JNB-The golden opportunity Liberians should not miss again!
By Paul M. Kanneh/0888022040/0770437124
On 26 October 2022, we had timely responded to the 11:00am schedule set by the office of the former Vice President through veteran Liberian Journalist Charles Snetter. We are quietly, but curiously seated in the hallway, waiting to be announced. I am viewing a very organized office, thus reminding me of Joseph Boakai’s days in the Vice President portfolio. The office staffs are elegantly dressed, roaming the office and attending to various administrative and professional issues.
The home office of VP Boakai looks presidential; his staff looks diplomatic. I am seeing a generation of competent and experienced young folks, mixed with old and wise elderly men and women, who were, together, ensuring the former VP daily itineraries are handled timely. “But the old man’s home office looks organized like the days when he was a sitting vice president”, I intoned as I admirably but professionally glance at beautifully dressed lady walking majestically in her black and white suit ensuring things are under control for visitors. I had wanted to ask her for her contact, but the interpretation from my media colleagues would have been many. Perhaps, the headline would have been “Journalist Paul Kanneh falls for a female staff assigned to his uncle”.
Right behind the lady, a handsome and middle height man walks in the hallway right before us, I could describe JNB if I did not know him. I craftily turned my eyes behind him to see him walk in observance of critics’ claims of disability due to old age. Guess what? Joe Boakai was strongly and soundly walking as if he has just turned 50. I laughed and said “God is indeed ready for Liberia”. The Neatness and organization of the office could make anyone envisions a cleaned and organized Executive Mansion under a Boakai’s presidency. Boakia himself was elegantly dressed as if he has been inaugurated into office. I could explain more, but time is no man’s friend.
We had been ushered in, and waiting on the long conference table. The office is very neat with a nice aroma, structured like a diplomat’s office. My eyes could not be controlled as I viewed every corner of the office, enjoying my eyeballs with the nice view. On my left side, at the front table, Boakia is already politely seated, waiting for introduction from his media people, which was done by Charles Snetter. Thereafter, the conversation kicked off.
“The mouse can eat and the elephant can live”, Boakia jumpstarts the conversation with corruption by political elites at the detriment of the poor people. JNB informed us that his AREST (agriculture, road, education, sanitation and tourism) program will be launched before the campaign. Under this program, Boakai said his interest will be to encourage local efforts’ participation in development.
He believes that more than 70% of the people are doing agriculture as their way of life. “We are not going to be exporting or importing submarines. We are blessed with water and land, but we cannot even feed ourselves as a nation. So is not something that you allocate time for implementation because is the way of life”, Boakai said as he responded to one of our many questions.
Joe Boakai believes that agriculture is a local technology because it is a way of life for many Liberians. He thinks Liberians should not depend on other countries for the rest of their life, nothing, when the Indian government is going to feed the over 1 billion of her citizens before giving Liberia enough rice? “You have more than 1 billion Indians, why are you depending on these kinds of people who have to feed more than 1 billion of their citizens when you have what it takes to produce rice and other local foods?, JBN said.
The Standard-bearer of the Unity Party believes that one does not have to be an agriculturist to produce rice once you have land, which automatically becomes job creation. Joe thinks that local farmers should be empowered to engage in productive farming that will supply supermarkets as well as export some to neighboring countries.
“The way it should be done is, when you are a producer, remain a producer. But here when the farmers produce, they also have to look for the market”, JNB speaks of his dream for viable agriculture program. Nonetheless, the former Liberian Vice President is certain that without a better road network, there cannot be a successful agriculture program.
“For me, you cannot have a successful agriculture program without good roads”. So my dream is to ensure all county capitals are connected via paved road. But my first 100 days in office, I will ensure that no vehicle gets stuck in the mud”, Joe Boakai on his plan for road. Boakai said he will do this by assigning road equipment to regional Public Works engineers and place the appropriate resources at their disposal to conduct routine maintenance exercise on damaged spots on major highways.
But who is JNB speaking to? Unfortunately, JNB is speaking to the wrong people, who believe that leadership is distribution of money, talking, dressing, splashing cash on constituent members, to the extent the voters are on record for choosing a person that killed their mothers and fathers over good and experienced people. The same voters are on record of condemning experience and education, nothing that education cannot develop country. “You know book, you na know book, we will vote for you. “You kill my pa, you kill my ma we will vote for you”, voters are heard chanting during campaign periods.
But when the promises are not forthcoming, the same voters become disenchanted and want the rest of the people to join them in burring down a country for a decision they took without guns at their throats or under duress.
But as voters take these many missteps that affect their own lives from time to time, there is also visible evidence that their country, Liberia has some of the best leaders in the sub region. And one of those leaders is former Vice President and presidential hopeful, Joseph Nyumah Boakai. Boakai has withstood the test of time in a country whose foundation was built on corruption. That after 30 plus years in various governments, Joe Boakai would come out cleaned with no dent on his character.
Responding further, Boakai said there is no successful road and agriculture programs without better education and trained manpower. “Even when we talk about bringing in companies, no company you bring here that will survive when your people are not trained”. So education is the bedrock for development. We are not talking about going to get BSC or Masters. We are talking about making technical and vocation schools accessible and affordable to our people so as to enable them develop the requisite skills to participate in the development of their country”, Joe on education.
Like road and agriculture, Boakai believes that without a trained society, the nation is not going to be successful with its agriculture program. Therefore, he thinks why the country waits for the PhD people, the carpenters and mechanics should be at work. “So I am going to invest in technical or vocation education”, he noted.
Talking about sanitation. Boakai believes Liberia is not going to be developed without a cleaned and healthy environment that can attract investors. “Look at the filthy places around here. We are not going to place much attention training people on how to cure, but we are going to train people how to prevent”, he said. Joe said his government will ensure hospitals have good toilets and washing hands facilities, adding, poor sanitation is one of Liberia’s problems.
“Look at the markets where our food comes from, they should be paved. So sanitation is a prerequisite to good health. You can choose to prevent rather than curing”, Boakai explained his plan for sanitation.
When it comes to tourism, Boakai said his government will concentrate on region like Grand Cape Mount County that has niece ocean views. He said Grand Cape Mounty County is an ideal place for tourism. “With a good tourism program in county like Cape Mount, you will have good foreign exchange rate from tourists coming into the country, which could in return adds value to the economy.
JNB further noted that a government can put in place air and sea transport business like boats and helicopters that can be used to transport tourists from Camp Mount to the Southeastern part of the county. The tourist sites, he also said, could be used by skilled people to make local baskets from forest products that can be sold to tourists coming into the country.
While responding to the question of corruption, Joe Boakai said he agree with outgoing US Ambassador that corruption is responsible for Liberia’s underdevelopment. Joe said as a leader, you should first start to fight corruption with yourself. “When I was in Lofa as head of Liberia Produce Mining Company (LPMC), I lived in the LPMC compound, and I made them to put a gate. So when my car is passing, I say your check my car”, Boakai explained how to begin fighting corruption with yourself.
According to Joe, he will tackle corruption from everywhere beginning with his family/staff. He said corruption must be dealt with drastically, saying he has been in his house for 40 years, a situation; he said he likes and cherish. “What makes you entitled to anything more than the others? Joe questioned corrupt officials that want everything for themselves. Your children have to go to school; other people children have to go to school too. So just create the situation so that everyone can benefit”, he concludes on corruption.
It is interesting to note that Boakai took 45 minutes to present his plan for the country using his AREST program. Listening to him meant a lot for me as he took up times to discuss challenges and prospects for most of the government agencies, with a proof of practical hands on experience and knowledge accrued from his long years of public service with immaculate record.
Having missed the opportunity in 2017, it is about time that Liberians should not miss the golden opportunity again, as it is likely that Boakai will be the first Liberian President in recent history with practical hands-on experience in state’s administration having served as Vice President for 12 years with a cleaned record.