OP-ED: Dealing With the Razzmatazz and Euphoria of the New Hydropower Plant

National debates must be characterized by patriotism, sincerity, and substance. We must hold our leaders accountable by what they say they will do for the people. We must never run away from speaking the truth even if it hurts.

Liberia is a functionally illiterate society besieged by mediocrity, self-pity, neglect, and penury. Every small development in Liberia appears like a discovery of diamond mine or a deposit of gold, even if it is overdue.

This is what happens when a group of hopeless and choiceless people has been smuggled into the wilderness of uncertainty and degradation as a result of bad governance and leadership deficit.

This is what happens when basic social services (electricity, housing, health, safe drinking water, quality education, etc) are yet too far as a result of greed and corruption. This is what happens when a nation is rich in resources but poor in terms of development.

Several days ago, the “big light,” a 22-megawatt hydropower plant, was switched on after 11 years of construction.

Does this project deserve commendation? Yes, it does. Before premising my thoughts, I would like to commend President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and our partners, especially the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the European Investment Bank, and the German and Norwegian governments, for such a laudable initiative.

At least a portion of Monrovia will now have access to hydropower after more than a decade. This 22-megawatt plant appears to be the biggest achievement of Madam President since 2006. Wow!

After almost 12 years, just 18 communities in Monrovia will benefit from this power plant. A junior minister within the government called me and said, “Martin, are you aware that the hydro is finally on? Doesn’t this call for a national celebration?” I said, “No, it doesn’t, but such project is laudable.”

Another government official said, “A promise finally fulfilled and this ends the debate of the opposition.” As I browsed through series of reactions since the hydropower was dedicated, I thought to deal with the razzmatazz and euphoria of the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant in Harrisburg, Montserrado.

For the sake of our readership, let me succinctly define both razzmatazz and euphoria:

  1. Razzmatazz is a noisy and noticeable activity, intended to attract attention.
  2. Euphoria is a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness.

The atmosphere in Monrovia has been clouded with wild excitement by a lot of pro-regime protégés and apprentices of falsehood. Such euphoria being amplified is nothing but a gimmick, only meant to pacify our already poverty-stricken population. In pretense, some of them are even attempting to convince us that the new plant is the remedy to the socio-economic misery of the Liberian people.

So, they expect us to jubilate all day long with our hands up in prolonged applause even though most Liberian businesses are currently at risk due to a hike in taxes.

The day Monrovia reaches the levels of Dakar, Accra, Abidjan, Johannesburg, Cairo, Kigali, and Harare as a result of hydropower distribution, then it means that we will have to declare a national holiday.

How I hope 25 percent of our population could briefly travel to Johannesburg or Kigali and return home. Only one year since President John Magufuli of Tanzania took office, 1,423 factories have been built. Why aren’t Tanzanians celebrating all day or all year long?

Because they know that it is the responsibility of the government to promote public welfare. In Liberia, promoting public welfare through basic social services is perceived as a form of favor from the government to the people. This is what public officials have made our people believe. As a result, when little progress is made, they expect us to keep clapping and celebrating all year long.

No, no, no, we cannot razzmatazz when there is one good to 99 bad. We cannot overly celebrate when the shortcomings are more than the merits, after almost 12 years. We cannot leap into a state of prolonged euphoria just for a power plant that is not even supplying electricity for the entire Monrovia.

What happens to those living in the other 14 counties? The plant commissioned and dedicated by President Sirleaf is not a promise fulfilled. The fact is that this government has received so much and has done so little. The achievements of this government are far less than its failures.

In 2005 before her ascendancy to the office, President Sirleaf promised to electrify Monrovia and its environs within six months. Unfortunately, after 11 years, this promise is yet to be fulfilled. It was on the basis of this promise that her candidacy received an overwhelming support in 2005.

All we now see after 132 months in power is a 22-megawatt plant. Isn’t this a promise betrayed? Of course, because Monrovia is still rated as one of the darkest capital cities in the world after 11 years.  In fact, during Liberia’s 159th Independence Day celebration in July 2006, President Sirleaf promised “big light” before leaving office.

With less than 13 months to the end of her regime, is this the “big light” President Sirleaf promised? I thought they told us that the “big light” would have electrified our entire country.

Liberia is spending US$357 million to rehabilitate an 88-megawatt plant. Photo : US Embassy Monrovia

Liberia is spending US$357 million to rehabilitate an 88-megawatt plant. Photo: US Embassy Monrovia

What is even puzzling is that Liberia is spending US$357 million to rehabilitate an 88-megawatt plant over 11 years while neighboring Guinea spent US$526 million to construct (and not rehabilitate) a hydropower plant of 240 megawatts in less than four years.

With all these glowing realities, they expect us to razzmatazz and jubilate all year long. No, we cannot! All we can do is to appreciate the government and its partners for a step forward.

Furthermore, in a bid to be reelected in 2011, Africa’s first female President signed an official contract with all Liberians through a solemn pledge consisting of twenty promises. These were Madam Sirleaf’s exact words to all Liberians during the campaign period in 2011.

She pledged to do the following:

  1. Create no fewer than 20,000 jobs (short and long-term) every year for the next six years.
  2. Ensure that Mount Coffee Hydro Plant is fully rehabilitated and made functional.
  3. Roberts International Airport is modernized and brought to international standards.
  4. Connect all county capitals with paved roads.
  5. Ensure that Liberian businesses have increased access to finance.
  6. Ensure that each county has a technical and vocational training center.
  7. Increase the salary of teachers and health workers, especially those working in rural areas.
  8. Provide more support to farmers to increase local capacity, especially those working in rural areas.
  9. Invest in activities that enhance true reconciliation.
  10. Continue to ensure that our people are safe.
  11. Ensure double-digit growth rate to address poverty.
  12. Ensure that nationals have equity in relevant national assets.
  13. Expand banking services to all counties.
  14. Continue the fight against corruption with emphasis on punishment.
  15. Complete plans for new capital at Zekepa.
  16. Build bridges to connect counties.
  17. Ensure all government agencies are in public buildings.
  18. Continue to expand neighborhoods and farm to market roads.
  19. Complete community colleges in all counties.
  20. Construct three regional sports academies.

Even the second promise is yet to be fulfilled after a second term. Just 25 percent (22 megawatts out of 88 megawatts) of Mount Coffee Hydro Project has been completed. Must we razzmatazz even though none of these promises is yet to be fulfilled in full or 100 percent?

The road going to Lofa. Photo: Zeze Ballah

The road going to Lofa. Photo: Zeze Ballah

Have we connected all county capitals with paved roads? Have we created the 100,000 jobs since 2012? Where are the plans for our new capital at Zekepa? Where are the three regional sports academies? Have we completed community colleges in all counties? Are all government agencies in public buildings? Are banking services available in all counties? Where is the technical and vocational center in each county?

It is unfortunate that our leaders want the entire world to believe that our thirst for genuine change in Liberia has been quenched as a result of the dedication of the 22-megawatt plant. No, no, no… that’s not true.

If Liberia must make genuine progress, we must not shy away from the hardcore facts. We must be willing to add value to our discourse by demonstrating sincerity and patriotism. Even if we are aligned with the power that be, the truth must be said.

If we decide to euphorically razzmatazz about every small progress after a prolonged period, we harm our nation further by energizing complacency and undermining the snail-paced development of our country.

Amidst of all of these, I still remain hopeful that we can rise above this level beyond 2017. It is possible to even electrify the entire country in less than four years after 2017 elections if the political will is demonstrated at all levels.

An all-inclusive change is possible in Liberia through patriotism, transparency, and accountability. From the largest slum of West Point to the top of Ducor, I see a new Liberia rising above the African continent.

Featured photo by the Mount Coffee Project Implementation Unit

Martin K. N. Kollie

Martin K. N. Kollie is a self-exiled Liberian activist, columnist, and emerging economist. He is a former leader at the University of Liberia and a Lux-In-Tenebris Scholar. He can be reached by email.

The Bush Chicken is a young operation and we need your support to keep bringing you great content. Please support us.

Monthly   Yearly   One time

Gold Level Supporter—$250/year
Silver Level Supporter—$100/year
Bronze Level Supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Gold Level Supporter—$250
Silver Level Supporter—$100
Bronze Level Supporter—$50
Or pick your own amount: $
Contributions to The Bush Chicken are not tax deductible.

Related posts