As a young, physically attractive and energetic Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who gained national and international recognition in the 1970s and 1980s for agitating against past Presidents, at times leading protests, she did not have a clue about what being a president entailed— not until she took over the mantle of authority in 2006 and again in 2012.
But Sirleaf recently confessed that being a President is indeed a difficult job.
Now an older, mature, two term President, Madam Sirleaf, after eleven years in office, confessed last Tuesday at a town hall meeting in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County that “It is difficult to be president especially when you get insulted and yet remain under moral obligation to ignore it.”
President Sirleaf made the revelation in her appreciation statement to Sinje citizens for being peaceful and cooperative over the past 11years.
However, the President’s confession will garner intense argument in the public domain as widespread perceptions persist, especially among her critics, that she was successful in calling out human rights and economic abuses against past leaders and their administrations, with some losing their lives, while one, like Charles Taylor, is languishing behind bars for possibly the rest of his life.
While her critics may harbor this perception, supporters of the President argue that her advocacies in the 1970s, 80s and 90s were stances against injustice, lack of political inclusion and bad governance.
President Sirleaf finally gained the presidency she struggled for all those years, so her confession that being a President is a difficult job might sound like she now has some appreciation for those she stood up against for change when she was a young firebrand.
Although never a member, many believe President Sirleaf was a staunch but secret supporter of the ‘Progressives,’ a group of young political, economic and social activists who garnered massive support among the marginalized masses and subsequently led to the toppling of the Tolbert administration.
President Sirleaf was then serving as a minister in that government.
President Sirleaf made her admiration for the ‘Progressives’ known when she delivered her final State of the Nation address last month—stressing that she endured some of her struggles along with them.
The President said, “As I reflect on the early days of my life’s journey, I remember, with fondness, the bygone days when we worked together and shared ideas and were supported by those younger and dearly called ‘Progressives.’ We did not grow up together, for few exceptions, did we go to school together, but we went to jail together because we believed in the power of change and shared values – those old-fashioned values instilled by parents.”
The President’s admission is a clear manifestation that she had found it too difficult to handle some of the vices that she saw in previous governments, such as corruption, underperformance, ineptitude and lack of commitment.
She admitted a year or two ago that at times she wanted to take some harsh or radical decisions against some of her officials who transgressed, but there were people, especially close relatives, who at times intervened and stopped her.
Meanwhile, her confession might just be a warning to the many contestants who are seeking the presidency in the October polls. To be President is very hard, especially when you allow your immediate relatives to influence every major decision you want to take, or allow them to be actual decision makers in your administration.