By: Jones Nhinson Williams
Liberia is more of a nation in unending crisis than it was under previous Liberian governments; and this includes even the most uncompromising regime in the country’s history. The minds of Liberians are damaged and the Liberian society is socially and reasonably sick. The blame for all these ills goes around but the bottom-line lies in one thing: we, as a country, have a leadership that is spiritually void. No excuse can erase or dilute this fact because every response from our leaders on the ills that plague our nation today is nothing other than taking the usual “high road” and putting the blame on the suffering poor, who only fault is their generosity in offering them state power, something that they craved for from the day some of them were kids. This is not the writer saying, our current president’s own book “This child will be great” says it all.
Is it bad for our nation to finally offer its current president her wish of being a president? Why aren’t you listening Madam President? Why are you always taking the hard road? Did you think your recent November 2015 speech, which was full of nothing but unjustifiable self-praises, was really necessary in the midst of acute poverty, disease, and hardship on millions of Liberians in-country and in refugee life / camps across the globe? The only way a leader can behave the way you do, Madam President, is when there is a serious question of ‘spiritual’ problem, one that makes it harder to be humbled, sincere, just and compassionate. As someone who studied for the Catholic priesthood, I am inclined to think this is the real problem at the Liberian presidency, and the President needs to address it without any cost to her. We therefore urge the President to see a man or woman of God and ask for God’s forgiveness and wisdom to be humbled and compassionate so that her leadership can see and understand what ordinary Liberians are undergoing every day.
Apparently the President doesn’t grasp this reality. This failure is sending our country not only to hell, but behind the devil’s backyard. Consequently, we have ritualistic killings, teen prostitution, sodomy, chronic armed robbery, and of course, the resurgence of the deadly Ebola. Barely two days after the President’s November’s speech the deadly Ebola mounted its head again. This should sound a serious warning about the level of un-Godliness sought in the country. This should also sound some bell to the President and the nation that God is displeased with something that is radically wrong. Madam President, no amount of earthly wealth can save the soul of anyone. Kindness, piety and care for others, especially the powerless and the poor does. The President’s stubbornness is un-Godly and I must tell her. Many young men and women sacrificed and died to restore Liberia. They did not die because of this level of insensitivity that the President and corrupt-driven team are displaying. When I left the vocation to the catholic priesthood to challenge Charles Taylor while the President cheered on, I didn’t do so because I wanted to see corruption and greed in Liberia. I did so because I believe morality supersedes immorality. This is why I had no fear from Charles Taylor’s threats and I promise the President I have no fear of threats from her either. The president must change her style of insensitive leadership and listen to the people that she governs. They are her boss and not the other way around. The President has to know that Liberians are angry. If she doesn’t think so then she must be living in outer space.
Liberians across a broader spectrum are angry not because they dislike President Sirleaf; they are angry because their expectation about what Mrs. Sirleaf would have done if elected was crystal and unyielding. After ten years, the President boosts about bringing over $3 billion dollars in direct foreign investments and international aid for a small country of less than 4 million people. That November 2005’s speech, Madam President, just exposed two things: shamelessness and spiritual emptiness. No body, especially any leader with a fear of God, will go boosting like the President did in the midst of poverty and daily struggles in the country.
Obviously, nobody would also think that the President is some “Moses” or “Jesus Christ” or even a great prophet. So we know she cannot work miracles. However, how does the President justify the uncontrollable callousness condoned by her government? How does the President’s conscience relate to the fact that salaries of a select few government officials, who consider themselves above the law of the land, are 100 times above the average cost of living in a nation where 99% of the people live below the poverty level and 95% live on cutting-edge? Does it bother the President’s spirituality to know that most Liberian children die from preventable diseases, and that most teen girls are forced into prostitution because of a nationwide hardship? Yet, officials in the President’s administration earn more than US$10,000 dollars monthly. How do you feel Madam President that you and your few beneficiaries are always right and the entire nation that wants to see change in your leadership and way of governing are always wrong? Isn’t this insanity?
I and many Liberians do not doubt that our President is likable and is a good person. However, there are few things that have clouded the judgments of the President since 2006. First and foremost, one cannot desire power and wealth at the same time. To do so implies seeking failure and this is exactly what is troubling President Sirleaf. Secondly, the President is more concerned about her personal image and promotion. To be a good leader one has to seek the interest and well-being of the governed/the people. It is the well-being of the people that must be promoted not the personal well-being or image of the one seeks leadership and power. Thirdly, mixing family’s interests and that of friends compromise any effective leadership. Based on what we see over the last ten years, this is another shortcoming of the President. Fourthly, if one seeks leadership, it is counterproductive to seek personal loyalty. When personal loyalty is sought instead of national loyalty and patriotism, the possibility of being surrounded by liars, sycophants, idiots and crooks is far more likely.
The President wants to hear what she wants to hear and so those who have no honesty, integrity and patriotism for our nation feed on because that is how they continue to fit in the President’s orbit of influence and wealth. As a result, the nation suffers. Lastly, one cannot seek leadership and at the same time harbors grudge or malice against people who may have offended or disagreed with them. This is the biggest problem that our President needs to work on. Once a person seeks and has leadership then he or she should be open and willing to accept and work with everyone ––the good and bad, the praise-singers and critics. For our President to shun a little boy like Keita who won the international award for courage just because he pressed her administration to explain the death of another young boy falls plainly below real leadership. I am not criticizing the President; I am just pointing out what I believe is wrong from the standpoint of commonsense and basic morality. In addition, my background and training does not allow me to submit to vices for personal comfort. That is not me. I didn’t learn that in the various Catholic seminaries I graduated from neither did I learn that from my former boss, the late Archbishop Michael K. Francis. I want our President to lead not rule; uplift the Liberian people and not herself, family and friends. I can say this because I have led––I led the entire country from chaos to a normal functioning society, bringing together everyone, from warlords to politicians, the good and the bad; activists and opportunists, believers and non-believers, Christians and Muslims, and yet I did not only come out clean, I also set an example by not seeking my personal interest in any form and shape, turning down every government position, including the interim presidency as was proposed in 2003 by the international community in Rome before the Accra Peace Talks that same year. That is what is called leadership. I am confident our President has the ability to demonstrate what we have always thought of her: a good leader.
When I was leading the redemption of Liberia from Taylor’s anarchy, the President and her co-lieutenants interacted with me, even though there were people who had opposed my dealings with her because of her initial support for Charles Taylor’s war, a war that killed my family members and five American Catholic nuns for whose senseless murder I decided to give up my dream for the Catholic priesthood, after years of studies, and instead pursued justice and peace for Liberia. If I had kept grudges and malice like our President frequently does to ordinary Liberians who opposed or criticized her, I would probably not have visited her offices in Abidjan in 2002, and prior to that, I probably would not have received her principal aide, current presidential affairs minister, Edward B. McClain, Jr. who she sent repeatedly to meet with me in other West African nations. There are living witnesses to these facts and they include: Edward B. McClain, Jr., Harry Greaves, Ambassador Vivian Wreh (current Liberian ambassador to the African Union and Ethiopian who received and chauffeured me from my hotel to the President’s then private offices in Abidjan) among others. The point here is one cannot lead when they are bent on keeping grudges and malice against the governed or the people they lead. It is recipe for chaos and setbacks. Every dimension of social philosophy has proven that it is unworkable. The President’s capacity and desire to keep grudges and malice adds to Liberia’s social calamities and increases the chances of her leadership’s failure. This also harnesses our nation’s social sickness.
The kind of social sickness in Liberia today did not even exist under a ruthless regime like Taylor. Samuel K. Doe, Sr.’s administration would even get an “A” when it comes to the level of chaotic atmosphere being displayed under the President’s watch. As former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would say: “What difference does it make”? What difference does it make, Madam President, for you to call an entire nation to a halt for a speech in which you boosted about bringing $3 billion dollars investments to the country when 99% of the people are worse off than they were 75 years ago? Instead of giving speeches or considering people who call your attention to what is wrong with your governance style as ‘enemies’, you need to take a break and reflect; ask for God’s intervention as well as see how He (God) can help guide your steps so that you can serve us (the Liberian people) better. Being a president or a leader means you serve the people and not the other way around.
Madam President you are not no one's enemy and I in particular want you to succeed, but I must tell you the truth and if that makes you to frame me as your enemy only one thing I have to say to you: May God bless you and good luck!!!
About the Author:Williams is a Catholic educated philosopher and an American trained public policy professional. He was instrumental in restoring Liberia from factional conflicts and corruptible wars to a normal functioning society and democratic governance in addition to providing the framework for the country's 2003 -2005 national disarmament process on gratis. Since 2003, he has been aiding African immigrants around the world and working toward solutions that would enable all Liberian refugees throughout Africa and in the west to return home. He is the first African and only black person to head the Jewish Family Services International Refugee Program, and is an international advocate on forced migration, refugee flow, food insecurity, and the philosophy of governance.