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Following The Issue

Ellen Rules Out A Third-Term Run

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, while making a stunning revelation that during the 2005 general elections, some of the women supporting her criminally took and hid the voting cards of their children so as to prevent those children from voting for Mr. George Weah, indicated that she will not be seeking a third term.

Can We Trust Her Words?

In revealing in 2012 the dishonesty practiced by her supporters in 2005, and giving reason for making the revelation after two elections, President Sirleaf proudly and confidently said, “I can say it now since I’m not running again.”

Those who know about the kinds of sentences according to style — periodic, loose and balanced — will indicate that President Sirleaf’s statement is a periodic sentence, one containing an independent part and a dependent part, with the dependent part (in this case, the reason part) coming at the end.

Interestingly, the Issues Desk is interested in the dependent part in which President Sirleaf says, “…  since I’m not running again.” The Issues Desk has interest in this one because it seems to presuppose a foregone conclusion on the part of the President – that she will not seek a third term. But the million-dollar question is whether we can trust her words on this one.

Clearly, her statement suggests that she will not be a candidate in 2017, but, considering certain factors — her previous promissory statements and her renege and the refusal or reluctance of African leaders to relinquish power when it is time to do so, her statement may not be anything that calls for celebration. It calls for cautious consideration.

Yes, her statement rules out a third-term bid, but can we trust her words, when she is the same one who promised Liberians and the world during the 2005 election season that if she won, she would not seek a second term, but reneged on that promise and sought a second term in 2011? When she said it, we believed her, but she did something completely different. Can we trust her words on this one?

Also, information has it that one of the paramount reasons that brought bitterness or rift between the President and Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, if not the paramount reason, is that Madam Taylor felt deceived by Madam Sirleaf whom had earlier promised or assured her that she would not turnover former President Charles Taylor to the Special Court on Sierra Leone for prosecution, but later did exactly the opposite. It is said that Madam Jewel Taylor believed her when she made the promise. It was not only Madam Jewel Howard Taylor that Madam Sirleaf gave this assurance. It is said that she also made the same promise to the Traditional Women in Bong County. It is about a leader keeping her word; she did not. She is now saying that she will not be seeking a third term. Can we trust her words on this one?

Furthermore, when the question about who masterminded the extradition of former President Charles Taylor from Nigeria and his subsequent handover for prosecution, President Sirleaf denied ever having any part to play in it. And she was consistent in her denial. We believed her when she said that she had no part to play in it.  It was only in 2012 when the Special Court was sentencing Mr. Taylor that the judge announced publicly that it was President Sirleaf who masterminded the extradition process of Taylor. In fact, the judge thanked her specially. Now, she is saying that she will not run for a third time. Can we trust her words on this one?

Let it be remembered, also, that during the 2005 campaign season, then candidate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf presented herself as the first leader who would fight corruption in an unprecedented fashion. We believed her. She won the election. Then in her inaugural address, President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf promised us the Liberian people and the world that, under her administration, corruption would be considered and treated as PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE.

People cheered and shouted joyfully and gave high fives, believing and saying that a leader determined to stamp out corruption had spoken. Today, the world and we know that she has not kept that promise. Transparency International, United States’ Human Rights Reports and other agencies and reports have all highlighted the corrupt nature of the Ellen-led government. Now, she is saying that she will not be running in 2017. Can we trust her words on this one?

We are aware that some will argue that we should trust her words and believe her because she lacks the constitutional backing to seek a third term. Well, knowing who African leaders are and knowing what they are capable of doing when it comes to keeping themselves in power, and recognizing the gullibility and sycophancy and hypocrisy in this land called Liberia, we cannot depend on a constitutional provision and just believe in this other promise or assurance.

A few well-placed individuals with vested interest and a group of sycophants could promote amending the Liberian Constitution to provide an opening for President Sirleaf to run for a third term. Politicians and their supporters are usually cunning and thrifty people. They are ready to tamper with any document or process just to satisfy their desire.

Let us do some internal summary. Why do we doubt President Sirleaf’s words on this issue? Well, first of all, on many occasions, she has told us one thing and done a completely different thing. Second, she is a typical African leader and African leaders usually don’t keep their words, and they usually do not mean what they say and say what they do not mean. She may be ruling out running for a third term now, but she or her supporters to design ways to get her in the race.

The President of Niger (until he was forcefully deposed in February of 2010), the then seventy-one-year-old Mamadou Tandja, changed his nation’s Constitution to run for a third term. He argued that he had programs aimed at improving the lives of the citizens, and he didn’t want to leave without implementing them. Former President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi proposed to change his country’s Constitution in order to allow him to run for a third term. His reason? He had new programs that he wanted to introduce to help Malawians. President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika of Algeria changed his country’s Constitution to enable him run for a third term. He and his supporters said that he had introduced reforms and programs that only he, and not anyone else, could implement.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda changed his country’s Constitution so that he could run for a third term. He made the same arguments – that he had reform package and programs to better off Ugandans, and he was the only person who could execute the programs and reforms. President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to change Nigeria’s Constitution to contest for a third term. He also argued that he had unfinished projects and programs that he wanted to implement because no one else would implement them. Former President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal announced that he would run for a third term in 2012 although he was serving his second and final term, since Senegal’s Constitution allows only a two-term arrangement. His argument? He had introduced worthy programs and projects, which he wanted to complete because no other person would be able to implement them except him.

This is the point. President Sirleaf herself, some Liberians having vested interest in the process or connected with the President could soon start pushing for constitutional changes that would give her change to contest for the third time. A group of chiefs or traditional leaders, a group of paid students, a group of controlled market women, or some other group could come together and start reading petitions here and there, announcing that there is a need for the President to go back. Nothing should be overlooked in this direction.

To conclude, dear readers, our President has admitted that some of her female supporters confessed to her that during the 2005 elections, they stole their children’s voting cards and his them because they feared that if they had not carried out that criminal activity, Mr. George Weah would have won. Our President was candid enough to state that she was now making this information public because she will not be running again. But, can we trust her words on this one,` that she will not be running again? Anyway, as our people would say, “TWT” — time will tell.

Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.

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