A Rejoinder: A Vision ‘Killed’ Out of Envious and Evil Spirit and Mere Politics – The Story of PUL Headquarters Project- Part I
My arrival in the Port City of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County on Friday, November 8, 2013 was greeted with calls from Monrovia and comments from either media colleagues and other well-meaning individuals who consider the media-this “noble profession” as “watch dogs” of societies the world-over on an article-When a Gift Becomes a Trap- authored by the President of the Press Union of Liberia, my successor and former Secretary General, Peter Quaqua, regarding the PUL Headquarters Project and US$100,000.00-initial contribution from the Government of Liberia, through President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
At the Fair Ground in Buchanan on that Friday, November 8, 2013 where the 2nd Triennial PUL Congress was being held, a number of colleagues, most especially those who have been following the US100,000.00 ‘rig-ma-row’ created by Mr. Quaqua (upon reading Peter’s leaflets) that continues to attract un-necessary and uninformed public comments, thought I should respond to such ‘mess’ used for the last three elections as a campaign strategy to perpetuate at the helm of the PUL leadership, those who continue to suppress the growth and development of the union. I, too, thought the need to do because Peter Quaqua had always written on this matter only when elections for the union’s leadership were in sight; again, considering the gullibility of our Liberian society, wherein believability is usually not on the basis of research/investigation or comparative analysis, but ‘first-to-say’ or poor judgment, backed by sentiments, my response to Quaqua’s When A Gift Becomes A Trap has become a necessity in order to maintain and protect my credibility and respect, by not threading the route he (Peter) chose.
With the purpose of providing an understanding of the project, the president’s contribution and how these ‘buggers’ have reduced the PUL from a formidable institution to a mere organization under the Peter Quaqua leadership for the past five years, it has become a matter of must for the publication of this piece.
My expectation is that upon reading and digesting this article, those who have lived with the issue of the headquarters’ project and US$100,000.00 only on the surface of the information will have refined intellectual minds and divorce themselves from mere gullibility and sentiments to approach this issue with soberness towards a logical conclusion.
It is in view of the foregoing that I do categorically resist the negative impressions, falsehood and ‘nonsense’always created by the President of the PUL in the eyes of the few who refused to think the way some of us well-meaning individuals think, as published in the Friday, November 8, 2013 edition of the News Newspaper and Monday, November 11, 2013 edition of the Independent Newspaper (without any professional courtesy to me as former President of the Union), as well as the leaflets circulated by him (peter) in the Fair Ground Building as a ‘pathological mischief-making’ and irresponsible of an individual who served as Secretary General with all of my support when I honorably led the institution as President from 2006 to December 2008.
Earnestly, It must be made emphatically clear that the Injunction issued on the construction of the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia by Mr. Quaqua upon ascending to the leadership of the union in December of 2008, with the influence of Mr. Malcolm Joseph, Mr. Kamara A. Kamara (Chairman of Mr. Joseph’s private media NGO-CEMESP), was against the backdrop of ENVY and mere POLITICS, and not because a ‘fake or bogus contract’ was entered into with the Arnold Construction Company-the contractor.
Of the future home for Liberian Journalists
It is no doubt that our problem in Liberia with us is us at all levels of growth and development since ‘self-realization’ as a nation in 1847- the envious spirit/’crab mentality’ embedded in our minds and attitudes toward each other continue to keep us (as a nation) down. This is a situation Quaqua and his likes, including his godfather, Mr. Malcolm Joseph continuously created and pursued from the onset of my administration as President of the PUL, following the resignation of Mrs. Elizabeth Hoff, who had been appointed by the President of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as Deputy Information Minister for Technical Services. The guys had felt that since it couldn’t be them to build the PUL Headquarters, why should it be “a George Barpeen” they had always perceived a ‘Taylor man at one point and an Ellen man at another’- and so, they did not want such a name reflected in the marble stone that would have been placed at the entrance of the new PUL Headquarters on 14the Street and Coleman Avenue in the Monrovia suburb of Sinkor upon completion in three months.
A second factor was the mere politics which characterized the initial US$100,000.00 contributed by President Sirleaf on behalf of the Government of Liberia.
Mr. Quaqua-then Secretary General in my leadership, under the Influence of former Vice President Malcolm Joseph, current Presidential candidate Kamara A. Kamara and a few others, chose to undermine the tremendous progress towards the construction of the official and future home of the PUL with the modernity of life , only because they claimed the US$100,000.00 was a “blood money” given to the President of Liberia by Mr. Blaise Compoare, President of Bourkina Faso, whose brother, Peter, Malcolm, Kamara et al claimed, killed journalist Nobel Zongo. They also had me under intense public pressure to reject/return the US$100,000.00, but I, again, vehemently resisted on grounds that it was not at Madam President’s own volition that the money was contributed, but a response to a request by me during a meeting the President had with the PU:L Leadership and media executives.
Moreover, Peter, Malcolm, Kamara et al did not favor the reflection of the name ‘President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’ as a major contributor to our headquarters’ project on the same marble stone (of the building when completed) for their own political reasons (because they were organizers, officials and members of the Friends of Brumskine) at the time (this is something other well-meaning journalists in the PUL and others can confirm).
Amid these trials and tribulations perpetrated by Peter Quaqua and his likes, beginning from September 30, 2008 when former Deputy Information Minister CleteusSieh announced the initial US$100, 000.00-contribution of the government, through the President, I and others in the administration thought to persevere and never despair against the adversaries, owing to the fact that the construction of that multi-purpose building for the union was a landmark project in the interest of the general membership.
Even though Peter Quaqua-then Secretary General in my leadership, had on September 30, 2008 during the union’s anniversary celebration at the University of Liberia, condemned the contribution as “an evil attempt by the President to buy the media” as published in the Liberian Journal Newspaper then managed by Journalist George Watkins (from whom Peter solicited the interview after I had deferred an interview while escorting the Late Stanton Peabody into my vehicle).
Even though my Secretary General was under pressure from Mr. Joseph and others, he still participated in discussions/meetings of the Executive Committee of the PUL and with the five companies that submitted entries following an announcement published in at least three of the local dailies in Monrovia for the contract, but chose to pretend to Malcolm and others that he was ‘never’ with us as an administration.
He and the late Financial Secretary, Joshua S. Kpanneh attended the first meeting held in the office of the Vice President of the PUL with a three-man delegation from the Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC, along with members of the Executive Committee, except Mr. Wellington Geevon Smith (former Star Radio News Editor and former Chairman of the Press Club under my administration) who had excused himself because of his basic schedule at Star Radio. Peter Quaqua was present in that meeting “I swear to God,” when we (Executive Committee) were advised to first publish an Expression of interest (EOI) in at least three local dailies, following which companies submitting such documents would be invited for discussions on their submissions-which we did with the knowledge and presence of Secretary General Peter Quaqua in the conference room of the rented headquarters of the PUL on Clay Street in Central Monrovia. The Managing Editor of the Inquirer Newspaper, Mr. Phillip Wesseh had been invited to attend and observe our meeting with the companies, but said to us that he was on his way to the Roberts International Airport to receive his daughter.
The three-man PPCC delegation, including my former Vice President, Mr. Nathan Bangue, had initially made it clear to the PUL Executive Committee that the Commission’s activities did not cover private institutions like the PUL, but because of the interest of former Vice President Bangue, (now Director of Communications at the PPCC), they chose (in their private capacity) to advise us the way they did in consonance with due diligence (please seek verifications from Mr. Bengue and all those mentioned in this article)-something to which we subsequently heeded, and later acknowledged and praised by President Sirleaf during a meeting with my leadership at the Foreign Ministry on Capitol Hill in mid-November of 2008 in the presence of ‘the same’ Peter Quaqua and twenty-five other media executives, including Kenneth Yarkpawolo Best and former Information Minister Laurence K Bropleh, former Presidents Elizabeth A. Hoff and James Kiazolu; and former Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus WlehBadio, among others (following an invitation to receive the US$100,000.00 deposit slip).Those named in the foregoing paragraph and other media executives at our meeting with Madam President would surely attest to the fact that Mr. Quaqua erratically refused to take an official photograph with the President of Liberia in her conference room as we gathered around her at her invitation, and that she had to bring him to book by calling him over to join the photo-taking (perhaps you could make reference to Minister Hoff, Dr. Bropleh, Mr.Badio, Mr. Best, as well as Atty. Phillip N. Wesseh ( one of those fully aware of the entire activities surrounding the MONEY in question, but has refused to speak to the facts for reasons he knows better), among others.
Because the current PUL President lacked the ability and capacity to withstand the un-necessary pressure from the anti-Hundred Thousand Dollar campaigners led by Malcolm Joseph, Kamara A. Kamra et al, he finally broke down to their whims and caprices without understanding their intents ( as already mentioned above), even though he had already taken the old building plan to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, through former Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus WlehBadio at the Executive Mansion (Foreign Ministry) upon her request, while I was in Beijing, China (a decision about which he did not inform me, even though I was in constant contact with him by email and telephone from China) for transformation (as already seen in this article) by the Ministry of Public Works into a modern structure as desired by the PUL Leadership and her (the President), in collaboration with the hired PUL Consultant.
Mr. Quaqua, misguided by the anti-Hundred Thousand Dollar Campaigners, chose to continuously shy away from the progress of the headquarters project, including the drafting, review and signing of the final contractual agreement between the Union and Arnold Construction Company with the full involvement of the Catholic Justice and Peace or JPC then headed by Cllr. Augustine Toe- our legal representative (after several attempts for two days by me and the late Joshua S. Kpanneh to have him over at the union’s Clay Street headquarters for the signing ceremony which I officially performed as PRESIDENT and witnessed by the JPC in the presence of the Executive Committee and other members of the union). In consonance with a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU, there was no other legal representation of the PUL, except the JPC-and until now, this is a fact of which we all (PUL members) are aware, just to disclaim Quaqua’s falsehoodas mentioned in his article.
Unfortunately, the young man decided to engage in mischief-making again by giving the impressions that the money for the project was transferred to the accounts of the Arnold Construction Company and the Consultant at the International Bank or IB, through fraudulent means-a sentiment always created by him, Malcolm Joseph and others during each election year (as was done in Buchanan on November 8 and 9, 2013) to attract votes from members of the Union.
As the result of the negative sentiments against the US$100,000.00-contribution of the government, through President Sirleaf, as well as my achievement and credit for the project, Mr. Peter Quaqua chose to be uncooperative and adamant, regarding the signatories to the ‘PUL Building Project Account’ opened by the President of Liberia at the IB- and because we (the Executive Committee, except Mr. Wellington Geevon Smith of the Press Club) decided not to allow him hold hostage the progress of the project, an official letter signed by majority members of the committee recommended the President of the PUL (me), Financial Secretary (the late Joshua S. Kpanneh) and the Chairman (Mr. Alphornso G. Toweh) of the Special Project Committee named by all five officials of the union as signatories to such special accounts, in confirmative with the old constitution of the union, following which an official letter was written to the bank for the transfer of the money to the accounts of the company and consultant, subsequently leading to the commencement of the construction of the new PUL headquarters on 14th Street and Coleman Avenue in Sinkor.
As a mark of the principles for which I stood and continue to stand, all documents regarding the project and its implementation, including the publications on the Expression of Interest, were submitted to the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, through the then Director General of the Cabinet, Mrs. MadinaWesseh. Such documents and the state of the union as I left it, were all given to the new Peter Quaqua Administration-something his (Quaqua) current Assistant Secretary has been ignorantly and publicly claiming to be a ‘dossier’ gathered from somewhere else (an unfortunate situation for someone who wants to be Secretary General of the PUL).
I must be very clear here that the cost of the entire two-storey PUL Headquarters Building plus a ground floor housing the various offices, a theatre, café, as well as bar and restaurant, among others, was put at US$750,000.00 to be done in stages…, and the government, through Madam President had decided to underwrite the cost of the ground floor at the cost of US$250,000.00-an initial amount of US$100,000.00 of which was contributed after an appeal by me in May of 2008 during a meeting of media executives, including the leadership of the union with President Sirleaf at the Foreign Ministry.
Having travelled to a number of countries around the world, including the United States, China, South Korea and even next door Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, and visited the headquarters of umbrella media organizations constructed by the governments of those nations, I thought to engage the Government of Liberia, through President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, to help the Liberian media umbrella organization-the PUL- a request that was granted. It was not a gift as erroneously claimed by Peter Quaqua in his article/leaflets published in the News Newspaper and Independent Newspaper just before the November 8-9, 2013 Congress/election in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. I don’t even need to explain what a gift is-we actually appealed/begged for it.
Very sadly, Quaqua and friends may have achieved their selfish objectives to the disadvantage/detriment of the general membership of the Press Union, and continued to create mischievious impressions that a US$100,000.00 was ‘stolen or eaten’, thus portraying a very negative image of the media/union in the eyes of a very gullible Liberian public.
Regrettably and with evil intention, since five years ago when Peter Quaqua chose an injunction over progress on the ongoing construction of the building upon being inducted as President of the union in December 2008, no media executive, publisher or ‘media elder’ has neither had the ‘nerves’ or the least thought of ascertaining the status of the case at the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice from Mr. Quaqua nor publicly commenting on this matter except for former PUL President James Kiazolu and W. Omecee Johnson.
With little or no knowledge, but Quaqua’s inflated impressions provided them, especially during electoral period, a few unprogressive and undesirable individuals under the cover of journalism misled by Peter, Malcolm Joseph and ‘disciples’ continue to thrive on the path of mischief, deceit and misrepresentation before a gullible society that lacks the ability to critically think, investigate and analyze, but chooses to be “experts” on radio talk shows and in pages of newspapers.
More than the US$100,000.00, Quaqua, Malcolm and ‘disciples’ continue to escape the four thousand (eight-inch) blocks, three dump-truck loads of sand, three dump-truck loads of crush rocks and one hundred bags of cement the George Barpeen Administration produced and left behind for the PUL headquarters construction project, without telling the general membership and the public. Peter Quaqua used the cement and some of the blocks, sand and crush rocks to build his house. No Media executive/publisher or journalist cares to ask Peter why he used the cement, blocks, crush rocks and sand intended for the construction project to build his personal house- no, no, they care for damn.
They rejected any idea of asking the Peter Quaqua Administration to account for USD$4,500.00 (four thousand five hundred United States Dollars) to include a Human Rights and Governance Reporting Project Fund in the tone of some US$3,200.00 (three thousand, two hundred dollars) left in thePUL Welfare Accounts of the union at the LBDI (up to December 2008),as well as the sum of US$5,663.00 (five thousand, six hundred and sixty three united states dollars) from the National Endowment for Democracy or NED, and L$24,835 (twenty four thousand, eight hundred and thirty five dollars) from membership fund- “to hell with all these”, but the US$100, 000.00 for the headquarters project they failed to follow up with the International Bank, Arnold Construction, as well as other institutions and individuals before ‘jumping into conclusion’- that’s how limited most of us are in the journalism profession in Liberia, and I say this without any regret or whatsoever ( and I’m prepared for any engagement from wherever on this matter).
When the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf warned her cabinet ministers, during their commissioning ceremony a few months back at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, to be careful with “hustlers with poisonous pens”, the interpretation was very simple – the corrupt nature of the media nowadays not only among individual journalists, but at the level of the current PUL Leadership (and check this up with some officials of the Quaqua Administration and others) has culminated into intimidation, harassment and blackmailing of public officials, as well as ‘well-to-do’ private individuals and institutions in our Liberian society- and this is the reality.
The whole idea about my vision for a future home for the Press Union of Liberia was against the backdrop of the Union’s sustainability and growth after the NED shall have halted its funding-something it subsequently did a few years after I chose not to re-contest the PUL Presidency for a second term, believing that with such an achievement made toward a future home would have continued. Unfortunately and regrettably, that vision for a future home for Liberian journalists as it is neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and a few other West African Countries, got killed by young men with envious and evil and minds and spirit, as well as the politics they played against the government’s US$100, 000.00 initial contribution.
All-in-all, God is just great-truth crushed to the ground shall always rise. Peter Quaqua, Malcolm Joseph and their likes thought they would have gotten away with this time, but as God would have it, Buchanan was a different ‘ball game’ as majority members of the PUL, most especially the brothers and sisters who once believed their falsehood on the money and headquarters project, took them head-on in disgrace- Malcolm and others finally got to understand in Buchanan that members of the PUL were well knowledgeable about their tricks, dirty deeds and attempts to hijack the Union’s Leadership as usual in their individual interests instead of the general membership. Contact: 0886552504
By George KermueBarpeen, Jr., Former President/Press Union of Liberia