-Declares Leymah Roberta Gbowee, National Orator
Leymah Roberta Gbowee, National Orator on the 172nd Independence Anniversary, says Liberians failed to ask the hard questions during elections, and therefore, they elect people who steal, grab and go (SGG).
Madam Gbowee said the ruling position often has misplaced priorities as their development agenda is nicely written on paper, but implementation is basically their private projects.
"I agree things are tough; life is hard; people are hungry, but if we failed to ask the hard questions when we have the power, why are we surprised when we elect people who "Steal, Grab and Go," Madam Gbowee said.
This year's Independence Day Celebration was held under the theme, "Together, We Are Stronger," which Madam Gbowee described as befitting for the times in which Liberians find themselves.
She said that the values that kept coming up time and again in her listening tour were transparency, truth, equality and love for country above self.
Madam Gbowee statement amid unearthing of unfolding situations in the country was greeted with total silent, especially when she raised concerns on "how can we be together in the presence of very harsh economic conditions; when corruption is still at its peak?"
She continued: "How can we be stronger together when individuals who were poor yesterday are now living in mansions and driving cars that cost enough to fund good schools for our children?"
Madam Gbowee further quizzed Liberians, with specific reference to those in authorities, "how can we be stronger together when women are still dying in their hundreds during labor? How can we be stronger together when there is a serious war on the bodies of women without any legal recourse in many instances?"
"How can we be stronger together when there is a prevalence of selective justice; when political appointments are based not on competence, but party affiliation; when our educational system is a huge challenge; when we can not feed ourselves; when interests are never national but individual?," she declared.
Madam Gbowee suggested that for Liberians to be stronger together, "we need to address health issues, teenage pregnancy, prostitution, drug addiction and many other vices. We also need affordable and accessible health care for mothers and babies."
She added: "I heard that we need to address education. Our young people need quality education that prepares them for the future; youth unemployment, and create viable employment opportunities for our youthful population beyond pehn-pehn riding."
Madam Gbowee said when young people are positioned to be job creators, rather than job seekers, it makes it almost impossible for people to be lured into picking up arms and creating instability for a few to be powerful.
"I heard that we need freedom and justice. When the needs of all are considered, it is easier for people to vision and dream together, peace becomes a collective reality, reconciliation comes more naturally. We must address the harsh economic conditions, because families can barely find food to pay their children's school fees or buy basic necessities," she said.
According to her, Liberians should sit individually and collectively and do some serious soul searching on where we want to go as a nation.
For Liberians to be stronger together, Madam Gbowee all to agree on a set of collective values that Liberians will live by, and teach to the next generation values that will guide "our national politics, as well as our everyday life."
The Bible says "... two cannot walk together unless they agree, therefore, it will be near to impossible for us to be stronger together if we have not agreed on the values of the journey of togetherness," Madam Gbowee said.
She said the fight against corruption is not in words, it is in action. "You must walk your talk. You cannot preach against corruption and then not declare your assets, and keep it locked up. Show us what you came with so that in a few years when you've got two houses, we can know that you already had those resources in the bank," she said.
According to her, truth has evaded the country to the extent that Liberians lie to gain prominence.
"Truth will bring unity, because from generation to generation, our leaders have been fooled by religious and traditional leaders. Bishops have become partisans, likewise some pastors and Imams have become praise singers," she said.
She said traditional leaders repeatedly twist Liberian cultural practices to please a powerful few, giving unmerited traditional titles, noting, "It is time for us to bring truth back into the national history."
Liberia is not a political party. Liberia is a nation for all Liberians. In order for us to move forward together, we must recognize that men as well as women, the visually impaired, the physically challenged, and youth groups are equal parts of the society.
"Mr. President, I will address this to you directly. It is not acceptable for us to have only two women in cabinet. I, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, Nobel Laureate challenge any Liberian to tell me that the men in this country are smarter than the women, hence the men should be given prominence in jobs and elected position," Madam Gbowee declared.
She believes that it is high time that the women who fought through tears and blood from the founding of the country to the bringing of peace to this nation, should be given positions of leadership based on competence.
"As a self-declared feminist in chief, you are being called out to walk your talk. It's time to stop the old boy's network," she told President Weah.
"I solemnly pledge to continue to work closely with you, individually and collectively, and in a spirit of maximum cooperation, as we together strive to maintain peace and security within our region, and promote policies and programs that will bring development and prosperity to the citizens of the Economic Community of West African States," he said.
For President Weah, he expressed appreciation to Madam Gbowee for her "inspiring and thoughtful address, which has given Liberians a new insights into the importance of peace, and renewed our hopes for a better Liberia."
"So, let me recommit as I stand at this podium that our togetherness will encompass the peace and prosperity of all Liberians. The presence of justice will be evident as we advance our nation with the involvement of us all. We will face the challenges, but let us not be overwhelmed. We must do all with in our powers to continue to plant the seeds of unity, maintain peace and reconcile our nation and its people," he said.
The president therefore calls on Liberians to work with him towards achieving a reconciled, united, and prosperous nation.