Charles Brumskine Acceptance Speech as Liberty Party’s Political Leader
CHARLES W. BRUMSKINE
Political Leader—Liberty Party
(Voinjama City, Lofa County—June 26, 2015)
I would like to start by thanking the Free Pentecostal Mission, especially Rev. Varfee and Elder Smith, for allowing us the use of the these facilities for our Convention.
To Senator Siakor, our outgoing Political Leader, Chairman Koffa, my friend and brother, Rugie Barry, who declined an offer to serve on the staff of the Political Leader, because she rather be a heartbeat away from the Chairmanship of Liberty Party, and Jacob Smith, the icon of Liberty Party, who has dubbed himself, as the “last man standing,” and to the other members of the Executive Committee, Party officials from all fifteen counties, and all of our partisans, supporters, and friends, including those in other African countries, Asia, Europe, and the United States of America, whose Chairman, Philip Suah, traveled across the Atlantic just to be with us at this Convention; all of you have made our party the esteemed Liberty Party.
I want to thank you for allowing my return to the political leadership of our Party. I am deeply honored, and appreciative of your confidence reposed in me with a deep sense of humility
I am especially thankful to the people of the historic City of Voinjama, and this great county of Lofa, which has become a stronghold of Liberty Party by the Grace of God, under the leadership of our dynamic duo: a founding member and pillar of our Party, the Chairman of the National Campaign Committee of Liberty Party, the Hon. Eugene Fallah Kparkar, and the man who has shown Liberty Party how to win an election in spite of all odds, Lofa County’s Senator, our Senator, the Honorable Steve J. A. Zargo.
Let me also recognize Senator Arma Jallah, President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, who was here earlier, but had to leave because of conflicting engagement; Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, Senator Henry Yallah, Hon. John Collins, and Mr. She Morris Brown, our newest member. I also like to mention that Jaybeh Kollie, who, since 2003, is for the first time absent from a political gathering of ours, because he had to travel for medical treatment,
To my wife of forty years; I thank you mommy, for always being by my side, in spite of it all. You provoke me to excellence!
Mr. Chairman, over a period of three years, you and your team have transformed our Party; you have presided over Liberty Party, as it transitioned from a losing party to a winning party! From 2011 to 2014, we witnessed the greatest comeback of a political party in Liberia’s history.
Your leadership, the campaign team, and the performance of our candidates in the 2014 mid-term Senatorial Election, have well positioned Liberty Party for the 2017 Presidential and General Elections. Coming third in Montserrado County, Second in Nimba County, leaving no doubt as to its strength in the heart of Bassa land, and with Lofa County posting Liberty Party as the political star of the North, …
I acknowledge Mr. Chairman, that the state of our party is strong and prepared.
Liberia is taking a second look at Liberty Party, as we also begin to look good in Bong, Margibi, the Southeast, and Western Liberia.
We are a changed party; Liberty Party has come of age. Heretofore, we spent most of our time preparing to lead, but without taking the time to learn how to win. We have learned; and now we are prepared not only to govern, but also ready to win. All have now seen that Liberty Party is not a Bassa party or a Kpelle party; we are not a Christian party nor a Muslim party; we neither belong to the elites nor the average Liberians; we are not a party of the old guards nor are we the party of the unguided. We are the Party of Liberia; we are the party of all the people.
So today, we renew our invitation to the young professionals, blue-collar workers, motorcyclists, marketers, farmers, petit traders, students, and the unemployed; we invite women, men, young and old; we invite all to join the esteemed Liberty Party.
I return to the political leadership of our party at a time when Liberia is at a defining moment: Will Liberia retrogress after the administration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Joe Boakai? Must we maintain the status quo in spite of the growing discontent of the Liberian people, or can our country do better? Liberia does not have to retrogress; nor must we retain the status quo!
I believe that Liberia can do better; I believe that the people of Liberia should fare better, I believe that opposition political parties in our country will do better; and, I believe that for you, and you, and you, and every Liberian, the better days of our country lie ahead. That is the reason why, after serious consideration and love for country, I return to the political leadership of the Liberty Party, the oldest of political parties that was birthed under Liberia’s new political dispensation.
But I remain unchanged, unmoved by attempts to distract from the belief that we must stand for what is right, that we must be our brothers and our sisters keepers, that we are much better, much stronger, than how we are perceived. My fellow partisans, supporters, and friends, I call upon you to join me in the confidence that the realization of our vision, the 4 Rs—Reconciliation, Reform, Recovery, and Rebuilding—will outweigh the fleeting benefits of a season; and, the reward of the new Liberia will compensate for the sacrifice that each of us will be called upon to make at one point or another.
I quote a passage from a letter written to Senator Robert La Follette in 1924, by Helen Keller, a lady who was without her sight, but who never lost her vision:
“So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me ‘arch priestess of the sightless,’ ‘wonder woman,’ and a ‘modern miracle.’ But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics—that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world—that is a different matter! It is laudable to give aid to the handicapped. Superficial charities make smooth the way of the prosperous; but to advocate that all human beings should have leisure and comfort, the decencies and refinements of life, is a Utopian dream, and one who seriously contemplates its realization indeed must be deaf, dumb, and blind.”
Ms. Keller’s letter confirms the point that it is always easier to do what comes naturally or what is expected of one. Giving the socio-political culture in which we find ourselves, it might be easier for opposition political parties in Liberia to be at each other’s throats, sometimes even more so than opposing the ruling party. And, there are some, who believe that we will never be able to put together a coalition to defeat the ruling party. So today my fellow citizens, let me stand “deaf, dumb, and blind,” but on behalf of the Liberty Party, I extend a hand of collaboration to every political party, including those in formation, expressing our desire to work with you, marching together into 2017.
A United Opposition
My fellow Liberians, making Liberia a better place for all Liberians, is something that Liberty Party would rather not attempt to do alone. Liberia’s next government must be one of genuine inclusion, a government that is the product of political collaboration, based upon the finding of a common thread from within our various political tenets, a set of shared values from among our competing ideals and governance philosophies; all being done for the greater good of our nation.
Our call is about improving the lot of the people of Liberia, which a united opposition can do. This is not about a political victory for Liberty Party or any single opposition political party; it is about placing Liberia on a path of liberal democracy, rather than being witnesses to the creation of yet another political hegemony in our country. Liberty Party does not seek a zero sum game; this is not about a winner taking all. The table is large enough for every opposition political party to sit around; the government is big enough for each to play a role; the interest of all is to be considered, as we collectively understand and agree that Liberia must be our overriding concern. Our call is about each of us in the political opposition giving up something so that all of us may get the reward of a better Liberia.
Twice the opposition has lost because the opposition has been in a state of disarray, which has been exploited by the Unity Party to its advantage. There is a strongman from Nimba County, a strongman of Montserrado County, and yet still, there is this fellow from the Bassa Region; and of course, as there are many other political giants from around the country, with a proliferation of political parties.
There will always be a favorite son or daughter in probably every political subdivision of our country, and as the law allows, the formation of one new political party after another. But until we come together, building a strong and viable opposition, we may each remain political giants of our respective constituencies, with many more political parties—whether old or new; big or small; almost winning or always losing; here today and gone tomorrow—one thing is certain, unless and until we find the political will and patriotic resolve to build a winning coalition, we might all remain nothing more than weak oppositions, unable to affect the plight of those whom we claim to represent, and without the authority to impact the destiny of our nation.
Speaking of the just ended Nigerian Presidential Election, it is written that,
“Political scientists see party contestation as a crucial element of true democracy. At the core of democratic elections is the expectation that the opposition can be the next government. Until the 2015 elections, such an expectation was not realistic in Nigeria. However, the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in February 2013 from a merger of four major opposition parties has transformed the country’s democratic context. The emergence of APC has helped break the electoral dominance of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), which has controlled the federal government since 1999.”
We have just witnessed a great electoral victory of the Nigerian people. Because the Nigerian opposition came together and built a coalition, they were able to rout the ruling party. We are able to do the same, and must do so in the interest of our country. The coming together of the opposition should entail an open, fair, and people-interest-driven process, which we understand would mean putting everything on the table, but coming out of the room with a leadership team that the Liberian people will trust, that would both defeat the ruling party and be prepared to serve well the interest of the Liberian people, which is our higher calling.
The Liberian electorate expects the opposition to come together. They are aware that we are not a uniformed body of politicians, as every politician is different, and each of our political parties has its unique platform. But there are a few things as to which we may agree, and reconciling our people happens to be the most important and the most urgent. But it must begin with the opposition.
Key to genuine reconciliation is a total embrace of our ‘Liberian-ness,’ which has to be characterized by the ‘we-consciousness’—‘We the Liberian people.’ The richness of our history must be the source of the strength that lies beneath our diversity, for we must all embrace a renewed sense of belonging, as we together seek to redesign the compass that guides our destiny.
Ours is a country of those who were here before, those who returned out of slavery and called the land Liberia, those who have since come, and those who are yet to come. This is a country of many ethnic groups. We are told that first came the Deis, next the Golas, then the Bassas, and then others, and their respective permutations, all of which make up the Liberian mosaic. We are also a country of various religions: Christians, Muslims, Traditional, and others; and, all must be accorded equal protection under the rule of law.
My fellow Liberians, living out our ‘Liberian-ness’ through the ‘we-consciousness’ calls for each of us to remember our lineage, not as a distraction or a remembrance of elitism, but rather to become awakened to the rich tapestry interlaced with a patriotic spirit.
Sitting at the feet of my maternal grandfather and learning about my country, Liberia, its peoples, culture and history, I recall the fullness of his conversation, though, as a child, I am not so sure that I always understood all that he explained. What I do vividly remember is that his ‘Liberian-ness’ came across. He was fond of saying that he was half Dei-Gola and half Dei-Bassa, but his heart and soul was Liberian. Coming from the Dei tribe, Grandpa was reared by missionaries, who gave him his western name, Charles Grove. If not the first, he was certainly one of the first of his tribesmen to receive a formal education. Many knew him simply, as “Teacher Grove.”
That sense of belonging, which ensures that our hearts and souls belong to Liberia, spring forth from our ancestors–whether they were here before, they were repatriated, or they subsequently came—we are all Liberians, caught up in the web that makes us one people, a Liberian people. We are each called upon to be reminded of our beginning, our root, for it may be deeper and more similar, than we have envisioned. It would help us to reflect on the journey that our nation has traveled and the contributions of ALL Liberians to the activities associated with this journey.
Liberia, my country, your country, is the land of liberty, and let it always be so; not just for a few or a select group, but for all. I am proud to be a Liberian!
I thank you, and God bless.