In terms of days, forty could mean an opportunity to shift in the right direction as was the case with the city of Nineveh (present day Mosul) when Jonah preached, proclaiming the requirement of repentance to avert divine judgment (Jonah 3:1-10).
Forty was the number of days the spies used to access advanced knowledge of the Promised Land (Num. 13:1-25). After forty days of fasting, Jesus was ready for His ministry (Matt. 4:1-2). In terms of years, forty is a period of testing or judgment as in the forty years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:26-34; Deut. 8).
Of the many instances of the use of forty in the Bible, it is clear that it always represents a period of important events, whether trial, change of some significance, or an accomplishment of relevance. Amajor milestone, as it seems in scripture, is accomplished after a period of forty(whether days or years) is exhausted.
Evidence of this is seen in the first 120 years of Israel’s political history when Saul who was the inaugural king ruled for forty years, followed by David and Solomon who accomplished great transformation for the nation after ruling forty years apiece.
In light of specific events regarding the duration of forty, another idea that is associated with that concept is generation. Generation signifies race, descent, or lineage. In short, generation implies kinship on the one hand. On the other, itrefers to a circle of time.
Though the duration of generation as used in the Bible is uncertain, and therefore impossible to establish time limits, yet, it generally refers to a group of people born during a particular period. Better still, it can imply a people whose lifetime falls within a particular period.
Noteworthy also about generations is the fact that certain trends become uniquely associated with a generation. The firebrand preacher, John the Baptist scolded his people by describing them as a generation of vipers (Matt. 3:7).
That means, he lived in Israel during a time of institutionalized exploitation and social malignancy. On a positive note, is the testimony of King David when it says, David served his generation, after which he died (Acts 13:36). That refers to David’s forty years of ruling in Israel as King.
The significance of that period was not exclusively in the duration of forty years, but also in the circumstances and common trends of that time. For example, it is said of David that he died in good old age, full of days, riches, and honor (I Chron. 29:28). Considering that David died at the age of seventy, the testimony of good old age has reference mainly to his incredible leadership rather than necessarily his age. Conclusively, a generation though without a specific time limit, carries two characteristics – time and trends.
Because forty is a biblical time frame within which significant events or trends have occurred, it is reasonable to consider forty years of national history as significant enough a time to assess how Liberia has fared so far.
The last forty years in Liberia’s history was introduced by an incredible event of political change, howbeit, violently! Historians have reckoned April 12, 1980 as the beginning of the Second Republic. The implication is that the first 133 years is our First Republic; because it was characterized by minority-elite rule of segregation and exclusion. The First Republic was responsible for poverty and suffering. But after forty years of eliminating that regime, what has the Second Republic achieved?
According to the latest United Nations Human Development Index, Liberia falls in the least category, sitting thirteenth place from the bottom. This category is characterized by unstable governments, widespread poverty, lack of access to healthcare, and poor education.
Liberia is ranked at 176 out of 189 countries. According to WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme Report of 2017, about 42% of Liberia’s population practices open defecation; less than 10% has access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services.
Though Liberia is one of the wettest countries in the world, close to 90 percent has limited access to safe drinking water. By WHO standard, there should be a 1: 1,000 doctor to patient ratio. But a 2016 report by the Liberia Medical and Dental Council revealed Liberia’s doctor to patient ratio to be 1: 15,000.
That is 298 doctors to a 4.5 million population. Most of the country is inaccessible; most of the available roads are unpaved. Both electricity and pipe-borne water supplies are a continual nightmare. But this is the Second Republic of forty years.
Forty of Africa’s fifty-four countries got their independence when William V. S. Tubman was president of Liberia. That means, when most of Africa was becoming free, Liberia was already in her golden age of economic boom. It is very difficult to find any index in which Liberia performs impressively.
With the privilege of obtaining independence for as long as we have been, the rich endowment of natural resources, fantastic climate, advantageous geographic positioning, wonderful topography, etc., it is regrettably ironical that our status both politically and economically misrepresents our potentials.
As significant as April 12, 1980 is to Liberian history, it has never been commemorated. Apparently, there has been reluctance to do so because of the scarcity of proofs for the revolution. But after forty years, the significance of this period as shown in the account of biblical history, demands a reflections on our history. Of the first ten leading economies in Africa, six got their independence in the late ‘50s and ‘60s.
That is not much longer than forty years. In fact, Angola which is one of the first ten, got independence in 1975. From 1965 to 2000, a period of just thirty-five years, Singapore was transformed by Lew Kuan Yew and his team of leaders, from a small fishing island with no interior and no natural resources, to an enviable first world status. After 173 years, if we still hold one of the least positions in virtually every index, then something fundamentally has to be wrong with us as a country.
We can excuse ourselves for the first 133 years, understandably due to all the evil vices that were so prevalent during that time. But after forty years of majority rule, we cannot possibly excuse our shameful state of underdevelopment to the problems of the first 133 years. Therefore, I submit that the core problem responsible for out very poor national performances is a gross lack of credible leadership.
Leadership and Vision. The process that led to our founding as a country laid the faulty foundation upon which our national structure was built. The core reason for sending the settlers who eventually became the founding fathers, was simply to get rid of the black population from the American society.
It is an initiative borne out of hatred and dehumanization. It had nothing to do with founding a successful country. Secondly, the settlers themselves who came did not have a vision for a country at all. They had no capacity for such a noble idea.
They were dehumanized slaves who simply wished to be free. They had no vision for a country, neither did they have the leadership or the requisite preparation for running a country. Without any substantive education, without any experience of partaking in a functional society, and without any support to get them started, these settlers had no capacity to lead, no intelligence to relate to the indigenous tribes, and certainly no strategy to forge a common bond.
The Declaration of Independence was essentially a strategy for survival, not due to a vision for a thriving country. Giving all the difficulties they were subjected to, including lack of financial support, and most crucially, the gross lack of a template for developing a national society, the settlers with their superior advantage over the natives (however mediocre that was), simply adopted an exclusionist policy.
With the divisions that existed among themselves based on skin tune, regional conflicts based on which region of America one came from whether south or north, and whether one came originally from America or was a captured slave from sea; all of these complicated an already complex situation. The segregation and exclusion approach became the sole policy of the ruling elite for well over a century and a quarter.
Mismanagement. As early as 1909, sixty-two years in our national existence, James Ciment records in his book, Another America – The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves who Ruled It, said that American President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a three-man commission to Liberia.
Their investigation revealed that the Americo-elite lacked financial acumen. The treasury was empty and the country was indebted to foreign creditors to the tune of nearly a million dollars, more than five times what would have been the GDP.
Bribery and embezzlement were rife. Corruption was so common as to seem banal. The financial ineptitude of this elite-run regime was amplified by the regime of William V. S. Tubman from 1944 – 1971. There are two reasons why this section of mismanagement is necessary in this discourse.
Firstly, it shows that the incompetence of national leadership is inevitably demonstrated by gross mismanagement of resources. Secondly, it is also to show that the crippling menace of corruption in our society is rooted in and derived from this long history of 133 years.
Since corruption has persisted to present, then it naturally follows that the paradigm from which this horrible legacy emanates was simply brought over into the Second Republic. The Second Republic. The Second Republic which began from April 12, 1980 can be considered thought imperfectly as the Liberia’s version of independence.
If the independence of African nations ushered them into an era of progress such that after a little over forty years, most of them have performed by far better than Liberia, then the Second Republic should have equally been our era of growth and prosperity. Most unfortunately, that was not to be the case for us. I wonder why?
I suggest that the paradigm from which we declared independence in 1847 was essentially the same mode from which we ushered in the Second Republic. There was no vision, neither from the slave masters nor from the settlers themselves.
So also, there was no crystal clear vision for the country, neither from the political actors nor most crucially, from the coup actors themselves. How can anyone say that a mere sergeant in Liberia’s army in the 1970s who was hardly a sixth grade student knew anything about running a country, especially one with the history as Liberia?
Listen to the statements of the PRC members in the early days of the coup; and that should suffice. But I will have to ask a few questions: where did Doe come from to lead a coup? How connected was he to the political leaders of the 1970s?
What coordination existed, if any between the coup leaders and political leaders? How come Doe and his men hijacked a revolution they were not a part of? After the coup, how active and strategically involved were the major political leaders in the running of the PRC government?
These questions are important to deciphering the motivation and the spirit of the coup. It is my opinion that the same way the founding of our country was driven by America’s national convenience in the early 1800s and not necessarily out of an honest vision for a thriving nation, so it is what exactly repeated itself in 1980. Three things are very crucial to note:
1. The political activists of the ‘70s were diverse including those with socialist sentiments. Those divergent political views were not synchronized into a common political manifesto for change.
2. Secondly, president Tolbert too, in his bid to break from what was obviously his dislike for the policies of his predecessor became very radical with his foreign policy, effectively breaking ranks with the West and its capitalist agenda. President Tolbert decided to lean east instead, to the extent of condemning Israeli’s policies and advocating for return of land to Palestine.
3. Thirdly, America was desperate to find another Tubman in their partnership especially now, more than ever, Africa was fast becoming the Cold War theater between America and Russia. The UNITA movement of Jonas Savimbi of Angola, which was anti-communist was still on.
The VOA project in Liberia was a major western strategy to counter the spread of communism in Africa. So with the fragility of the political opposition, and President Tolbert’s vision of political independence, as well as the critical need for a loyal ally in Liberia, America hijacked our revolution by using an unknown to the Liberian political struggles and a total novice to the challenges of leadership for a country like Liberia.
That said, I will also have to highlight one key factor in this puzzle. The political actors seemed to acquiescence the intrusion of America in our national affairs. That permission sabotaged to a great deal the prospects for true change.
Because as always, the country was again beginning a new era solely on assumptions, not vision. As long as America succeeded in “purging” their society of the unwanted race (even if not completely), it didn’t matter how Liberia fare.
Again, in the Second Republic, when America’s interest was served adequately, Doe was vacated. It didn’t matter how Liberia became. It is not entirely America’s lack of sincere interest and support for us that Liberia is horribly underdeveloped; it is rather the lack of a genuine self-generating vision for a prosperous country that we are this poor.
That is why after forty years of the best opportunities that any nation can wish for, we have achieved nothing substantive enough to justify the time. We are beginning another segment of forty years, I’m afraid with the same flaw paradigm.
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