Running A Successful Government - What Lies Beneath

By George-Daweh Yuoh


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 9, 2004

In his informative article, “African Leaders and World Bank Connived: $43 Billion Interest Paid for $5 Billion Loan”, published by The Perspective on December 1, 2004, Mr. J. Yanqui Zaza suggested in his conclusion that the next president of Liberia should be someone who has worked with the World Bank or such organizations before; someone who has the knowledge and understanding of how very impoverished African countries are robbed of billions of US dollars.

[Mr. Zaza wrote in his conclusion:
“We can wisely assume that big business, agents of the World Bank, and their affiliates prefer a candidate, such as Varney Sherman, Charles Brumskine, etc. (i.e., a friend of big business), or George Weah, etc. (i.e., a popular candidate who has no organizational support). Such a candidate usually creates an environment conducive for big business to increase prices of goods and services at the expense of the poor. Therefore, as Liberians search for new leaders, we must elect a candidate who has a good heart and a good character and does enjoy the support of a formidable institution. Such a leader should have associated and worked with a team of experts during a reasonable period. If we elect a leader who hastily brings experts together, short of a working relationship, as we saw during the administrations of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor - that person will not have the experience and tenacity in rejecting kickbacks and demands from agents of the World Bank and big business.”]

For him, a person who has been in allegiance with the multinationals that have sunk Africa into deeper financial despair is the right person for Liberia. Nonetheless, this piece is not meant to be a rebuttal to his article, or any part thereof. The purpose of referencing Mr. Zaza’s conclusion therefore, is to only draw some attention to the seemingly mythical aura that surrounds the task running of an effective government, especially in Liberia. Brother Zaza concluding comments, as enshrined in his definition of who the next Liberian leader should be, highlight and bring to focus the misconception that is abound, relative to what is required to run a very good government in Liberia. Sometimes, we miss the obvious in our hasty search for the glamorous.

Also, from reading the pages on the web, there are comments from some of our compatriots who have concluded, particularly, that Mr. George Weah cannot run a government. He is now the focus of every writer’s commentary, and that is understandable and acceptable, because he is now the one to beat in the coming elections. The basis of his opponents’ argument is that he does not have the “requisite education”, and now, they are adding “inexperience” or “experience” to the pie. Their logic is, if George Weah had a master degree or Ph.D, then he would automatically be considered experienced and qualified to run a very good government. How fallacious! And from their arguments, they are outrageously suggesting that who ever becomes president of Liberia should master finance, economics, international relations, taxation, project management, budgeting, expenditure management, international monetary policies, information technology, telecommunications, social welfare issues, education management, electrical engineering, statistical analysis, and even janitorial services, etc. For them, the president should know everything so that he/she can run the country single-handedly. No wonder we have had very bad leaders and governments!

Myth versus Reality
It is a myth for people to believe that only “career politicians” can be national leaders, irrespective of how deficiently ineffective they have been. It is even more disingenuous for some of these failed politicians and their allies to continue to lay claim to state leadership as if the rest of us are inept. No wonder why over the years they refused to invest in education, especially higher education. They thought they would have always been the ones to boast of higher education and therefore be the only ones to be selected for national leadership. Funny how times have changed! Liberians are now educated in the tens of thousands, and there should be no reason why a group of perpetual underachievers should continue to be entrusted with state administration. And now, they dare to claim experience! What experiences are they and their followers referring to? Are they talking of experiences of being unashamedly corrupt, or experiences of mastering the act of jumping from one government to the other? What have their experiences done for posterity that we can proudly point to? What foundations have they laid for our children’s future (they have messed up ours already)? Experience is very vital to almost every undertaking, but only the right kind of experience will do. Continuous bad governance is not one we want to laud or applaud. If you ask me to choose between inexperience lined with dedication, selflessness, patriotism, trust, and national pride as opposed to experience littered with corruption, insatiable greed, and self-aggrandizement, I would certainly go for the inexperience.

As we trek gradually to the crowning and defining moment of our country’s political crossroad, we all agree that we cannot just throw caution to the wind. But at the same time, it behooves us to insist that this time around, those who have damnable track records of miserably failing in their service to the country do not get yet another chance (perhaps the tenth time) to plunder what little is left of Liberia. Some Liberians, as complacent as always, have come to accept that the job of leading and managing a very effective government is plagued with impediments that are insurmountable, a task that can only be overcome by traditional politicians. When you consider some of the comments they make, you would think that for them, the only person who can be president of Liberia is someone who has been a successful president himself before.

Recently in a conversation with a colleague, and after he listed the criteria of who he thought should be the next president of Liberia, I jokingly told him that we should employ former US President, William Jefferson Clinton to run our country then. He laughed and conceded that, “even at that, some of us would still find problem with him (Clinton)”. I went on goofing and told him that we should also hire US Senators John McCain and John Forbes Kerry to manage our legislature, and go for Alan Greenspan to run our economy. He finally told me to quit and stop rubbing it in. In other words, he had gotten the message: It can be done, and better than before.

But this is a very serious matter, because most of those who hold such a mythical view belong to the generation/s of Liberians that should now be gearing up to contribute positively to creating the new Liberia that we all continue to argue for. It is even scarier to know that these Liberians doubt their own abilities, as well as the abilities of other contemporaries, many of whom are seasoned professionals and intellectuals. The picture this creates is a sense of resignation, bleakness, hopelessness, and the confinement of the future of Liberia to perpetual despondency. This is not a blanket indictment of all those who have served in government before. And before the spinners get to work on this comment, let me categorically state that my comments are not meant to ferment a generational battle here, rather, they are intended to spur a sleeping generation into sobriety to see the folly of their passiveness, and respect their own abilities by committing themselves to determining the direction of their own destiny. For successive generations to continue to bequeath their legacies to another that has continuously mortgaged their prospects into unceasing nothingness is to erase all and any hope of a brighter future for generations to come. We can certainly do better!

Running An Effective Government

It is a common fact that the shareholders of a business will never re-appoint the same management team to run their business if that team was responsible for sending the company into near bankruptcy, even if every member of that team had the best academic credentials. Why then should a people continue to place the leadership of their country in the hands of the same people or group of people who have proven time and again that they lack ideas for productivity? For in this our real world, (and Liberia is a part of that world), the success of a leadership/management team is measured comparatively by the level of productivity, growth and growth potentials, and profitability achieved. A government is to the people what a management team is to its shareholders/investors. Like a private corporation, a government is created to address the wishes of its shareholders, the people. If a government disengages its focus from tackling the needs of the people, that government effectively has shot itself in the foot and is on the route to failure.

It is bemusing when you hear the level of simplicity to which a George Weah presidency is often reduced to by his opponents. It is even mind-bogglingly naïve for one to assume that George Weah will risk all that he has accomplished over the years, go into politics blindly, plan to govern without a plan, and will thereby crush the aspirations of millions of Liberians who look up to him to set the tune for a better tomorrow. His detractors incredulously believe that when George Weah becomes president, he will just walk into the Executive Mansion and fold his hands, wait for issues to come to him, and walk away from them with no solution. Gosh, isn’t that pushing it over board and laying it too thin? For those who care to understand how a very good government evolves, let’s discuss a few simple pointers. And these are my personal views.

(1) National Agenda - Before a candidate considers contesting, he must have a vision of where he wants to move his country. Based on that vision and the needs (priorities) of the country, a national agenda is formulated. That national agenda will define where the country is and where it should be over a given period of time. A national agenda is to a country/government what a corporate vision is to a private entity. This is the point where the foundation for a good government is laid.

(2) Realistic Platform - Based on the components of the national agenda, a realistic and attainable platform is prepared. The platform is like the mission statement of the incoming government. It says what the candidate intends to do to move the country one or several steps better. It usually sets the tune for most of the policies that the candidate would hope to institute during his term.

(3) Implementing Systems - The candidate and his team then set out to identify the systems needed to implement the items in the platform and sundry. This requires a professional review of the existing systems (in connection with the trouble areas) to determine which ones would potentially be modified or replaced. For instance, if eradicating corruption is a platform item, it is at this point that a review of the systems that encourage corruption is made. The team then identifies what systems tune-up must be done in order to safeguard government assets from continuous theft and plunder.

(4) Coordination and Directing - When these higher level strategies and plans have been laid out, the candidate, with the help of his team, then starts to consider the right personnel needed to coordinate and direct his vision so that the elements of the national agenda can be realized. Technocrats and other professionals are then targeted and studied for possible consideration. These are the people that will then formulate the actual lower level implementing plans and direct the day to day running of the government.

(5) Feedback and Evaluation - When the policies implementers are in place and the government is set to start running, a system of evaluation is set up so that the candidate, or by then, the president can be able to evaluate progress on specific programs/project, and to also have a feel for who is meeting target and who’s not.

These are just about a few of the basic and elementary planning processes that go on behind the scene before and or during the actual running of a government. The key to drive these plans through to fruition is a dedicated, selfless, patriotic, and trustworthy individual to lead the process. A plan is no good anyway if the leader has no intention of seeing it implemented in the first place. A leader can have all the academic credentials there is, all the experiences one can find, but if that leader lacks sincerity, commitment, love for country, and credibility, he and his country will certainly fail. And he must have the guts to weed out the false pretenders in his government. But more than that, he must exhibit commitment and sincerity to the process. He must lead, and then others will follow.

During a recent discussion with a young lady attending a program in Minnesota, she seemed even more perplexed when she asked: “How can people assume that George Weah will decide to get into a race without a plan, without any idea of how he would lead, without any vision of where he wants the country to be?” She continued, “How can they be so naïve to argue that he (George Weah) would not be able to interpret reports from his ministers and advisors. The US Commerce Secretary does not submit all the matrices, calculations and statistical data to George Bush to spend sleepless night trying to figure them out before he can make a policy pronouncement affecting the US economy.” I then told her that it was part of politics, the opposition would grab on to whatever they can in order to bring the other candidate/s down. She shook her head and said, “You know, when people argue that George Weah is not educated, I often wonder what planet they live on. Do they honestly believe that George Weah froze in time, and did not acquire any additional knowledge and experience for the more than 15 years he worked in very professional environments in Europe?” Before I could answer, she continued, “I just watched highlights of some of his goals he scored during his great football career, and the way he mesmerized his opponents, tells you that he is a very highly intelligent young man. How people don’t see this obvious trait is beyond me.”

The late legendary Robert N. Marley (Bob Marley) asked in one of his classics, “… Is there a place for the hopeless sinner who has hurt all mankind just to save his own…?” I ask, must we continue to throw our country in the hands of the usual underachievers, who unrepentantly garnished our future for their personal gains? Together, we certainly can make Liberia better; don’t let anyone tell you we need nuclear physicists to make it work!