... Chuchu (Alex) Jones Managing Editor, The Global Africans, and co-founder of MLB think-tank
Is Nat Barnes fiercely independent and utterly incorruptible? Perhaps not; but he is as good as it gets; and, we believe he’s the missing piece that Liberians and especially Liberia’s opposition need to unseat President George Weah in 2023.
There is neither a logical argument nor a commonsense explanation to support George Weah’s presidency now, or beyond 2023, in the face of his leadership handicap and reckless handling of the Liberian economy. It is glaring that the disunity within the Liberian political opposition could only ensure a thumping victory for President Weah.
Running as an independent candidate, Nat Barnes could help unify an opposition that seemingly can’t agree on anything except inconsequential lawsuits and bickering amongst each other and provide alternative leadership options for Liberians disaffected with Weah’s government and the opposition.
Furthermore, the premature influx of political parties in Liberia, now numbering almost two dozen, each headed in its own direction with little ideological difference or distinction, is no way to defeat a determined, cohesive, and utterly callous CDC ruling party.
Therefore, an independent unifying leader, someone like Barnes, with the requisite organizational and diplomatic experience, is needed in order to unify Liberians at home and abroad and formulate a winning coalition strategy to ensure a 2023 opposition victory.
As an independent candidate, many envision Nat Barnes as the superglue that brings together and holds intact the varying parties running against President Weah in 2023. Or else, Liberia risks President George Weah’s eminent second-term victory and six more years of economic and social decline.
The only reasonable strategy to unify Liberia’s opposition and bring Liberians at home and abroad together to defeat the incompetent government and out-of-control president is to select a neutral, independent candidate with the social and diplomatic skills to bring people together for national change and development. I believe Amb. Milton Nathaniel Barnes is the right man for the task.
Nat is one of Liberia’s most accomplished and respected diplomats and statesmen. He is the only person to have served Liberians both as Liberian Permanent Mission Representative at the UN, and as Ambassador in Washington D.C.; both with outstanding results. And, he was selected both times by a government and political party other than his own thus proving his ability to work across the political spectrum.
More importantly, Nat will be Liberia’s first major independent presidential candidate. This is something Liberians have not experienced but which could prove successful: an independent and nonpartisan leader that would draw upon Liberia’s best and brightest from all political parties and orientations.
Surely, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai (UP) is the leading opposition candidate; and, Alexander B. Cummings (ANC) is a respectable contender. Nonetheless, with so much bad-blood, disagreement, and mistrust between these leading political parties’ leaders and supporters, it will be impossible to defeat Weah considering the ensuing attacks and counterattacks on each other, much less the oncoming political attacks and propaganda from the government.
While other formidable political leaders and parties are emerging and gaining some political headway - Cllr. Taiwan Gongloe of the Liberian People’s Party - for example, there is little to no chance that one party will forgo its ambition and submit to another Liberian political party, even when such convergence is prudent as was the case with the recent attempted CPP alliance. Unfortunately, the very nature of party politics is inherently averse to any such submission.
As an independent candidate, without the baggage of a political party, or the special interest and benefactors for which these parties are established, Nat could easily formulate unity amongst opposition and lead by consensus, inclusive of delegates from all Liberian opposition interests and constituents. In other words, a Win-Win for everybody especially the Liberia masses at home and abroad.
Nat’s extensive background and composed demeanor make him suited for this essential and critical leadership role. His international and local network will ensure his success and an ultimate opposition victory in 2023.
Nat has served as Director General of the Liberia National Social Security Corporation (NASSCORP) and Minister of Finance in the NPP government of President Charles Taylor, even though Nat didn’t support or participate in Taylor’s insurgency.
After a stellar performance at NASSCORP, President Taylor needed someone independent and with international credibility to manage and grow the Liberian post-war economy and Nat became the obvious choice. As Minister of Finance, Liberia’s economy maintained an average growth rate of around 22.5 percent between 1999 and 2002 - remarkable considering Liberia’s economy for the last three years has fallen to -1%, -2%, and 3%, respectively, under George Weah’s Government.
Currently, neither any opposition candidate or our current President, George Weah, possess the fundamental economic experience and hands-on public finance background urgently needed for growth and development in Liberia.
Moreover, the Government’s lack of courage and its inability to address corruption, unemployment, war crimes, and dual citizenship (which could harness the ready economic and social resources of Liberians living in the diaspora) are other key reasons to support the independent candidacy of Amb. Nat Barnes. I believe he is the most likely candidate to tackle and overcome corruption, unemployment, war crimes and dual citizenship.
Liberians abroad are currently contributing almost all of the country’s foreign exchange reserves through its $300 million annual remittances without representation or appreciation from this government.
Furthermore, President Weah’s lack of seriousness to adequately govern Liberia during this pivotal period of unprecedented economic hardship for the overwhelming majority of Liberians (most of whom still live on less than US$2 a day) is a major cause of extreme poverty in Liberia.
Also, the opposition deadlock isn’t about policies and service to the Liberian people but more about the egos and trappings of one political leader’s ego over another for the imperial presidency that has never brought development or prosperity to Liberia.
According to Dr. Nyei, an astute Liberian observer, “the fight within the CPP is not about policies, it is about access to power, and resources. It’s a personality clash motivated by ego, greed, arrogance and desperation. Remember that the CPP is not a homogenous party with infighting; it is a combination that has not first agreed on how to organize together and contest an election, let alone determine the direction of their proposed government.” (FrontPage Africa Ezekiel Allen Nov. 22, 2020).
Equally as alarming, is the silence on the real health, social and economic issues facing our country at this critical time. For example, there is the dead silence of Former Vice President Joseph Boakai, the current leader of the CPP and head of the Unity Party, that has the largest number of members in the Liberian legislative branch.
The Liberty Party, founded by the late Charles W. Brumskine, has virtually disintegrated into a motley crew and is in no position to hold the CDC and George Weah’s failing government accountable.
The Alternative National Congress (ANC), a spinoff of the CDC, under the firm control and grip of Alex Cummings, who desperately wants to be President at almost any cost, has managed to establish some meaningful and unifying force of young professional Liberians who have expertise and economic potential. However, they are largely residing in the diaspora.
Nonetheless, the ANC has also engaged in the low-down-and-dirty personal and political attacks that have not brought about any real debate or dialogue on national development and unity.
Hence, the people of Liberia can no longer trust the ANC because it has demonstrated few solutions and little unity within the current opposition. I believe Nat Barnes’ leadership could instill some organizational discipline and help create a real unified and cohesive Liberian opposition coalition in 2023.
Within less than two years, the four primary Liberian political parties, that should have set the tone and exhibited leadership, have instead disintegrated into hyper-toxic partisanship including irrelevant insults of each other’s leaders; and, now, legal battles that could last well into 2023, thereby contributing to a clean victory for CDC and Weah.
In short, the multi-party-political system may have brought promise and blessings to our neighbors: Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and other developing countries; however, it has only produced nearly 25 political parties in Liberia, which has a population of about 5 million people (and less than 2 million voters) and, much worse, political chaos and hopelessness.
The multi-party system has, in essence, polarized rather than reconciled us. There is now a culture of hate, intolerance, and a total disregard for civility in Liberia, which is far worse than any period of our nation’s recent history. This is troubling for a post-war nation in dire need of peace, reconciliation, reconstruction, and unity.
The good news is that Liberia does have alternatives. We must look at alternative leadership with the credibility and experience should we seek to arrest the downward spiral of our nation-state. Among the well educated, experienced, bold and wise men of Liberian heritage is Milton Nathaniel Barnes.
Barnes is audacious and courageous enough to muster the political will, set the tone from top to bottom, exercise the rule of law, implement existing laws, fight corruption, reconcile the nation, and decentralize our economy and political system. So, for the sake of the nation, Nathaniel Barnes must step up to the occasion to steer the ship of the nation on the right course.
Fellow Liberians, please allow me to highlight a few of Barnes experiences and achievements that qualify him to serve as an independent president of Liberia at this critical time of post-war construction.
In 1998, Nat felt the call to return to his native homeland, Liberia, to serve in the rebuilding of the war-torn nation after the Civil War ended. He began as a Consultant at the Ministry of Finance. Within a year, President Charles Taylor appointed Nat as Director General of the National Social Security Corporation (NASSCORP) where he transformed the corporation into a streamlined and effective public entity. Not surprisingly, Nat was appointed as Minister of Finance, Republic of Liberia in September 1999.
As Minister of Finance, Barnes was able to implement a new national tax code with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Fiscal Affairs Department.
In 2005, Nathaniel Barnes founded the Liberian Destiny Party (LDP), and became Standard Bearer of the party. He ran as its presidential candidate in the 2005 General and Presidential Elections. He placed 12th out of 22 candidates. During the Run-off Elections in which George Weah and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf competed, Nat became the first former candidate to support Mrs. Sirleaf rallying his fellow candidates to do the same given her international stature and experience compared to that of Mr. Weah.
In 2006, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed Nat as Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Barnes served for 2 years in this capacity. In 2008, extremely pleased with his performance at the UN, President Sirleaf appointed Nat as Liberia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of America. As Ambassador to the United States, Nat actively engaged the Liberian Diaspora, creating the Liberian Diaspora Advisory Council to assist in implementing President Sirleaf’s “Lift Liberia” agenda. Ambassador Barnes first articulated the idea that economically, the Diaspora represents Liberia’s Middle Class and, politically, the Diaspora is Liberia’s 16th county.
Finally, I posit that the best option for Nat Barnes’ post-war reconstruction presidency should be as an independent. I do recognize that there are many options. There are diverse gifted personalities, professionals and capabilities within Liberia and the diaspora that represent ideas, goals and issues that must be explored and utilized for the good of the country. Were Nat to contest the presidency as an independent candidate, he would not be pressured by one party or another in any specific way. Parties will not pressure him or restrict his political opinions, views, and appointments. This is one of the major advantages of being an independent candidate and, ultimately, an independent president.
About the Author
Chu-Chu (Alex) Jones is a respected Liberian global finance, IT corporate consultant, and black advocate. He has worked for and consulted for major US and multinational corporations including Citibank, Thor Equities, Bank of New York Mellon, and JP Morgan Chase, to name a few.