Liberia Behind the Glass Ceiling: Are We In Trouble

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By Jones Nhinson Williams

Most, if not all, Liberians truly want President George Manneh Weah to succeed, but it seems some members of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) don’t.  Liberians want President Weah to succeed because when he succeeds Liberia will be great and better, and when that happens, all Liberians will literarily benefit. In addition, if President Weah succeeds it means the CDC–led government succeeds and therefore the CDC political organization will take credit as being one of the best political groups in the country’s history. Ultimately, members of the CDC will be the proudest of all Liberians if this were to happen.

But what we are seeing presents a different but compelling landing.  The people who seek doom for the change Liberians crave for in the Weah’s presidency are some of the very officials of the CDC.  This is especially sad for a country that is caught up in a deplorable economic state where poverty is more than ever before, and hardship is no longer a condition that can be stomached by even Liberians that were born in it. Inflation too has gone past the moon at a speed twice that of NASA’s latest spaceship.

The truth is, these are not the making or intentional faults of President Weah because, as a matter of fact, he inherited a deeply corrupt and economically mismanaged nation. Equally, President Weah is the president of Liberia today and that requires taking ownership of everything that must be done to fix what was broken by past Liberian administrations –– from Sawyer’s years and Taylor’s era to Gyude Bryant’s period and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s epoch.  Fortunately, the President is sincere and honest about helping Liberians and improving the country for all.

One reason why some of us like President Weah –– and are willing to help him succeed –– is rooted in his past humanitarian record, his humble beginning, and his sense of determination and persistence. And the most important reason is: we want a better Liberia that we can all be proud of.  Besides, there is no doubt that President Weah means well. And like most people know, the President will be the first to admit that to govern a nation is difficult –– it is not as easy as anyone would think or expect. As such, we must give national political leaders some credit for their time and efforts in solving critical national problems, especially when there are lawmakers who, instead of being true, willing and rational partners, turned out to be a nuisance in words and deeds.

This is why every sound Liberian should be bothered by the actions and utterances of one Representative Acarous Gray who is said to represent Montserrado County.  Honorable Gray is seeking the removal of a Liberian Supreme Court Justice from office in a process he calls “Impeachment”, even though there are no rational and compelling reasons provided other than he just wants to impeach.  What is troubling about this psychosis is: 1) the timing, 2) the process, and 3) the accompanying irrationality involved.

When the administration of a ruling or governing party is faced with serious political and economic crisis as we have with the country’s economy, the role of lawmakers in that party is to assist the President address and solve the problems. This includes managing crisis, the messaging and public relations so that the President and his policy team can focus on one thing such as the economic crisis before them.  President Weah cannot be focused on fixing the devastated economy and at the same time focuses on cleaning up the disorder that is being generated by the disconcerting behavior of some in his party and administration.  This is not fair to him and the country.   Furthermore, it makes the job of Information Minister Eugene L. Nagbe, who is doing a good job of managing government’s relations and public affairs, even harder because every day as he (Nagbe) tries to smooth one bad public relations, a new media setback is imposed by some guy somewhere who is creating another heap.

Paraphrasing Alan Rosenthal, a political scientist whose ardent belief in representative democracy led him to help reshape and strengthen state legislatures across the United States as well as criticize their excesses and ethical infirmities, we all might not agree on who is the best legislator, but we would probably agree on what makes a legislator effective. The actions of some lawmakers in Liberia proved that they are not effective lawmakers and Representative Gray’s is no exception.  Creating bedlam and debauched public relations for the ruling party and the governing administration when one is a senior official of both is intellectually naïve, politically immature, and categorically imprudent.

Being an effective legislator is not to go around insulting and causing problems or creating bad and unreasonable press because right now, President Weah and the CDC–led government do not need a bad press or media coverage in these difficult times.  From all indications, what President Weah and the CDC–led government need right now is constructive engagement as well as law and order, not lawlessness, especially when such lawlessness is coming from individuals who supposed to be or called themselves “lawmakers”.

What makes a legislator effective has to do with having a coherent program and finding ways to get it enacted. Similarly, it’s not too difficult to define the qualities of an outstanding and knowledgeable legislator because that person is somebody with the brains to understand complex problems, the creativity to develop and frame solutions, and the personal skill to build winning margins in favor of the things he or she proposes to unite and help the country. It means getting the job done.  The noise from Honorable Acarous Gray and his accomplices is not getting the job done in bringing about change, and in helping move the President’s agenda forward.

The advice to Honorable Acarous Gray is: many of us want President Weah, he (Honorable Acarous Gray) and the entire CDC–led the government to succeed because if they do, Liberia does and we all benefit as a nation and people.  Therefore, the best Honorable Gray and his accomplices can do is to be constructive partners to the president’s work and commitment rather than being a distraction. Boorish distractions have lots of negative and grave impacts –– from tainting the image of the government and the country to turning off investors, tourists, visitors and even humanitarian donors.  That’s bad for the country. Therefore, Honorable Gray and all those ineffective legislators clamoring for an unwarranted impeachment saga should not define their worth by the offices they hold –– it is a great privilege to represent your neighbors and friends. Don’t abuse it, make good use of it by adding value to the country and helping to move the President’s agenda forward!

Finally, here is a serious proposal to help many of you in the House of Representatives learn about being a lawmaker.  I will be working over the next few months to invite members of the Liberian House of Representatives for a retreat at the McCain Institute. Inspired by Senator John McCain and the McCain family legacy of public service, Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership champions character-driven leadership and civic engagement in the United States and abroad. Please avail yourselves of this opportunity by contacting me through your leadership so we can make this work out.

About the Author:
Jones Nhinson Williams is a Catholic educated philosopher and a U.S. trained public policy professional. He is State Administrator of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Programs and former Maryland State Government Labor Market Information Manager during the recent global recession (2008–2010).

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