Liberians Should Give The Johnson-Sirleaf Administration A Chance


By Patrick Fallah Samolu


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 23, 2006


In this brief essay I attempt to address some issues raised by Mr. Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh in an article that was published by the Liberian Dialogue web site on August 17, 2006. His article is entitled, “President Sirleaf’s leadership style mimics predecessors”.

Mr. Sungbeh criticizes Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the President of the Republic of Liberia, for giving to the public freely under the guise of political expediency. And that these actions are typical of past corrupt administrations which lavished resources on selective groups in order to buy influence. In his words he states, “the president gives away tons of money and bags of rice and other items to those she feels need it in a country where someone is always looking up to another person to give them something because of existing hardship.”

I wonder if Mr. Sungbeh fully understands the magnitude of the devastation the civil war wreaked on Liberia. The Liberian economy like that of many third world economies is a dual sector one. There is no middle class. You either have or you live in abject poverty. Two decades of civil war worsen the plight of the have-nots. Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf has inherited an economy that is saddled with high unemployment and high inflation. Liberians have no jobs and cannot afford the high cost of living. Is this not the time to come to the rescue of our needy brothers and sisters?

Mr. Sungbeh goes on to say, “the Liberians will never see the politics in the President’s actions since it is about humanity and money changing hands and going to those in need.” “And because the recipients are poor, it might be seen as in bad taste for anyone to even say anything negative about the President of Liberia for doing exactly what others failed to do.” On the other hand, Liberians are rational people. They will see the politics in the President’s actions, but they will see “good politics”. They will see that the Presidency encompasses not only leadership, inspiration and empowerment as described by Mr. Sungbeh. They will finally discover that the presidency is about moral conviction and leadership during desperate times. A good leader is task-oriented and that is getting the job done, but at the same time, relational-oriented, and that is caring about those whom he/she leads. What qualm will any sound minded Liberian have if the President is doing just that?

I partially agree to one of Mr. Sungbeh’s statements that the presidency is not about charity. However, in order to empower people you must give them the necessary tools. The equitable distribution of the wealth of Liberia among the less fortunate is the best way to empower people. In term of the prevailing circumstances in Liberia, I do not imagine any harsh fiscal policy that will be geared at further prolonging the sufferings of our poor masses. I hope that nobody misunderstands this position, because I am not implying that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf should foster a culture of beggars and panhandlers in Liberia. Nevertheless, large segments of the population are left in dire straits as the result of the savagery and blood-letting waged by wicked men against the country for over two decades. The humanitarian cost is catastrophic. Government intervention is necessary to address the dimensions of the tragedy and help give hope to Liberians.

Making a parallel between Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s predecessors and her administration is absurd. For example: During the administration of the late president, Samuel Kanyon Doe, it is well documented that his government benefited from U.S. assistance up to the tone of $500 million dollars, the largest aid ever given by America to any country within the Sub-saharan region. A sizable portion of that aid was used to buy destructive weaponry from Romania just for the sole purpose of deploying oppressive political tactics in the country. Vital sectors of the nation’s economy including the development of our human resources were left untapped. These policies subsequently made him unpopular and led to his downfall. When one reads the “Social Contract”, which is a classical masterpiece written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he explains clearly that the existence of government is to protect the welfare of the subjects (citizens). Nicolo Machiavelli, an Italian politician, was noted as one of the most ruthless and deceptive politicians of all times. In spite of his ruthlessness, Machiavelli oftens cautions rulers that after the conquest, the spoils (wealth) should be divided among the subjects(the poor masses), because their anger was the worst thing that any ruler would wish to incur. What then surpasses the development of a country, other than placing priority on its indispensable human resources?

Mr. Sungbeh states that, “The president’s Unity Party will benefit from her generosity, and will also gave her party an unfair advantage over other financially strapped political parties…”. The standard bearer of any political party basks in the glory of a political victory. And so does the political party which platform the standard bearer attributes such victory to. So it is in the case with Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and the Unity Party, which strategic and tactical planning led to her election victory. An electoral process is simply an extension of the marketing concept. The political candidates are to their parties, as products and services are to their competitors. The competitor that therefore has the best marketing plan or the best product and/or service will dominate the market for that particular product. So it is within the political arena including American democracy, which Liberians love and revere so much. The party that gains an election victory, often gains a lot of clout and in fact does influence the public policy debate to a large extent. This is not an “unfair advantage”. This is politics one-on-one.

Finally, Mr. Sengbeh talked about the lack of accountability on how Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf is spending money. Moreover, he finally calls on the public for some social activism. Mr. Sungbeh is putting the cart before the horse. If he is deeply concerned about the way Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf is spending money, why he cannot go to Liberia, gather tangible evidence and make his case in the proper forum? Liberia is now a democratic society and is making strides in promoting and upholding the rule of law. Did he request for a legal recourse and was denied?

The reason why social activism is not appealing to Liberians at this time, is because many of them have learned the lessons of the past. Shrewd and insidious politicians pretended to be true supporters of the people’s causes, just to have their selfish motives accomplished. And today the poor masses are suffering, while those politicians are in the foreign parts enjoying political asylum.

Let us give peace a chance in Liberia.

© 2006 by The Perspective

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