The people of Liberia will go to the polling booths in October to elect a new president and 73 federal lawmakers. The elections, coming in the post-war era will mark the first transfer of power from one democratically elected president to the other. One Liberian, William Wiah Tuider, apolitical and humanitarian, wants to rule the country. In doing so, he also wants to honour Nigeria for its roles in restoring peace and bringing about democracy in his country. A visionary with a deep understanding of African and world politics, Tuider tells Stanley Nkwazema about his dream and ability to be Liberia’s next president
The Real Native Boy
“I am a son of Liberia, born in Liberia and grew up in Liberia. Born in the city of Yekepa, in Nimba County, my father, the Reverend John Tuider, was a Methodist preacher and a conservative. I grew up in a humble household. We are about eight siblings. My mother, Lucy, was a market woman and so we had a very humble beginning. I have been married for 25 years and I have six children.,” said William Tuider.
His late father was, a humble man. He was his hero. He says he learned a lot from him, especially about taking care of the family and doing the right thing and being straight in whatever he does.
“He was a conservative guy. A lot of what I do today I sometimes see my old man in me because he was that kind of person. For my mother, Mrs. Lucy Buteh Tuider, she had a big heart. And I think many people see me today and say you are just like your mother. She was the kind of woman who will make food and bring everybody to eat. She will bring other people’s children to come and stay with us. We had a household that was filled with so many kids. Both parents were humanitarians. That is the kind of person I am today. I learnt it from home.”
To America in Search of the Golden Fleece…
Tuider says he attended Samuel Doe Elementary School and left Liberia for the United States of America in 1985 where he attended University of St John’s in Queens New York.
“I got most of my education in the United States. After education I had some corporate jobs, working for different companies in America. Actually, I worked for a phone company called Nextel which I don’t know if it exists anymore but because of the kind person I have always been, I started my own business. I have been working for myself in the last 20 years. Some of what I did was starting an import and export business that allowed me to travel around the world; Asia in particular and established businesses in Liberia. To be exact, in 1997, I started off bringing general merchandise into the US and Liberia. So I was able to establish stores because you know we had this civil strife in Liberia. I was able to hire a lot of young people and I grew the number rapidly.”
He took care of people under his employ; paying their salaries because with the war off and on in Liberia, the business was able to educate their kids.
“I gave them benefit. I was able to establish some educational programmes in my own community of Monboe Town in Liberia where I grew up. We put 22 kids on scholarships and many of those kids are high school graduates today.”
Why I want to be President of Liberia
Tuider says it is true that Liberia went through so much from civil war and the accompanying devastations that were brought upon the country because of politicians and other big personalities in the country.
“I think if given the opportunity to serve my people, my leadership will bring good governance to Liberia because I was also trained in the United States and I do have Western background in me. I appreciate the fact that I have Liberian culture that I was brought up there. Having Western background, democracy is something that I cherish and bringing those things to Liberia, I believe we can pull our country back on the road map, to move this country forward. I can do that. Many of the politicians in Liberia today do not entertain the same; they just think they should be the rulers of the people. I don’t believe that I want to ru le my people because I don’t think I know everything. So I want to have people on the table where we all can discuss as to how we can move our country forward. I can lead this nation to that direction.”
On his political leaning, Tuider says he could be Labour in certain kind of situations and could be a very conservative person in other situations. But politically, he believes he is a humanitarian person because he wants to see his people do well.
Liberia, Poverty Index and Funding
“Let me tell you, Liberia is 169 years old and we have nothing to show for it. Our children are not properly educated; our healthcare system is in a dreadful condition and cannot even take care of the people. Infrastructure is so bad; we don’t have that infrastructure that we can actually boast of. Corruption and governmental mismanagement all continue to be the root causes of our problem or underdevelopment. I will tell you exactly why I want to be the President. I believe Liberia needs a genuine leader; someone who cares about the country and the people. My overriding desire to be president is to improve the lives of the Liberian people and to transform Liberia into a modern prosperous nation beginning with of course, with a justice system that will tackle corruption, the root cause of our nation’s problems.”
Incumbency Questions and Support…
Tuider notes that in Africa, people seem to need the endorsements of incumbents to have advantage during elections. But he does not seem to want the endorsement of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for now.
“The Liberian people are so bitter with her leadership and so bitter with the politicians. If they see this President supporting me, they will not support me. May be her endorsement may come when we are getting close to election, but at this time, no. In Africa, everybody tends to need the incumbents support.
“Like I said, the people are very tired of the politicians. Before I came to Liberia, I was involved behind the scenes politically. During the war in Liberia, I was the guy who supported the peace process in which I even had the privilege of working with General Abdulasalami Abubakar, the former Head of State of Nigeria, because he was the ECOWAS Representative. I brought former government officials on board; I transported, paid for hotels and all the accompanying costs because I wanted peace and I believed I was not somebody who was not interested in good government. We can better by helping our country to broker peace. I came there and played my part. We engaged the (Charles) Taylor government, urging him to step down because he had an indictment on him. I personally was engaged with the rebel forces to stop the war. So when the war was over, we formed an Interim Government. My effort brought in the current government at the time.”
The Clamour for Change and Liberia
“However, after 11 years, she has failed to provide good governance in the country. The poverty level went high; education is very low in standard so people are yearning for change. And you can see that today. All over the world; even in the United States, many of us thought that Hilary Clinton was going to win. Again, Donald Trump came from nowhere, a non politician, and beat those politicians and today he is the President. Same thing happened just in our backyard in The Gambia. I like what happened in The Gambia because the guy who won the election, Adama Barrow, like me came from nowhere, and organised those guys who were against Yahya Jammeh. He got the smallest political parties; brought them together and he won the elections. We are replicating the same formula in Liberia because already we have brought five political parties into our own camp or movement and I am looking into bringing in five more. The reason I said so is because Liberia is a small country and we have about 22 or 23 political parties. I am looking so that they can come and collaborate with us. When I made my public declaration, believe me, on the 10th of February this year many of the people heard about this new guy who is coming. He is not their usual politician; he has a big heart and he is a big humanitarian and they all wanted to see me. About 3000 people assembled just to hear my declaration speech at that place. When I got out of the car, people were so surprised to see me. They started to sing that the President, our mother, has fooled us and our father has come. Believe me I was so humbled to hear that. That tells me this change movement you see going around the world today can happen in Liberia and I truly believe it is going to happen with me,” Tuider said.
United States Sojourn As a Tuider Strength
Tudier did not just earn a degree in the United States but did a whole lot of work study programmes to improve his ability.
“My wife and kids are in the United States but she frequently comes to Liberia. My wife and I came to Liberia one time and we saw this little girl on the sidewalk down the road and my wife couldn’t help it. I couldn’t too. I remember as a little boy, my parents used to bring so many kids to the house to stay. I was the oldest son, so I couldn’t leave the girl on the sidewalk. That girl is my daughter today. We are happy to have Asata. She is my sixth. We are eight and there is a brother who is next to me; Paul who is in the States. During the civil war, I was able to help all my family out of Liberia to the States, including my own parents. All my siblings except for one sister and a brother live in the States. I also brought friends from the refugee camp in Ghana to the States. I also helped others who went to Europe,” he explained.
Liberia, Nigeria and Africa
He says he joined in solidarity with the African National Congress (ANC) to fight against apartheid. He has been an African Nationalist since he was 11 years old.
“When in I turned 11years in 1977, and Steve Biko was murdered by the then apartheid government in South Africa, our President at that time, Sir William Tolbert called on the country to mourn the death of Biko. He gathered all the students to line up the streets and pay tribute to the people of South Africa, our black brothers and sisters there. Out of curiosity as a child, I wanted to know why and who was Steve Biko and why must we be outside paying tribute. Of course, I remember my English teacher explaining who Steve Biko was and why we are paying tribute. From that onward, I became an activist. In my little mind I joined in solidarity with the people of South Africa. Again, that caused me to start reading about African liberation movement. I joined with the people of Angola. I had sympathy for the people of today’s Namibia, then South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) movement and Sam Nujoma. When I grew up and travelled to the United States, of course we black Americans came together. I was part of that organisation that joined hands in solidarity with the Mandela Freedom Movement for the release and freedom of Nelson Mandela and his people because I was a member of an underground organisation in America called the Malcolm X Grassroots Organisation and the Patrice Lumumba Coalition. We fought and many people fought for the release of our brothers and sisters in South Africa. Nigeria played a vital role. Nigeria was one of the first countries who stood against apartheid and Nigeria also helped in the freedom of South Africa. We know that today. I think what is happening in South Africa is shameful and disgraceful and it is embarrassing to every decent African today after what we all went through for the freedom of South Africa. Our brothers and sisters in South Africa need to understand and appreciate that we are one African people. So I ask the question: whatever happened to our shared identity as African people and African nationalism? They need to understand that. I do resent the loss of lives.
Nigeria played a vital role not just in the freedom of South Africa. In my own country, Liberia, Nigeria was the reason that the war in Liberia stopped today. Nigeria is the reason we are enjoying a form of democracy. That is why I am in the race. This country Nigeria has to be respected. That is why in my own view, Nigeria is our Super Power. That is why when I announced my candidacy; I came to Nigeria to pay my respect to people like President Obasanjo because he played a vital role in bringing peace to our country.”
Tribute to Nigerians
“To the mothers and fathers of this nation, those who lost their children and loved ones in Liberia’s civil war; those who paid the ultimate prize for bringing peace to our nation, I want to tell them, I William Tuider, have not forgotten them. I am not saying it as a politician because I am not playing politics with it. I don’t believe that the leadership in Liberia has done enough for these families who lost their loved ones in Liberia. I can commit myself and make a promise and you can hold me to that: when I am President and I know I will be, I will surely honour them.”