What’s In An Election?

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 4, 2005


What is in an election? What is your partisan affiliation? And who is your candidate? Come October 11, 2005, those who can, will go to the polls to cast their votes in confidence to entrust our very existence to a group of leaders headed by a president. This is going to be an exercise, the fair implementation of which has been denied us for generations unending. For once, it is taking on the airs of conduct in the way it ought to be, but a few words of caution are in order.

What’s amidst in this upcoming elections? The guns that were used by incumbents in the past to intimidate us at the polls have been substantially taken away. The one party -True Whig - dominance is no more. Military regimes blatantly disguised as democratic governments have had their guns muzzled. But let us not kid ourselves. There are still shadows, elements linked to the past, and they are plotting. We might as well call them incumbents as far as the coming elections. They are armed, maybe not with guns, but definitely with money. Yes, ill-gotten money.

Who are these incumbents? Any candidate that has any link whatsoever with the ousted Taylor regime, any candidate that has ties with any of the so-called “disbanded factions”, any candidate with ties to any of the past corrupt administrations, is an incumbent. In recent times, this encompasses the Tubman era all the way to the LURD plus MODEL insurgencies.

But the foregoing statement blankets the candidates vying for positions in the coming elections, one might wonder. To that, the response is, ‘what do you expect any prudent Liberian to say’? Where is the basis for establishing any trust as far as those jockeying for leadership positions? To complicate matters, they are plenty. How could one be wrong to claim that all you need to run are two legs. This is the very reason why there have been many requests for the declaration of assets by all candidates. The NEC needs to heed this very important request. This is also why it is crucial for the media to seek and put out all attainable dossiers on each candidate.

A declaration of assets requirement would give some insight into the backgrounds of candidates. Admittedly, a full enforcement of such a requirement would prove rather tedious, given the lengthy time involved for verification of full disclosure weighed against time constraints of the electoral process as a whole. However, its (declaration of assets) inclusion within the time available would not prove futile. It would put candidates under the spotlight; it would probe candidate integrity; it would, above all else, provide the necessary springboard for the media to engage in the accompanying lengthy probe, even if that should outlive the elections. Our media forces have proven capable of doing just that. Just think of the splendid job they have done in probing the LTC bidding scam.

There is no room for complacency. The absence of thugs at polling centers, equal access to the media for all candidates, by themselves do not create a level playing field. The legitimacy of party and/or individual “war chests” is a huge factor in holding “free and fair elections”. This time around, the people don’t just want to take the rice; they also want to know how it was paid for. The people want the campaigning candidate to honestly state that it was paid for from the sweat of his/her brows or from acceptable contributions made by others.

Another big question out there begging for answers surrounds the true identities of the parties. As far as we know, eighteen political parties are signatories to the CPA. How many of them came into being during the Taylor administration? Are these real parties or “patsies” - puppets to be manipulated in order to rig elections. It is safe to say that the latter is more so the case. After all, the records show that several licenses for viable opposition parties were denied. How credible is anything that came on board during that administration? Today these could-be stooges are fielding candidates and could very well be drawing on a war chest located in Calaba, Nigeria, perhaps some offshore bank , or even buried loot somewhere at home.

It is rather sad to hear ECOWAS encourage the formation of political parties by the “disbanded factions”. We are now hearing about their coalition formation meetings. These groups are sitting on piles of “blood money” that can easily be poured into their war chests. Did these groups have full access to the diamond mines, timber, rubber plantations, and looted assets? Of course they did. Did they use all the money generated to buy guns? No. Do these groups want to remain in power? Yes. Look for them to plow some of that money into the coming elections.

How often do we hear of some presidential or legislative aspirants at the end of making a speech somewhere donate money, rice, cement, you name it? They certainly are not selling the shirts off their backs for these donations. Where did they get the money? Answer this question before you cast your vote. If you hear any verifiable “fen-fen” about the candidate donor, just cook your little dry-bony palm butter or gravy, pour it on the donated rice, eat it and don’t vote for him/her. Smoke-fish-and-pepper is good for rice, too. So remember that.

Liberians did not only lose lives, we also lost personal properties, natural resources, and an entire treasury! We were left with not even a dime to resume our lives with. We had to beg the world for something to restart our nation with. And that too, gets looted? Who has the loot? We need to know, one way or the other. And we will not quit asking for our money and properties, till “Thy Kingdom Come”. Whatever government takes its seat come tomorrow had better be prepared to face the pressure.

Mr. Obasanjo is sitting there in Nigeria, and he’s refusing to let go of Taylor. What did Obasanjo just do for his country? Oh, he just recouped only US$1.3 billion of state money looted by Sony Abacha and stockpiled in Swiss banks. Anyway, he has promised to deliver Taylor to us when we get an elected government in place. So, it is very important that we do not elect the stooges just referred to. If we make that mistake, look for Taylor to go scotch free; look for impunity to continue; look for a gloomy tomorrow.

“Freedom is on the march.” This has become a global village household expression by now. Thanks to President G W. Bush of the United States in his recent inaugural address. Monarchies of the world that, as yet, have refused to follow in the footsteps of that of Great Britain, that is, those that are relentless in shunning reduction to their rightful symbolic roles, but rather continue to usurp the power of the people, are gradually but most certainly seeing their crowns begin to fade. Piercing the veil of tyranny, refusing to be ruled based on religious fanaticism, bucking father-to-son succession trends, granting women universal suffrage wherever it is denied, will all become internationally acclaimed social norms for which the Twenty First Century will be remembered. So watch your step as you join the march. Don’t play with your vote.

Treat the elections like making palm butter. Throw away the chaff (those candidates who took part in making your life miserable). Maybe use the chaff for its rightful purpose by burning it and then it’s no more. Save the palm butter (the candidate dedicated to your well being) for it is the only thing you can stomach. And oh the palm kennel (the hard-head candidate who doesn‘t even have a plank to stand on, let alone a platform). As for that, you know what to do with it - crack it with a hard rock; don’t even make oil with it; just chew it and flip the fiber on the ground for all to walk on.

Do you want to get run into the bushes to live on palm cabbage and palm kennels again? Noo!
Do you want to want to wind up in a foreign country where you are not wanted again? Noo! You know the rest of this song.

So, do you want your government to listen to you this time and do the right things for you? Yeah!

Ok then, start asking questions about the candidates, and vote for the right ones.