This years’ Independence Day has dawned amid the raging effects of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-June, the entire nation was flustered in trepidations as the pandemic claimed untold lives and as infections and hospitalizations soared. Calm is gradually returning, and Liberians are beginning to see a glimpse of hope. Looking back, the COVID pandemic is not the first catastrophe to befall the country and which the population survived. Celebrating the country’s 174th Independence Anniversary in the face of an ominous health emergency brings to memory a chain of audacious moments of the people—tragedies that they faced and survived, and the orator of the day has taken cue from the pattern to lecture the nation about its resilience in the face of adversity and to provide hope that “we shall overcome once again”. The Analyst reports.
This year’s Independence Day oration was delivered by University of Liberia President, Rev. Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr. Perhaps for the first time in the country’s history, the Orator did not deliver is speech to a crowd of Liberians congregated in a hall as it had been in times past. The speech was pre-recorded, all because a vicious unseen enemy, Coronavirus is raging in the country.
Apparently, the national spirit is cool, un-spirited because the devastating pandemic is claiming lives and many other compatriots are on hospital beds groggy with the stings of the virus.
As COVID-19 is not the first national tragedy the country has faced, the nation orator seized the moment to raise the lowering national spirit and give the people reason to cuddle and cheer up and stand tall amid the situation.
Dr. Nelson said: “Liberia has always survived her crises and challenges. There have been crises which challenged our very existence as a nation, and a people. In the past, some of the crises led to the annexation of our territory by powerful people; some had to do with the denial of citizenship and voting rights, while others resulted into the accusation of slave trade and as consequence forced the resignation of a president.”
He told the nation that some of its past challenges had to do with the military coup d’état and a bloody civil war.
“Our recent history has also not been devoid of crises. One such recent crisis was the invisible enemy –EBOLA–which killed more than 10,000 within our region,” he said. “As we celebrate another independence day, our nation faces another invisible enemy- COVID-19, which is currently ravishing our economy and killing our people.”
The University of Liberia President however said that together, “we as a nation and people must be determined to fight and defeat this invisible enemy by being conscious and intentional through our acts of love for self and others and our love for nation building. We are convinced that we will get there by the grace of God Almighty.”
He reminded Liberians that “our nation and people have at other times fallen victim to some natural disasters such as land slide, flood, sea erosion, as well as other epidemics and pandemics, such as the Ebola Virus Disease and the current COVID-19 virus. Covid-19 alone has claimed more than four million lives globally, including some of our citizens.
The current COVID-19 pandemic, which is challenging the socio-economic wellbeing of Mama Liberia, is yet another evidence, that we have not always been faithful stewards of this gift (Liberia), a glorious land of liberty by God’s command, and we have not always sustained the vision that birthed our nation. But, my fellow compatriots, it is not late.
He said: “We still have the opportunity to end the blame game, renew our minds, reconcile our differences, focus on what unites us, roll up our sleeves and build a new Liberia. Pride divides the community and society.
“Unity and peace brings the community and society together. The issue of unity is not just theoretical, it is practical. We should not only talk unity, we should practice unity concretely. We can demonstrate unity by the attitudes of gentleness, humility, and patience. The Psalmist says, ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity or harmony’. Let us walk in and work for unity. Let us allow unity to be the foundation or cornerstone to achieving development in Liberia.”
He assured Liberians that, with unity, the fight against COVID-19 will be successful.
“Liberia, with the experience of the Ebola virus crisis in 2014, witnessed and acknowledged the true picture of our already challenged health care system, which came under severe attack. But with national commitment and determination, we were able to face up to this menace, and defeated it completely,” said the Liberian educator.
He said in spite of on s reality, it is worth noting that according to national health statistics, Liberia’s infection rate is decreasing with a maximum average of 42 new infections reported each day.
Dr. Nelson also opined that after 174 years of independence, Liberia is still being called a developing nation and that this is nothing to be proud of especially when some of the countries Liberia supported, to gain their independence, are far ahead on the ladder of human capital and infrastructure development.
He said it is unfortunate that in many respects, we are the cause of our own lack of growth, and we need to own up to our responsibilities and duties as a nation and correct our errors in order to move our nation forward.
He noted: “We are a low-income country that relies on donor assistance and remittances from the diaspora. On the contrary, we are, however, richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate that is very favorable to agriculture. In addition to our principal exports of iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, and gold, we are also engaging and encouraging oil exploration, while oil palm and cocoa are entering the marketplace. All of this is very promising, in addition to domestic resource mobilization, which puts us in a better position to achieve development at a greater pace.”
The Liberian Reality
The UL President reflected at length on what he called “our perception of the Liberian Reality,” as we together envision the future of our common patrimony.
Liberia, Dr. Nelson said, is a nation of great potential socially, culturally, and economically, that requires a nationalistic, patriotic, and visionary mindset to recognize, appreciate and pursue the common good of all. As such, it behooves all of us to unite and continually recognize, appreciate, and embrace our ethnic, racial, tribal, religious, social, and political diversities.
The Constitution of Liberia sets the basis for our interactions as families, tribes, and citizens for the common good of the entire community and the Republic of Liberia.
He noted: “In a society as ours, families, tribes and citizens are directed to have respect and appreciation for each other; this calls for tolerance, unity, peace, understanding, cooperation, dialogue, reconciliation, partnership, reconstruction, and sustainable development in the rich context of our diversity. In the process of upholding these virtues, we have had our shared challenges.
“We hasten to stress here today, that though the responsibility lies primarily with the government to create the enabling environment that will foster economic growth, social services, such as the building of schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure development. We, however, will not hesitate to add that, as proud citizens of this great land of liberty, have equal and important roles to play as well. While the government focuses on the bigger picture (critical national development priorities), we, as citizens, need to focus on the smaller picture by engendering a nationalistic mind, and demonstrating love for country at all times. We, as citizens, must never engage in actions that would be counterproductive to our national development aspirations. We must continually do our part, wherever we find ourselves to support and contribute to national development in whatever little way we can.”
Dr. Nelson however lamented that it is counter-productive to development when “we walk along the road and throw garbage in the streets and drainages, while at the same time we sing the praises of other nations, whose citizens are careful to use the garbage bins, thereby keeping their cities clean.
“It is counter-productive to development when we loot the electric wires, and solar panels installed on the streetlights to provide light at night, but admire other countries that are lit up at night. It is counter-productive to development, when we take without asking for the crushed rocks that were brought to repair the cracks in the road, and in some places, construct roads, while at the same time commending other countries for having good roads.
“It is counter-productive to development, when we exploit our children who are pursuing their education, while speaking well about the educational standards in other countries.
It is counter-productive to development when we are placed in a position of trust and we betray that trust; it is counter-productive to development when some of us begin to think that we are more Liberians than others.”
He reminded Liberians that the growth and development of their beloved country can only be possible “if we continue to hold together, work together, share together, and support each other. For this to be possible, we have to remember the golden rule that states: ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. In other words, treat others as you would want to be treated if you were in their place and position. This cannot be done through demonstrating hate and dislike for each other, whether we are in government or out of government.”