By Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed, PhD
There are several individuals in the government of President Weah that by now should be dismissed. One of such person is Eugene Nagbe.Eugene Nagbe as Minister of Information has not ably represented President Weah and the government. He has failed to forcefully articulate government’s position on many issues especially the State of Emergency announced by President Weah. His utterances in many instances have been deficient and contrary to the rule of law. For example, when nine major donor Partners including the United States wrote President Weah on the misuse of donors’ funds, Eugene Nagbe as an official spokesman of government said that such practice was common and in fact referred to it as a “Dig-hole-cover hole. measure” Such an elementary response from a minister of information on behalf of a government that he should convincingly and persuasively defend was disheartening. Eugene Nagbe is now on record to arrest, jail and prosecute anyone who speaks and writes “crazy things.” Publishers and radio stations may equally come under his wrath should there be a violation. The purpose of this article is to argue that Eugene Nagbe is not an asset but a liability for George Weah and his government.
According to an online dictionary, liability “is a person or thing whose presence or behavior is likely to cause embarrassment.” Eugene Nagbe is certainly an embarrassment to President Weah. The recent utterance by Eugene Nagbe to intimidate the media and silence critical minds clearly reminds of us “Decree 88 A.” Decree 88A was a suppressive, repressive and draconian law during the reign of Samuel Doe where citizens were terrorized, threatened and imprisoned. We wonder whether this information minister is not aware that Liberia is a constitutional democracy where freedom of expression is guaranteed? If Minister Nagbe is aware of this constitutional provision yet willfully ignores such provision simply to suit his own feelings and desires, what does that say about this Minister? Is Eugene Nagbe actually working in the interest of the government or simply creating a scenario where the government he speaks for, where he earns his living as a spokesman to face national international condemnations? According to Daily Observer March 20, 2020 publication under the caption, “No More Free Talk” Minister Nagbe stated, “No more free talk- and I dare that individual to come back on the radio and television to give misinformation. If you are crazy, carry your nonsense elsewhere. If he says such a thing, we will grab him, put him in jail and prosecute him under the law. It is just dangerous to make a statement just because you can talk in a silly manner; and, people listen to you means you should continue talking nonsense? We will grab you and punish you in keeping with the law. Today the government has decided to go after anyone who deliberately misinforms the public, no matter whatever branch of government you are in. Nobody is above the law. So talking foolishly is not free any more. There will be a consequence of a foolish statement.”
In the above statement, Eugene Nagbe was uncivil. His choice of words like, “crazy” “craziness” “nonsense” “foolishness” which appeared interchangeably in his remarks did not show civility. Because of such effrontery, we deliberately refused to refer to him in this article as an Honorable Minister. In our opinion, honor belongs to people who are reformed, defined and refined in thoughts and actions. A minister who speaks to his fellow citizens in the presence of national and international outlets with indecent words and vituperations cannot be called an Honorable Minister. An Information Minister should speak with a diplomatic tone with persuasive presentation of positions and not diatribes. The Minister made several references to prosecute people according to law. We ask, Mr. Minister, do you really know the law?Do you really respect the rule of law? Should Eugene Nagbe’s draconian position and proposal stand, will the Minister of information represent the Liberian government in a Court of Competent Jurisdiction? Eugene Nagbe also mentioned that should anyone violate his pronouncement, that person will be arrested without regard to any branch of government. We ask, Mr. Minister, are you dissolving the Liberian Constitution in which separation of powers among the three Branches of government is enshrined? For example, what legal power does a minister of information have to order the arrest of a sitting Representative or Senator? In our opinion, should Eugene Nagbe unconstitutional pronouncements stand and there is a violation, it is the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General of Liberia and his staff that will represent the government. Were the Attorney General and team consulted before making these reckless and blanket statements? Knowing Musa Dean, Minister of Justice and Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Minister for Litigation as men of integrity, in our opinion, cannot submit to blatant violation of the Liberian Constitution.
Certainly, Cllr Cephus, the Solicitor General may allow himself because based on his recent utterances, he seems to like controversial issues. Be as it may, in our opinion, anything that may have legal connotation must meet the approbation of the Attorney General and his team. Anything on the contrary, is intended to disrespect, undermine their work and shows the weakness of the government.
Eugene’s illegal threat against the media
Not only was Eugene Nagbe drastic against individual freedom of speech but also the media. To the media, Minister Nagbe stated, “Anyone who grants his or her platform to a crazy person to talk nonsense during this critical time, the person will be equally charged like that crazy person. So for small-minded people who preach politics in the midst of calamity, come and talk nonsense. And to you, the media, don’t encourage crazy people to talk on your radio. Let them carry their craziness different place.” Here again, the presentation of the Minister in question appears very poor, dull and clumsy. Should citizens not question their government and express dissatisfaction on how the government is conducting itself in light of this pandemic and other irregularities?
The communication arm of the government which Eugene heads is lazy and weak. As Minister of Information and a Kru by tribe, Eugene Nagbe, we extrapolate is one of the insiders of President Weah’s government. Eugene Nagbe like all other Cabinet ministers sits on the Cabinet Table where decisions are made. We expect Eugene Nagbe to be very informed and to correctly counsel the President. As minister of information, Eugene Nagbe ought to know not just what is happening at the national level but also at the international level. Case in point, the World Health Organization declared Europe as an “epicenter” of the Corona Virus. By this declaration, European countries closed their borders and serious governments of the world prevented their citizens from travelling. We wonder what did Eugene Nagbe tell the President when those government officials who are descent Liberian citizens, fathers, uncles, nephews and cousins were sent in harm’s way in the name of attending a climate change conference? What is the benefit or will be the benefit of a climate change conference when inhabitants of the world are in danger?
In the midst of this global pandemic what has Liberia gained by attending the climate change conference in question? The lives of Liberians are at risk because of poor decision made to send our citizens out of the country. Here, our lawmakers from both houses must put aside partisan and regional politics and conduct a hearing on who, what and how we got into this mess.
To Eugene, we maintain: in a democratic society, no one can intimidate the media.Media institutions in Liberia are suffering thus the recent petition to our partners about violence perpetrated against journalists. In the past, some media houses were attacked and burned. Some journalists in the midst of doing their duty met their untimely death and survivors stood firm in the practice of their profession. Even in this very government of President Weah, journalists are equally going through tough times in the practice of their profession. Some journalists have died, some beaten and some media houses have been ransacked and closed. Journalists always conduct themselves within the confines of the law. Eugene Nagbe, make no mistake that by your unconstitutional assertions, you will intimidate, deter and silence the media. Should the government use state security unconstitutionally against the media and citizens alike, we will be forced to call for targeted sanctions and as minister of information and proponent, Eugene Nagbe will be on that list.
In this article, we have demonstrated and made the case that Eugene Nagbe performances as a minister of information has been dismal, deficient and equally not in the interest of the government. A government’s spokesman must speak with persuasive and convincinglogic and the rule of law as a path. Minister Nagbe’s threat to arrest anyone from any of the three Branches, limiting press freedom and freedom of expression undermine Article 15 A&B of the Liberian constitution. If the Attorney General of Liberia was consulted, we believe such legal blunder would not have been made.We say to Eugene and the likes of Eugene, do not mess with our constitution! Eugene Nagbe’s unorthodoxutterances without regard to the Constitution have made us to think, believe and conclude that he is not an asset but a complete liability to the Government of President Weah.
About the author: Kadiker Rex Dahn holds a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Oklahoma.Respectively, he served as a Deputy Minister of Education and Deputy Director General, National Commission on Higher Education. He is an author of the Book, Learning from the Lives of Exiled Liberians: An Oral History from 1979-2006. He is a member of the North America Scholar Consortium, membership with the Highest Honor. Contact: [email protected]