I have known Jefferson Koijee for more than a decade. We fought many intellectual battles together against the forces of backwardness. While serving as president of the National Students Intellectual Council, the young politician demonstrated uncompromising independence in thoughts and actions.
This was the advocate I knew until he became the Chief of Auxiliaries of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and established close ties with certain political elements on the national stage. Few days ago, I read a composition on major news websites where Koijee questioned the existence of the progressives in the wake of Robert Sirleaf’s “rising influence and wealth”. He mentioned the names of Sam Jackson, Samuel Kofi Woods, Dr. Amos Sawyer, Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh and the writer of this rebuttal. That article is the best example of how counter-productive an argument can be when it is dangerously soaked with unimaginable misinformation. The invincible hands acting through Mr. Koijee spewed the highest volume of lies and misguided propaganda with the sole intent of destroying the hard-earned characters of good Liberians.
This composition will undoubtedly succeed, by the use of logical reasoning, in deconstructing the wall of aspersion promulgated by my good friend. I will endeavor to do this not as a public relation officer for the oil company of Liberia, but because my name was mentioned as one of the progressives in the state of silence while “nepotism” and “corruption” engulf the oil sector and the country.
First, let us consider the functional description of the word nepotism. A public official can only be considered nepotistic in cases where kinship is the prevailing standard of evaluation for the awarding of jobs or other official favors. Simply put, if Mr. Robert Sirleaf had been a mediocre person and sits on the board of the oil company only because he is the son of the president, then all the progressives would have sounded the trumpet against the vices of nepotism and political corruption. Job opportunities for family members on the basis of qualification and competence can never be considered nepotism.
Additionally, the 1986 constitution of the Republic of Liberia deals with the issues of employment. Article (8) of the constitution states: “The Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all its citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and toward promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment. The use of the phrase “for all citizens” is self explanatory. The Sirleafs have the right to work just like the Ngafuans, the Konnehs, the Nagbes … Hence, the president will be in violation of the organic law if she stops all the qualify Sirleafs in Liberia from working .
Also in your desperation to subject Mr. Robert Sirleaf to public ridicule, you claimed that we the progressives are watching while Mr. Sirleaf is on his way to becoming Liberia’s first billionaire by 2013. Why should you allow a gang of cowards who have decided not to take on Mr. Sirleaf directly put you down in flames? Have you asked them how many thousands make a million and how many millions make a billion? The last budget I remembered passing into law as a member of the 52nd legislature was about half a billion. Or, are we suppose to believe that Robert Sirleaf will soon be richer than the whole country including his mother? This is outrageous and only an alien creature would believe this mischievous distortion.
Needless to mention, this is why we the progressives have not spoken against Mr. Robert Sirleaf becoming a billionaire. A Liberian billionaire by 2013 is mathematically impossible and your assertion can only hold as a Nostradamus prediction.
More to that, the calculation of the amount of money the country could get from the sale of oil without the applicability of time creates more questions than answers. Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf could be concluding her second term when the actual drilling of oil begins. The discovery of oil by the Sirleaf’s administration is in the best interest of the generation after her. Most of the oil money for Liberia will come over a period of time and Madam Sirleaf has no dynasty in Liberia. We will all benefit from her labor regardless of our political identity.
Again, I’m not the spokesman for the Sirleafs but I disagree with the analogy in your article. Comparing the Sirleafs of Liberia to the Abachas of Nigeria, the Nguemas of Equatorial Guinea and the Gaddafis of the old Libya suggest the biggest historical folly of our time. This unpatriotic attempt to place the Liberian president and Nobel peace prize winner in the same group with some of Africa’s most corrupt and sadistic rulers must be resisted. And all students of history will reject Koijee’s categorization without the burden of long research.
On 6 September 1994, Abacha declared that his regime had absolute power, placing his government above the jurisdiction of the courts. His government violated the rights of Nigerians, especially after the hanging of Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Oputa Commission. Moshood Olawale Abiola and Olusegun Obasanjo were jailed for treason, and Wole Soyinka charged in absentia with treason. Gen. Abacha and his son Mohammed Abacha siphoned more than £5 billion out of the country’s coffers. Gen Sani Abacha went down in history as a bloody dictator while Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remains one of the world’s best reformers and the pride of our mothers in Africa. That analogy was inappropriate.
Obiang Nguema took over Equatorial Guinea by means of a coup against his own uncle Macias Nguema. The Nguemas have been in power for more than thirty years and have benefited from that country’s oil wealth since 1990. The level of corruption by the Nguemas is reflected in the son of the president residing in America: The Justice Department of the United States filed forfeiture complaints in Los Angels and Washington for a $38.5 million Gulfstream V Jet, a $30 million home in Malibu, a 2011 Ferrari worth more than $530,000.00 and the Michael Jackson memorabilia worth almost $2 million. As for Madam Sirleaf, she rose to power through democratic means and is ending a second term provided under Article (50) of the constitution. May I hasten to mention that while the international financial institutions and the Obama administration condemn the Nguemas for extreme greed, they commend the Sirleaf’s administration for good fiscal management. How can a reasonable man compare the two?
The last comparison made was the Gaddafis and the Sirleafs. You brought your understanding of government into question when you compare the son of a democratic leader to the son of a despotic ruler who dictated every thing in his country for more than forty years. The Associated Press (AP) reported before the end of the Gaddafi dictatorship that his children were increasingly engaged in covering up scandals fit for a “Libyan Soap Opera”, including negative publicity from extravagant displays of wealth, such as million dollars private concert by pop diva Beyonce, according to a batch of secret diplomatic cables. The real difference between the Sirleafs and the Gaddafis is that you walk free in Monrovia after an open political attack against the Sirleafs. In the Gaddafis Libya, politicians were executed the same day they oppose the dictator. It is indeed a sick irrationality to draw a line of similarity between the philanthropist Robert Sirleaf and any of the sons of the dethroned dictator Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi.
Now it can safely be said that you have committed an intellectual offence and must muster the courage to repent. You proffered the laziest historical examples in modern argument. The distance between the Sirleafs administration and the tyrants you cited is like the distance between the earth and the sun.
Jefferson Koijee continues: “As this wealth will be gathered one after another and not instantly, Mr. Robert Sirleaf is now using shell companies, proxies and pseudonyms to amass his first billion before the end of 2013 …” It is very important to educate the writer at this point because there will be no drilling of oil by the end next year, 2013. But gave me a break, there are many members of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in this government. In fact, the embattled Chairman, the Secretary General and several partisans of the CDC are members of the Legislature. What are they saying? Don’t you know that they are in possession of the Act that created the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and are aware that it is not possible for one man to get a billion dollar out of the company by 2013? Are they not informing their partisans, including the National Head on Auxiliaries, that they have oversight on the functions of this institution and that the NOCAL is subject to forensic financial examination by the General Auditing Commission (GAC)? Or is your article in the local dailies and the internet based on some of Shakespeare’s most famous tales?
Let us call a spade a spade! Mr. Robert Sirleaf must not remain under unnecessary attack by politicians only because he is the son of the President. Divinity determines our mothers and fathers far beyond our control. Like all Liberians, Mr. Sirleaf should be judged by the content of his character and claims against him should be free of prejudice.
Finally, you may have other means to locate the progressives you asked for in your widely-distributed article. As for me, I am here and remain ever committed to the struggle for the upliftment of our country. But as you will learn when you become a progressive, it is unwise to attack when things are improving for the good of the people.
Now I drop my pen with a sense of relief that I have dwarfed your argument by debunking the political falsehood and rampant economic inaccuracies contained in your unpatriotic writing.
Rufus D. Neufville
Former Member House of Representatives
Republic of Liberia