Who Will Lead Liberians to the Promised Land in 2005?
By Syrulwa Somah, PhD.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Syrulwa Somah, Executive Director of
History, Education & Development, Inc. (LIHEDE), and an Associate
of Occupational Safety and Health at NC A&T State University, was
Keynote Speaker at Cuttington University
student general assembly. The Meeting was held at the
My brothers and
sisters, it is good to be with you this afternoon at
student assembly, especially for allowing me to speak to you on a few
that really “catch my heart.” It has been 15 to 24 or more
years since I
God didn’t come
down from heaven
to lead the children of
considered himself as God’s servant, not God’s leader of
the Hebrews. It is
stated that more than thirty times throughout the Bible, Moses is
God’s servant, or “the servant of the Lord.” What is
important in this
description is that all great biblical leaders have this title from the
Almighty God: Joshua, Samuel, David, Caleb, Job, and even
Brothers and sisters, in our modern society, the word servant is not a very pleasing word to the ears. Many of us hold the word or title of servant generally in very low esteem. We think if you are servant of the people than you don’t worth a salt. But that is not what the word “servant” means before God. It means you are your brother’s keeper. It means you will not give your brother or sister something that you wouldn’t use yourself. It means you are willing to sacrifice your own happiness for the happiness of your friends and relatives, and the good of the country. If you are such a person, you are not only a good servant of the people, but also a good leader of the people.
Today in our nation,
there is a
general misunderstanding about being servants of the Liberian people.
person in authority in Liberian thinks he or she is master and not
the people. But every leader is a servant of the people because without
people one cannot be a leader. A leader is chosen by the people so he
could serve their best interest and not to work against their interest.
Like the Hebrews, we
must know that we are blessed. Our nation is blessed with the
climate and fertile soil for agricultural enterprise, for growing
rice, cassava, Malaguatta pepper,
kola, mango, okra, palm oil, papaya, rubber, and much more. Iron ore
who relied on
their customs and traditions to develop the Promised Land, the
In essence, the finest climate means nothing; the fattest soil has no value; the richest mines of Liberian mountains are worthless; the safety and cleanest harbors that border our nation are of no value when we are ignorant of our own origins and capabilities. As we have seen, Liberia, with 43,000 square miles of good soil naturally blessed by the tropical sun, with millions of beautiful people, is without the resources to feed her people, clothe her people, provide protection, and send in experts to run her government and write books on her history.
In the book of Genesis 1:1-2, we a see a compelling story again that can help us with the concept of self-consciousness. For some unknown events the earth became formless as darkness covered its surface after God’s first attempt at creation. For some strange events, the earth became dark and formless which surprised God but He was not discouraged. He made His second attempt at creation for six to seven days and saw that everything was good. However, God had another problem at hand. He wanted someone to name these things He had created. Therefore, God decided to make an Adam to name all of the animals, trees, rivers, birds, reptiles, and creatures that fly, crawl, swim, and run. So God created Adam and he began to name God’s creatures. “This is a fish, this is snake, this is a bitter ball, this is a bird” and so forth. But we are not Adam and we are not in the Garden of Eden. We live in
In other words, in the coming elections in 2005, we need to elect the person who like Adam, can name those things that are dearest to our hearts and our nation. We need to select a leader who will take our country back from the hands of those people who can’t stop behaving like children. To steal our money, they bring war to our country, they destroy our country, and then they laugh at us. To confuse us, they totally devoid national education of indigenous culture for books like Don and Peggy, Snow White, at the elementary, to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn (most famous was Tom Sawyer); Romeo and Juliet and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; Rip Van Winkle, King Arthur's Round Table and Jonathan Swift on the national level.
We barely read about
hero, folktales and legends of our culture. Beowulf and Hercules were
heroes and stories about the Trojan War saturated our thinking.
learned more about the Presidents of United States, capital cities,
studies and languages of Western countries than their own country.
western stories though compelling but are irrelevant to the Liberian
and society. And it seems to me that our present predicament lies in
that we have proven to be totally unprepared to accept and implement a
leadership and education system based on our own design. We have failed
many respects to reclaim our status as a nation and people, to worship
of our forefathers, to revere our ancestors, and to educate our
leaders so as to assure their greatness. We have miserably failed our
and ourselves because we are still confusing "grape vines with thorn
bushes, or figs with thistles."
As Liberians, we must try to take our rightful place in the community of the world. In time, the God of our forefathers and foremothers would reveal the true “Liberian Nehemiah” to build our wall in 52 days. But we must be accountable just as God was when God chose Nehemiah among the million of Jews. We hurt ourselves if we have a mute acceptance of the way things are. We need to do what Barnabas did when he heard that Jesus was passing by. He shouted to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, son of David. I am blind!” Yes, many people may want to silence you, but
for a person
in 2005 who loves
My brothers and sisters, this is my message to you. We need to unite and rebuild our country. We need to elect the best-qualified groups of Liberians for national leadership. The tribe of the persons we choose for national leadership shouldn’t matter as long as they are qualified in the sense of their ability to value Liberian culture and unite all Liberians around a common goal of national development. If a town chief is a good leader, elect him. If a university professor is a good leader, elect him or her. Remember, the key qualifications are leadership and the ability to mobilize the Liberian people into collective action to rebuild their nation.
writers have asked: what are we looking for as a people if we do not
want an Americo-Liberian, Bassa, Gio
(Dan), Krahn (Wee), Kpelle,
Vai, Loma, Gissi,
Dei, Mende, Mandingo, Kru
(Kloa), Mano (Maih)
to be president? For me, I don’t really care about the tribe or
the person who wants to be president. I care about the person’s
ability and philosophy. We need to look at why this person wants to be
before uprightly rejecting him or her. We first need to ask ourselves
person want to be our leader only to advance himself
or herself, or to serve our best interests? We need to know the
what the person will do if he or she became president. And if the
give us any concrete plans on how he or she will unify Liberians and
the country, that person would not be qualified, regardless of origin.
person cannot clearly define
If we forget the past, or if we forget the present, we will not be prepared for the future. Are we ready to tell ourselves the truth? If we cannot describe our country, our own image in the community of nations, will we not be able to get other people to help us, and we will not be able to select the correct person to lead us. As Liberians we must be proud of our history, and we must teach our children and ourselves about our history and our culture. Knowledge of Liberian history, culture and natural resources can be a powerful force in the unity and rebuilding of
our message here will be incomplete if we do not talk about matters of
nation for which I am here today. I guess you have wondered many times
have the civil war and fighting among ourselves, killing our sisters
brothers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters thereby plunging our
into a 14 years civil war. If you did know then, let me share with you
the reasons: It is lack of knowledge about ourselves as a people. I
lack on institutions to teach us and indoctrinate to be our brothers
sisters’ keepers. But how can we solve this problem? I have come
The corridor of history continues to remind us that education is the jewel of life for all people and that the human “mind is a terrible thing to waste.” As an invaluable component of society, education at our national university should consist of the promotion of patriotism and the effective and efficient use of national wealth (human and materials) by the students. In this regard, the
In retrospect, the primary goal of the Liberian Studies curriculum is to provide students with knowledge on Liberian ethnic groups, their histories, cultures, mores, and educate future leaders and other civil servants to solve our problems as community of nations continue to tell us to solve our own national and political quagmires. In the past, our educational institutions have not adequately addressed the deep differences among us. Therefore, the proposed curriculum should be intercollegiate, interdisciplinary and multicultural in nature to meet its objectives.
stands the chance of bringing together
The Liberian people were (are) a proud and self-respected people. And this is the history we must tell our children. This is the history for which we must take responsibility to let others know. Some of the information can also be found in my recent book: Nyanyan Gohn-Manan: History, Migration and Government of the Bassa. I am donating a copy of my book to the University for your reading or to be one of the text books for the proposed Liberian Studies curriculum.
Employment and Graduates’ Functions
You may ask what I am going to do with Liberian studies degree? First, it doesn’t make any sense to go to foreign land to get degree in our own history. If there is any institution that is in a better position to confer BS, MA and PhD in Liberian studies, CUC is one. Graduates of the program would find employment as Liberian studies Specialists, Counselors, Educators, Political Scientists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Sociologists, Uniformed Personnel, Law Enforcement Officers, Appointed and Elected Officers. They would function as sources of our producers, transmitters of ideas and practices, mediators, and legitimators. To make the program attractive to incoming students, I will be proposing to the Ministry of Education during my upcoming meeting with Madame Dr. Evelyn Kandiaka so that the first 500 students are awarded scholarships so that upon graduation they can teach at elementary, junior and senior high school students Liberian history.
capacity as the
Director of Liberian History Educational Development, Inc. (LiHeDe),
to sustain the program, I would contact Liberian scholars to develop
instructional materials (curricula), and write textbooks specifically
If the proposal is acceptable, LiHeDe will arrange in consultation with other individuals and universities to teach these courses for the first two years, a series of three-week compact courses during each summer. It is recommended that the courses be offered from May 1 to June 25 or June to July each year. This is the best way I think we can get the program off the ground until a legitimate government is elected. I believe our sisters and brothers in Europe and
Let us go forth and
inspire on a daily basis at least one child or
believe in themselves, learning our history and to work hard for the
unity, and national development of