tolbert and Doe as well as the  15-year carnage. Progress in large part will depend on Liberians’  willingness to rid this nation of the devastating effects of Tubman’s  leadership.
But first, it is important to understand how the rivalry  between the former slaves contributed to Tubman’s success in shaping  Liberia to the extent he did. Almost immediately upon setting foot on the  land, light skin and dark skin slaves engaged in a fierce rivalry which  continued unabated for the better part of a century. Throughout this period  the light skin slaves dominated practically all facets of society. But in  1944 a dramatic shift occurred. The very dark skinned William V. S.  Tubman became Liberia’s 18th president. His election was a mixed bag.  It diminished the light skin-dark skin rivalry, elevated the status of  the indigenous, and set the stage for growth. This, however, was achieved  as a result of Tubman’s heavy-handed approach to governance where  political
expediency took precedence over morality; and criminals were  celebrated.
Not long following his inauguration, Tubman created what  has now become the “imperial presidency” by muscling out his political  rivals while at the same time tactfully winning over the indigenous (the  largest population group) as a counterweight. In short order he decimated  the
opposition, effectively transforming Liberia into a one party state.  And, for the duration of his tenure, Tubman’s True Whig Party was the  only vehicle for political expression. Hence, it shaped the thought,  opinion and behavior of the entire nation. Nonconformance was not an  option. In

the new order, the Presidency stood supreme; even above the  law.

Tubman’s 27-year reign could very well be described as the best of  time and the worst of time. Liberia during this period experienced  significant economic growth and was brought squarely into the modern  age…thanks to World War II and the Cold War. Yet, on the other hand, it was  a time of unparalleled moral decadence, corruption, indifference to rule of  law, witchcraft practices, dependency, greed, as well as extreme fear  amongst the population resulting from widespread mistrust. And it is fair  to say under the Tubman administration Liberia lost its innocence as well  as its bearings.
At the time of his death in 1971, President Tubman  had successfully molded
the hearts and minds of an entire generation,  particularly the men and women Liberians have turned to for leadership. But  sadly they are the embodiment of a dysfunctional age. Like their esteemed  patron, these individuals would rather watch the nation disintegrate than  step aside for the greater good. True to form, they have in the past 30  years pitted brother against brother in order to gain power. And it’s no  surprise fear and apathy has returned, as morality is pushed to the back of  the line. This, in its most conspicuous display, is President Tubman’s  haunting legacy which must be brought to an end if Liberia is to  prosper.
TGLs – a dangerous and destructive group
The imperative  of this nation’s survival demands that we retire Tubman-generation-leaders  (TGLs) no later than 2011. They have been ineffective, even dangerous and  destructive. Like Tubman himself, TGLs are a contradiction, often placing  style before substance. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Charles Taylor illustrate  perfectly the nature of TGLs. At the moment, Ellen is more concerned about  her image as Africa’s first female president rather than exposing the fact  rule of law (the cornerstone of any viable nation) is nonexistent in  Liberia. And, paradoxically, she is

promoting a book about her life, but is  not in the least embarrassed by the devastation she brought upon the nation  that gave her life. This is not unlike President Tubman who smoked  expensive Cuban cigars and drank the finest whiskey money could buy as he  sailed on his multi-million
Dollar yacht unfazed by the severe shortage of  schools in the country. TGLs are known to present an impressive image even  when they have nothing concrete to offer. The impeccably dressed – top hat,  tuxedo wearing – Tubman often received foreign guests in grand style,  leading the grand

march at banquets while his people languished in abject  poverty.

As it relates to contradictions, Amos Claudius Sawyer (a TGL)  is rightfully the poster boy. A key opponent of the Americo-Liberian  hegemony and a leading advocate for justice and equality; Sawyer – the  activist – failed miserably when given the opportunity to lead. And he  exhibited a

major character defect by agreeing to head the Interim  Government of National Unity (IGNU), having previously served as chairman  of the committee tasked with writing the Liberian Constitution. In his  greed for power, Amos Sawyer violated the Constitution when he opted to  become interim head of state while the sitting vice president was able to  carry on the affairs of state following President Doe’s assassination.  This willful breach created a constitutional crisis that lasted seven  long years and claimed more than 200,000 lives.
Charles Taylor, on  the other hand, was not only a TGL, but also a practitioner of the Tubman  doctrine. This clearly showed in his brutal strategy to acquire absolute  power in the very early stages. Right from the start, he muscled out Ellen  Johnson Sirleaf from the leadership of the
NPFL; and in short order  asserted supremacy by eliminating all potential rivals – a move not unlike  Tubman’s deadly 1955 assault against the opposition. Wanting to appear in  every way like the 18th president, Charles Taylor even delivered his  inaugural address in a cadence quite
familiar to listeners of Tubman’s  lengthy speeches.
As Charles Taylor attempted to revive the Tubman era,  Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was dusting off President Tubman’s rules book. Almost  immediately following the inauguration, she held a private meeting with  Charles Taylor at the Executive Mansion. Four hours later Ellen emerged to  publicly

announce her endorsement of Charles Taylor’s so-called economic  plan. But, in yet another demonstration of a character defect, Ellen within  24 hours retracted her endorsement.

Integrity has always been a  challenge for TGLs. Prior to Charles Taylor’s forced exit from Liberia, a  group of TGLs under the leadership of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Amos Sawyer  organized a so-called peace conference in Burkina Faso under the auspices  of President Blasé Compaore. This
disgusting show of insensitivity and  total disregard for Compaoré’s contribution to the carnage in Liberia is  further evidence that TGLs will go to extremes in order to obtain  power.
And despite the preponderance of evidence confirming Ellen  Johnson Sirleaf’s role in organizing and financing the NPFL, she has  continued to deny these accusations, though never willing to do so under  oath. There is, however, no denying that NPFL fighters did receive training  in Libya
to overthrow the Doe Government and now Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,  Maummar Gaddafi and Blasé Compaoré are buddies. Her sudden intimate bond  with the men most responsible for Liberia’s destruction creates doubt as to  Ellen’s truthfulness regarding the violence that destroyed Liberia. After  all, Gaddafi armed the NPFL while Compaoré sent mercenaries to  murder Liberians. Yet Ellen Johnson Sirleaf can’t seem to get enough of  them and their families. Why is she cozying up to known enemies of the  Liberian people? The answer is simple: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is no  different than Charles Taylor; and as long TGLs are calling the shots,  Liberia will never
Liberians have common  sense

Elections 2011 will no doubt mark the end not only of President  Tubman’s haunting legacy, but also the confusion, deception and ignorance  that have become a mainstay of Liberian politics. It is unfortunate the  destructive behavior of TGLs has created the impression that those who seek  leadership positions are abnormal, power-hungry men and women. This  couldn’t be
further from the truth. Liberians in general who seek elected  office are patriotic and have common sense; however, the same cannot be  said of TGLs. They are obsessed with power and must lead regardless of  the circumstances. They lack respect for one another and are incapable  of
compromise. Count the number of TGLs who since 1984 have formed  political parties and run for president; it is then easy to see that a  small group of misguided individuals are responsible for the chaos. Every  election season they come out of hibernation and confuse the electorate by  dividing
into multiple camps, only to later merge and forge alliances which  do not last. For the past 30 years TGLs have been the cause of  continuous instability primarily because of deep-seated hatred and mistrust  of one another.

Most Liberians have no desire to work in government  or become president of the country. TGLs, on the contrary, will do almost  anything to get a high-ranking position in the government. Because they  came of age at a time and in a culture where being an official of  government was the most
prestigious career pursuit. With this mindset, they  feel worthless outside of government. This is why it is hard to find TGLs  with advanced degrees starting a business or pursuing research. Rather,  they all head for a desk in a government office, and will fight tooth and  nail to get it.
As their colleagues in other nations were making  significant advances, TGLs spent their time bickering, squabbling, waging  war and killing for government jobs…and all wanting to become president at  the same time. Greed and selfishness led them to practically give away the  nation’s
valuable resources for weapons and other useless trinkets. On  their watch, Liberia has fallen far behind, severely lagging in every  critical area.
Changing our fortunes

More than a change of  leaders, Liberians must embrace a new order. It will take a new vision as  well as a paradigm shift which can only come through a new generation of  leaders unencumbered by the Tubman albatross. As a people, we must do  what’s best for our common survival. It’s obvious we must no longer rely on  the international community, the UN, or any entity
for that matter to do  what we ourselves are capable of. It’s high time we change our fortunes and  put this nation on the right path. Everyone must become involved. There is  no need for further violence. However, those who see the facts and insist  on continuing with business as usual shall leave us no other alternative  than to stop them by any means necessary. We will not stand idly by and  watch the destruction of yet another generation.

In the coming months a  list will be published containing names of individuals who are likely to  experience the wrath of Liberians should they in 2011 attempt to seek  elected office. You may help by emailing us the name of anyone you believe  should be included in this list.
The time has come for  Tubman-generation-leaders to bow out gracefully and avoid a shameful exit  similar to that experienced by Charles Taylor who was given numerous  opportunities to avoid his current predicament; and yet he failed to heed  the warning not knowing when to quit. Let there be no doubt, those who have  harmed the Liberian people will answer for their
crimes. So help us  God.
The Author: Mr. T Q. Harris, Jr. is currently the General  Chairman of
Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic and Strong (Contemp  UPS)
and a former vice presidential nominee. He can  be
reached by phone in the US at (562) 216-3177 or (562) 824-0385 or by  email
him at  and visit the friends of TQ  website:


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