Togba-Nah Tipoteh was born in Monrovia in 1941 unto the union of Rev. and Mrs. Samuel Togba Roberts of Grand Kru County. He is a Christian by faith, and a United Methodist by denomination. Dr. Tipoteh is married to the former Ms. Fatu Konneh of Lofa County.
Dr. Tipoteh was educated at the College of West Africa (high school) and at the Universities of Liberia, Ohio (bachelor's degree) and California (master's degree). In 1969, he earned a doctorate degree in economics while studying as a Harvard University/United Nations Special Fund Fellow in Economic Development at the University of Nebraska.
Togba-Nah Tipoteh has accumulated a wealth of professional experience in international development. He worked in the United States of America, the Netherlands, Mozambique, Ghana, South Africa and other countries, as well as for the United Nations system: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Economic Community of Africa (ECA), and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (WORLD BANK), among others.
Dr. Tipoteh served the Liberian government as a Budget Advisor to President William R. Tolbert, in which position he expressed concerns about government waste and advocated public management reforms. He was the first Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs under the regime of Samuel K. Doe, but resigned after 15 months in office, giving human rights abuses by the government as his reason for leaving. In the early 1970s, Dr. Tipoteh was Associate Professor of Economics, Chairman of the Economics Department, and Director of the Management Research Institute at the University of Liberia.
For over three decades, he has been actively involved with democratic activities in promotion of human rights, liberties, constitutional rule, and growth with development in Liberia and throughout Africa. Currently, he is President of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA), an organization with a Pan-African strategy for justice and democracy; Standard Bearer (Presidential Candidate, 1997) of the Liberian People's Party (LPP); founding Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), an alliance of Liberian political parties; Director-General of SUSUKUU, Liberia's oldest (founded in 1971), a non-governmental development organization credited by the West Africa Peacekeeping Force (ECOMOG) as helping to disarm over 10,000 combatants; and former Chairman of the Interest Groups of Liberia, a consortium of 32 national organizations with a collective membership of well over one million persons.
Dr. Tipoteh is also a businessman, and serves as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Kukatornon Reconstruction Corporation. He keeps physically fit through sports, and was Liberia's national Tennis Champion for 15 unbroken years. Through his scholarship program, he mentors and sends hundreds of students (mainly children) from all counties of Liberia to schools and colleges in Liberia.
I First met Togba-Nah Tipoteh, leader of the Liberian People's Party (LPP) in 1993, during a private visit to Liberia, when his aide, Joe Jah arranged a meeting I was privileged to have with him at his home.
We discussed the then on-going civil war, and the efforts he was making to help end it, his role as a provider, mentor and teacher to many disadvantaged Liberian youths, some of whom are successful adults today, and his place as one of the most visible Liberian politicians in modern history.
Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh arrived on the Liberian political scene decades ago as a Vai shirt/dashiki-wearing activist professor and cultural crusader who popularized his name sake brand of sandals made out of rubber from tires, and injected into our national consciousness an awareness of a lost heritage taken away from the indigenous majority by the ruling minority class.
With like-minded professors, students and grass-root organizations, Tipoteh and others were able to overwhelm a helpless population with hard facts and graphic details about the terrible ordeals of injustice perpetrated against them by the ruling minority class, which set the stage for the overthrow of a government, war and dictatorship in Liberia.
Togba-Nah Tipoteh is to Liberian politics what palm butter and rice is to some of us, because, before he married his wife, Tipoteh was once, (and still is) married to the Liberian political struggle, because the man eats breathes and lives politics, which is a plus and a minus for a man who is as popular and controversial as the many causes he believes in dearly.
Tireless in his pursuit of a democratic Liberia, and controversial, because of his incessant pursuit of the presidency during every election season, leaves no room, according to his many critics for others within LPP to grow, dream and aspire to be President of Liberia, which is a turned-off. Even as activists and potential presidential candidates exit Liberia in droves for fear of their safety, Tipoteh remained in Liberia at the detriment of his own safety. His critics see that as a calculated attempt to enhance his political standing for the presidency.
However, individuals who've worked with Tipoteh over the years on labor issues, economics, human rights and politics in general, quickly add to the debate that despite his unquenching desire to be President of Liberia, Tipoteh's the hardest working politician in that country today, in terms of commitment, consistency and his rugged determination to do things his way.
Tipoteh's determination to do things his way is certainly the catalyst that's fueling the flames in the opposition he is meeting day in and day out from his critics. And if the opposition from some of his partisans doesn't end quickly, 2003 will be a repeat of 1997, when many of those same partisans left Tipoteh and the Liberian People's Party to support the opposition.
Even as we discussed Tipoteh's endless presidential ambition and the way he's perceived to do things, some members of LPP are debating the reasons behind a web site and LIFT, as in Liberians For Tipoteh, a support group/exploratory committee organized by certain members of LPP who are friends of Tipoteh. Critics contend that LIFT is a rival group to LPP, comprised of Southeasterners, and dominated by members of the Krao tribe of which Tipoteh is a member.
As if that's not enough of a distraction, there is the allegation of political pandering on the part of Tipoteh. At issue are old pictures and news stories of Tipoteh and Charles Taylor at a public function holding hands. In one of those gatherings, it is believed Tipoteh proclaimed to the world that "his personal freedom and his ability to operate freely in Liberia are unhindered by President Taylor or his government." This is said at a time when lesser known activists, journalists and ordinary Liberians are being brutally beaten, harrassed, jailed and exiled by Charles Taylor. Why will Tipoteh say such a thing at this time is anyone's guess.
However, if the man believes and attributes his safety in Monrovia to Charles Taylor, so be it. At least that's his right to say what he believes. However, Tipoteh will have to understand that his place is not to pander to the power that be in order to win favors. As an opposition leader, Tipoteh should think twice or thrice before making such comments, which can be translated by his enemies as insensitive and opportunistic, because pandering, as we know it is one who caters to or exploits others' desires or weakness for their own benefit.
Togba-Nah Tipoteh made his marks in Liberian politics as one who led from the other side, by standing firm to his beliefs in opposing authoritarian governments. A seasoned Tipoteh can bring peace to his people and his political party by being the leader he once was - steadfast, principled, bold and strong.
Whatever the outcome of the 2003 presidential election is, Tipoteh will have to, in the interest of Liberia and LPP, learn to give others the chance to vie for the party's nomination in future elections.
When that is done, a retired Togba-Nah Tipoteh, as a respected elder statesman can wisely use his tremendous wisdom, leadership abilities and organizational skills to be an advisor and a mentor to future leaders of his party and Liberia.