A Commentary on the President’s Annual Message

By Theodore T. Hodge




The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 2, 2015

                  



 
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

On January 26, 2015, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf addressed the Liberian nation yet again for the purpose of delivering her annual speech. After offering grand salutations to her “honorable” friends and colleagues --- Honorable This, Honorable That, Honorable Mumble, Honorable Jumble, Honorable Blah, Blah, Blah --- she looked   right into the glaring camera and spoke these words into the open microphones: “…our nation has remained strong…”

It is my opinion that in trying to dissect the president’s speech, little else matters what was said before or after that simple declarative statement: “Our nation has remained strong…” Is the Liberian state indeed strong? Pause and consider it for the moment. Me, I respectfully beg to differ.

Was it not just about six months ago, perhaps even as recently as within the last three months that the Liberian nation faced its most serious challenge as it teetered on the abyss of extinction? Did the president not tearfully announce and appeal to the world the fragile and unstable state of our nation? Did the president not institute begging as a national policy with hat or bucket in hand? Did she not shamelessly announce our penniless condition to the comity of nations when she begged for relief and donations in dollars, euros, marks, or yens? She would even take a naira here, a rand or a yuan there…  Now, mysteriously, the state of the union is strong? How come?

The president uttered a lot of gibberish to appease and impress her “honorable” colleagues and criminal partners who collaborate with her to run the criminal enterprise respectfully referred to as the Government of Liberia. Serving no productive purpose, we shall ignore the verbiage, or more correctly, the garbage. Instead, let’s focus on Health and Education, two essential and fundamental building blocks for national reconstruction and development.

We all know by now the devastation the virus Ebola caused in our country; how it wreaked havoc and caused Liberians both at home and abroad to panic. Yet the president stood before the cameras to gloat about the competence and contributions of her team. She said, “We ignored the local and international criticism and went to work establishing leadership and incidence management structures; increasing social mobilization by engaging and empowering community volunteers…” If this is not simply verbiage and extreme embellishment, then what is?

 

For the sake of emphasis, just read it one more time: “…establishing the leadership and incidence management structures; increasing social mobilization by empowering community volunteers…” Is this woman jiving us or what? As for me I say, “Lady, please don’t give me that jive.” I remember what went on and so does everyone else. We remember the government being paralyzed, confused, immobile, disorganized, and broke…

The president’s speech writers wrote and had her deliver this sentence: “Liberia has 404 public health facilities, supplemented by 252 private facilities…” It is pathetic and quite unfortunate that anyone would have the audacity to lie so effortlessly. Does Liberian really have over 650 health facilities? Where are they and who runs them? We know we’ve been told that the country barely boasts two hundred medical doctors who serve a population of nearly 4 million citizens. The fundamental question is, what exactly is described as a “health facility”? If delivering that one line does not bother the president’s conscience, then maybe she doesn’t have one.

One would have to wonder why the president and all her cabinet members and other big shots in her inner circle rush to the United States or Europe, or even Ghana and South Africa to seek medical attention on a regular basis. Why not use those facilities she mentioned in her speech? The answer is simple: They don’t exist, except perhaps in her imagination.

On Education, the president said: “Education remains a number-one priority in the development of Liberia and the most difficult to show positive results in the short term. Statistics for the year 2013 show that there was [sic] 5,181 schools (3074 public and 2107 private) with enrollment [of] 1,500,000 students (800,000 boys and 700,000 girls) throughout the country. We have thus succeeded in the achievement of quantity goals by increasing enrollment, but quality of education has declined even further, evidenced by the failure in the entrance exam to the University of Liberia and in the WAEC exams which have been set at a substandard level for Liberia. The problem of education goes deeper and beyond the lack of quality teachers, the lack of facilities and supplies, and the lack of incentives.”

 

The preceding is quite a loaded paragraph. Let us give it a closer scrutiny in order to dissect it more meaningfully. “Education remains a number-one priority in the development of Liberia”, the president boldly announces. Let’s examine the logic here. If education remains the number-one priority and yet the president openly declares it a dismal failure, are we not to conclude that this administration has failed, or, is at least failing? I reiterate: If you have failed for two terms to achieve or accomplish your number-one goal, have you not failed?

This administration has been at the helm for almost ten years now and students graduating from high schools across the country can barely pass university entrance exams. In one recent year, all candidates sitting the exams failed. I don’t know if this has ever happened anywhere else in the world, or if the experience is unique to Liberia; I suspect it is. It says a lot about our standards.

Again, one has to wonder what the president means by “in the short term”. President Sirleaf will have spent twelve years in office by the time her term expires in 2017. It takes twelve years to go from the first to the twelfth grade. That means that children who were just finishing kindergarten and entering the first grade will be seniors in high school and ready for graduation by the time her term ends. It is even fair to say that some of the fast ones will have already graduated. So in this context, what does “short term” mean? The period covers an entire generation of learners who will have been lost to wasted and unproductive lives while this administration steered aimlessly.
But why are Liberian students taking a substandard version of the West African Exams sponsored and administered in the region? Has this question ever crossed your mind, as it does mine? How long does the country expect to remain in this substandard condition? What policies, if any, have been instituted and implemented to help alleviate or solve the problem?

Once again, as asked about the inflated number of “health facilities”, are there really over five-thousand schools in Liberia. I guess the answer will depend on the definition of a school. I believe the government is being disingenuous by making such an outrageously false claim. It is unconscionable to lie so expediently.
The government, through its chief spokesperson, the president, admits that the system, (if one can call it a system), faces real problems:

Now let’s consider some practical solutions: The Ministry of Education, along with the University of Liberia, needs to put in place a serious program of teacher development. The way you get “quality teachers” is by building and running teacher training facilities and programs. It may even require training teachers abroad. The government has a responsibility to develop a track record for the short and long terms; none seems to be in place

The government needs to put policies in place to build new structures and modernize existing structures referred to as “schools”. Simply constructing a building with four walls does not make it a “school”.  Modern schools must have such things as science and computer labs, libraries and reading rooms, and even sporting facilities.
As for the lack of incentives… It must be obvious that the president recognizes the glaring inconsistency and disparity of salary distribution in the country. What other country in the world pays its teachers and nurses as lowly as Liberia does? None, according to my recollection.

Our legislators and cabinet members and other high profiled civil servants and advisors earn salaries comparable to or even higher than their global counterparts. For example, Liberian legislators make salaries comparable to US lawmakers. Some cabinet members in Liberia make even more than their US counterparts. Then why should Liberian teachers and nurses earn less than janitors in America or Germany?

It is time to address these fundamental issues of salary disparity and other gross inequalities. We must consider and apply practical and equitable solutions to the problems that face the nation and threaten to divide us even further.

I once described Liberia under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the typical Potemkin village. I believed the situation to be true then and I believe it is true now. When President Sirleaf mounted that podium and declared that the Liberian nation is strong… that there are over 5,000 public and private schools and over 650 health facilities in the country, she left no doubt that she is engaged in some devious plan to hide the truth and deceive the public. The Liberian nation is fragile and its economy is in shambles; its infrastructure is dilapidated and its leadership lacks vision. Let’s call a spade a spade; it’s time to boldly state the obvious.

Theodore Hodge can be reached at imthodge@gmail.com


Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Thank you plenty, Mr. Theodore Hodge! For a woman who would finance the killing of thousands of innocent babies, children, women, and others only because of her vainess to be seen as President, LYING IS FOR HER A CHILD´S PLAY!! But one needs to listen to or read the garbage from one of her collaborators - Tipoteh, whose message is "our people are still poor"; as though the issue is about people being poor or rich. The coward and crook (Tipoteh) thinks we are still in the 70´s. Instead of been blunt and telling this woman that she has failed the Liberian nation and that she is incompetent and corrupt, he dare spew such 1970´s rhetorical rubbish!
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 04:29AM, 2015/02/03.
kANTY ROBERTS
APPARENTLY THIS POSTING BY ZOEJALLAH INDICATES TOTAL IGNORANCE AND A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF EDUCATION AN INSTITUTION BUILDING NEEDED SWIFLY IN LIBERIA.ZOE GET SOME ENLIGHTMENT...JUST LIKE SOME MUSLIMS RADICALS NEED.
kANTY ROBERTS at 05:33AM, 2015/02/03.
Anthony Cofrancesco
Mr. Hodge had said what we expected to hear from some political parties and well meaning Liberians.The annual message by the President was misleading and false about the administration accomplishments. The message certainly needed rebuttal.The President continues to take the Liberian people for granted when she makes up stories that are not real and never existed. For example, the achievements she mentioned about the management of the EBOLA virus were embellished. Did she forget so soon who handled the management aspect of the disease? Did she have a good health infrastructure in place to manage the disease? or has she forgotten the SOS messages to the international community,who had to sacrifice their lives to fight the deathly disease(EBOLA)in Liberia. The US put their military at risk to save the people of Liberia from the deaths we had registered, which out numbered Sierra Leone and Guinea.The President is delusional and is in denial of her failed administration.

Dr.(crook)Tipoteh a learned and experience man could not give a breakdown on the issues mentioned in the annual message. He was so vague that a blind man or market women/man could have seen the people poverty that he talked about.What caused the people poverty is the missing link to his silly message. All he (Tipoteh) wants is to be heard with the 1970's rhetorical rubbish to make believe he is still around. If he has nothing to deliver about the message, I suggest that he shuts his zipper mouth instead of making a fool of himself.

Thanks again Mr. Hodge for listening to the President message and responding analytically as expected from a patriotic Liberian.You have provided the response that Liberians should be proud to emulate. With your rebuttal, We are hopeful that someone is out there, who knows how to stand up for principles and speak the truth with substantive rebuttals to make a difference. We are proud of you Sir,keep up the good works.
Anthony Cofrancesco at 09:15AM, 2015/02/03.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
KANTY,YOUR BROTHER TOGBA NAH TIPOTEH AKA RUDOLPH NAH ROBERTS WHO WE HITHERTO MOCKED AS JOSEPH ROBERTS BACK THEN IN THE 60´S HAS DEGENERATED INTO AN EMPTY SEA SHELL AND A POLITICAL TOOL FOR INCOMPETENT AND CORRUPT PEOPLE LIKE CHARLES TAYLOR AND ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF BECAUSE HE IS TOO TRIBALISTIC AND TOO GREEDY FOR POWER. YOU KANTY BETTER THANK GOD FOR BOIMA FAHNBULLEH WHO SENT YOU INTO THE FOREIGN SERVICE UNTIL YOU WERE TRASHED OUT AS THE RESULT OF YOUR INCOMPETENCE. READ AGAIN WHAT ANOTHER COMMENTER HAVE SAID ABOUT YOUR LAZY AND GOOD FOR NOTHING BROTHER TOGBA NAH TIPOTEH ":

"Dr.(crook)Tipoteh a learned and experience man could not give a breakdown on the issues mentioned in the annual message. He was so vague that a blind man or market women/man could have seen the people poverty that he talked about.What caused the people poverty is the missing link to his silly message. All he (Tipoteh) wants is to be heard with the 1970's rhetorical rubbish to make believe he is still around. If he has nothing to deliver about the message, I suggest that he shuts his zipper mouth instead of making a fool of himself."
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 12:45PM, 2015/02/03.
Flahn Momoh Dualu
In the words of my grand father, " You force the devil to come out when capable men sit idly by and allow vain men, in this case and old witch, to make up a false truth"! It is time the devil come out and chase this witch outta town. EJS came to Liberia with one purpose - pay her debt! She has set us back 50 years with her vindictiveness!
Flahn Momoh Dualu at 01:00PM, 2015/02/03.
Sylvester Moses
This is vintage Theodore T.Hodge:elegantly said,brutally honest, yet it resonates.
Sylvester Moses at 06:42PM, 2015/02/03.
WK Freeman

this guy write so lucidly with such piercing logic, that more often than not, i find that i have to read an article simple because it was penned by theo hodge. certainly its a waste of our time for pres. sirleaf at this stage of our national sojourn to be telling us tales (blah blah blah) about failings in educ and healthcare....when she has been pres for the last 10 years
WK Freeman at 02:05AM, 2015/02/04.
WK Freeman
WK Freeman wrote:

this guy writes so lucidly with such piercing logic, that more often than not, i find that i have to read an article simple because it was penned by theo hodge. certainly its a waste of our time for pres. sirleaf at this stage of our national sojourn to be telling us tales (blah blah blah) about failings in educ and healthcare....when she has been pres for the last 10 years


WK Freeman at 02:06AM, 2015/02/04.
Charles Goodridge
What else is new? The president did the best with what she had at the onset of the dreaded Ebola virus that devastated 2 other countries while simultaneously devastating ours. There were no precedents to follow, yet the predictions that the situation would be catastrophic didn't pan out thanks to she and her "criminal empire" taking on the challenge. Although Theodore Hodge gives a constructive rebuttal to the president's annual speech, I find it filled with vitriol and rambunctious dribble as well. Instead of calling her effort a failure, I'd prefer that we view it as teachable moments on the road to our country's full recovery.
Charles Goodridge at 08:03AM, 2015/02/05.
Ziggy Morgan

Mr. Goodridge, you contradict yourself. If the rejoinder is constructive, then the charge that the man used strong language is immaterial.

Mr. Hodge was specific about where he thought the president lied. A lie is a lie, no matter what you choose to call it. We don't have the number of schools or hospitals the president claims we have. The nation is not in a strong state. It is anything but strong.

Forget the diplomacy and call a spade a spade. The president might have done her best, but her best is not good enough. Leave the messenger alone. The public person whose record is under review here is the president. It is time she lives up to the responsibility and heavy task of the job. She is failing... to say it any other way is to be disingenuous; simple as that.
Ziggy Morgan at 10:36AM, 2015/02/05.
Anthony Cofrancesco
Mr. Goodridge is expecting Liberians to sugar coat issues of lies and failure of this administration.It has been ten years,the Liberian people have been waiting for some changes in policy to affect their lives positively.Every year the President repeats the same garbage. Is this the reason she wanted to be President of Liberia at all costs including both monetary and human.What has she achieved in the past ten years? This question is directed at Mr. Goodridge. We have seen that Goodridge is insensitive to the emotional and physical trauma the people have experienced in this administration for ten years. He admits Mr. Hodge rebuttal is constructive but "filled with vitriol and rambunctious dribble." Could some one help me interpret the motives of this person.

The rebuttal was to the point with supporting evidence and data to dispute the embellishment and lies on issues regarding her health and education achievements. Mr. Goodridge does not get the point, that for ten years Liberians have heard lies, deceit and greed displayed in the country.They have also seen the Liberian money divided among her family, friends and cohorts, while the majority remains in poverty. Are you surprise, a Liberian decided to listen keenly to the annual message and did his research to respond to the issues mentioned.

According to Wikipedia, For an event to be considered a teachable moment, a significant emotional or traumatic event must occur, the emphasis being on the 'moment' versus the lesson. Therefore Mr Hodge rebuttal of identifying the event of the administration failure is in context to render the event a teachable moment. Therefore I beg to differ with you.
Anthony Cofrancesco at 11:31AM, 2015/02/05.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Mr. Charles Goodridge, Ellen Johnson is nothing but a woeful failure who lives or lies, BRIBERY, killing and deceit. And this is exactly what Mr. Hodge has so eloquently reflected. The fact is that this schemer Ellen Johnson Sirleaf initially mistook the ebola epidemic to be one of those problems from which she could steal funds from the international community. Besides the ebola epidemic, isn´t Ellen Johnson Sirleaf now on record at home and abroad to be the worst president Liberia has ever had. You know this is the case. If this weren´t the case Ellen would not be so intensely COLLECTIVELY HATED.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 12:30PM, 2015/02/05.
Sei Destiny
Focus on the root causes of Liberia's issues, and not on attacking one another. From a big picture outlook, none of you directly created the extreme socio and economic woes our country now experiences. EJS bears the sole responsibility for the valid concerns all of you have expressed. Rather than focus all this merited anger towards a leader who will remain ambivalent about improving the lives of our people, let's think about strategically impacting various communities back home.
Sei Destiny at 02:33PM, 2015/02/05.
Kandajaba Zoebohn ZOEDJALLAH
Mr. Goodridge, what is not only new, strange, or fraudulent, is you or someone attributing the superlative degree "BEST" to whether an ommision or an act on the part of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf´s who is on record at home and abroad as a CHEAT, destroyer and a woeful failure.

You need to seek consultation, or at least attend a course, on public policy then you will frown at such thought or rubbish of yours as "There were no precedents to follow."

My friend, THE DICTATE OR PHENOMENON OF POLICY EMPOWERS AND GUIDES LEADERS IN AND ACTING WITH EXCELLENCE ON EVEN A MOMENT´S NOTICE - DESPITE WHATEVER UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCE OR UNPRECEDENTEDNESS!!!

Ellen simply mistook the ebola epidemic to be one of those domestic problems she could use as a ploy to grab money for herself and her children and cronies! PERIOD! AND YOU KNOW IT!!! STOP THE WOEFUL PRETENSE!!IT IS THIS WOEFUL PRETENSE ON YOUR PART WHICH HAS CAUSED YOU TO CONTRADICT YOURSELF AS POINTED OUT BY Ziggy.
Kandajaba Zoebohn ZOEDJALLAH at 03:17AM, 2015/02/06.
Flahn Momoh Dualu
Anybody who thinks for a second that EJS cares about Liberia, is either day-dreaming or is a direct beneficiary of the deceit that this wicked old lady is master-minding in Liberia. Just follow her actions as president and you will fully understand this woman's intent all along - further destroy Liberia! Master rebuttal, Theo.
Flahn Momoh Dualu at 09:34AM, 2015/02/06.
pauluspaul
This Goodridge tool, who has been a self-imposed exile and political bastard, never ceases to to tease me with his unenlighted elementary rants and bs...
pauluspaul at 03:16AM, 2015/02/09.
James Mcgill
The essay is very insightful and thought provoking. I enjoy the approach that Theo often deploys in looking at the issues that afflict the Liberian society (education, health care, job creation, the fight against corruption, and so forth). For one thing he stays clear of ethnic pogroms and feminist epithets, and stays on course with the hard core issues. This is the kind of talk that Liberians who mean well and like to see their country prosper would like to engage in. However, a few mind boggling questions that came to me while I was reading the essay are,

1. How can Liberia attain full economic dependence, when she lacks the infrastructures of industrialized nations to tap her own raw materials and process them to finished goods? I asked this question because, for centuries the industrial powers have tightened their grip on third-world economies to the point where there is no transfer of critical and strategic knowledge and technology to Africa, as it is feared that Africa might likely pose a threat to them on the world market. For example: one can see the economic up rise and dominance of China, Singapore and other countries of the Asiatic realm today.

2. How can one change the mindset of the legislators in a society like ours where democratic principles and values were never practiced since its founding? Where does the change process start? I hope that my comments are not seen as insults, but I ask this question against the backdrop of illiteracy and backwardness within our society. People have been voted into the Liberian congress simply because of their tribal affiliation. Nonetheless, they lack the elementary art of crafting meaningful legislations to benefit our people.

3. What constitutional provisions are there to lay the framework to guide the voters, the majority of whom are also illiterate, to vote for qualified candidates? The Liberian congress has legislators who were voted for because they either directly or indirectly participated in murdering members of rival tribal groups during the civil war as avenge for their tribe. So, they are seen as heroes of those tribes; therefore, awarding them senatorial and representative positions regardless of their education, experience, brilliance and wits is seen as a psychological and tribal victory.

Many thanks for sharing your brilliant thoughts with our reading public. Stay on course and avoid indulging in personality battles! Your messages are not falling on deaf ear. Ellen’s term might be over tomorrow, but Liberia still remains. I am checking out some of your recommended authors.
James Mcgill at 11:28AM, 2015/02/19.
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