8 October 2004

Liberia: Shad Tubman Joins the Race

-Backs Father's Unification Policy; But Shies Away From 'Good Old Days'

The race for the presidency continues to gain momentum with the announcement of yet another presidential hopeful making a debut. Shad Tubman, the 71-year old man whose father William V.S. Tubman ruled the country for 27 years consecutively and whose father-in-father, William R. Tolbert, Jr., occupied the highest office for over 10 years, declared his intention to join the race at a mammoth news conference in Monrovia yesterday.

"Baby Shad", as he is affectionately called, gave historical perspectives about his past activities as one of the founders of the country's labor union who was elected as president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the '50s.

Tubman Jr. also said he had lived an exemplary life and was one of few radicals who spoke out against societal ills despite the fact that he was the son of Tubman Sr.

He told journalists that though he was born with a "silver spoon" and lived in milk and honey, he did not allow himself to be corrupted by the pleasure of sin, as the biblical Moses forsake the comfort of Pharaoh's palace and chose to suffer with the people of Israel.

Married to Wokie, daughter of slain President, William Richard Tolbert, Tubman said the idea of contesting the presidency has come to him glaringly having seen the need to reintroduce his late father's Unification Policy.

"As we look at Liberia today, we need to move on another level of the re-telling of unification. What that means is to be unified forbidding bickering, jealousy, hatred, etc. The political leaders need to meet with the people in their villages," he said.

"What I am intending to do is to ask the political leaders to begin talking, talking and talking. It is time to talk to each other. This is something we can do to help ourselves," he noted.

He said Liberians have got to look back and see where they are coming from because of the circumstances in which they see themselves.

"Our culture is being changed by the way The soldiers are here, and some of them will leave children," he said of the peacekeeping effort in the country without further comment.

Liberians, he said, would render a tremendous disservice to the country if they fail to look at themselves and begin to prop one another up and stop pointing accusing fingers.

"We should speak against the wrongs definitely. Corruption is wrong. Provision should be made for the people to eat, the homeless should be sheltered. Our children must be educated," he said revealing that his administration intends to foster free and quality education up to secondary school in postwar Liberia.

He said he would make pronouncements on so many issues when his platform is written: "But what I'm intending to do today is to ask the political leaders to begin to talk to one another".

It is through communication that they will be able to put the country back together.

He observed that politicians often begin to shout at one another when each person takes a position.

"Sometimes when we begin to talk to one another, we find that our positions are not as far bad as they thought they were," Mr. Tubman who revealed that he is a born-again Christian and a clergy of the Bethel World Outreach Church said.

He said the "back room deals that will be made must be made by ourselves with the help of those who will come openly to help us".

He noted further: "We have become not by choice but a nation of beggars. We've got to preach love and become a nation of givers so that those who are begging now will be able to give. We've got to empower our people, and we can do it".

Liberia's resources, he said, are truly large and could be used appropriately to benefit the people.

He said his channel of communications is opened to each of the political leaders. "I've been meeting with some of them and saying the same thing to them," he said, expressing the hope that they all will begin to "speak to the Liberian people who can understand that we're all human beings".

These include those referred to as warring factions. "They're all human beings, they have fears and we have fears. We must somehow learn to forgive and to learn the one thing that the America learned - the civil war".

He also said Liberians should begin to desist from referring to themselves in sectoral terms such as as "I'm a Grand Gedeans, I'm a Marylander. I'm a Nimbaian, I'm a Bassonian but we've got to learn to say I'm a Liberian." According to him, if Liberia disintegrates, there would be nothing left for the country. He then urged the leaders to put their country first and be firm with passion, saying that they must always be compassionate especially at this time.

"What I'm doing is that I'm offering myself to the Liberian people. If they accept the offer, I will serve as president for all the people. I will try to bring back unity - unification. - women's rights, all the things that are so obvious but most importantly education," he said,.

Mr. Tubman who is also a former senator of Maryland County and chief of cabinet in the Tubman administration said education would be the bedrock of his administration, predicting that in five years after the war, Liberia would cease being a borrower nation.

The legacy he wants to leave, he said, is not the legacy of things now but a man who tries to do the best that he can to bring the country back to normalcy and regain the respect of the international community that the country has lost.

On the use of the nation's resources, he said it would interest him to invite the green peace advocates and other international experts to help Liberia put into place those things that would protect the nation's forest from pirates. This will enable the future generations to enjoy the forest while the present generation is leaving the scene.

Mr. Tubman then asked Liberians to forgive him and his late father if they ever did anything wrong. He also wished that each Liberian would forgive one another to allow the country move forward once again.

A question was raised as to why he and Winston Tubman were running for the presidency at the same time.

In response, he said all Liberians who have attained the age of 35 years have the right under the law to contest for the presidency.

"I have absolutely no grudge or anything against Winston or against any of the candidates. I have had lunch with most of them or many of them - some of them are out of the country. We meet them and we talk and we're Liberians. We've asked you what we think we can do, and then you decide whom you want", he said.

Tubman said he was not interested in emulating his father and received a round of applause from his supporters when he said: "I am interested in doing what I can do to address the problems of Liberia today and bring Liberia into the twenty first century. I will not attempt to bring back the old days because the old days were not all-inclusive. Few people enjoyed while many suffered." "I want these days to be all-inclusive for all the people and not just a few group of people," he said.

The question of Tubman taking delight in playing gambles - many times losing or wining $300,00, $2 million or $3 million - came up. He laughed and said he had also heard that he won $1 billion.

He said he had heard that he was a gambler: "I don't know what gambling is; but I do know that if I become president, I intend to abolish such a game. This is because he said people cannot afford it. They are using their salaries hoping to win $10,000 but the chances of winning that is infinitesimal.

He said he might adopt a policy of leaving casino open to foreigners and not Liberians because, "I do not want us to be a nation of gamblers".

Many believe Shad Tubman, who is running for president, has not been in touch with the electorate.

But he considers himself a common man who, in the 50s and 60s, was involved in trade unionism. He traveled across the country with trade union veterans like McGill and Amos Gray and advocated the rights of workers.

"Talk to people who have known me over the years about that. And I give credit to my father who once told me 'Shad, today your father is president of Liberia, tomorrow your father will not be president of Liberia. So you've got to live with the people '" True Whig Party was symbolic of the Tubman presidency. Asked on what political party ticket he would be running, Shad Tubman said Liberians must understand that the Grand Old True Whig Party was the party of the people.

"The people paid money to build that building you see over there," a reference to the now devastated E.J. Roye building. "I am coming forth with a concept for a new Liberian. I will not put new wine in an old bottle." He said he was currently in the process of talking with different parties and different people. "If the Grand Old True Whig Party wishes to talk to me, I will talk to them. We're all Liberians. I would rather talk and see if accommodation cannot be made here and there to bring the people together. But as a politician, I will have to have a fallback position in case we cannot be accommodated".

He said he was not interested in being president of Liberia to be president of Liberia.

He wondered he would want to be president of Liberia at his age.

"What can the presidency offer me now? I'm serious, what can it offer me? he asked rhetorically, describing himself as an evangelist who has "stopped committing adultery and lying. I have stopped. I can't steal!"

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