The Legislature is a complex Branch of Government. This is not because its constitutional role is difficult to comprehend; or that its constitutional limitations impose functional problems. Its complexity is largely psycho-dramatic and stems from the fact that there is always a learning or relearning process for those who come fresh to the Legislature with no experience and those who are incumbents with wealth of experiences but have the tedious task of familiarizing themselves with the mental processes of incomers and their intellectual reactions to crucial legislative and administrative issues.
In the seventy two seated House of Representatives and the thirty seated House of Senate, there is the principle of equality. Irrespective of leadership positions, there are equals amongst equals in both Houses. This principle concretizes independency of each member as far as the constitution is concern. What makes it more complex is that this independency allows each to hold his views religiously; whether such views are in the public good or not. It further allows the trading or swaying of views in exchange for certain interests. This process which is given the prestigious terminology of lobbying can be misused and can overturn previous positions for cash or other benefits.
There are many cases when the mouths of citizens were left wide open in wonder and in amazement at how views and/or positions earlier resented and rejected by legislators become suddenly favorable and anointed by them. This situation which has happened over and over like the Marc Amblah and the Tiawon Gongloe’s scenarios usually confuse citizens and lead them to think that the Legislature is lackadaisical in the performance of its constitutional role as the First Branch of Government and largely self-seeking.
It is expected that the 53rd Legislature would be redemptive. While it is their constitutional privilege to elect once every six year a Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and President Protempore of the Senate, this time around, citizens are more concern those members constitutional independency would be wisely, objectively and discretionally utilized not for selfish ends but for the good of the Republic.
Their concerns have become necessary to avoid leadership crisis and instability in the National Legislature as were the cases in the House of Representatives and the House of Senate of the 52nd Legislature. It is therefore the hope of Liberians that those with leadership skills, experiences, ability to lead and control the floors as well as knowledge and efficiencies in dealing with the Executive would be elected and not on the basis of cash and patronage. Would the Legislators listen and respect these concerns; or would it be business as usual?
New steam is heating up the Liberian Senate. Would it have the potential of reducing the Jewel Howard Taylor’s momentum? In keeping with the unpredictability of elections in the Senate due to many twists and turns as the result of legislators’ vacillating positions and patronages, it is expected that Senator Taylor would become more proactive and engage in persistent consultations if her dream of transforming the Senate into a peoples’ sensitive one would become a reality. Already in the corridors of the Senate, there are pocket discussions and wthyhispers of Executive interference and patronage to make Taylor’s dream a dis-reality.
The countdown to d-day in both House is fast progressing with Taylor and Tyler being most favored but Legislative sources are relentlessly drawing the Executive Mansion into the picture. But their claims are being disputed by presidential sources. According to those legislative sources, the Executive Mansion would be comfortable with Tyler and Findley. They maintain that the President has begun to meddle in the electoral politics of the Houses of Representatives and Senate to ensure the defeat of Toweh and Taylor.
But close associates of Senator Taylor has sharply rejected the claims to be true and end has been expressing the Senator’s faith in the president’s neutrality and believes the President is a woman of integrity and wisdom and would do no such thing to destabilize her (President Sirleaf) ambitious plans geared towards national healing and reconciliation. According to them, she looks at the President as a bastion of hope for all Liberians and the fighter of women empowerment as evident by her Nobel Peace Prize.
The associates of Senator Taylor who, in a surprising act of defense, told this columnist that President Sirleaf’s interest is to leave a legacy that all women would be proud of and not one shrouded with antics to create a defacto one party state and clouded by party prejudices. Executive Mansion sources also confirm that though the President has the political right to support U.P. Senators and Representatives for leadership positions but she prefers to exercise statesmanship and make democracy healthy. It is said that Senator Taylor hopes the President would not prove her wrong by sending the wrong signal that there are certain women she prefers not to excel in leadership positions. Her associates are of the opinion that though the President won on the U.P. Ticket; her interest is to galvanize the unity of Liberians irrespective of party differences. A presidential source has disclosed that President Sirleaf has committed herself to absolute neutrality in the processes and would work effectively with anyone who emerges as leader in both Houses.
Meanwhile, the Bong County Senator maintains a lead and is far ahead of other contestants. Her main rival for the Senate leadership is Gbezongar Findley. Senator Findley has expressed high respects for Senator Taylor and points out that his contest for the President Protempore position would not lead him into negative propaganda against Senator Taylor; but promises a healthy democratic challenge. He indicated that the coming days will determine who has the potential and lobbying ingenuity. The Bassa Senator is confident of gaining the support of more than 18 Senators but added that whether he wins or not, he is a Senator and will work constructively with the winner. For her part, Taylor says it is not about making a name for herself or seeking to be counted in the numbers of those who held the position. It is about service and making a difference. It is about constitutional partnership with the Executive and Judiciary Branches to take Liberia to the next level.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
At least Ricks Toweh is breathing a comfortable air after allegedly succeeding in rallying the pressure of Nimba Elders, and County Officials against Honorable Richard Tingban to give way for him to become Speaker of the House. Honorable Tingban is said to be one of Nimba’s leading intellectuals and known to have the qualities and charisma to defeat the current Speaker. Those close to Nimba politics say Toweh has the financial means and is using that as his weapon to gain the favor of Nimba caucus, elders, and county officials. Some Nimbanians spoken to believe that Toweh lacks the qualities, intellectual abilities, and experience to serve the nation as Speaker. An anonymous former Nimba Legislator alleges that Senator Johnson is the arrowhead behind Rick’s ambition to achieve an unknown personal agenda. This, according to sources, is creating upheaval for Toweh. But this claim has been dismissed by Nimba County strongman/elder Honorable Benedict Batuah as anti-propaganda ploy against Toweh’s desire to provide sound leadership to the House. He believes Toweh has the capability and experience and would make the difference. But who exactly is Honorable Toweh and what knowledge and experience he wishes to bring to the Speakership that the incumbent do not have? What is his vision and platform? We hope to explore these before the D-Day.
The withdrawal of Tingban from the race has also remove a great burden from Speaker Tyler. Honorable Tyler who is believe to harbor disdain for the Press has been giving a bit of relief by Tingban; yet he has not escape from the danger line. To maintain his position, Tyler must become rigorous, open and more persuasive than he has been in his recent meetings with the Toweh’s bloc if that bloc is to accept his offer to them for the deputy speaker position.
Analysts believe that as brilliant as his move was to make that offer, he and his bloc need to be more reconciliatory and apologetic for strong sentiments expressed by some of his bloc members against the new legislators as being inexperienced and lack the knowledge to lead the House. Their presence at a recent meeting with the Toweh’s bloc overcharged the atmosphere and rendered the negotiation futile, according to some insiders.
Currently, both Tyler and Toweh in the T versus T campaign for the third most powerful position in the country stand a fifty percent chance each. Both blocs are experiencing instabilities as a result of the “independency syndrome” with legislators either seeking personal interests or acting in the best interest of the nation. There are crossovers taking place and commitments are experiencing twist and turns. While Speaker Tyler looks at certain colleagues of secretly belonging to the camp of Toweh, his rival believes that some of his own members also cannot be trusted.