Liberia Cannot Afford On-the-job Training For Its President: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Should Be Elected


By Mohamedu F. Jones

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 27, 2005


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should be elected the next President of Liberia; it is the right thing to do. In addition, it is the logical, reasonable, and long-view thing to do. The pleasure one gets from cutting off their nose to spite their face is short-lived; then he or she experiences severe physical and emotional pain from the gross disfigurement that results from that brash act. Electing Ambassador Weah to be our next President would be the political equivalent of cutting off our national nose – as we know from experience, the dancing in the streets only goes so far and only lasts so long.

Liberia’s post-conflict reconstruction will involve complicated issues related to transitioning from conflict to peace and the pressing need to rebuild the socioeconomic framework of the society.

If one were to look at some of the issues facing Liberia, utilizing World Bank key indicators, the immensity of what faces Liberia’s incoming democratic leadership becomes very clear. Here are some of the primary issues that our nation faces:

(a) Agricultural and rural development: food security, agricultural policy, rural electrification and safe water supply;
(b) Economic policy: trade and non-trade, macro and micro-economic policies and growth;
(c) Electric power and other energy development;
(d) Governance and public management: public expenditure management, public sector reform, taxation and fiscal policy;
(e) Health and population: nutrition, infant mortality, adult mortality, HIV/AIDS;
(f) Infrastructure development: roads, telecommunications, Internet, water;
(g) Poverty reduction;
(h) Education and illiteracy reduction;
(i) Private sector development: entrepreneurship, banking, privatization, business taxation.

The next President of Liberia must be able to grasp these wide-ranging issues and provide political leadership and administrative policy directions designed to meet these challenges. He or she must be able to bring a level of leadership capability that can handle the country’s needs.

History shows that good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience. The learning curve of national political leadership is steep. At this point in history, Liberia cannot afford on-the-job training for its President – if we are to have a chance, the person must have an understanding and experience of the pertinent national and international dynamics that affects the country from day one.

It has been said that leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Leaders carry out this process by applying their leadership attributes, such as beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge, and skills.

It would seem elementary that only one of the two candidates left in the presidential race in Liberia possesses the combination of qualities required for the leadership of Liberia and its people, and that is Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Much has made about the “baggage” and “short-comings” of Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf, and she does carry political baggage. I cannot imagine how a politician with her experience would not make mistakes, commit wrongs, have political adversaries or even have persons who consider her a political enemy – this is the nature of the beast of politics.

Even righteous leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King made mistakes, did wrong and were considered enemies by others, how much more a politician. We Liberians must learn that politicians evolve – U. S. President Lyndon Johnson began as a racist-segregationist and ended up the greatest civil rights advocate ever to sit in the White House. We must also learn that there are times in history when people should show political forgiveness, particularly when it is in their best interest – Nelson Mandela showed us how.

Much has been made about the Weah movement, with analysts and politicians suggesting that Ambassador Weah’s political strength germinate from an electorate that sees him as being of them, a person who more closely resembles the majority of voters then other politicians – and on top of that is a role mode who has done very well using his football skills. And it may well be that there is a Weah movement. But that does not change the fact that it is a foolhardy thing to elect Ambassador Weah as President of Liberia considering that the likely adverse consequences will be profound.

Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf has the primary responsibility and duty to make the case to the Liberian electorate that their future will be better off if she is President then if they elect Ambassador Weah just because “educated people” have failed them. Most of the voters may not read and write English, but the people of Liberia can be shown that it is in their best interest to elect Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as their next President; she has the primary duty to make that case.

There is absolutely no question that it would be better for Liberia if Ellen Johnson Sirleaf takes the oath of office in January then if Ambassador Weah does. Perhaps the Liberian electorate will realize this on November 8th, at least for their own sake.