The name Winston Tubman in legal and diplomatic circles cannot be underrated; nor can it be de-emphasized in Liberia. In the academic world, he stands tall and highly respected; though there is no record of service in academic institutions. For these, Liberia has been proud that she had given the world an illustrious son who served them.
However, political observers have said much is unknown of this son of Africa’s oldest nation when it comes to the area of democratic governance, democratic character, and political engineering. One may say, Tubman’s performances in diplomacy and his legal knowledge best speak of him as a seasoned democrat and politician. Others are of the conviction that these cannot be accurate measurements to determine political experience and democratic aptitude. Nevertheless, they believe his pronouncements, conduct, and positions during this political season will determine where he stands.
As it appears, the grading of Tubman and other opposition aspirants has begun. Their capacities to make better improvements than the incumbent are being scaled. Therefore, each public pronouncement and leadership styles within their own parties would come under public scrutiny. As the struggle for the leadership of Liberia intensifies, particularly to unseat President Sirleaf, it is expected that candidates would demonstrate responsible democratic postures, skills, and sense of judgment on crucial national issues to claim the admiration and respect of Liberians. This challenge, Winston Tubman and others are now faced with.
The erudite lawyer was one of the respected voices on the Sawyer’s Constitution Drafting Commission along with the famous Liberian diplomat and politician, Ambassador Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Sr. It is therefore no doubt that the constitution is understood by him even though it went through the Kesseley’s revision. Thus, when constitutional interpretations or crisis arises, one would depend on Cllr. Tubman to accurately interpret.
Today, we have a situation on hand regarding the national referendum which demands his professional input. It is highly expected that this great son of Maryland County will present himself outstanding on the matter without the prejudices of ambition. But, the case appears to be different as Liberians are taken aback and their perception of his expertise in constitutional interpretations has been displaced. Cllr. Tubman has recently declared the National Referendum unconstitutional and failing to follow the necessary steps. On his democratic disposition, there flow rivers of criticisms and condemnations against his declared thesis that the referendum aims at assisting the incumbent and therefore authorized his constituents to boycott same.
Political commentators have punched humiliating holes into Tubman’s declaration and position taken on the impending referendum. For the benefit of the reading public, it is important to review and discuss Article 91 of the Liberian Constitution to understand the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the National Referendum. It reads: “The constitution may be amended whenever a proposal by either; (1) Two –thirds of the membership of both Houses, or; (2) A petition submitted to the Legislature, by not fewer than 10,000 citizens which receives the concurrence of two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature, and is ratified by two-thirds of the registered voters, voting in a referendum conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature.”
This Article has suggested that constitutional amendments can be originated by two sources. The citizens can originate or the National Legislature can originate. The steps to be taken are contained in this provision and the timeline clearly stated. In this case, the Legislature originated and there was concurrence of two-thirds of the membership of both Houses. The Elections Commission timeline to conduct the referendum is within the one year period after the action of the Legislature as stated in the constitution.
Moreover, the National Legislature did, before concurrence, go to the extra mile to conduct public hearings which brought together professionals, constitutionalists, civil societies, and religious groups. And so, where does the issue of unconstitutionality and missteps come into play as being postulated by Cllr. Tubman? This, the public want to know. ”For such a caliber of Liberian who is respected nationally and internationally for his experience and knowledge to err in a serious national matter that has the proclivity of taking the democratic process off course, is presumed not only as a deliberate bias, but one to create unnecessary hitches in the democratic process and to set the stage for post election crisis. This is unacceptable,” says an anonymous Marylander.
Further, it widely believed that the Counselor who served to bring peace to Somalia is quite aware that erroneous interpretation and circulation of delicate information upon which peaceful approaches to resolution of crisis rests, often leads to greater crisis. This is the time that his experience in leadership matters is greatly sought in guiding Liberians, especially, his Vice Standard Bearer in pronouncements he make. For Cllr. Tubman to ignore the voters registration statistics which is around 1.7 million voters and giving the nod of acquiescence by silence to the pronouncement of his Vice Standard Bearer that CDC has more than 2million qualified voters is a deliberate ploy to create post elections crisis, says an analyst who also prefers anonymity.
In other words, CDC is claiming that only its membership is the sole eligible voter in the country. If Weah’s uninformed pronouncement is taken as the truth and not debunk, then it goes to say that no other political party should go to the polls as all voters in the country have already given acclamation to the CDC; since they have no registered voters to go to the polls. Tubman must be an elderly statesman to correct this impression and put his man in check if truly he is the President Liberians deserve.
Moreover, it appears unalterable that political parties in Liberia have developed and perpetuated a campaign culture that creates a tense political climate during campaign periods that is indeed anachronistic and eccentric. Instead of marketing their platforms, invectives and crisis prune utterances are prioritized. I think Liberia is old enough to respond to changing times and imbibe democratic values that will help Liberians in the choices they make. I think Counselor Tubman should take the lead to inject into his partisans and Liberians at large the true meaning and functioning of a democratic culture and tradition. By this, he must first discourage himself from falling prey to an archaic system that symbolizes that he is unprepared to promote democracy and respond to the wind of change that is sweeping over the country.
Tubman is a breed of Liberian that would be a successful leader if what some Liberians call a separatist political culture in him is done away with. According to some stalwarts of the NDPL and LINU, this was clearly seen and demonstrated as standard bearer of the NDPL. This, according to an NDPL source, was a costly error the revered diplomat did make and regrets today. With his ascension as standard bearer, an organization named and styled LIBWIN, meaning Liberians for Winston, made their entry into the NDPL and polarized the party thus creating two parallel administrations with LIBWIN being the most revered. That error cost him the presidency in 2005 and might cost him the same in 2011.
The preferential treatments given LIBWIN at the time created agitation, acrimonies, animosities, resentments, lack of campaign coordinating strategies, and an Americo-Liberian divide with the natives on the one hand, and the Americo-Liberians on the other hand. The end result was a divided party, broken zeal’s, and a fourth place in the elections. The same, it is alleged, created lots of problems within the Liberian Union, which splashed waters of discontent and the disengagement of the party.
Sources claim that LIBWIN has found its entry into the CDC with discontentment brewing as it did in the NDPL and LINU. “When would the Counselor take a grand stand to integrate LIBWIN as partisans of a party he joins instead of a powerful parallel administration within an administration,” a former official of the NDPL questions?
There is a need for Tubman to review his strategies, pronouncements, and methods. Liberia’s democracy has reached sophistication and is growing into maturity. This must not be transgressed. The referendum is a democratic exercise and to request CDCians to boycott the process is believed to be undemocratic and demonstrates the law of the jungle and confrontation with the constitution. Paraphrasing the words of Patrick Honneh of Real T.V. , Tubman should fulfill democracy by telling his people to turn out and vote no. This is a democratic option no one can deny. Albert Einstein described democracy as “everyone has the right to express his opinion and everyone else has the right to say no…” I think Ambassador Tubman’s democratic right is to say no at the polls and not to boycott. Boycott should be the last option when rights are oppressed and democracy takes a flight due to brutalization.
Finally, it is important to state that the presumptuous expression that the referendum is not in the best interest of the nation varies from perception to perception. That is democracy. But, the general mood of the nation demands some constitutional reviews and that the amendment of the residency clause contained in Article 52C, as well as the simple majority contained in 83A&B, have their own strong and reasonable arguments that were exhausted and endorsed at public hearings and cannot, in any way, be construed as serving the best interest of the incumbent to the disadvantage of the opposition. These amendments should be looked at not from narrow political interpretations or exigencies; but objectively and patriotically. In my opinion, opposition does not necessarily mean opposing the right thing when it is right; while endorsing the wrong thing when it is wrong. It must reflect the general good and not one self for one’s own ambition. The referendum is a democratic exercise that represents an opportunity for the majority to have a say. They should not be suppressed in any forms.