Ellen’s Last Face in Government and Politics: What Legacy Would Survive Her Name?
A lot has been said about the Iron Lady of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as a radical political activist. A lot has been written about her as President of Liberia; and a lot has also been printed about her role as the Mother of Liberia. In the written thoughts some Liberians, she represents the ugly; for others, she represents the bad; and for yet some others, she represents the good. If we are to rearrange their thoughts, we could call it the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This brings to memory the name of a movie.
The thoughts of different of Liberians depending on which side of the fence they stand have made this woman of Africa a human trinity or a trinomial. But can she be said to be the only existing being with a trio personality? Psychologists give some tips that bring us to the conclusion that humans have multi-personality traits. Some of these are quite visible and transmit overtly the generally accepted personality that identifies a person to society. Others burst forth accidentally; while others are guarded with utmost care and none disclosure to open society.
But President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has, in my own conclusions which might differ from the expressed thoughts of others, displayed a triangular national character that makes her outstanding and not necessarily that of the Good; the Bad and the Ugly. This triangular character can be best described as Ellen, the Radical Activist; the Politician; and, the Compassionate Leader. At each triangular point, her performance concentrated on details and commitment and in the process, she attracted positive approvals by some members of the Liberian society while she became a disdain to others. This is a circle of life and Ellen has found herself caught between perceptions.
What exactly is this woman? In the midst of ferocious opposition and attrition at home led by opponents, President Sirleaf historically bagged the famous Nobel Prize to the jubilation of all those who admire her. But as President of Liberia, President Sirleaf has at hand an enormous responsibility to all Liberians irrespective of thoughts or perceptions; love or hate. This responsibility is a result of the national mandate given to her. How well she executes the mandate without drawing a fine line will be determined by her policies. Her second and last term as President of Liberia and Politician is crucial to what is written on the pages of history.
As president of the nation, she is subjected to so many negative and positive descriptions. When things go bad, it’s Ellen; when things go right, it’s the international community and Liberians who laid down their lives for a better Liberia. But achievements bring out a conclusive historic perception and description of what the leader is or was. On the 8th of November, and in a dramatic show of solidarity and confidence in her ability and integrity, President Sirleaf was given another national mandate. In the midst of uncertainties to the peace and stability of Liberia, that national mandate was announced to the world by the National Elections Commission and on the 16th of January 2012, that mandate will be given constitutional essence and the life of a new administration will begin. Liberians are now asking what would be the legacy by which President Sirleaf would be memorably remembered at the expiration of the six years mandate.
Indisputably, expectations are high. In some quarters, it is expected that Liberia’s national budget would reach an apex of at least three billion U. S. Dollars drawing from current investments in the country and the oil industry before she departs. In other quarters, county administrations are expected to be granted certain autonomies to include participation in concession agreements of natural resources in the counties; fair revenue allocation to enable them plan their own development programmes and put in place their own budgetary and financial management systems by law and not the determination of few bureaucrats in control of a highly and sophisticated centralized system.
There are also expectations that superintendents would be elected and given legal leverage to scout for investors in collaboration with the central system and to put in place autonomous county ministries under the control of superintendents working in coordination with central government ministries and workable transfer of functions, budgets, and other resources from central ministries for effective county and local administrations.
Citizens expectations are also directed towards creating a middle class and moving Liberians towards control of the nation’s economy by an efficient Liberianization policy that guarantees collateral guarantees for Liberian entrepreneurs, technical supervision and training to develop their business skills in management and continuity as well as laws that would enhance gradual Liberian partnerships in the industrial and manufacturers’ enclaves. Liberians also expect modernization of infrastructures such as paved highways, fly over bridges connecting major city districts and massive employment opportunities.
These expectations are real and not imagined. In an effort to ensure that Liberia stand proud as the oldest independent state in Africa in terms of developments, constituencies in every political sub-division carried out house cleaning by voting out unserious and self serving legislators and have given mandates to new legislators and renewing the mandates of some old lawmakers deemed serious minded. The next six years beginning now are years for serious business.
The national legislature is a fulcrum of hope and is expected to perform with efficiency its constitutional role of making laws that would translate the dreams of Liberians into reality and take its oversight responsibilities seriously. The cabinet must become more productive to build on the domestic foundations put in place during the first term of President Sirleaf. In other to accomplish, the bureaucratic red tape must be untapped and luxury must take the back seat.
There have been, over the last six years, allegations and cries of unfair concession agreements; mortgaging of Liberia’s natural resources to un-creditable companies based on kickbacks and personal interests; corruption in high places; and importation of American based Liberians to the disadvantage of those at home as well as focusing on academic credentials and placing those with remarkable experience that translate into productivities and results to gross disadvantage. These have generated fears, insecurity and un-belongingness to the nation by those in the above categories.
There have been cries of marginalization of certain political elements in society and dis-empowerment of those who had hopes in a new dispensation. These cries culminated into major opposition and created bitterness in the Liberian society that almost cause Liberians to slide back into anarchy. Also, there have been cries from those who felt neglected and used to usher in administrations that soon forgot them. This next dispensation comes with expected hopes to bridge the political and economic dichotomies and the unfairness which drew many to breaking point and bitterness.
The people of Liberia can only rise to new pedestals when attitudes and perceptions of public institutions and public officials rise from self seeking to that of rigorous nation building; from undermining the credibility and performance of the institution of government to building a strong and trustworthy service to the people.
There are no doubts that the President of Liberia and those who have become winners of the leadership elections in the House of Representatives and House of Senate such as President Protempore Findley and House Speaker Tyler have got a lot of work to do in building genuine reconciliation and unity in the National Legislature. With the mounting expectations of the people, the Legislature and the Presidency must be cohesive and not frictional. The President needs all the cooperation she can muster up to leave behind legacies that would survive her tenure. The greatest is corporate Liberia, unity, reconciliation, and pursuing the United Nations to remove the names of those Liberians who have demonstrated trust from the UN Sanction list.
As we confidently approach inauguration, it is important that those close to state power should realize that this is Her Excellency’s last term as President and last active participation in national politics. Liberians would need a legacy or legacies to remember this Africa’s and Liberia’s first woman President and the Republic first Nobel Prize Winner by. Madam President, this is a challenge.