Sunday, July 10, 2011

Political Opportunism in Liberia

By: tewroh-wehtoe sungbeh

Liberian senate president Wotorson

Introduction: In this piece, Sungbeh argues that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been left off the the hook by her supporters even as she have abused political power repeatedly, while the country claims to represent an emerging democratic society. The author thinks this is a dangerous move for progressive governance and Liberia's future.

Before she ever garnered the courage to withdraw the Shaw appointment amid public pressure to do the right thing, and before she even had the courage to rescind her previous decision to allow public employees, mainly cabinet ministers to take a prominent role in her re-election campaign, the Unity Party’s “Friends of Ellen” often looked the other way when it was about President Sirleaf.

To these individuals, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is infallible. And because she’s such, exempts her of any error in judgment and the leadership flaws that often besieged her administration.

It is not unusual in the long and painful history of Liberia for some Liberians to blindly support their president no mater what he or she is cited to have done wrongly when they occupied the Executive Mansion

What those Liberians did then when they blindly supported their president is the kind of history many hoped will never be repeated again, especially the heinous history of a one-party True Whig Party system that monopolized and deprived Liberians the right to genuinely participate in the political process.

While it is true that the ruling True Whig Party is or was easily blamed in the past for undermining the aspirations of the Liberian people to have a vibrant multi-party system, the actions of some Liberian politicians today – the so-called ‘enlightened’ and ‘educated’ ones bring back the nightmarish days of old when Liberians blindly petitioned and supported previous imperial presidents to succeed themselves only for the presidential supporter’s own personal gain.

The truth is, a cowardice practice of this kind is profoundly sickening in the stomach because it undermines the fight for democracy many lost their lives to uphold. The unmanly and opportunistic practice of these party switchers, who sold their loyalty to President Sirleaf, is not intended for the Liberian nation and people but to selfishly win presidential appointments/favors after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is re-elected to a second term.

Cletus Wotorson, who supposedly is leader of the Liberian senate, is an Ellen convert and presumed leader of her bandwagon and National Campaign Committee’s re-election team.

Sounding offensively inferior and dubious of his national legislative role, Mr. Wotorson naively referred to President Sirleaf of the Executive branch his “boss” and quipped: “You do not want me to help my boss get re-elected?

No wonder this president is constantly traveling out of Liberia without accountability and transparency, and without a single member of the Legislative branch questioning why President Sirleaf is always out of the country? No wonder this president is always macro managing government affairs and not empowering her Minister of Foreign Affairs/Commerce or Trade Representative to negotiate trade deals and or meet with foreign policymakers and on behalf of Liberia? Let me ask sarcastically. Who is the Foreign Minister of Liberia, anyway?

Representative Edwin Snowe

You would think members of that toothless Legislative branch of government would shout ‘fire’ or ‘foul’ after the imperial President Sirleaf recently attempted to enlist cabinet ministers on her re-election team. Not so. And as usual, members of that spineless body put political opportunism over the nation’s interests.

The once promising Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) political party, whose “First Partisan” George Manneh Oppong Weah, came close to winning the 2005 presidential election is no longer in contention in 2011, after ceding control of his party to presidential candidate Winston Tubman.

Not wanting to be left behind in this game of political opportunism, high-ranking members of that political party abruptly left their CDC and jumped ship to the ruling New Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Explaining their reason for supporting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s re-election bid instead of supporting their own CDC party’s presidential candidate, the group said: “We are lending our support to the UP’s 2nd term bid. We shall be with them during the period of campaigning in the forthcoming presidential and general elections of this year.”

The lesser-known Liberia National Union (LINU) political party, which does not stand a chance in the 2011 presidential election, also joined the bandwagon of political parties endorsing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s re-election bid.

“These are indeed extraordinary qualities relevant for nation building. Our search for the ideal leadership for Mama Liberia has cut across the party line. There seems to be no other individual suitable at this to steer the ‘ship of state; to a noble destiny than an embodiment of the mother of the nation. Therefore, LINU endorses Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s bid for the presidency of Liberia in the ensuing 2011 General and Presidential Elections” the party’s statement said.

Former speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives Edwin Snowe, formerly of the dreaded National Patriotic Party (NPP) of Charles Taylor, who was once a fierce opponent of President Ellen Johnson, now sings her kum ba yah.

To Mr. Snowe, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the best thing that ever happened to Liberia since Palm Butter and Rice or Fufu and Soup were introduced into the Liberian diet.

The convictionless and buffoonery Edwin Snowe who once referred to President Sirleaf’s State of the Nation address years ago “a big shame to Liberia and its people” claims he now regrets those comments, and also regrets his call to have President Sirleaf impeached. Snowe vowed, “to work very hard” to re-elect President Sirleaf.

“The decision, our decision to endorse Madam Sirleaf’s second term bid is not only good for the TWP, but for the overall good of the entire country. We want all partisans to take the message to their respective homes,” speaker after speaker said during the party’s 35th annual convention in June.

Even the discredited True Whig Party (TWP), credited for leading Liberia and the Liberian people downhill for over a century of slavery, tyranny, pains, and tears couldn’t wait to add its discredited voice to the bandwagon of political parties supporting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s re-election efforts.

It is one thing to admire a particular politician or a sitting president for what he or she brings to the political table, in the interest of the country and people. However, it is another thing to prostitute one’s convictions by ignoring the troubling flaws and wanton abuse of power of a president only to look the other way for the individual’s own selfish interests. This is not only a sellout but recklessly adventurous and dangerous.

These individuals and political parties perhaps are oblivious to the fact that their blind support of President Sirleaf and any other politician is a drawback that can or will seriously undermine multiparty democracy in Liberia especially at this crucial time of nation building.

So what has become of loyalty, convictions, and the ideals and vision political parties and their leaders often bring to the table with the hopes of building lasting institutions (not for personal gains), but institutions that empowers and provides for the weak, poor, children, the handicapped, the elderly and a vulnerable and neglected female population in Liberia?

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