By Othello B. Garblah
Liberia is sui generis (a Latin phrase meaning one of a kind). Despite its unique history as the first independent African nation on the continent, its political leaders have often appeared less intent in terms of development and modernization compared to leaders elsewhere on the continent.
Leaders since independence, have not been able to develop the country’s rich natural resources to maximize same for the development of the country, rather they have used it wastefully to their advantage, while the bulk of the population watches on as spectators.
Liberia’s political system remains repletely ingrained with sycophants being the architects of the imperial presidency 176 years on-nothing has changed.
All officials have done over time and continue to do today is to maintain their relevance in the existing political system and their place within it- nothing more. It’s the proximity to power. There is absolutely nothing new, it has been the same trend years in and years out.
No one leader has been able to crack the code for Liberia’s development and modernization, simply because his or her immediate lieutenants have always come with their own agendas while blindfolding him or her into thinking that all is well with the citizens.
A dramatic story is told of President William V.S. Tubman, who for fear of flights often chose to travel by sea. Just as is being done today every cabinet official and their deputies want to be where the president is, so it was back then, nothing has changed.
But here is the story. So, on this day, Tubman and his officials were sailing on one of his Yachts, from Monrovia to Maryland. They had picked up officials from Marshall, now annexed by Margibi County thru to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, and were headed to Harper.
While they were sailing Tubman came on the deck to view the sea and in the process, the breeze took his hat off his head and threw it in the sea. When his officials saw it, they all began to tip their hats one by one for the breeze to throw it into the sea, and one by one all their hats were thrown into the sea. When President Tubman turned around and saw what had happened, he had a new sense of his authority.
Tubman, before ascending to the Presidency had been living in his native Maryland County from where he had usually set sail in boats to Monrovia as an Associate Justice at the time before his preferment by President Barclay. Before Barclay’s arrangement, Tubman was not a regular Monrovia politician.
However, the systemic sycophantic behaviors of appointed officials in government only emboldened Tubman. As the story goes, when Tubman noticed that his officials intentionally threw away their hats to be in sync with him, he began to sense how powerful he had become as a president.
Tubman, for example, would take a nap and wake up in his under T-shirt, his cabinet members around would all remove their coats, shirts, and ties to be in sync with him.
This behavior that everything the president does is a trend within his official circle is not new. President William R. Tolbert came on the scene with higher height suit, and his appointed officials followed, Samuel K. Doe, Charles G. Taylor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and now President Weah with a pro-poor which became very popular during the early days of his six-year reign.
Sure, nothing has changed from officials wanting to be eye servants rather than doing the job for which they were appointed. Rather, they fight to be in line with the president’s trend, that they can siphon state resources with impunity, while the country lags in development and modernization.