By Theodore T. Hodge
VP Boakai (Center) and Mr. & Mrs. Obama
Yesterday we read with shock an article appearing on the website www.frontpageafricaonline.com claiming that the Vice President of Liberia, Hon. Joseph Boakai is been sought for questioning by the Director of the Liberian National Police. According to the publication, "The Liberia National Police is requesting the assistance of the Ministry of Justice in bringing in for questioning, Vice President Joseph Boakai, Dr. Amos Sawyer, the head of the Governance Commission who is also the former leader of the erstwhile Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) and Mr. Benoni Urey, who has expressed his intentions of contesting the 2017 presidential elections, regarding the ongoing investigation of a National Chronicle newspaper report naming alleged perpetrators behind the formation of an interim government to replace the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government, FrontPageAfrica has learned."
Bringing in for questioning? The Police Director is requesting the assistance of the Ministry of Justice in bringing in for questioning Vice President Joseph Boakai? Why would the police director request an opportunity to question the VP? According to him (Director Massaquoi), it was learned that a local newspaper (National Chronicle) reported a story "alleging the formation of an interim government headed by Dr. James Tarpeh, a former Vice President of the University of Liberia." Shocking? Read further.
The article continues: "“... the paper named the progenitors of said [sic] interim government among whom are three (3) senior government officials; Hon. Joseph N. Boakai, Vice President/RL, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, Former President of the erstwhile Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) and current Chairman of the Governance Commission(GC), and Mr. Commany B. Wesseh, Ambassador-at-Large. In view of [the] naming of these senior government officials by the paper, and in order to fast-track the investigation, the Liberia National Police (LNP) would like to speak with these officials and request your assistance in this regard. Meanwhile, we seek your authorization to commence engaging other high-profile individuals who the paper linked to this issue as contained in the attached status report.”
According to the police, the newspaper reported: "that Vice President Boakai had serious discussions with President Obama and in that forum denied knowledge of what is transpiring in Liberia. The LNP status report also noted the Chronicle’s assertion that Vice President Boakai had dissenting views about President Sirleaf while in Washington; that Sirleaf would stay in power and turn over the office to one of her own choosing, that a group, called the “Leadership Forum” sanctioned by western powers and headed by Dr. Tarpeh is to create an interim government of national unity with the duration of two years and with a mandate to clean up the mess caused by President Sirleaf and have free and fair elections; that President Sirleaf has lost control of the government and if nothing is done to put into place the necessary control system the country will blow up into flame through another civil war; that President Sirleaf is a President that does not keep promises; that President Sirleaf has fallen from grace from Washington and was now headed down a path of self-destruction and that the United States government has given up on the huge level of corruption and misrule being carried out by the Sirleaf government."
To summarize, the police is seeking an opportunity to "investigate" the Vice President for two reasons: (1) He was allegedly named to be the choice of a group of Liberians who would like to seek the resignation of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf... Upon resignation they would like to have the VP succeed the president. (2) The VP allegedly expressed a lack of confidence in the president and would like to force her resignation, according to a rumored conversation with US President Obama.
In the first case, there seems to be no grounds to investigate the VP. After all, he is not said to be active in seeking the president's resignation; he is simply the choice of a group of Liberians who are seeking the president's resignation. Being their "choice" does not make him culpable to a crime.
In the second case, were the VP to actually express a lack of confidence in the leadership of the president, is that a crime? Is it a crime that fits the category of crimes for which charges could be brought against the VP? But here is the main question: Were criminal charges to be brought against him, does the Police Director have the authority to "investigate" the VP? It seems to me the answer is no. The Police Director has no such authority to do so.
The VP was elected by the people of Liberia in a general election. He came to power on the strength of the same mandate that brought the president to power. They were both equally elected as "running mates". According to the constitution, they both have defined roles and responsibilities, beholden to the people only, the general electorate. The VP does not serve at the will and pleasure of the president. The president cannot willfully fire the VP. So what is the point of the investigation? What if the VP was found guilty according to the "rumors" circling before the director? Does he have the right to detain the VP? Does he report to the president to have the VP fired? This is a useless and dangerous exercise.
According to my understanding, the VP can only be forced to resign the office upon impeachment by both houses of the Liberian legislature (The House of Representatives and the Senate), after being found guilty of specific crimes levied against him. Examples of these crimes include sedition and bribery in addition to other felonies and high misdemeanors. So it seems clear that any formal charges brought against the VP must first be brought before the legislature for a necessary and orderly probe. Any other way of handling the issue at hand would be contrary to the Law of the Land. One would hope the President and Police Director would know that. Do they know it and intentionally violate the law? Is the Liberian legislature aware of this seeming travesty of the law?
The phrase "imperial presidency” has been thrown around a lot lately in our national dialogue. The presidents of Liberia have had tendencies to ignore the constitution and take the law into their own hands. Dr. Amos Sawyer wrote about the "cult of the presidency". This seems to be an excellent example. Liberia is not a police state. The police director has no authority to arbitrarily investigate the VP of the country. The president has no legal authority to order such an investigation. Ours is a constitutional democracy. The rule of law must be duly observed. No one is above the law; not even the president. I hope we do not sit idly by as we become the laughingstock of the civilized world once again. This is not our finest moment in history; we need to avoid sinking even lower than we have already sunk.
Madam President, please order the Police Director to back off. The Vice President's position must be respected for the sake of our sanity.
Author: Theodore T. Hodge can be reached at email@example.com