Saturday, April 10, 2010

Can Milton Teahjay Lead?

Sinoe County Sup. Milton Teahjay

What a difference few years make, so now that Milton Teahjay is Superintendent of Sinoe County. If politicians from time to time are to be graded and ranked by the blood and sweat they dribbled on the political battlefield during their careers, for being pacesetters and charismatic leaders who cut their teeth in any struggle to see a respectful political environment and dialogue and justice prevailed, so that an impoverished citizenry can see the dividends of good governance and competitive politics, then, Milton Teahjay has no sweat and blood. He has one thing going for him though, a really big mouth---a really really big mouth! And that has always been his political capital, and boy has he used it!

But his appointment too must be a distress and disappointment, if Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, were ever to live up to her billing; when she said in 2005 that all her political appointees upon her election would meet a set of three criteria which would read something like this: Human rights, honesty and corruption free. The three counts on which Milton Teahjay would fail glumly.

Up until his appointment recently as superintendent of that southeastern county, Milton was a strong critic of the Sirleaf led government just has has been the case with him, every time he wanted a job in government.

He took a big leap in 2005, when the newly minted superintendent famously declared his intentions to run as a presidential candidate on the ticket of the United People’s Party UPP) during the ensuing 2005 presidential and legislative elections. But first he had to survive a party primary in which former student leader and political activist Marcus Dahn was also interested.

The battle was fiercely contested, as he would lose the primary. Rejected, he shifted his loyalty to the proletarian George Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), instead of staying with the party that has always blessed his political fortunes. As the political campaign got tough, Teahjay declared that Ellen would never win the presidency, and if she ever did “grass must grow in my palm,” he asserted bold faced. She won.

Since then he has been on a war path, deriding her every opportunity he had. A few months before his appointment, he went on a talk show in Monrovia and ridiculously charged, that the President of the Republic of Liberia and her son were controlling the vault at the Central Bank of Liberia. He accused them of withdrawing bank notes at will and pleasure. A ridiculous charged he could neither back up. He and Ellen are friends now that she have given him a job.

When the senate committee responsible for his confirmation asked why he wanted to serve under a president whom he deem unfit for the highest office in the land, he quipped that he was “a defeated African politician,” who was frustrated and would change his mode of criticism because “he now had access to the president.”

A tone the Sinoe Legislative Caucus wasn't buying, considering his controversial past, thereby cautioning the president “to immediately withdraw her nomination,” because according to them, he was too polarizing to lead. Teahjay later won confirmation however, due to intense lobbying. To bury the hatchet, Ellen went to see her political appointee in Greenville few weeks ago and Teahjay was buoyant, as press reports affirmed.

President Johnson Sirleaf

Judging from the mammoth party and welcome he threw Ellen when she visited Sinoe, Milton must be elated he has now landed a job, having wallowed in the wilderness for a lengthen period with out a government employment.

The catch here, that is often ignored, is that county superintendents are probably the most important political jobs in Liberia besides the presidency and the Mayor of Monrovia. But all Liberian politicians---the so-called big time ones would rather settled for ministerial positions, junior cabinet posts and appointments to public corporations, rather then go to the counties where so much leadership and work needs to be done.

This is the reason, according to political forecasters, why Liberia remain so much lagging in development and social services nationally, because regional and local governments lacked direction, are often weak and are short of the talents and effective managerial skills necessary to bring substantive bearing and services needed outside of Monrovia.

Observers also believe the Teahjay appointment is not in absolution, considering the harsh tone he leveled against Sirleaf these past years, nor is it in recognition of his viability as a leader who is tested and have shown strength in times of crises, but rather, that in addition to Sirleaf"s current coalition fence mending of the Liberia Action Party (LAP), the Liberia Unification Party (LUP) and the Unity Party (UP) combined, she is doing everything to wow dissatisfy progressives whose grass roots in Liberian politics extends well over four decades and whose tentacles widen in every county and district in Liberia.

Teahjay is a graduate of that generation. Others include Tiawon Gongloe, Kofi Woods, Marcus Dahn, Nagbahlee Warner, Amos Sawyer, Commany Wesseh, Dew Mason, Henry Fahbulleh and a host of others currently serving in her government, whom she have brought close to the power structure of government as 2011 looms.

For one fact, Ellen recognizes she went to jail with these individuals in the 1980s. With them she shares a special kinship, as in the fact, when the struggle for multi party democracy was a constant drum beat against Samuel Doe and his PRC and subsequently his National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL). They were all in the trenches together.

Pundits also agreed, that Ellen identify with them comfortably compared to the other political groupings and individuals currently on the fringes. If Ellen can induce the progressives and group them together with her as she is attempting to do, she wins the presidency hands down. says analysts.

But a political science professor at the University of Liberia (UL), says "Teahjay especially must be watched, because he served Charles Taylor loyally and as soon he sense that Taylor was in trouble in 2001 as rebels were advancing on Liberia and Taylor was loosing international credibility he spoke up against the Taylor criminal venture of which he was a part, for ripping Liberian forest as a means of “getting out of the government and repositioning himself politically.”

Tom Kamara, Liberia fore most political, media and social commentator witness first hand the debacle in 2001 warning that Teahjay and Taylor fell out because Teahjay was greedy and Taylor was bent on using him. He commented then that “The Teahjay saga only shows Taylor predicament in keeping greedy cronies like Teahjay in line as resources dwindle,” adding that, “Gradually deprived of Sierra Leone's diamonds, life without the forests is impossible for Taylor, his foreign partners and local cronies. By questioning the wanton withering of the forests, Teahjay, a loquacious beneficiary of the looting regime who reports say was constructing a mansion and got disappointed when the "brown envelopes" (US dollars) from Taylor stopped coming, failed to read the handwriting on the wall, earning the wrath of his master he once enthusiastically praised as the "kindest" man, the "finest politician" he "had ever known"

Looking back and thinking of it, Teahjay was urged into the Taylor government by civic societies according to sources well placed, because he was thought of as a strong (mouthed) opposition politician. But who once got appointed, he went far beyond the norm.

His voice in government should have been a patriotic one, but instead, he was constantly defending the Charles Taylor criminal invasion of Sierra Leone and the shenanigans perpetrated by Taylor and his Patriotic Party to the chagrin of those who always thought, he had the back bone to be his own man.

He was at his best on Jan. 25, 1999, in London, Great Britain to rebut criticisms of Liberia's support to the Sierra Leonean rebels. Unabashed, he said "What is happening is an international conspiracy to try to subject Liberia to international ridicule. We don't have the resources to get involved in prosecuting a foreign war, so all these allegations are intended to diplomatically isolate Liberia."

Then shamelessly, he went on accusing London and Washington of "leading a campaign of disinformation, misinformation, deception and propaganda," against little Liberia, while innocent Sierra Leonean babies, mothers and fathers limbs were being hacked with machetes by Taylor and his partner the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankor.

The Sinoe County Superintendent it must be stated emphatically, also presided as second in command at the Ministry of Information at a time when Liberian journalists and media institutions were muzzled, censored and suppressed. Dr. George Ayittey of the Free Africa Foundation, whose preamble reads “Africa is poor because she is not free”, lamented In November 1999, “that Liberia’s Deputy Information Officer, Milton Teahjay, threatened that his ministry would be reluctant to renew operation permits to media organizations that have engaged in blackmail and falsehood.” Ayittey was quick to add, that such judgments were best left to the Liberian courts.

Milton Teahjay public record is checkered and unless he revives his fortunes, politically speaking, by working his tail and institute vital policies as Superintendent of Sinoe County, he will always be considered as one of those political animals who will carpet beg for a government jobs at every opportunity--- riding the waves of time, while waiting for the next big break!

Asked during his confirmation hearings what his plans were to develop the county: his two biggest agenda were refurbishing the superintendent's mansion in which he plans to live and the Greenville City Hall in which he intends to receive his guests. But no real assessment of his performance can be documented and reported to the general public because the forth estate is neither existent in the leeward counties nor are civic societies present nor vocal. His economic revitalization plans for Sinoe are best left to 'local businesses bringing in more cement and zinc from Monrovia to get on with the business of reconstruction in the county;' he told the senate in October this year. Legislators were appalled. How innovative...?

A post as important as a superintendent of a county is a political position that the president must have no appointment powers over. They need to be elected and they must show their worth; for it is by leading a political sub division ably, by building bridges, roads, electricity grids, schools, hospitals and instituting law and order etc, that the nation knows which superintendents are tested, governed well, and have the temperament to lead a Liberia where often those who seek to lead the nation have no administrative records of governance, but a long list of academic credentials and in the case of George Weah an impressive international resume; not enough to satisfy the prospect of managing a nation so desperately in need of weathered captains who knows what it means to stir the ship of state especially now that everything is a wreck following a long period of war. Good luck Mr. Teahjay!