In 2005, when I was Program Assistant for the Concerned Christian Community, I accompanied representatives of some of our donors on a monitoring and evaluation trip to a town in Gbarpolu County.
One of our project sites was not far from a river where residents of the town got their drinking water.
My international colleagues admired the scene so much and decided to go near the river and take some pictures.
We were informed by our Project Officer and some residents of the town who were our project beneficiaries that shoes and slippers were not allowed within certain yards of that part of the river, while women heads had to be covered and no talking when scooping water from the river.
In obedience to the laws of the town, all of us, including our international partners took our shoes off and walked bare footed to the bank of the river and took all the pictures we wanted to take. At first, I thought the instruction was based on superstition.
Later, I got to understand that it was a law imposed for sanitary and hygienic purposes.
Although drinking from the river was not all that safe for residents of the town, however, I learned a very valuable lesson that day: systems influence positives outcomes on people lives!
Since Liberia’s founding, our most recognized achievement has been, “the oldest independent nation in Africa”.
We were existing as an independent nation long before all other African countries; however, we are way behind in many aspects and levels.
It is a known fact that people control systems by constituting and enforcing laws, however, systems serve as guide to people. It helps us to operate in civil and proper manners.
Most times, we as people tend to lay all the blames of our damaged and denigrated systems on the government or certain group of people.
On the contrary, we have been very wrong! At all levels of society, we have failed the system; it is because of the word “compromise”.
We have served as facilitators to many negative attributes of the system either knowingly or unknowingly. I can give tons of examples, but will state only a few.
Preference among children in the family begins the attribute of nepotism.
Preferring certain people ideas over others because they are your friends initiate the idea of sentimentalism. Bribing teachers for grades starts the process of corruption.
Pastors or Imam’s begging wives or husbands to forgive someone because of cheating or talking rape issues “the family way”, opens the path to ignoring the law.
Although government owes us leadership, we owe more to ourselves.
Without an organized system, there will never be development and improvements in a nation.
Liberians must come to a place where the country has to be prioritized over personal satisfaction or gains.
For instance, despite a person’s influence or status in society, when they break the law, let him or her face prosecution.
Opportunities should be given to people based on merits, rather than affiliations.
Above all, to alleviate corruption, we should stop influencing corruption.
Let’s say, if you register your car on time and have everything on your car intact, do you have to give Police money when he stops you, knowing you didn’t violate any traffic rule?
The answer is no. Do you have to pay bribes to a teacher if you sincerely study your lesson?
Again, the answer is no. But because we willingly choose to ignore what is right with the notion of buying our way out, our system continues to be a broken one.
Liberians need uniting of hearts to make some tough decisions for the betterment of the country.
This takes a holistic effort: families, communities, religious leaders, civil society, and of course, the government needs to work together on this.
The issue of compromise needs to be ignored and we should allow the system to work on our behalf. The people have power, but until we realize what we have, then we can use it at our advantage.
In addition, we must do away with nepotism, sentimentalism, bribery, corruption, etc, or else, Liberia’s development will continue to be at a standstill.
There have been many fingers pointing when it comes to shifting blames for Liberia’s lack of achievement and progress.
The indigenous or natives often blame the Americo-Liberians or Congau for over a century of oppression, while Congaus point fingers back at the natives for instigating violence which led to the 14 years of civil war in the country.
Even more astonishing, some of the finger pointing occurs among natives and natives, and congaus and congaus. What Liberians have not yet realized is, Liberia’s problem does not lie with its people; rather, our problem lies with our broken system
Varney Anasters Teah, Contributing Writer