‘Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty’

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As things appear, Nigerian national, Austin Ndubusi Nwabudike, is not likely to win the game neither is he likely to receive the coveted prize — Chairmanship of the all important National Elections Commission (NEC) — to which President Weah had nominated him, thanks to the vigilance of the Liberian people. The venerable Liberian journalist and crusader for justice, Albert Porte, of sainted memory noted for the power of his pen, had a favorite quote “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty”. He always sought to remind Liberians that freedom and liberty comes at a price and that price is eternal vigilance.

Here we have the case of an individual, not born nor bred on these shores, seeking to head a critical national integrity institution, not by legitimate means but through lies, chicanery and outright fraud. And truth be told, he nearly succeeded but for the vigilance of patriotic Liberians, only God knows what would have been our fate as a nation. Now President Weah will have to decide his fate. But the fight to maintain the integrity of the institution is by no means over.

Currently, speculations are rife in the public that Floyd Sayor and Josephine Kou Gaye have been cleared and are to be confirmed as Commissioners of the NEC. Should this be the case, one can wager that the legislative elections scheduled for October 2020 as well as the 2023 Presidential and legislative elections will be imperiled if not derailed.

And this will be primarily because of two reasons, the first being the lack of integrity and the second is the lack of competence. Currently, with the exception of Commissioner Davidetta Brown, who has served in that capacity for the last 7 years, there is no other individual on that body with experience in managing elections. Jonathan Weedor, the longest serving and virtually the most capable outgone Commissioner, was booted out.

Sources have told the Daily Observer that his stance taken against Korkoyah and Floyd Sayor allegedly for compromising/corrupting the Voters Registry was one major factor that played in his removal from the Electoral body. Further, according to sources, he was considered hostile to the interests of the CDC and was therefore shown the door. Earlier it had been widely speculated that of the lot only he was likely to retain his position as Commissioner owing to ethnic affinity with Minister of State Nathaniel McGill.

But clearly this was not the case. But it should not be forgotten that the flawed Voters Registry used during the 2017 elections is still in use at the NEC. The compromised Voters Registry nearly succeeded in derailing the elections and placing the country on the path to conflict. Nominee Floyd Sayor was at the center of the ensuing controversy. Even attempts by experts from ECOWAS to sanitize the Voters Registry proved futile as the fraud was pretty widespread. This prompted the parties to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Eventually, the Court ruled against Korkoyah/NEC, ordering a mandatory clean-up of the Registry. But Korkoyah, defied the Court’s mandate and proceeded with the elections. The Supreme Court under the leadership of Justice Korkpor regrettably did nothing, not even citing Korkoyah for contempt. But well before then, Korkoyah’s nationality had come into questions with revelations that he had acquired US citizenship and had even voted in the 2008 US presidential elections.

Again, the Court failed to decide the matter when it had become clear to all and sundry that the President Sirleaf, by deliberate act of commission had failed her fiduciary responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution by relieving Korkoyah being fully aware of that it was a breach of the Constitution of Liberia to have a foreign national oversee the elections, irrespective of the fact the he was born and bred in Liberia.

Now it has come to haunt us. Perhaps the fear of losing their jobs as Supreme Court Justices if they did not follow Presidential diktat may have figured in reasons why Korkoyah was let off the hook and allowed to conduct one of the most controversial elections in Liberian history.

And Nwabudike, perhaps having borne witness to such chicanery, by virtue of his presence here, may have figured that he could take a shot that could land him somewhere in the system, knowing fully that in Africa, proximity and close access to the Imperial presidency could open doors for him. And this is just what he did. But for the vigilance of the Liberian people, Nwabudike, acting in collusion with unprincipled individuals serving in high places, would have by now been toasting champagne and wine to celebrate his 419 achievements.

Whether the national leadership, especially President George Weah, can draw lessons from this remains to be seen. At the time of Quiwonkpa’s abortive invasion in 1985, George Weah was a mere teenager absorbed in other pursuits far removed from politics and may not have had the time nor the urging to digest the meaning of such developments unfolding around him then. And so, the deeper lessons of history may have been lost on him.

And whether he was impacted in any shape or form by those events remain unclear. But he is now President of Liberia and he has the choice to either learn from history or to repeat its mistakes. However, he should bear on mind that there will inevitably be consequences for such failure to learn from history. Presidents Doe and Taylor are prime examples of such leaders who failed to learn from history. Equally so are consequences for those leaders who try to circumvent the course of history in vain attempts to outsmart it.

And former President Sirleaf is a prime example of one such leader. Consider how she has stormed out of interviews on international media in desperate attempts to shy away from probe into her rule. And there will of course be more to come as she will continue to come face to face with such attempts to probe into her tenure as president of Liberia. And who knows what one might find — skeletons in the closet?

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