Perceptions can also be wrong

Introduction: I think Liberia’s political class hasn’t fully digested how profoundly the county’s young generation has disrupted the status quo. Old assumptions have been given a matching order by contemporary realities - like Madame Sirleaf indicated before - “lead, follow or get out of the way”. And that is, times have changed! The old order must come to term with the reality that times have changed.

While I respect the traditions of yesteryears, particularly that which a young one must be apologetic at all times to his or her seniors whether in error or not, I think it is hard time the injustices and ignoble precedents associated with such ‘rituals’ be exposed to the public for scrutiny.  

Again, anybody living in this age and time must understand that the Political, Economical, Social, Technological, Ecological and Legal realities of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s are by far different from those of the 2000s. For instance, before the 90s, matters of rape in Liberia would be discussed under the ‘palava hut’ and would end there. Today, it is an unbailable crime. Before this epoch, essential information was sent and received from one village to the other in Liberia by couriers. After the 90s, mobile phones eased that burden. One can now stay in Monrovia and talk to his or her relatives in Gbii and Doru or in Cape Palmers. Citizens can now demand information from public officials consistent with the ‘Freedom of Information Act’. Thanks to modernity!

Hence, I vehemently suppose that even with politics, the old strategies of age are definitely inapplicable to contemporary time. This is why the people of Nimba County and some Liberians outside Nimba must emancipate themselves from the psychological incarceration of Senator Prince Yormie Yealuegbay Johnson politically archaic and hoax tactics.

It is a known verity that what makes a man strong or weak lies in the perceptions other people hold about him. But I know for a fact too, that perceptions are not always right. Take the John Kerry’s case.  On February 20, 2013 indicated in his first address to the American people as Secretary of State of the United States that contrary to the perception that 25% of the US budget was directed to foreign policies, only 1 % in reality was being spent in that area. It is also a general acuity in Liberia that bright or light people bless or lucky.

Where am I driving? I have heard in many quarters in and out of Liberia that Senator Prince Yormie Yealuegbay Johnson remains the “only political voice” of Nimba County. Not only that, some argue that he is in fact the “strongest” and the “real and true leader of the county”.  The only basis for this myth, when I asked, is that he won landslide in the 2005 Senatorial race in Nimba and brought a neophyte and politically unknown Tom Grupee who won the 2011 Senatorial Elections in the County. Other rationales put forth are that he even won on a silver platter while spending little or nothing to get a nine years job at the expense of the many intellectual sons and daughters of the county, including folks who contested against him.

While accounts of these electoral victories will painfully and indisputably remain in his legacy as well as in the pages of Nimba’s history, I vehemently disagree with  assertions such as  “the only political voice”, “ the strongest”, “the real and true leader of the county” etc.  What I can simply say is that he stole the show solely by the use of ‘terrorization’ and instituting ‘fear and threat strategy’ on the people of Nimba to vote him to the county’s top job. He made news again with this ‘peril strategy’ in the 2011 general and presidential elections by coercing the people of Nimba to overwhelming vote him over many credible candidates thus making him finish third in the race. In a real sense, the senator’s ‘threat and fear strategy’ is in its entirety a mediocrity. But I know Nimba.


The Nimba I Know
Nimba is a great county! Statistics has indicated that Nimbians are amongst the most educated and perceptive people in Liberia. They are also known in Liberia and elsewhere for their strength and bravery. It is the second largest county in Liberia in terms of population next to Montserrado County. Before the civil war in 1989, there were over 313,050 people in the county according to the 1984 census. The 2008 census put its size at 11,551 square kilometers (4,460 square miles) and its demography at 462,026. It was part of the central province of Liberia which included Bong and Lofa. It became a full-fledged county in 1964 when President William V.S. Tubman changed the provinces into counties. Nimba became one of the original nine counties of Liberia and is also one of the richest in Liberia in terms of natural and human resources.

 It has the largest deposit of high grade iron ore in Mount Nimba which is the highest mountain in Liberia. Other natural resources found in Nimba are gold, diamonds, timber, etc. In the late 50's, Nimba's huge iron ore reserve was exploited by LAMCO - the Liberian - American Swedish Mining Company.

A considerable portion of Liberia's Gross Domestic Product, GDP, was said to have been generated from revenues from Nimba's iron ore for several years. All of these advantages make Nimba a prestigious county to all politicians, business executives and ordinary people in and around Liberia. Citizens from other counties respect Nimba for what she has and is contributing to the development of Liberia but take this to the bank – they scorn the county because of its political decisions and representations.

Today, a new company, Mittal Steel has currently invested over a billion dollars in the mines, taking over LAMCO, Yekepa. A social Development Fund (SDF) from proceeds from the Mittal Steel agreement has been set up to be managed by the county’s administration with oversight by the county’s legislative caucus.  This is the Nimba that I know. With its rapidly growing population, vast proportion of its citizens getting educationally exposed, as well as the opportunities provided by the current political dispensation, the people of Nimba have a mind set.  This begs the question - with all these assets, what has happened to the Nimba I know?

What Nimba County Thinks
The results of the 2005 and 2011 general and presidential elections signified the outlook of the people of Nimba County. It was a clear demonstration of what Nimba County thinks today – “we are numerically strong enough to produce a democratically elected president of Liberia”. While I buy this opinion, I refuse to concord with the face the county is attempting to market as its political nominee - a “PYJ”. He is not an option! The sky is the limit to what one thinks or feels about himself. Nevertheless, the court of public opinion is always critical. This is why I opine that it must not or cannot be a PYJ!

Why It Must Not and Cannot be a PYJ
I am not bothered about who sees him as a project to protect his or her legacy or a tool to win in 2017. In fact, I cannot even imagine how. What bothers me is the endless questions of what has happened to the ‘judgments’ and so-called ‘gallantry’ of the people of Nimba to persistently live under the spell and cling of the son of Yealue. What also bothers me is the constant wave of embarrassment from my peers as an informed Nimba citizen as why we are all thinking the same way. Nimba will never leave the lamplight of negativism and criticism from its neighbors if she continues to vend a PYJ. It is hard time our man leaves the scene if our dignity as a county must be restored!

The primary reason and plain reality behind this logic is that the name rings a resounding, very laud, noisy, irritating and discomfiture bell in the ears of not only Liberia, but the world at large with an awful reflection on the county. Therefore, if Nimba will ever live her dream of producing a democratically elected President in this contemporary Liberian political dispensation, take it to the bank – the son of Yealue is not a strategy – we must rebrand ourselves.  

This is no politics but my true conviction as a son of Nimba who mean well for the county and essentially too, for Liberia at large and its great people.

Here are other reasons for my argument. First, the guy is not only an incarnate of stigma to Nimba, Liberia and the sub-region, but internationally, most of our partners also view him as a protracted nuisance that must be overwhelmingly ignored, avoided and resisted in a complete term. 2014 is our chance to do just that!

Are we prepare again to have another ‘Charles Taylor like’ president or an ‘Assad type’ leader who will attract less international attention and support? I guess Liberia is not ready to go backwards in doom again.

Second, the senate is a place for law making, oversight and strategy – political not military. For over eight (8) years, Yealue’s son Yormie has served in the upper house of the national legislature. The people of Nimba cannot point to one bill or a piece of legislation introduced by our man and passed by the legislature aimed at the development of the county. The only bill the senator refers to regularly as accomplishment is his title: “Senior Senator of Nimba County” - period! This man does not contribute a simple logical proposal or a dime to the financial and other development in the county. For him, if it is not County Development Funds (CDF), it must be Social Development Funds (SDF) or nothing from PYJ. SDFs or CDFs are the issues which manifest the magnitude and strength of his ‘legislative oversight’ as senior senator of Nimba County. This is where his power is demonstrably known. What a Shame! But this is a man who expects nothing less but all from the people of Nimba. What are we thinking?

Third, it is a prima facie at issue that PJY was responsible for the gruesome murder of the 20th President of Liberia, a repulsive experience Liberia is still endeavoring to forget. But for the Senator, it is a ‘morale gizmo’ and a sole campaign strategy which he will forever hold on to. This is his ‘trump card’ to win the ‘election games’ in Nimba and will simply sing the song over and over again. He will never stop reminding the people of Nimba - Liberia about what he considers his biggest achievement in the 90s. “I liberated Nimba when you were being killed by Doe and his Krahn people”, to quote his ‘legendary melody’ directly. I soberly believe repeatedly uttering this catchphrase is an outright arrogance on the part of Yealue’s son and a very outrageous campaign strategy to keep the people of Nimba under such an evil spell while at the same time consistently reminding the people of Liberia about this dreadful past.

The realities of today are different from the 90s. PYJ’s political tactics is pathetic! It does not support the peace and reconciliation Liberia is so desperately yearning for. Even George Weah and the President will agree with me on this.

Forth, our man is a prolific tribal lord. What do I mean? Besides the Kpelle and Bassa tribes along our borders with Bong and Grand Bassa counties, Nimba county has five (5) local tribes; Gio, Mano, Gbii, Krahn and Mandingo. But from the way the senator behaves, I am convinced he’s not conversant of this fact. The guy has a huge prejudice against the other tribes inhabiting in the county. His role in the Nimba land dispute can visibly speak to this. For him, Nimba should only be occupied by the Gios - his kinsmen. He has consistently demonstrated his distaste for the other ethnic group in all of his utterances and programs. He never stops calling people by their tribes – “you mano man”, “you bassa woman”, etc. Liberia has never been a Kenya or the Middle East where ethnic mathematics or religious calculus determines who win elections. Even though sectionalism is the senator’s forte, it must not be introduced and perpetrated in our Liberian body politics – thus, all Liberians have got a patriotic responsibility to deprecate this malevolence.

In our quest to explore for a perfect successor to President Sirleaf come 2017, mindful we must be.  We must not be carried away by the wind to plunging ourselves into the huge error of supporting a PYJ candidature or ever electing him to the presidency of Liberia.  As a nation, we have had many missteps in our history but we still have a prospect to correct our past.  2014 is our chance to do just that.

Fifth, a Senior Senator for any county is like a CEO in a huge corporation. He represents all parties - employees, stake or shareholders. Besides being accountable to them like any CEO would, the senator has got to call the shots most of the time. He has enormous political clouts. Anyone in this capacity must have the tenacity to unite all his subjects, protect their interests and shares and must also have the experience to showcase executive leadership required for the presidency. But PYJ is a total contradiction to these necessities. For him, nobody dare ask him questions or make a suggestion.  He is a demigod - the “godfather” - who is not answerable to anybody.  What sort of a leader who only talks but doesn’t listen? Who only has a mouth but no ears? It is time for Nimbaians and Liberians to be given the chance to judge this Senator based on his performance as a CEO of the second most populous and powerful county in Liberia.

I am concerned about this because Nimba is a corporation in which as a Nimbaian, I am a major shareholder. I must therefore give my candid observations and advice now so as to safeguard not only my assets and shares but those of my fellow stakeholders and partners or forever hold my peace and watch our corporation goes bankrupt.  We must thus stand up in unanimity and trounce the character liability and opinionated nightmare hanging over our dear county.  What this would mean for Nimba, yea Liberia is that for the first time in two decades, Nimba will be regaining itself from the shadows of terror and doom, from the clutch of antipathy by its peers – all because of one ‘old man’, Prince Yormie Yealuegbay Johnson - to a destiny of indisputable national prominence and influence. 2014 is our moment to make that change - to reposition our image and restore the decorum which our county and Liberia once enjoyed and deserve.

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