It was shocking for me at the beginning of this month to hear that Professor Wilson Tarpeh, who has spent decades at the University of Liberia as Vice President for Fiscal Affairs, was resigning instead of honorably retiring to have claims to his benefits.
As a student of UL, I was wondering when Professor Tarpeh would retire having been for decades entrenched in such an unshakable status that no UL President would temper.
Surprisingly at the beginning of March 2015, the Professor announced his resignation, which he tendered on February 25, 2015, claiming that he was resigning because President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was withholding funds that should come to the university due to his association with the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
The eloquent professor went on to note that his role as a campaign manager for the popular George Weah in the 2014 special senatorial elections is the key reason the Liberian President is allegedly withholding funds from coming to the university.
On the basis of this claim, he resigned, issuing these parting words: “For my sake thousands of Liberians will not be denied education.”
Government spokesperson Isaac Jackson officially defended the President, albeit in rather ambiguous terms. He said, "Professor Wilson Tarpeh has a different reason for resigning and using President Sirleaf as a scapegoat.” Let me also share some facts that lead me to differ with the professor whose claims I consider to be a facetious fallacy.
Firstly, we must understand that Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is in the home stretch of her second and final term as President of Liberia. Unlike the first term when she set the impression to woo all of us for reelection, she has nothing to lose now, but to peacefully do and get all she can to leave Liberia in a condition indicative of the legacy she hopes to leave. Therefore, Tarpeh's claim that his association with CDC is the reason for which Madam Sirleaf may withhold funds to UL is highly unbelievable.
Secondly, all Liberians in this country know that George Weah did not need Prof. Tarpeh in order to secure an election to the Senate. Weah’s popularity in Monrovia and Grand Gedeh is such that, even without a campaign manager, he could have still won a landslide victory in Montserrado as a Senator.
In fact, it may well be that Tarpeh is the one in need of an alignment with CDC to secure future political position. As was evidently seen in 2009, he and others contested against Geraldine Doe-Sheriff in a senatorial by-election in Montserrado, and she massively defeated them without mercy. Doe-Sheriff at the time had the advantage of her alignment with CDC and primarily George Weah’s presence. So, when Weah announced his decision to run for the hotly contested Montserrado seat in the Senate last year, his victory was a foregone conclusion.
The CDC is composed of two main groups of characters: There are those who consider themselves the "downtrodden masses" who regard Weah as the epitome of their own aspirations. They have shown their passionate devotion to him in three consecutive elections, the last of which he finally won. Then there are also the few deceptive intellectuals who use the party and its voting masses to ascend to positions of power and influence. Sadly, after achieving their aims, they brush off masses as "asses". I hope Professor Tarpeh is not one of the deceptive intellectuals waiting on CDC for 2017.
Lastly, I will agree with Minister Isaac Jackson in principle that there may be a "different reason" for Professor Tarpeh’s resignation and apparent use of political cosmetics to divert attention. Yes! UL is currently broke and over 30,000 students are waiting on government to make available funds so the university can reopen. I do not know whether the university would have been in such a state if Ebola had not interrupted the academic schedule. While I may be in agreement with Prof. Tarpeh that the Government of Liberia is withholding funds, I strongly believe that it would be based on the matter of accountability if it has anything to do with him.
To retrospect, former Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost, Dr. Weade Elliot-Brownell, stated at a press conference in December 2013 that some people in top positions at the university incited students against her to be removed because she stood against financial and academic malpractices. She promised that she would bring out names when the proper time comes. Also, at her confirmation hearing a few months back, Dr. Brownell repeated that people went against her at the university because she stood against financial malpractices carried out by some top staffers. It was surprising to note in November of 2013 during one of UL students' unfounded and senseless demonstrations that the so-called student leadership was calling for Dr. Brownell’s expulsion because she was interfering with Fiscal Affairs. Up to now, no one knows who gave the student body information about what was unfolding in administration for which they should issue such a statement. Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, President of the University of Liberia is mentioned in one of Daily Observer’s editorials to have said that UL has a cartel that no one can easily break through. If Tarpeh's claim is true, then, it is not difficult to presume that these could be some of the very reasons for which President Sirleaf may be withholding funds from the university.
A note to Prof. Tarpeh: To do yourself justice and the Liberian students for whom you are offering your lucrative and prestigious position as a living sacrifice, can you call on President Sirleaf to allow Dr. Brownell to name those whom she talked about? Can you also call on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to audit you before turning the office over to your successor? Without meeting these conditions, you will be leaving doubts in minds, and your stated reason for resigning will always be fictitious.