I find it necessary to pose the above- mentioned Questions in light of the Unprecedented insults and disrespect being heaped upon H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, who embodies and represents the Republic of Liberia-The Lone Star!
Indeed, the Refrain of our Nation’s patriotic hymn by Liberia’s 17th President Edwin Barclay reads:
The Lone Star forever,
The Lone Star forever!
O long may it float over land and o’er seas!
Desert it! No never! Uphold it forever!
O shout for the lone star d banner-all hail!
The Insults and denigration of Madam President can hardly be said, to be Upholding our Lone Star!
We have, in the past, stood up when Liberian women were Insulted and denigrated by our very selves.
Here we recall the Petition to the Government by Liberian Women, in the wake of the Infamous rice riots of 1979 and the subsequent Joint Resolution by the Legislature, against Liberia’s first and foremost female Circuit Court judge, Her Honor, Judge Emma Shannon Walser.
She had challenged the Government of Liberia’s detention of those opposition Leaders alleged to have instigated the disturbances, to Produce their bodies and ‘’show cause’’ for their detention-invoking, essentially, the Writ of Hapeas Corpus. For this singular act, she was removed by a Joint Resolution! But Liberian Women refused to just stand by.
Some 500 women were mobilized from across the nation, from all segments and levels of society, including our Elders, from the highest levels of Society, to Market Women to sign a Petition (drafted by the Cassell Sisters: Ernestine and Clara; the late Lottie Mai Phelps and Myself) to Government, protesting the action by the Legislature.
I personally read the Petition at the Capitol Building and recall well Senator Agustus Caine, when I was about to read the Statement (with TV Cameras and Press present) asking me,’’ Young lady do you know what you are doing?’’
I responded affirmatively.
We were invited into the Chambers of that august body in order to submit the said Petition- the ‘’We’’ included Liberian Elders at the time such as Ma Martha Johnson and Jeanette Howard King who following that event was ‘’told off ‘’by the Speaker of the House for signing and in the aftermath, never received invitation to official events thereafter.
We understand that the Sergeant at Arms, who let us into the Chambers, got into trouble’ over his action while President William R. Tolbert Took the Petition into Cabinet And in presenting it to his official family, said the “Women of the Nation Are Against Me’’!
More recently, some two years ago, I was one of two women who similarly took a stand against the ugly “die-a-tribe” in the Press levied by some unknown persons against the Minister of Justice, Christiana Tah (upon her resignation) and her Family –amongst whom her handicapped son, who was described as ‘’useless’’ while her daughter, a budding young Liberian Law Student was vilified–we asked then, which mother or grandmother knows how the child will be born? Moreover, we asked what right anyone has to condemn what the Almighty had done without knowing what purpose He may have had.
Recall in that regard, the questions posed to Job by God in the Old Testament when his friends went to share his grief for his misfortune, while Job was told by his wife to curse the Almighty God and die.
Accordingly, we simply cannot stand by in the wake of insults, disrespect and disparagement of Madam President that has become the order of the day, reaching unacceptable heights recently.
The last straw that has led me to take a stand is the recent statement by the UP youth wing (reported upon in the Daily Observer of 24, November 2017,) calling for the President’s expulsion from the party and one sentence, in particular, to the effect that: “We should not sit and allow this Woman to destroy our noble Institution”.
Pray tell me who are these young people to refer to our Head of State, as this woman?
I ask, are the Women of the Unity party going to say nothing and do nothing? Will the women of Liberia accept referring to our President, as this Woman?
Where is the Leadership of the Unity Party on this?
To the extent that the youths are the future of our nation one must ask whether with such gross disrespect, what kind of Leadership can we expect?
Are these the People who are expected to uphold the Lone Star (Our nation) which any occupant of the Presidency, in this case, Madam President embodies?
As one of the Elders whose duty is to train and guide our future generation, I call on the Elders to also play their role.
Given my commitment and dedication to the “Growing” (Development and promotion) of Liberia’s and Africa’s Emergent Leadership (the young people), I am extremely concerned about this.
I call on the Women of the UP and the Women of Liberia to stand up and show their disgust at such behavior and take concrete action thereof, since this disrespect is not just to Madam President but to the Republic of Liberia and its Women folk, both at the highest level and more broadly, in society at large.
Moreover, as a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, primary mandate of which was the preservation and the promotion of the Lone Star, the Republic of Liberia in the Comity of Nations, I feel obliged to pen this statement, since the barrage of insults against Madam President, reflects, in fact, on all of us Liberians, as a People.
One may well ask what kind of people are we, if we stand by and not rebuke such attacks on our President, the embodiment of the State?
How do we expect the world to view us?
On this note we must commend one of the late night talk show hosts – I do not recall which one- who consistently admonishes his callers that he will not accept insults, abuse or denigration of personalities when they ‘’call in’ ’and are headed in such a direction while making their contributions to the discussions of the issues at bay!
On my own part, while I am a supporter of the UP Presidency bid and have contributed financially to same, I am nonetheless deeply troubled at this disrespect and sheer ‘’Gall’’ that the UP youth wing have meted out on the Mother of our nation – “Mama’’ Liberia.
As one of the Woman of the UP, it cannot and must not be allowed to idly stand. It is, in no uncertain terms, Unacceptable!
Here we recall how the LP leadership some time ago refused to allow their youth wing to ignite a march which could have led to disturbances and unintended consequences, for which position, they (LP) are to be commended.
To Madam President, as I end this statement, I cannot but recall a conversation, as recent as this past August, In the plane – you enroute to Kenya and South Africa and I to Zambia – when you said to me
"Banke I have had to take so much just, to preserve the peace of our nation –no one can imagine!
And so, Madam President I can only say, as per scriptures: ‘’The Battle is not yours, But the Lord’s "!
To Liberia’s women folk, my Sisters, I pose once more my opening questions: Where are the UP’s Women? Where are the Women of Liberia? Where are the Elders?
Indeed, it is at times like this that we feel the absence of our late Mother Mary Brownell. We may be sure that there is no way that she would have remained silent at a time like this, knowing well that silence means consent.
How we miss her leadership in galvanizing Liberian women to stand up and be counted in the interest of “Mama” Liberia, So that we do not denigrate our nation, for in denigrating Madam President, we denigrate ourselves, and essentially our nation.
As the old People would say: ‘’if you do not say I am, Nobody will say thou Art’’.
Thus, in closing I wish to refer to an extract of a letter (read at the grave site of President William V.S. Tubman on the Observation of his birthday just a few days ago, on 29 November led by the President) from the Liberian Community in Sierra Leone to the President William V.S. Tubman on the 7 of May 1971, on the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Granting of Adult suffrage in 1946, to Liberian Women under the auspices of the Federation of Liberia Women organization and I quote:
‘’Your foresightedness for making the recommendation is being justified by the more significant role members of our sex and compatriots have played and continue to play in our national and international Polities. It will be no surprise, when one day, someone in the Executive Mansion will be addressed “Madam President”;
And so, instead of castigating Liberia’s First Women President – with such Unconscionable disrespect - we should remember that as Madam President embodies the Ship of State – the words of the late Dr. Romeo Horton, one of Liberia’s brilliant minds, in his 26 July 2000 Oration, to the nation to the effect that:
“We have had our birth and growing pains, our Camelot days and recently our nightmare days but the Lone Star Still flies over Land and overseas. ‘For God’s sake! Uphold the Lone Star!
Olubanke King-Akerele, A Patriot and an Elder; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Former Minister of Commerce & Industry