By: James Thomas-Queh
First, I take my hat off again to Cllr Tiawan Gongloe for his brilliant exposé: “The Evolving Trouble At The Capitol Building – A Threat To Our Collective Security” (www.theperspective.org/2016/0901201602.php). Your highly professional and credible political and moral voice has driven Speaker Tyler to take an honourable exit out of the crisis at the Capitol; thus should ease the threat to our collective security – perhaps.
Oh, I repeat - how Liberia needs just few more Gongloes to steer the future of a nation in search of genuine patriots, unifiers, humble and honest political leaders. At this tender age of 60 today, Cllr, you will be barely 65 in 2021, I pray that you continue to enlighten and impact this new generation of Liberian youths and at the same, keep the torch burning over the fantastic legacy of our “Progressives”. And I have no doubt that history and time are on your side.
I TOLD YOU SO, SPEAKER TYLER !
On my recent pilgrimage to Liberia just few months after the brutal death of Harry Greaves, I expected this tragic event to have still been the much talk of the town, but it was not. However, there was a sort of ominous atmosphere, and despite the severe financial pinch and tax harassment from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), the beach resorts were relatively customers overcrowded. Well, only once I overheard someone around a beer table adjacent to ours said: “What a great lost” – in reference to Greaves’ death.
On the political front, I witnessed keenly the pre-general elections 2017 manoeuvrings all around. There was this popular code- word “coalition” . And mind you, not a coalition of the opposition parties against the ruling UP, but a strategy purely designed to find or co-opt any credible living party onto the empty bandwagon of the moribund Unity Party to resuscitate it and legitimise its candidates for 2017. Of course, it is a near impossible task; but worse, the main influential proponents of this strategy have no conviction or trust in its viability, and neither do they have any identifiable political party affiliation. Precaution – no one is certain which way the ties would turn when we shall have reached the bridge.
Thus from what I saw, heard and analysed- including the decaying state of the UP, I returned from Liberia totally convinced that only a combination of two things could make the UP to ever win the 2017 general elections. First, a massive electoral fraud through the connivance of the NEC and the international community; and second, co-opt the two main living opposition parties – LP and CDC – and in the process, neutralize the others that have the potential to mobilize the populace against any electoral fraud. But for the UP to accomplish this impossible miracle, I deduced that there would have to be lots of “political corpses” along the pre-general elections trail.
By “political corpses” (not dead bodies – God forbids ) I mean those politicians that would be enticed financially, blackmailed, coerced, tax harassments, etc to change camps. These are the “political dead bodies”, if you will – and the regime is already replete with so many. In other words, entrapping others should not be a problem.
So, when I later heard that the Liberty Party chairman had been appointed as a Minister of State without portfolio, I said: “wow! – the ball has started rolling with a big catch.” Then , as if by a sheer luck, the Sable Mining corruption saga came out of the clear blue sky. And believe me, if the extraordinary speed with which the President reacted to this saga had been the trademark of her government for the last 11 years, I am certain the Liberian people would have offered a third term to the UP on a silver plate. But that is not the case; the saga, from all indication, was a mere double-edge sword to kill and bury two at one blow: first, the UP through the indictment of Varney Sherman; and second, the National Legislature went down with Speaker Tyler’s debacle.
But apart from these two institutions long ago agonized, it is the implication of the Speaker that interests me the most. Because some months back I wrote an article entitled: “ Merits/Demerits: Analysing Speaker Tyler’s Recent Assertion, Actions and Speech (www.theperspective.org/2016/0125201601.php). After playing the devil’s advocate - lavishing praises at the Speaker for his courage to stand up to the power that be and his ingenuity to make money and create jobs - I gave him the following advices and warnings:
1) On his spectacular departure from the UP, here was my advice and warning: “I regret that the Speaker did not reform or transform the Unity Party from the moment he suspected it of not being at the service of the people and nation. I have said before that the forming of multitude of “personalized” political parties is not too health for a nascent democracy….
“Notwithstanding, the Honourable Speaker having departed the UP, and under the same breadth charged its Chairman, Hon. Varney Sherman, of being a coward and a bold face liar – he must certainly know some important secrets or have a razor in the bottom of his shoe – to plunge the UP into a total schizophrenia and final demise. But if he should fail, I doubt whether his party could even reach 2017 in whole or as a skeleton (author’s note)”.
Well, the irony is that the both men are now sitting on the same bench, accused and indicted of an alleged corruption. Apparently the Speaker had nothing in the bottom of his shoe, but so, so breeze. As for its part, the UP died a natural death and was officially buried on July 7, 2016, at a colourful convention similar to the last one of the TWP just before April 12, 1980. As for the Speaker’s new party, I suspect it may not to be too far from the coma level.
2) About the Speaker’s new established business empire, I cautioned him as follows: “Furthermore, the Honourable Speaker has broken an hypocritical moral taboo, that enrichment through the state largess and corruption is acceptable when that wealth is displayed ostentatiously and reinvested to save the same citizens left in destitute. But if the Speaker – instead of branching off quietly into a prosperous business magnet – wants to use the same wealth to lead the Liberian people; then I think he must be pushing his luck little to far beyond the accepted moral bound. Because he might find it difficult to prove how different – if not worst – would he be from a regime that enriched him on the backs of a starving population…(author’s note)”.
At the beginning of this government a good friend asked me what position I wanted. I replied that my only desire was to do business. Disappointed, the man reminded me that in Africa business and politics were inseparable – and even in democracy. This fact, I am certain, could not have been lost on the mind of Speaker Tyler, the wise and audacious politician he seeks to portray. So, as one of his ardent defenders, I am eagerly awaiting to read his first business financial report: profits, number of employees and how many tax agents of the LRA have visited his “Jandy’s Paradise” from the time the President snubbed the invitation to the dedication of the “Paradise” up to the Sable Mining corruption saga?
But whatever the case Mr. Speaker, you have fought a good fight, and I think your unexpected stand has awakened the moral consciousness of the National Legislature. So, here is my last advice: if I were you, I would take this occasion and resign honourably from the speakership; cut your losses while it is still time.
LESSONS TO LEARN NOW AND THE FUTURE
While the circus that unfolded at the Capital may have reinforced our nascent democracy, it is also amazing that such schemes of diversion - replayed so many times to divert attention from major national problems – have succeeded each time. True, there is always an immediate public uproar, suspicion and conspiracy theories but when quickly subside, the country is still further down the slop. Why has this sort of public attitude become so prevalent, differs from our normal ostrich mentality?
Some of the reasons already known can be condensed in these new fashionable phrases: “What goes around, comes around; John’s palm oil wastes on John’s rice, and Your sins shall follow you”. What is defined in these phrases too are the characters and personalities of the targets which make them the easy preys (or soft-targets) to take the blames for the regime’s failures.
Let us look at some examples in the first instant. If Speaker Tyler who probably came from nowhere, brought to fame by the UP regime; overthrew the first Speaker; become a new-rich over night; formed a new party with arrogance, etc - is brought down and ridiculed by the same regime – there should be no much tears as ‘What goes around, comes around. “ If Senator Varney Sherman, Liberia’s top lawyer (born in the courtroom), uncontested chairman of the UP, who took the airwaves quickly to condemn the TRC report as unconstitutional; declared publicly to put his vote and money to where “his interest is” (and not necessarily to a program and conviction of the presidential candidate), but only to turn around and publicly accuse his government of corruption (July 26 oration 2013), and then again told poor university graduates that the country led by his own UP for almost 11 years is practically bankrupt – so, hauled before the court and indicted for an alleged corruption by the same government – that illustrates a perfect ‘John’s palm oil waste on John’s rice.’ If Harry Greaves, one among the principal actors that helped to topple the Doe regime, and the civil war that ensued and its known end result; a principal loyalist, architect and beneficiary of the current regime, but who turned around and tried to reveal the secrets of our well protected ‘Zoe Bush’ to make himself the new voice of the poor masses – unfortunately and sadly, we are told, he went swimming at night (imagine!) and drowned -suicide. For most Liberians then this is not a mere fate of destiny, but simply “ Your sins shall follow you.” And poor Michael Allison - the son of Doe’s fearful Minister of Defence, Gray D. Allison - would forget his illustrious lineage and put his trust and month in a system he knew nothing about to become the first famous whistle blower of Liberia. Drowned; his demise brought to light how Liberian officials – traditionally not fond of water -are now addicted to night swimming.
The first lesson for our future politicians from the examples illustrated above is to remind them that Liberians do not forget; they are certainly forgiven by nature. Unfortunately, there is no room for forgiveness under this regime. Worse, not only that the government is parked with disloyal, back-stabbing and arrogant troupe of officials, but also they are so far away and totally disconnected from the rest of the struggling population. As a result, no one would want to venture to the guillotine to save any official or anyone perceived as gravitating around the fabulous state largess.
Is this to mean that one can not quit a democratic government and later become its most outspoken critic? Yes, you can – but, first get in with a strong conviction and integrity and leave on time with both intact; second, make sure your back is clean 99% , at least; and third, then you can be assured of an attentive and loyal audience and not paid followers. Anything short of that, it is better to stay in or leave and keep your mouth shut – loyalty obliged.
The second lesson for our future politicians is to do away with the shifting-blame syndrome - creating scapegoats constantly to cover up our inherent inaptitude to confront and solve our national problems or correct our errors. It is evident that every target in the mentioned examples has some perfume of a blame on his head – either for exposing the “kafu” or simply be made the big bogeyman to shoulder the responsibility for national policies failures. Unfortunately, our country has been a victim of this blame trick for a considerable long time. Below are some of our landmark satanic verses to serve a reminder:
Well, I bet after 2017 we would definitely add: “ What the President, a Nobel laureate, did not accomplish, we can never achieve it.” This may sound like a joke, but it is sad to say that our country has been run more like a chronic alcoholic who constantly puts his problems into the liquor bottles, and fails to acknowledge that he has any problem, including the liquor. Of course, whenever he gets a bit sober, the reality still hits him harder in the face, bigger and more complicated; then he quickly reverts to the old habits – deeper into the bottle. And the cycle continues.
How to relieve our nation of this burden is our challenge now and the future. And the problem may not necessarily be our institutions, but the integrity, character and personality of our leaders.