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Seeing Things In The Ecstatic Eyes Of Philip Nemene Wesseh (PNW- The GINA-RIP): How Differently Could He Have Advised Liberians In Managing Their Expectations?

By David K. Dahn
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Observably, one of the most divisive period in the national history of our beloved country, Liberia, is the year of election. Clearly, 2023 reflects such period. This is the time the citizens, as their civil duty thrusts upon them, have to elect their national leaders at the level of the president and vice-president at the level of the Executive Branch and senators and representatives at the Legislative Branch.

By October 10, 2023, the National Election Commission (NEC) supervised the conduct of national elections. At the end of the day, the candidates who convincingly marketed their visions to the electorates were elected at the parliamentary level( Senators and Representatives).At the presidential level, an upright victory by any single party was not achieved. As a result, two parties; the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Unity Party(UP), made it to the scheduled run-off election of November 14, 2023.

Although characterized by sporadic reports, electoral violence infiltrated the campaign process at a minimal level. Comparatively, the peaceful nature exhibited by the electorates outweighed the magnitude of violence. As such, Liberians must be commended for their political maturity during the conduct of the highly contested elections.

When canvassing for votes, politicians are persuasive in their utterances. The desire to win their opponents prompts them to think and speak innovatively. For an example, how differently politicians make the same promise to sway a potential voter, calls for charismatic leadership. Unlike previous election years, the 2023 election’s year flourished with politically assumed names or aliases. To bolster this point, examples are drawn from few political parties. The Unity Party’s(UP) ticket of Joseph Boakai and Jeremiah Koung was branded the “Rescue Team”, who wanted to rescue Liberia, in their view, from the siege of blanketed “bad governance”. The Collaborating Political Party’s(CPP) ticket of Alexander Cummings and Charlene Brumskine, was branded ‘The Fixers”, who sought to make firm the economic and political infirmities of the nation. The ticket of the Liberian People’s Party(LPP), with Tiawon Gongloe and Emmanuel Yarkpawolo, was referred to as the “Sweepers”, who thought it prudent to use a broom to symbolically sweep national corruption. Then there was also the Movement for Progressive Change(MPC), which paired Simeon Freeman and James Barclay and the ticket adopted the name “The Redeemers”, who, in their determination, crave to transition the nation from the shackle of regressive governance to an innovative and more progressive style of governance.

Quite reasonably, all the contesting parties had expectations towards victory and post victory governance. Party supporters and sympathizers, too, looked up to the competed parties, with high priority expectations. Whether, on the one hand, it was the governing (CDC) which sought a re-election or on the other, the combined opposition parties which sought to remove the governing CDC, every side had what I call inflated expectations. But here was the least expected puzzle that was unraveled in Liberia. Strangely in contemporary political history, an incumbent(President Weah) who sought a second term bid, conceded defeat even ahead of final declaration of results by the election umpire(NEC). While it is uncontestable to state generically that some governing parties around the African Continent have perpetuated grip on power by historically and overly intruding in electioneering affairs, the action by President Weah signaled a new model of statesmanship which must be acclaimed continentally or even globally. This is not where this submission really intends to go. I will leave this for now and situate the purpose of this discourse.

I’m constrained to imagine what PNW, “The Gina”(RIP) would have said to Liberians in the wake of the Unity Party’s highly contested victory. I wonder would he have said, like I am hearing the echoes in splinter choruses, “Liberians have to manage their expectations?” Now, remember, by the connotation of a nation being rescued from the scourge of “bad governance”, there will be a dawn of renewed expectations saturated with ethical bellows. Make no mistake, there’s going to be nothing standing in the way of Liberians’ blown-up expectations. The ink of the PNW whom I knew, would never have run dry in reminding the incoming party(UP) that Liberians have every reason to beam high with expectations of success. Their immediate political and economic environments remind them to do so. No one would be left off the hook for PNW’s scrutiny if he were to return to re-assess the Liberia he left behind. Should Liberians manage expectations in a society where education and competence got no meaning for six years? Instead, what permeated public space was what Professor Paul Collier (2007, p.111) calls “selection by intrinsic motivation” whereby the dump and corrupt were promoted over the best and brightest minds. Do you expect Liberians to lower expectations after such a redemptive period?

On the strength of assumptions, the ‘frustration barometer’ of PNW will increase astronomically, upon hearing that millions of dollars remain allegedly unaccounted and taxes have been creamed off in advance from companies as we gradually transition to a new government. I wonder, this was what the Liberian folk singer Professor Jones Benedictus Dopoe (RIP), in one of his cuts, once referred to as “Knocking Out”(an inference to overt looting) during the war years. You expect Liberians to manage or lower expectations with glowing poverty imposed on them by a class of privileged few? If the PNW I knew were to return and it became apparent that looted resource bases can be traced, he would never encourage Liberians to manage expectations while the metaphorical “financial vultures” continue to perforate the nation’s purse with insatiable ego. It must be noted that public service demands public accountability. Interestingly, the line of responsibility is clearly lineated through a vertical administrative chain of command. It is settled in reasoning, therefore, that where a superior (manager) fails to coordinate the affairs of the subordinates(managees), the former(superior) is held liable. The typology of this concept points to a Latin root phraseology- “respondeat superior”, which literally means “Let the master answer”. Elliptically, this means, in my view, that the master who failed to provide proper supervision will answer for the action of the subordinate. With high degree of reasonableness, given the distinguished nature of such concept, can anyone argue on the contrary that holding a superior liable for failure to administer the affairs of a subordinate, is a synonym for a “witch hunt” in public affairs?

In a world of possibility, predictability and probability, where the affluent( the wealthy) dominates the sphere of power, our statehood will be in peril if we allow the twin threats of blind eye to accountability for stewardship and selective justice, continue unabated in Liberia. My heart bleeds that other nations’ past has become our future(lack of financial accountability, sporadic water supply, electricity, challenged educational system, etc.). While the allegation of inexplicable looting of public assets by some irresponsible characters is being heard of, if PNW were to come, trust me, he would never encourage Liberians to manage expectations under such circumstances no matter by which political class it’s practiced.

The PNW I knew, would say it differently by placing a demand at the feet of the incoming “governors” that guilt by association has got no place in law and therefore everyone, on the merit of their public stewardship must be made individually to account for their actions. The PNW that I knew, will insist on such matter based on the strength of legality and civility. And this because Liberia, like other modern nations, have since truncated from the “Paleolithic Stone Age” to the age of modernity.

Finally, I thought to invoke what has become a repetitive thesis of Evangelist Hamilton(Butt Naked) Blyee, who says “I longed for a day that I will one day account for my war actions because I have children that have their individual lives to live. I don’t want my war actions yesterday to be attributed to them(children) tomorrow.” In my settled consideration, Evangelist Blyee is cautious of future character clearance for his children. Are others thinking like-mindedly? How many public officials are ready to travel the road with Evangelist Blyee for the sake of their succeeding generations? The PNW I knew, would insist that accountability is the way forward when trusted with responsibility. Don’t loot public office passively or actively. Don’t make you and your children’s future vulnerable. Declare your exiting assets as you walk out of public office to give your children character clearances and to protect your “justly earned assets”.

If this should be the submission of this discourse, when it is realistically authenticated that the desire for public office by “uncouth” individuals lacked both purposive action and ethical emotion, the resultant outcome must be consequenciated. There can be no mid-point to this.

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