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“Ending Imperial Presidency” – Nelson:Some Thoughts

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Introduction

In an encouraging recommendation made before the Legislative Committee Final Hearing of Constitution Review Commission’s Report, the Honorable Blamo Nelson, former Grand Kru County Senator and former Minister of Internal Affairs, argued that:

“It is this ‘D’ [Article 54(d)] of the Constitution (of Liberia) that is sustaining imperial presidency in our country. Until we can get rid of this (constitutional) provision, we will never get away with imperial presidency. Over three thousand people run the government but only 103 are elected, meaning the president has the power to appoint more than three thousand people in government. Let’s get rid of this provision [Article 54(d) of the Constitution]. It is the root cause of imperial presidency” (FrontPageAfricaonline, February 25, 2016). Italics & highlights mine.

However, this recommendation, made today, as had been the casethroughout the history of Liberia, continues the tradition of theproblem ofconfusions and contradictionsin evadingidentification/evaluationof the most major governing, all-inclusive, far-reaching, awesome and undemocratic, constitutionalizedPublic Policy -the Unitary Structure -of the Liberian Government, utilized during these 169 years since 1847, with disastrous results of a “failed state” and profound under-development.

This Recommendation, although well-intentioned and encouraging, but missed the point. Power of the President In an article(Analyst Liberia, March 3, 2013) on analysis of the Power of the Liberian Presidency, we held that “One of the several, critical challenges facing our small nation of less than 4 million people is the awesome, all-embracing and far-reaching Power of a sitting,Liberian President. That power is clearly defined by and enshrined in our Constitution by theUnitary-structured government, with supreme, executive (administrative) power duly vested and rigidly centralized in a President, during these 167 years of our existence, as a free and independent nation”.

 The Constitutional Provisions  Article1provides that“all power is inherent in the people”, while Article 3 says that “Liberia is a Unitary State, divided in counties for administrative (management) purposes”. However, Article50 instructs that “The Executive power of the Republic shall be (and is) vested in the President who shall be head of state and government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Liberia”, but Article54 says that “The President shall appoint all executive branch employees in government, nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission executive functionaries in government, including public officials of the regional, political/administrative sub-divisions – the counties – who serve not by elections of the citizens of the sub-divisions, but “upon the will and pleasure of the president”.

 Now, in the light of the Liberian experience of a devastating results of a “failed state” condition, with profound under-development for more than a century and a half, the only relevant, compelling reason that gave rise to our prevailing problem of “imperial presidency” isstructural, the Unitary Structure (of Article 3of the Constitution, a prior provision) of the Liberian Government, an issue concerned with the Art of Management, notArticle 54(d) which owes its legal validity to Articles 1 & 3.Therefore, “getting rid of Imperial presidency” requires getting rid of the Unitary Structure of Article 3.

Human Existence & Historical Change
Moreover, success or failure of that which men and women in society do today, plan to do tomorrow and the future depends, to large extent, on knowledge of the facts of history of their past. That is the reason for the adage that “those who ignore the mistakes of history are likely to repeat them”. The other applicable or relevant thought to this knowledge during the rapidly changing, modern society is the Art of Management, with particular respect to Organization Theory, a government being such an organization.

Reflections on the inevitable, historical change and the art of management with respect to organizational structure, show that Liberia’s successive political leaderships created and enshrined in law, this“system”, controlled exclusively by the Brotherhoodof the political class, with all power – socio-economic and political – arrogated to this Brotherhood, at the head of which was, and still is, an imperial presidency.

The Unitary Structure influences the performance behavior of employees in organization. Similarly, the Unitary Structure of the Liberian Government influenced, influences today, the performance behavior of executive functionaries and all employees in government.

This Unitary Structure had been, and is, the major source and cause of all socio-economic and political ills in Liberia, namely:

The prevailing “failed state” condition of the Liberian State; resistance to decentralization of administrative, economic & political power for election of regional officials & local governance; public dishonesty & corruption; dual citizens, driven by dishonesty in stealing public resources and escaping to foreign countries in which they are, also, citizens; dual citizens’ domination and control of the political economy of Liberia during more than a century, since 1847; Liberia’s excessive demand for and dangerous dependence on imported goods and services; Liberian officials’ selective obedience/disobedience of the nation’s statutory laws, including the Constitution!!! Indeed, each and every flaw/deficiency in public policy development, implementation and operation flow from this undemocratic doctrine of the Unitary Structure of the Liberian Government.Therefore, Liberia’s major socio-economic and political, developmental problems, including the Liberian presidency vested, constitutionally, with unconstitutional powers of an emperor, had been, still are, S T R U C T R A L.

Is it not reasonable, therefore, that any trained, experienced and reasonable political leader-politician would seek change, reforms and transformation of thisstructuralsystem, in the light of doing the same thing for more than a century with disastrous results? We think so!!

The Governance Commission
But we are told by the Governance Commission, the powerful, national public policytheorist/advisor, that “Liberia shall remain a unitary state with a system of local government and administration which shall be decentralized with the county as the principal focus of the devolution of power and authority”(Section 1.0, page 2, National Policy on Decentralization & Local Governance, January 2011). This conclusion is, in fact, a profound contradiction.
We are certain that the Governance Commission is keenly aware of the fallacy of this conclusion; for, devolution of powermeans notthe same under the Federal and Unitary systems of government. Hereunder, we hasten to provide comparative, contrasting analysis/conclusion, showing the critical difference between the two, main, systems of government – Federal and Unitary.
Decentralization – Federal & Unitary
Both Federal and Unitary systems refer to or define “devolution”as decentralizationof power. But there are distinct, important differences and conditions, critical to successful democratic practice and results, particularly, in the light of Liberia’s turbulent past and experience.

Firstly,in the Federal System, devolution-decentralization is guaranteed by written,constitutional provisions, with terms and conditions binding upon the central, federal government and its regional, semi-autonomous constituents;

Secondly,in the Unitary System,devolution-decentralization is non-constitutional and that the central, unitary government reserves the right to alter, re-arrange or abolish the devolved-decentralized powers because, unlike federal system, the regional constituents lack constitutional right to exist, in the first place; and

Thirdly, therefore, it is compelling and, in fact, reasonableto implementchange, with reforms,in the light of doing the same thing for a century with disastrous results.For, throughout 169 years, successive, Liberian, political leadershipsand derivatives, held on to the unitary structure, while the nation becomes theorist & counselora “failed State”.But surprisingly, we are told by theGovernance Commission that “Liberia shall remain a unitary state”.This isa contradiction, as indicated earlier; we restate for emphasis!!

Not only because federalized devolution-decentralization of political power recognizes, supports and constitutionally-guarantees the right of citizens to vote in the elections of their Mayors, Town, Clan, and Paramount Chiefs and Superintendents as desired and expected by the overwhelming majority of this nation’s citizens, but also that the Unitary system,now prevailing in Liberia, is an unconstitutional system thatreserves the right tochange and/or abolish the devolved powers or rights without the knowledge and/or consent of the regional constituents – the Counties – of the Republic of Liberia, a retention of “business as usual”come 2017.

The Liberian voters in Fish Town, River Gee; Saniquellie, Nimba; Tubmanburg, Bomi and in Bentol, Montserrado Counties do not need a rocket scientist to tell them that this Unitary Structure of government has been and is undemocratic as well as unconstitutional.

Finally, in the light of the Liberian experience of a devastating results of a “failed state” condition, with profound under-development for more than a century and a half, the only relevant, compelling reason that gave rise to our prevailing problem of “imperial presidency” isstructural, the Unitary Structure (of Article 3 of the Constitution, a prior provision) of the Liberian Government, an issue concerned withmanagement, notArticle 54(d) which owes its legal validity to Articles 1 & 3.

Therefore, “getting rid of Imperial presidency” requires getting rid of the Unitary Structure of government, as provided by Article 3.

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