President Sirleaf: Fumbling and Bumbling at the Wheel of State


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 29, 2014


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is fumbling and bumbling at the wheel of state. Her policies remain quite inept and ineffective. One has to wonder if she even has matters under control. Some time ago, she issued an official proclamation or directive which partly reads: "... The Liberian leader also instructed officials currently out of the country, whether on government or private visit, to return home within a week or be considered as abandoning their jobs. She is urgently urging all government officials of the Executive Branch to take due care of this directive." 

We do not know how many officials were on that list of apparent deserters. But we have learned lately that some have returned home, one has refused to return and resigned, and others are calling the president's bluff. They have not returned home, obviously because they feel the environment is not conducive for their safety. So much so for committed soldiers.

While we ponder the gravity of the situation at hand, with a keen eye on the president and how she plays the hand she has been dealt, she issued yet another proclamation exempting seven senior officials from that list. The reason? They have pressing medical conditions and are therefore excused from returning to the country immediately. Oh, how convenient that is. Perhaps they are free to stay away from the country until the epidemic crisis subsides and then they can return safely to their jobs and get their share of the big bucks the government is throwing at a select few.

But wait, wait... Didn't the president's initial directive clearly state that all concerned officials, whether on government of private visits, were to return home? In what category does a "pressing medical condition" fall? Is it not a private visit as well? If the original intent was to excuse those on medical visits, why wasn't that indicated from the beginning?

If this doesn't indicate a weakness on the part of the president, then what does? All indications are the president is running a loose ship, fumbling at the wheel as she navigates these troubled waters. First, given the fact that there are seven "lucky" ones on this new list of exemption, one is forced to wonder how many senior officials were out of the country at the same time. We've been told that some returned and others have failed to meet the deadline to return and have been fired. But yet, seven are excused because of disabling medical conditions. We must come to the conclusion that the list of senior officials out of the country, either during a crisis or in normal times, is questionable. What are all these senior government officials doing out of the country at the same time? Can the government run a tight ship when so many co-captains are absent at any given time? One has to wonder.

We have held the opinion now for a very long time that the government has failed to build adequate health facilities in the country because the president and her team make enough money to travel abroad at any given time to seek medical treatment. Does this not prove the point? If up to seven officials are presently in the USA and elsewhere seeking medical attention for conditions so grave they cannot return to their assignments, the government must be full of sick people. And we mean that literally and figuratively.

Sick though they are, they are too good to be in the country because they are privileged and elitist. They have left the country to the residents of West Point, New Kru Town, Logan Town and all the slums of Monrovia to fend for themselves. They make these people look bad and crazy when they (the residents) demonstrate for their basic rights. After all, privileged people don't march and protest, they leave that to the masses; and yet they blame the masses for unruly behaviors as they watch from behind their glass towers.

Why are they (the rich and powerful) seeking medical attention abroad? Again, as we have surmised, for two different reasons: There are no hospitals in Liberia good enough to treat them, and secondly, they have plenty of money to afford the services abroad from the most expensive medical facilities around the world. Like they say, "Easy come, easy go." These folks make enormous salaries and it is only human to splurge on oneself as long as that kind of dough is there for the taking... And "take" here is a better verb than "earn". There used to be an old commercial on television by an investment firm. They used to say, "At Smith Barney, we make money the old fashion way, we earn it." In Liberia, many favored by the president don't earn their keep, the take it. They plunder the national treasury to meet huge salary demands, yet there are not enough gloves for nurses to handle the Ebola crises. (The UN must take care of that). This, indeed is a national tragedy and that is not a hyperbole.


Let's give an example of the easy money floating around Liberia while some ordinary folks are barely surviving on two dollars a day (United Nations figure). Cllr. Seward Cooper is Chairman of the Board at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) where many of his underlings earn upwards of ten thousand dollars in salary monthly. That needs repeating. Some employees at NOCAL actually earn more than ten thousand dollars monthly! It is anybody's guess what the big boss makes. Perhaps twice as much? More than twice as much? Well, as that sinks in, let's consider the fact that the same counselor serves as the president's lawyer. How much does he make in that capacity? Perhaps a combined fifty thousand dollars a month, or even more? Now, if you made that kind of dough, would you take your dog to JFK Hospital or any place in Liberia calling itself a medical center? Of course not. It would be wise to seek medical attention abroad to extend one's life in order to enjoy that kind of money. Quite understandable. (We know we’re are treading on dangerous grounds here. This man is a powerful lawyer and we all know how lawyers are with this litigation business...)

Does that explain why the folks in the president's inner circle are granted a break or exemption? But again, one has to wonder how the country is run when up to twenty or more senior officials are out of the country at the same time --- for whatever reason. We said here before that this Ebola crisis would expose the weakness and fragility of this government. It is making prophets out of us. And it is not even over yet.

But let's turn to another matter of crucial importance. The president's office has issued a press release stating that "Meanwhile, the President has directed that all government officials who are recognized by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as provincial candidates during the upcoming senatorial elections are also relieved of their positions immediately upon the release of NEC's final candidate listing."

Ours is not a monarchy; the president is not a queen on a throne. Should the president's office handle such a matter? What does the law say? Shouldn't there be a law on the books regarding this constitutional question? One would think this should fall under the purview of the Legislature or the Supreme Court. It should have been known in advance what the rule is on the matter. According to constitutional law, that particular provision should have already been known to the public, and especially to the candidates. By the president's office making such an announcement indicates that the matter lies in the president's discretion. That should not be the case at all.

Dr. Amos Sawyer wrote about what he termed "the cult of the presidency". Are we still victims to that phenomenon? Didn't the ushering in of a president who studied at a prestigious university and has accolades in the areas of Leadership and Governance lead a different way? Is that not a question that falls in the domain of Dr. Sawyer's responsibility as he heads the "Good Governance Commission?" We find this quite puzzling and seek some clarification on the matter, perhaps it will be forthcoming, perhaps it will fall on deaf ears, as usual.

James whear
Great written editorial! But how many Liberians read this.

With such an expose let me suggest civic education for the Liberian populace; we need to educate our people as to the responsibilities of the "government", their representatives, etc. Let the Liberian people learn to hold their respective officials responsible.

Writing only will not suffice but let civic education follow

James whear at 07:30PM, 2014/08/29.
Ted Allison

Brother Whear, allow me to disagree with you on one account. The folks at The Perspective have a specific task: To inform. They write and publish important articles and they educate the public on current events. That's their job and they are doing a fine job of it.

But remember, we have division of tasks, or division of labor. We cannot expect one group to do everything for society. Don't you think you and others could organize these civic education programs you refer to? Why should you expect them to leave the business of "informing" the public to jumping into other areas? Don't you think others should take the lead in other areas?

Let them write. It is enough! That's their contribution. We need to rally around them and do our share, in our respective areas. Thank you for your contribution.
Ted Allison at 08:16PM, 2014/08/29.
Dempster Yallah
This is one hollow "editorial" I have come across from a news outfit in a long time. From the get go, this so-called editorial is presumptuous on most, if not all the points undergirding its obscurantism in this matter. The particular seven individuals of interest to this "editorial" for example, are not all outside of Liberia for health reason, as plainly spelt out in the Executive Mansion Press Release. In the specific case of Mr. Cooper for example, it is indicated he is outside the country attending important state-related matters. But once out for diabolism as is quite obvious in this "editorial," that plain and glaring fact did not matter. Secondly, and assuming said individuals were even here for medical reasons, would it be far fetched for an unprejudiced mind to consider the routine protocol in rescheduling patients for follow up visits in weeks, or say even months, depending on the nature of the ailment hence, what needs to be done including labs or referral to specialists as the case may be? On the question of the resignation of government officials aspiring to senatorial ambitions, is it really the prerogative of the legislature, or the executive to determine the tenure of service of cabinet officials? The former would be quite contrary to established norms as we know it to be, or enshrined in our constitution, were this "editorial" pedanticism the case. Perhaps better an up-ed in future pontifications of this nature, than an "editorial" such as this blinkeredness. ...That's how I see this.

Dempster Yallah
Dempster Yallah at 12:45AM, 2014/08/30.
Ted Allison

Hocus-pocus! I have never read some many big and pretentious words in one passage just to get a simple point across. Has it dawned on you that the Executive Mansion press release did specifically say that the seven individuals were excused for "health reasons"?

Secondly, the editorial lamented the sad coincidence that so many high officials were sick at the same time. Could it simply be a ploy to avoid going back to the country? We all know how simple it is in this country to get a doctor's note to reschedule appointments, or request a patient to rest, or take off from work... So what is the use of all these big words to defend an indefensible act? Again, hocus-pocus!
Ted Allison at 05:09AM, 2014/08/30.
Mr. 'Dumpster' Yallah is either an LU Grad (who thinks big, big vocabulary equals knowing book) or he's drunk too much of Ellen's cool-aid. Are you serious? Who told you all the book you know you must put all together in one sentence? I have never seen so much garbage piled up in one place for no reason. Oops, I lied. I was in Redlight yesterday! Hey LU, I know where your donated dictionary eh. Da fool Dumpster stole it. Here's a hint: simple is better; you're writing for your audience to read and comprehend.
QUIWONKPA ZUO at 07:56PM, 2014/08/31.

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