Sunday, September 18, 2011

Presidential Age Requirement Is More than Just a Number!!

President Sirleaf &  Vice President Boikah

Introduction: Jackson, a rising Liberian sociopolitical commentator is arguing that the Liberian presidency is aged old, accordingly, the president and the vice president respectively. He posits that if the unity party this election circle had chosen a young professional or technocrat as a vice presidential candidate that gesture would have gone a long way in stabilizing the political future of the country, and thereby appealing to the youth who make about 60 percent of the population. Says Jackson, " But I am honestly worried about the future complexities of two aging old leaders at the helm of power for the next six years."

One obvious shortcoming of the Liberian political mentality is that one either has something politically sexy or patronizing to say about the President or risk falling out of grace and being treated like a pariah. The ruling Unity Party is not insulated from this problem-By agreeing to reelect a seventyish year old President and an equally old or arguably older Vice President to a second six-year term, this party has led us with no alternative but to start believing that the interplay of common sense in the institution is either lacking or the folks running the party are just intentionally shortsighted. Pardon the hyperbole, but having two soon to be octogenarians running the state of affairs of our country is as insidious and irresponsible as having my five year old Terrence and his six year old friend running a daycare. By giving the Gafuans, Woods, Kesselys, Fahnbullehs, and other young and dynamic partisans of the Unity Party a shot at the Vice Presidency, the Party of Madam Sirleaf would have ignited hope and enthusiasm amongst young Liberian voters- a demographic that comprises more than sixty percent of the voting and everyday population.

My thrust here is not to display mock indignation at the graceful manner in which Her Excellency and her Vice President continue to age; in fact, I am a big fan of the way they have taken care of themselves. But I am indeed honestly worried about the future complexities of having two aging leaders at the helm of power for the next six years.  Age is not merely a numerical construct; not especially when one turns 70 and more. At that point, age becomes a debilitating process and decision making becomes very shaky. That is why people in their late sixties and seventies usually tend to have some power of attorney or other form of guardianship to manage their daily living. So just imagine leaving a poverty stricken country in the hands of two fairly old folks?

The last time I goggled 75 years, I came across synonyms such as: weak, forgetful, disable, pampers, and wheel chair. I also came across many redeeming qualities such as: friendly, forgiving, thoughtful, maternal, and paternal. Do not get me wrong, these are really good virtues; but are they necessarily the ones we are looking for in a leader at this time? NO! We need resiliency, fortitude, good judgment, physical and mental energy, and a vibrant sociological swagger.

 We cannot pretend age is just a number because we want to pacify the bellicosity of the folks already in power. It does not matter whether this President embraces or rejects the biological reality and gerontological evidence of her age, she has reached a point when one starts to rapidly lose grip of his/her cognition and physical prowess. It is politically counterintuitive for the President and her immediate assistant to have a combined age of a century and fifty years-Even the great Methuselah experienced age-related physical and medical complications and limitations during the latter stages of his life and knew when to throw in the towel.

The audacity to choose two aging leaders for another six year term is a reckless one; this is the 21st Century, for crying out loud! People in their mid-thirties are just as effective as and sometimes even more competent than those in the evening of their lives. We cannot continue to fall prey to a mass psychology that tends to confuse age with efficacy or experience. With time, age brings with its many liabilities.

Is it asking too much, to call on a political party that calls herself “UNITY”, to allow its vibrant youth into the very mainstream of governance and leadership via the Vice Presidency? I say a resounding NO!

Paul Jackson

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