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Lookin Inside from Outside

The Debate on Robert Sirleaf’s Chairmanship

In consonance with the mandate given her by the Constitution of Liberia, President Sirleaf has been appointing individuals to a number of positions of trust in her second-term administration. Notably among those she has already preferred is Mr. Robert Sirleaf, her son. Mr. Sirleaf is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia, NOCAL.

His appointment as NOCAL Board Chair has been at the center of debates in certain quarters, in Monrovia and its environs, including radio and television talk shows and phone-in programs.

Why the President of Liberia should appoints her son as Chairman of the Board of NOCAL on a ‘pro-bono’ basis is the issue at stake from the perspective of the anti-Robert Sirleaf advocates, while others continue to wonder as to why shouldn’t Mr. Sirleaf serve?

In view of the above, I think we have begun threading a dangerous path in our democracy relative to the freedom (of speech) that we so enjoy dearly. It is clear to all of us that the Constitution of Liberia gives the President the power to appoint, suspend and dismiss, and that those appointed serve at her will and pleasure-are we reading this organic law? Until this provision is changed or modified, we have no case to bad-mouth the President or Mr. Sirleaf.

Moreover, I am of the strongest conviction that Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf did not send Robert to school only to be her son-of course NO. Disregarding the issue of being a son of the President, as an educated and qualified Liberian, doesn’t he deserve the right to employment in Liberia?

In my mind, and sincerely too, with his education, nationality and experience, Robert’s appointment by President Sirleaf was neither an error nor nepotism as is being misconstrued and misinterpreted. I understand the argument or debate or whatever you may call as mere politics and mischief.

Such argument could hold had Mr. Robert Sirleaf not being educated, qualify and experienced-that could fall prey to the insulation that the President is nepotistic. But with the brother’s level of education, backed by the President’s Constitutional power, the issue abide is actually baseless with no aorta of reasoning.

Considering our aged-old behavioral pattern in Liberia as far as politics is concerned, many of our compatriots are always at the center of criticisms and non-issues only because it is not them. The fact that they do not have the opportunities, they exhibit socio-political behaviors that equate to perfection. But just try them; they would become even worse than those about whom they publicly talk recklessly.

If one did an investigation on the issue of relationship in institutions, organizations (local NGOs), companies, etc., etc, in Liberia, he or she would realize that individuals in positions of trust are either spouses (girl friends or boyfriends), sisters, brothers, sons, daughters or even nephews, nieces, cousins, aunts and uncles. And the irony is that these so-called Executive Directors, Managers or just how you refer to them, place their relatives in these positions without the requisite qualification, experience and education-some are not even high school graduates for that matter. Yet still they call themselves civil society institutions and private companies.

So what is the problem with the President appointing an educated, well qualified and experienced son to serve national interest at an institution on a ‘pro bono’ basis? Why didn’t we make all of the noise upon Robert’s appointment as Senior Advisor to the President? Are the alarms being raised now only because it is the name Oil or a National Oil Company?

My God, the President would have had severe psychological pains had she even attempted naming Mr. Robert Sirleaf as PRESIDENT of NOCAL-wow, the airwaves, newspaper pages and hatire centers would have been saturated with all of anti-democracy adjectives and comments.

But again, we must all understand our own Constitutional implications in our national decision-making process. Our concern must be whether Mr. Sirleaf will ensure the interest of the nation in keeping with his terms of reference/mandate, working with the management of the National Oil Company of Liberia.

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