Why All the Fuss over President Sirleaf’s Boys? Are Children and Family Members of Presidents Not Citizens

Mr. Ron Anders (1976), a little known ideologist, says “at most, the seat of the presidency is a hot bed and daily encounters provocative biases. According to one of his papers titled “Inside the Presidency: causes of emotional breakdowns and changed attitudes,” Anders says the focus of the nation is on the presidency. In his words, it becomes the throne of the most perfect; where there is expected to be no flaws or infallibilities.” He says further “when one assumes the presidency, the assumption and expectation of others are that extended family members and children are to be directly under the financial patronage of the President’s pay check and should not be active participants in the running of the state.” He concludes that to include them by appointments in government would be nepotistic-a thought that is most outrageous and oppressive to one’s own family’s fundamental and constitutional rights.

This was the case of Americans many years ago until, the 1960s, when it was made irrelevant in the governing processes of the United States of America during the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The word nepotism, which was used against the Sirleaf’s administration by Dr. Bhofol Chambers  during the CDC hosting of the body of the late Tandanpolie, according to FrontPage Africa, has been a political propaganda which caused the down fall of many administrations in third world countries; but appropriately addressed by President John Kennedy of the USA when he appointed his brother Robert Kennedy, an erudite lawyer of distinguished professional career, performance and experience as Attorney General of the United States of America. He came under sharp criticism and accused of nepotism. That position, was and still is in the minds of Americans, a strategic position and one of power and authority. But he defended his appointment to the admiration of Americans and got the confirmation of the United States Senate.

In the opinion of President JohnFitzerald Kennedy, he was not appointing the Attorney General of the United States of America as his brother; but rather as a qualified citizen of the United States of America whose constitutional right it was to work and enjoy all fundamental freedoms and privileges under the constitution of the United States. And indeed, Robert performed satisfactorily and won the hearts of Americans. He would have become President of the United States of America but was assassinated.

In the 1960s, William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman was secretly accused of being nepotistic when he appointed and commissioned Alex Glenn Tubman as General in the LNG and his son Shad Tubman as Director General of the Cabinet. Besides being a Harvard drop out as detractors claimed, Shad was a young man of great capabilities and passion for unity, development and national renewal. His militancy and outspokenness were known to all. His Father withdrew him from the International Labor Organization (ILO) which he headed at the time to direct the activities the cabinet. Tubman later relieved him with dignity to enter the Liberian Senate.

William Richard Tolbert Jr. was openly criticized as being nepotistic by political opponents. His children were educated as well as their spouses. He believed they had the rights as other citizens to contribute their hard earned knowledge to the development of the state under the constitution of the Republic and he did not hesitate to appoint them. Moreover, his government came under severe political attacks for promoting a sectional and pro-Americo-Liberian hegemony in the country. In his quest to reform government, he abolished a Tubman’s public relations program classified by anti-Tubman’s elements as a notorious extension of oppressive security networks which amalgamated and assimilated most indigenes. Despite that action and other important reforms, Tolbert was at scaring disadvantage against propagandists and detractors. His wholesome functioning society policy was mirthfully named: “William, Frank and Steve, meaning a three brothers’ Government.

Doe was described as a tribalist. He had named Thomas Henson as Central Bank Governor, Alvin Jones as Minister of Finance, Shad Kaydea as Managing Director of FDA, Edwin Taye as Immigration Commissioner and many more of his tribal men in top positions. Interestingly, none of his children were qualified in age and education to hold positions. He therefore did not appoint them. Much as those appointed were qualified and performed, they were considered his tribal men and therefore by implications should be disqualified.

The above suggests, as Dr. Chambers recently insinuated, that presidents’ children, family, and kinsmen are not to benefit under article 18 of the constitution because of the existence of the word nepotism. This mentality, it appears, has become a culture and political value system of some Liberians that no President has the right to desecrate. Representative Chambers vows that President Johnson would not end her tenure if a FrontPage Africa’s April 10 article is anything to go by. This oppressive culture and thinking must change, says a highly placed social critic who does not wish to be unmasked. He maintains that it is no fault of children if their fathers or mothers excelled in life and become presidents of nations. As long as they are citizens and are qualified, they deserve employment as other citizens, he emphasized.

A George Barpeen’s, commentary on the appointments of Robert Sirleaf and Charles Sirleaf as Board Chairman of NOCAL  and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank respectively by President Sirleaf and subsequent public outcry makes clear that President Sirleaf has committed no constitutional breach because Robert and Charles possessed the professional and academic qualifications as well as integrity. Bapeen’s defense and this article do not seek to attract special favors or attention from President Sirleaf and her kids; but seek to present another side of the debate. In a conversation with this columnist, he questions: Why did President Sirleaf educate her children? Does becoming President disrobe her children of Liberian citizenship and their constitutional rights? What mother or Father would educate their children and deprived them of utilizing their education for the betterment of themselves and society? I do agree with Bapeen, former President of the Press Union of Liberia. Perhap, and I sincerely doubts that the Pleebo-Sodoken District Representative  might suppress his children if given the Presidency. If he does, he would be held in violation of their constitutional rights.

Some young men around the Tusafield in Gardinersville were debating the Chambers’ accusation and argued that both Robert and Charles Sirleaf are among the generation of leaders Liberians are advocating for in their pursuit of generational change. They claimed that Robert and Charles are soundly educated, experienced and are making impacts in society like John Davis of LBDI, Amara Konneh of Finance Ministry, Kofi Woods of Public Works, Augustus Ngafuan of Foreign Affairs, Beyan Kesseley of Maritime, T. Nelson Williams of LPRC and many more young men and women. These young Liberians and those unnamed are also placed in strategic positions. But unfortunately, they claimed that Dr. Chambers have no objection to them enjoying their constitutional franchise to be appointed in strategic positions. Should it then matter that Robert and Charles are sons of the President of Liberia? They wondered aloud.

Cross-section of citizens interviewed believed Dr. Chambers’ energies are being misdirected as well as priorities misplaced. Some of them believe representation is not about spending 98% of an electoral term castigating the President; 1% lobbying colleagues unsuccessfully; and 1% influencing developments unsuccessfully for constituents’ development and progress. Others reasoned that representation is not about popularity stunts and seeking every opportunity to gain political capital even at the most mournful period of CDC, family members and friends of the late Representative Tandanpolie.

Representation, they suggest, should be constructively engaging government and assisting in skillfully finding solutions to development obstacles as well as using the clout of the position to bring in investors for economic boost and creation of job opportunities. They think it is also being effective in oversight responsibilities and creating a cooperative atmosphere in getting things done. All of these, according to them are lacking in Dr. Chambers. Those most critical described the Pleebo-Sodoken District Representative as vindictive, dictatorial, inconsistent and vacillating in his political sojourn. They convictionally seem to conclude that George Weah might be the next Chambers ’victim if his (Chambers) impositions are rejected as did President Sirleaf for whom he would virtually attack anyone at the time. But Chambers has his own believers who claim his every utterance is in place. “I believe Dr. Chambers is the man Liberia needs now”, says a CDC partisan. But are Representatives social critics?

Political analysts and pundits say there are truly fallibilities in societies and governing processes all over the world. But a leader should not be a de-motivator; or one whose interests is to identify only weaknesses, capitalize on them, incite the populace, and create crisis without a scintilla of solution as does Honorable Chambers. They believe the focus of every good leader is to find a way forward when there is an impasse and to create the necessary atmosphere to achieve it.

A prominent Chief of Pleebo-Sodoken District says “Dr. Chambers needs to re-visit his strategies, propaganda profiles, and hate wars. Above all, he also needs to understand the tenets of democracy and stop keeping speech from those who disagree with him. He concludes that children of presidents should be mentors and good examples. Therefore, they should be given opportunities to help provide leadership in the nation and to play their constitutional roles as citizens.” An unknown sage once said  “it is an evil eye that never sees good because they are attracted only to evil; while it is an evil mind that interprets good as evil because that mind is attracted only to evil. In this case, deliverance is the only option.

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