By Festus Poquie and Varney M. Kamara
2017 is a two years distance but the political season is opened and some candidates are now rolling out their presidential platform. This time, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is not a candidate thanks to the constitutional limitation on presidential term. Johnson -Sirleaf’s and her ruling Unity Party below the bar performance has arguably lowered the standards for presidential candidacy thereby clearly presenting Liberia as a nation wanting a true reform minded leader who will carry out measurable economic transformation and push the country into prosperity and reconcile its people.
The International Monetary Fund has confirmed that the country’s economy is at ground zero. This means the economy is experiencing depression and that there will be more suffering and unemployment.
But can Benoni Urey, a prominent Liberian businessman and alley of jailed ex President Charles Taylor be the man to lead the nation out of the prevailing economic turmoil?
For 11 consecutive years Urey and 10 former officials of the Charles Taylor administration were facing the United Nations sanction. The world body had imposed a traveling ban on Urey and others for their association with Taylor who was then facing a war crimes trial and perception that they could destabilize the West African sub region. That sanction has been lifted and Urey is now aspiring for the nation’s highest elected public office – the presidency.
Ordinarily, it would have been difficult or impossible for any member of the Taylor political circle to publically announce presidential bid and woo large following based on the despotic nature of the Taylor era with plunder and bad governance combined.
But the underperformance of the current administration wherein there has been no meaningful gain relative to socio economic development; has effectively created incentives for all wanting to lead or mislead thus putting the voting population in the natural position to make the choice.
So, on Thursday Urey unveiled his political movement – the All Liberian Party (ALP) with a transformation agenda targeting improved education, health infrastructure, the economy and reconciliation.
As expected he launched a ferocious attack on the Johnson-Sirleaf led government, claiming the administration has deliberately ignored the suffering of the larger majority of the country’s population, while government officials continue to parade in luxury and pageantry.
“We line in a country that has no good health care for its citizens, though we see government officials living in luxury. No more should we sit and allow few to seek medical care abroad while the ordinary people suffer,” he said.
The immediate impact of the nation’s inferior health sector speaks to the fact that 1000 of every mother who goes to give birth stands the high risk of death, Urey alarmed.
“The vision has not ended, and they still want to destroy this country for their personal aggrandizement” Mr. Urey, who served as Maritime Commissioner during the erstwhile Taylor regime said in an apparent reference to political and financial corruption in the country.
He also decried the appalling economic status of the ordinary Liberian citizens who he noted: “must be empowered to the extent that they can grow at a level of self-sufficiency and self-sustainability.
There can be no economic prosperity in the land if Liberians are not empowered economically to take on the mantle of their own economy; Urey with reputation as businessman told his partisans at the ATS – a football stadium in Monrovia.
He challenged the government to prioritize education as noted by President Sirleaf, unquote: “Our educational system is a total mess.” The mess, the presidential politician suggested, must be cleared to ensure a bright future for the nation.
“Misuse of the country’s resources continues without measure” Mr. Urey declared, adding “Abuse without seeking, they’ve divided us on so many lines and without compulsion; they sit supinely and make mockery of our lives.”
As a result of the apparent neglecting of the welfare of the people and based on the common vision he claimed to share with the suffering masses, Mr. Urey vowed the ALP is on the political stage to bridge those gaps between the poor and the wealthy, where a perfect equilibrium would be consultatively derived.
By effectively doing that, he said such measure would lead to creating a harmonious society where everyone will live freely and exercise his or her fundamental rights without any fear of intimidation or harassment.
Fully aware that more political rhetoric had been offered in the past and now with noting practically done to improve the living conditions of Liberians, Urey implored electorates not to elect a President based on verbal expression as trying such method, he noted, have failed the people for many years.
“Liberians must never elect President based on what they say they can do for us, as we’ve tried that method for too long, and the results have failed us” he said.
“I do know the harsh realities of poverty for I too did not come with a civil spoon. I, too, went without shoes and fend for survival for many years. I know the pains of a son whose father lingered in jail for many years.”
Whether or not his testimonial provided to thousands of supporters was another political rhetoric remains to be seen, but he urged the citizens never to sit idle to see things go on the wrong way. This means that in accordance with the constitution, the people can sack a glaringly underperforming government.
He described his party’s official launch as a historic moment and called for unison as the only way out of the nation’s current economic quark mire for peace and lasting prosperity in the country.
Speaking on the United Nations sanction and its impact, the politician warned: “We thank God that under the sanction, we were able to invest in Liberia. But, it’s about time that people should stop misinforming the international community about other people.” This could be an apparent reference to claims that it is the current incumbent President that lobbied for the global sanctions that eventually doomed the Charles Taylor administration.
In spite of the visible challenges, Mr. Urey expressed some level of optimism that perhaps, something good can still come out of Nazareth.
“Clearly, we envisioned a nation that rises from a devastating civil crisis to feed itself- to emerge to a land of self-sufficiency” he noted. Adding: “We see a Liberia that will boast of a good health care system, and I am committed to the renewal of your country.”
Write Festus Poquie and Varney M. Kamara