Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has called on the Liberian intelligentsias to unite and forge a common front for the coming presidential and general elections in 2017.
The Foreign Minister said in the Liberian parlance, the Liberian intelligentsias are those who some people referred to as “book people,” or those who have acquired some form of higher education.
Min. Ngafuan defines the intelligentsia from Merriam-Webster dictionary as a group of intelligent and well-educated people, who guide or try to guide the political, artistic, or social development of their country.
“Generally, the intellectuals of the country, the professors, the lecturers, the authors, the students and graduates of institutions of higher learning in Liberia, or to put it in Liberian English, the book people may be considered as members of the Liberian intelligentsia,” he said.
The Liberian Foreign Minister made the comments Friday, July 17, when he delivered the keynote address at the induction of officers-elect of the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU). The ceremony, which saw Mr. Daniel Woart being inducted as president, was held in the auditorium of the University.
The Minister told the audience, who were mainly students of the university and few alumni, including himself, rights lawyer Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, that he was not surprised that most of those in the hall could rightfully be considered members of the Liberian intelligentsia.
He regretted that though the Liberian intelligentsia is a community of people who are very powerful, but has accepted that they are powerless; adding: “A community of people, who are very rich but still believe they are poor; a community of people who should be driving but accept or resign themselves to be driven.”
According to a Foreign Ministry release, as the Hon. Foreign Minister spoke, he had to pause intermittently as “militants” from the UL campus-based student political party — Student Unification Party (SUP) — shouted battle cries that lasted for minutes. Even before the Minister entered the hall when he arrived on campus, he was greeted by supists who kept shouting political battle cries.
Being cognizant of the deadly Ebola virus disease, Foreign Minister Ngafuan observed the hand-washing protocol before he entered the hall.
Speaking further, the Minister stated that UL being “the Liberian society in miniature implies that if positive things are happening in the Liberian society, the University of Liberia is impacted positively; if negative things are happening in the Liberian society, the University is impacted negatively. It is therefore a historical and logical burden thrust on successive leaderships of the student union to help steer the Ship of the Liberian State in the right direction because if the Liberian Ship of State hits an iceberg, all on the Ship, including the students of the university will suffer the gruesome and ghastly consequences.”
As he wooed the UL students and students from other higher institutions of learning to join the Liberian intelligentsias, he said the university community cannot afford to treat the 2017 presidential and general elections as a theoretical subject to be discussed only in political science classrooms.
“Firstly, it is my considered opinion that we need a paradigm shift in the debate and the conversations leading to the elections of 2017. While it is true that individuals will be the ones whose pictures will be on the ballot as candidates in 2017, we need to remember that if elections are to achieve their true purpose, we cannot accept that elections are about the candidates. Elections should be about the people, about visions, about policies, about programs, about platforms, about issues. Candidates should be regarded as instruments or means to the achievement of these ends, not ends in themselves,” the Minister further stated.
He emphasized that elections should be primarily about the fulfillment of the ambition of the people instead of the fulfillment of the ambitions of individuals; or else, politicians will afford to treat people like “political condoms – useful before elections; useless after elections.”
According to the Minister, the debate going to 2017 should shift from “who wants to be something to who wants to do something or can really do something;” adding: “If the focus is on who wants to be something, the political field will definitely be overcrowded because everybody may want to be something. If the focus is rather on who can do something, the political field will narrow because not everyone can do something.”
“So my dear comrades, I will not tell you that leadership of Liberia should be given to a particular class, craft, cult, tribe, county, or religion. What I will tell you is that leadership should be given to the positive forces of Liberia.” The Minister defines those forces as the honest, the dedicated, the selfless, the competent, the nationalistic, and the visionary Liberians.
He emphasized that no matter where they are, “the positive forces must align or re-align so that progress can be assured for Liberians.”
He warned that Nature hates vacuum, and if those forces don't step up to fill the leadership voids that will be created in 2017, “retrogressive forces will fill the vacuum to the detriment of the entire nation.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs received some of the lauded shouts of battle cries and applaud when he said: “As for me, I have made a conscious decision not to be inactive in 2017. I have made a conscious decision to step up and play the rightful role history and providence have assigned to me. I call on you, conscious men and women of the university, to also step up and join the coalition of positive forces to ensure that our dear country go to higher heights.”