Speech: Mr. President, Liberians cannot wait

Edman G.H. Zayzay delivers the keynote address at an event recently organized by the Federation of Lofa Associations in the Americas

It is an honor and I am grateful for the opportunity we were given to speak to you on this special occasion. I am humbled by your preferment to serve as your keynote speaker tonight.

I stand before you today, not only as a proud citizen of Lofa county; but also, a grandson of a Firestone tapper named Gray Zayzay, from Zorzor District, Yella, Lofa county, who throughout his life, never had an opportunity to get a formal education.

But through it all, few people along the way, took several chances on me. And today, the grandson of a firestone tapper who had no formal education, is a Principal Engineer in a fortune 500 Company in these Great United States of America.

To this end, I remind you of your theme tonight: “Together, We can Make a Difference for Lofa County”.

But, I’d also like to add, Together, We can be the change for Liberia!

This great county of ours, Lofa, that is the pride and joy of many of us here tonight, continues to endure many difficulties. Once considered the breadbasket of our nation, yet has remained inaccessible in many respects.

Our citizens, young people, like many throughout Liberia, continues to lack access to basic education, clean water, clinics, and now, families are left with making choices between sending a child to school or providing food for them.

Yet, when citizens of this county, have risen to national prominence, and given the responsibility of representing the interest of this county, they put self-interest and pettiness above the general good and interest of our people and our county. That, my friends, have got to change.

When those elected, to represent the interest of our county, in whom our people have placed their trust to make better decision on their behalf, can break ground for a community college, and years later return to our people to tell them that they have an “Advance High School”, yet we as people of this county, we remain salient about it without holding them accountable, because they are our friends, family members, or persons we think have some form of prominence, we are hurting ourselves, our county, our people and our nation at large.

We weaken our greatness as people of the county when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentments, hatred and violence in all corners of our county.

Together we can make a difference for Lofa County.

Our country, Liberia, is at a cross road! We risk losing who we are as a people, our national pride, that creed that binds us together as one people.
This creed that states: In Union Strong, Success is Sure. We cannot fail!

That creed that reminds us: With heart and hand our country’s cause defending, We’ll meet the foe with valour unpretending.

But I am hopeful, as our forefathers believed, with God above, with our hearts united, we will o’er all prevail.

We can’t wait!!

My fellow Liberians, our improbable experiment with democracy, at no time in our history, has been designed to be about “I, THE PRESIDENT” but “We, The People”. And that is why, it is important now, then ever before, that we, the people, have the moral responsibility to standup and speak out, to protect our democracy.

We are reminded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. “ and “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.“

There is no secret that our diaspora has been the catalyst for change! Liberia was once the country that gave hope and championed the cause of freedom across our continent. We were the shining bright star on the dark continent of Africa, that most Africans counted on for defending and standing up for their rights to independence.

We’ve been to the mountain top and we’ve seen the lowest of valleys but somewhere along the way, we allowed ourselves to be exploited by greed, abuse of power, nepotism amongst others. Over 250,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives and yet we see the continuation of these same behaviors that got us to where we are today.

In many respects, We have now become the laughing stocks of the world while other African countries are making significant strides to improve the livelihood of their citizens.

When we witnessed our National Oil Company ran into bankruptcy and report of millions of dollars missing. Yet remain quiet when nobody is held accountable by our government to answer questions.

When we witnessed thousands of our women and children, sisters, daughters, nieces raped and killed. Yet nobody has been held to answer for war crimes.

When we see many of our young people on the streets who were used as child soldiers and now they have no skills to contribute to the redevelopment of our country and they are given no help to address PTSD but we refer to them as Zogos. Yet we see our government pay no attention to them. Politicians are quick to ask them for votes during elections and pay them no attention once elected.

When we see people gaining unexplained wealth as soon as they are elected or appointed to public offices. Yet we remain silent.

Our current president could not break down his properties, expand and rebuild them between 2005 and 2016, but all of a sudden, could afford to do so three (3) months into his presidency and neither our senators nor representatives are asking questions. Yet we remain silent.

When we are seeing reports of 9 to 16 Billion missing in our country; Government official who could barely afford $2000 for their own plane ticket now spending $16,000 USD on a single ticket upgrade; individuals who we know barely got by, but less than two (2) months into an appointed role claiming that banks are giving them $200,000 USD loans, although they have no collaterals.

However, nobody is asking questions and the President of Liberia has the audacity to tell us to wait and be patient, beat it driver beat it. No! President George Weah!

We can’t wait!!

To quote President Kagame of Rwanda: “Transforming our country and the lives of our citizens is work that must be carried out every day. We have to keep in mind that we are working to better the lives of our citizens, not our own.”

So Mr. President, when students have to get in the streets to protest, just to be able to get a decent and quality education, or to be able to access the University of Liberia bus to take them to Fendell campus while officials are mounting unexplained wealth,

We can’t wait!!

When there is an alarming report about how our children have been raped and exploited, and yet our government is taking over a week to even make a statement indicating that the actors involved in the report are being brought in for questioning and investigation.

We can’t wait! When parents are making choices between sending children to school or putting food on the table.

We can’t wait! When our young people are turning to drugs and alcohol and compromising themselves in so many way as a means of coping.

We can’t wait! When there is a pregnant woman who is about to deliver but have never received any form of prenatal care.

We can’t wait! When some of our young women are turning to prostitutes as a means of sustaining themselves,

we can’t wait! When a lawmaker can be accused of raping a 13year old girl and yet our legislators see no reason to begin an investigation of their colleague, and today that child has disappeared in thin air and nothing is done about it.

We can’t Wait! When we see that our government is not seeking the interest of the people of Liberia but those of foreign interest.

We can’t wait! When we have no closure our laws being changed to enable the selling of an entire mounting range.

We can’t wait! When our government decides to go into a deal to swap our natural resources with China without regards for the Liberian people or providing any information.

We can’t wait! We we see out first lady Clar Weah opening a private charity to run instead of running the office of the First Lady of Liberia, and having the audacity to tell us she needs 10 million USD for her charity when our entire nation education budget is less than 26 million USD.

We can’t wait! When we see our Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, 10 months after being elected to office, on this weekend, launching a private charity to run instead of doing the work of the Office of the Vice President

We can’t wait! This is not right! This is not normal! Our government shouldn’t be run this way!

President Tolbert, before becoming president was a vice president, he didn’t run a charity while vice president.

Dr. Harry Moniba, didn’t run a charity as vice president.

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai here tonight didn’t open a charity to run 10 months after being elected as vice president or during his tenure.

We must speak up!!

This is a vice president who is a daughter of Lofa County. To the President, Board, and entire leaders ship of FLAA, I challenge you tonight. You must represent the Lofian Diaspora citizens and inform Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor that this is wrong!

These actions raise ethical issues!

These charities are being created so foreigners and special interest can “Pay to Play” …. We must speak up!!

Our government cannot continue to be run like a Student Council Government!!

From the peaks of Mt. Wuteve and Mt. Wologisi, to peak of Mt. Nimba, to the plateau of Bong, to the coastal plains of Cape Mount, to rolling hills of Bomi, to the capes of Cape Palmas. People are hurting all over the country and I say, we can’t wait!

And so my fellow Liberians, we the people, have the power to make our country better.

We have the power to stop or prevent the elections of known felons or criminals to our legislature.

We have the power to elect those who espouse a vision of our country that will restore our dignity.

Our power is not and should not be measured by our popularity or the number of social media likes or followers.

Our true power empowers, emancipates, enlightens and elevates.

I, like any other man, will like to live a long life. But if we do nothing now, what a shame will it be for us to be remembered at the end of our life, when people walk up to eulogize us, and there is no fruitfulness of our existences as citizens of our nation, Liberia.

My fellow Liberians, this maybe a powerful storm we are facing, but it is nowhere near the spirit and resiliency of the Liberian people.

I know this because I’ve seen the likes of young Satta Sheriff who is on the world stage today speaking to “One Young World” advocating for the rights of young people.

I know this because I’ve seen the likes of Alex Devine, who is bringing young people to debate, defend ideas and come up with new approaches to complex issue.

I know this because, even after being dealt a tough hand in life, I have seen the likes of Donnish Peewee who starting his own non-profit, sacrifice sending himself to college so that his wife and kids can get go to school and earn a decent education. Yet he travels between Monrovia and Lofa regularly to provide training and civic education for our people.

I know this because I’ve seen the likes of a young girl I met in West Point, named Esther. She did not know her age when I asked her but tells me that she has a dream of becoming a teacher someday when she grows up so that she can help other kids like herself.

I know the resiliency of the Liberian people, because, in the midst of this storm, I met a mother with 10 kids in Marshall city on the beach who tells me, she is there to buy fish to sell so she can send here children to school and provide food for them.

I know the spirit of the Liberian people because I’ve seen the courage our women mustered on Thursday to demand our government to take action against the rape and exploitation of our children entrusted to More Than Me.

In the eye of these storms, when all our hopes and dreams for our country seems so far and slowly fade away, I remain hopeful and optimistic because I have the unwavering belief that, what brings us together is bigger than what drives us apart.

And that something bigger and better is on the horizon for our future as a nation. That our setback, is just a setup for a comeback.

In closing, I will leave you with these words of David A. Wilson.

“The loneliest you may ever feel is in the pursuit of your purpose. You must wander of the road and into the distance to chase something that does not exist. You must convince people to see things they never before imagined. You are required to give your all to something that has little or no value to anyone but yourself. It can be agonizing at times but know that it is all worth it. Your legacy is the path you create in pursuit of your ideas or dreams. It is the road that others will eventually use to arrive at the destination that only once existed in your mind but is now available for the world to see.”

Together: We can make a difference. Get Up! Get Started! And Keep Moving!
Let’s get Back To Forward!

Thank you.