Democracy can be encouraged or fostered in several, various ways. It could be through the free participation of the people. It could be through the enhancement and support of freedom of speech and of the press. It could also be via the unhindered participation of different political parties and figures.
It could be through the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections periodically. It could be realized through the uncensored and candid exchange of ideas. It could also be a matter of encouraging a strong opposition in the process.
Yes, the maintenance of a strong opposition somehow helps concretize or ensure democracy. It is not enough to have opposition; the opposition must be strong. In the absence of a strong opposition, an imperial presidency may result. Not only that. It may even result to the destruction of multi-party democracy and the existence of a mono-party system.
What a lot of “smart” African leaders do is destroy or weaken the opposition so that there can be no formidable challenge to their policies and pronouncements and modi operandi. And, it must be remembered, these leaders public words about wanting to maintain a strong opposition should not be taken seriously, as they are only cosmetic. These leaders do not mean what they say as far as the issue of having a strong opposition goes.
And one of such leaders is Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia. She must be given credit. She has done a lot – and done it successfully – to destroy the possibility of the existence of a formidable opposition.
From what many of us have seen and heard – both of things done in public and those done in secret – there can be no strong opposition as long as Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the President of the nation. She is the only Liberian president who has managed to intelligently and non-violently silence the opposition.
I would call her the Sophocles of the Liberian political theater and the Maradona on the political soccer pitch. She knows how to act, and she knows how to interact with other actors so that they can praise her acting skills.
It is said that actions speak louder than words. Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has spoken about her desire to maintain a strong opposition at varying times and occasions. If one were not careful, he could be tempted to believe that Madam Sirleaf is serious about the existence of a viable opposition.
The point is, if it is true that actions speak louder than words, then she is anything but serious about having a strong opposition camp. The Madam is smart African leader and, as stated above, “smart” African leaders try to destroy or weaken the opposition. Why? Well, the answer is simple: to avoid challenge in order to have an easy ride.
President Sirleaf has successfully managed to weaken the opposition by applying many simple tricks, three of which are as follows:
Extracting the Gold – Capturing Strong Opposition Members
This is an important method that has helped the President to weaken the opposition. She goes for the strong or effective or voluble members of certain political parties and brings them into her camp. It is like extracting gold (or some gold) from the rest of the mixed particles. She has been very successful in this.
For example, had she not applied method during the 2011 presidential election, perhaps, she may not have been re-elected. She visited the CDC (Congress for Democratic Change) gold mine and extracted Mr. Eugene Nagbe, Jake Kabakollie, Samuel Wlue and others. Jacqueline Carphart, Cole Bangalu and others had already been extracted from the party. She visited the NPP (National Patriotic Party) gold mine and extracted Lewis Brown and others. Edwin Snowe and others had already been extracted. She quickly visited the LP (Liberty Party) gold mine and extracted Isaac Jackson, Darius Dillon and others.
Let’s not disremember, also, that the clever political miner called Madam Sirleaf had earlier visited other political mines and extracted a good amount of gold from there. She must be given credit for being so good at it.
Today, there is no strong opposition voice in the nation, thanks to the smartness of Madam Sirleaf. She has successfully weakened the opposition, with some members of the opposition becoming her praise singers. Politics, it is said, is a game. And Madam Sirleaf has played her game remarkably well.
Keeping the Ever-Talking Progressives Under Her Wings
Madam Sirleaf has not only used the gold-extraction method to weaken the opposition; she has also used the keep-progressives-under-my-wings method, and she has used it very successfully. Almost all of the major progressives or progressive leaders of the 1970s and 1980s are all under her wings.
The ever-talking progressives who found ills within the William Richard Tolbert government, the Samuel Kanyan Doe government and the Charles Ghankay Taylor government are unflinching supporters of Madam Sirleaf, remaining silent on almost everything as if there were no ills with her government.
In this category are Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, Dr. Togba Nah-Tipoteh, Dr. Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Mr. Commany Wesseh, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, Mr. Kofi Woods, Mr. Samuel Jackson, Dr. Marcus Dahn, Mr. Christian Herbert, Mr. James Fromayan, Mr. Oscar J. Quiah, and others.
No comments about the insecurity caused by the continuous crime of armed robbery the citizens are experiencing. No comments about the rampant corruption going on in the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government. No word about the nepotistic tendencies practiced in this government. No word about the various oil contracts and discussions. No word about the violation of the Constitution.
No word about the issue of conflict of interest. No word about the increment in the prices of such basic commodities as rice. No word on the Executive’s interferences in matter relating to the legislature and the Judiciary. No word about the apparent emergence of another family hegemony.
An elderly man, a retired public school teacher, asked me some time ago, “My son, something really confusing me. Why aren’t the progressives speaking against the wrongs of the Ellen government? Have the struggles they were fighting for and talking about ended? Do they feel that there are no bad sides of this government? It really puzzles me, my son. Why are they so quiet?”
Knowing who the progressives are and what they have spoken against in the past, I am convinced that if Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had not brought them under her wings, she would not have been able to get away with most of the things she is getting away with. The progressives would have tormented her day and night, but it is not happening.
She has succeeded in silencing them, and by so doing, many of the individuals who know what to challenge and how to challenge her are behaving as if they didn’t have eyes to see or ears to hear, thanks to the smartness of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Offering Jobs to Certain Key Executives from the Opposition
Another successful method applied by Madam Sirleaf is the offering of jobs to certain key members of the opposition. Once this happens, it is unlikely for those offered the jobs to challenge the Madam in a serious way. As a result, the parties they come from remain silent on sensitive national issues. For example, Madam Sirleaf appointed Israel Akinsaya, former chair of the Liberty Party of Cllr. Charles Brumskine, as Vice Chairman for Public relations at NOCAL (National Oil Company of Liberia).
There is also information that another Liberty Party executive is serving as a government lawyer. It is also said that the Standard Bearer of one of the leading political parties dines with President Sirleaf regularly. What does one expects the party of this Standard Bearer to against the policies and pronouncements of the Madam’s government.
I am aware that some will argue that Ellen’s dealing with the opposition in this manner is aimed at ensuring national reconciliation, and has nothing to do with weakening or silencing the opposition. They will contend that she wants to break the winner-takes-all syndrome.
Others will argue that the opposition is not speaking out because the Sirleaf-led government is better than the Tolbert government, the Doe government or the Taylor government. Still, other will say that politics is all about interest and, if their interests are being served, there is no reason to speak out.
For the progressives, specifically, some will argue that, having spoken against the ills in society for years, the progressives have now decided to rest and give chance to others to continue the struggle. Some might also argue that, having participated in progressivism for years, the progressives are now thinking about themselves, about what they can get for themselves – almost all of them have been given good jobs or positions in this government; hence, they are silent.
It is also possible that others will say that the progressives are not speaking out because they are in government; they usually speak against the government that they are not a part of.
Well, dear readers, no matter what the reasons are for the lack of challenge from those who are properly placed to challenge President Sirleaf and her government’s policies, pronouncements and activities, the fact is that the opposition is weak – very weak – and there is a need to be concerned, even if not worried. And, as a reminder, let’s not forget that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is one person who has immensely helped to weaken the opposition, and she has intelligently and non-violently managed to achieve that goal by applying many tricks, three of which are as follows: capturing valuable opposition members, bringing the progressives of the 1970s and 1980s closer to herself, and giving jobs to certain key members of the opposition. Let it be remembered that this does not negate the fact that the opposition has its own problems, which have brought about its weakness.
I hope I have dealt with the issues without insulting, name calling or engaging in other ad hominem arguments. I also hope that anyone wanting to write a rebuttal to the arguments contained in this article will not hide behind any pen name, but clearly identify himself as I have done, as the true identification of an author can help readers do additional analysis on what they read.
Believe me, my people. We will never stop following the issues.