Congratulations, Mr. Speaker, But…


By Theodore T. Hodge


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 10, 2006


There is a controversy brewing among Liberian political observers and social commentators --- a controversy that has sparked many a contemptuous conversation: Should Edwin Snowe have been elected representative and subsequently selected Speaker of the House by his peers? Many, citing his relationship to the dethroned dictator, Charles Taylor, and other corrupt powerbrokers, say no. They say he doesn’t deserve such honor and they cite alleged economic crimes committed by Mr. Snowe for which he has been placed on a UN travel ban.

Send Cash In A Flash_1
The story of Edwin Snowe is a fascinating topic of conversation among Liberians. He has risen from the bottom to the top of the Liberian social ladder with lightening speed. Is he hero or villain? In the court of public opinion, led by an enlightening citizenry, it is agreed that he is no honorable man. However, among the electorate, where it really counts, Edwin Snowe is a hero who has earned and deserves kudos.

Personally, I’m split on the dilemma to condemn or congratulate. After considerable thought, I congratulate the speaker, albeit with some reservation. I shall expound later on the reasons for reservation, but I must first make the affirmative case.

Why do I believe that Speaker Snowe deserves congratulations instead of scorn? I do so because I fundamentally believe in that tenet of democracy that empowers the “people” to determine their own fate. Yes, I believe in the collective power of the “people”. Individually, we may be more enlightened and even wiser than others but collectively we must adhere to the right of the majority. Once the majority of the people have spoken, we must tune down our personal disagreements and allow democracy to take its course.

Many may doubt the wisdom of electing Mr. Snowe to such a sensitive and powerful position (and many commentators have made the case), but we must revisit the genesis of the problem. Those citizens who vehemently opposed his candidacy and his eventual selection to leadership in the House should have worked harder to quench his candidacy in the first place. They should have given the National Elections Commission evidence to reject and disallow his candidacy. In failing to launch such a campaign against him, the NEC had no choice but to allow his candidacy. In the end, the matter was left to the “people” to decide. Now that they have spoken the matter should have become moot.

Frankly, Speaker Snowe does not fall in a unique category. How could we of good conscience accept and tolerate Senator Prince Y. Johnson while we condemn Snowe? Is Prince Johnson an “honorable” man worthy to be a leader among civilized people? Given what I know about the man, the answer is clearly not affirmative. But the people of Nimba County have chosen him and the rest of the nation has to stomach him, as indigestible as the idea might seem.

In hindsight, we must also question the wisdom of the “people” to elect others of questionable character because of the past association with Charles Taylor. Taylor’s ex-wife, Jewel Taylor is now an “honorable” senator, from Bong County. Blamoh Nelson, a chief aide and confidante, is also an “honorable” senator, because the people of Grand Kru County consider him worthy of the honor. And shockingly, Adolphus Dolo, Taylor’s Chief of “Gestapo” Affairs is also an “honorable” senator. (Again, the people of Nimba County have spoken). And the list goes on… If we must learn to live with these “honorable” people, Speaker Snowe might just be joining good company.

In the interest of fairness, I must mention the presidential candidate I supported in this last election: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Many of her detractors tried to link her to Charles Taylor. She is said to have ordered the destruction of Monrovia (or was it just the executive mansion?) and many believed she actually financed Taylor’s campaign of destruction. Many hold her responsible for S. K. Doe’s death. But in the end, the “people” exonerated her; they gave her their vote and the mandate to rule. Now, when those same issues are raised in conversation or debate, I dismiss them with one retort: It doesn’t matter now. Ellen is our president because the “people” have spoken.

Well, if I can honestly claim that the “people” had the ultimate right to decide the fate of the nation by electing a candidate who many saw as tainted, isn’t it intuitively logical and fair to apply the same reasoning across the board? Yes, I believe. If I must respect the right of the people to give me Mrs. Sirleaf as president, to the dismay of many others, I must also respect the right of the “people” to give me Speaker Snowe along with the few “honorable” senators already mentioned.

In short, I’ve made a strong case for Speaker Snowe. In the interest of democracy, let not a few elitists undermine the majority. Our collective conscience should dictate that we respect the wishes of the majority in a pluralistic society. After all, our government should be “of the people, by the people and for the people”, courtesy of Abraham Lincoln.

Special note: On the onset, I promised to address my reservation regarding Speaker Snowe’s place on the UN travel ban. Is it justified? Should he be removed from the list to enhance his ability to do the job for which he was elected? I’d like to address that issue. But for the sake of brevity, I shall leave this matter as is and address the travel ban fully in another article to be published later. Please bear with me. Thank you.