Why I Would Vote for Charles Brumskine If I Could

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By Robtel Neajai Pailey

Driving to my home in Virginia, Montserrado County, in the early morning hours last Saturday, I detected the swift movements of lithe bodies running desperately for cover.

Men and women carried hefty batteries on their heads. They dragged screeching generators on the asphalt, underneath flickering florescent lights. Some ran with scraps of sharp metal in their hands, jutting the instruments in the air with jerky movements.

Their desperation was so palpable, I could smell it. Taste it. Feel it.

These night wanderers were looting the Clara Town store that had burned to the ground just 12 hours earlier, as we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic watching the smoke fumes.

Sent to arrest the situation, our Liberian National Fire Service whipped out a single hose of water to quell the blaze. The fire fought back and won.

The tragic irony of this was not lost on me. After 12 years of a Sirleaf-led government, we continue to use rudimentary tools to solve Liberia’s most dogged challenges. The nameless, faceless people reduced to stealing a few measly scraps of metal represented, for me, the more than 50% of Liberians who live in abject poverty.

I was reminded with a jolt of urgency why Oct. 10 is a make or break moment for Liberia. That although I missed voter registration by three days in March because of work commitments in the UK, I still had an obligation to convince others of the importance of their votes.

I then remembered with clarity why I would vote for Liberty Party candidate Charles Brumskine if I could.

Of the 20 candidates vying to replace President Sirleaf, Brumskine appears to be the only top contender who would actually institute reforms that Liberia needs to avoid further socio-economic deprivation.

Like implementing legal instruments to curb public and private sector graft.

Or using his legal expertise to negotiate better concession deals focused on industrialisation and value addition of our natural resources rather than extraction and exploitation.

Brumskine has even proposed revising our procurement laws to support small and medium sized Liberian enterprises, akin to a Liberianisation 2.0.

During the National Conference on the Future of Liberia in July 1998, before term limits were sexy and topical, Brumskine advocated for reducing presidential terms from six to four years and the terms of senators from nine to four years. This was done when he was an elected senator.

Here’s an indication that Brumskine would likely employ his short-lived experience as president pro-tempore of the Liberian senate to reel in the excesses of the legislature.

This is not to say that Brumskine is perfect. Far from it.

He was elected senator under Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (although he later broke ranks with Taylor because of professional disagreements).

Some have accused him of being entirely too arrogant or self-assured.

Rumours abound about him wanting to bring back a ‘Congau’ hegemony (he has recently gone on record condemning the glorification of the settler-as-saviour narrative, however).

Brumskine selected Harrison Karnwea of Nimba County though his running mate is technically ineligible to run according to a strict interpretation of the 2014 Civil Service Code of Conduct.

Despite these apparent faults, however, Brumskine stands above the top contenders because he is the least imperfect, in my estimation.

Though I’ve never met the man, Brumskine appears to be reasonable and measured. He’s quite possibly the only candidate I would actually consider leaving a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship at Oxford next year for, if called to serve.

Now, some may argue that I am compelled to endorse Brumskine because he is from my mother’s hometown of Buchanan. They may even reason that Brumskine is my favourite cousin’s godfather, and that another cousin is a stalwart of the Liberty Party.

But these facts couldn’t be the furthest from my mind. As a public intellectual and scholar, I much prefer logic and evidence to sentiments.

If given the opportunity to vote, I would not choose Boakai, Weah or Cummings, for a number of reasons.

Boakia’s flippant statement about being ‘a race car waiting in the garage’ felt like a slap in the face for many of us who worked extremely hard to institute reforms in Sirleaf’s first and/or second terms.

While he could have advanced agricultural transformation, given his prior expertise in the sector, or intervened to curb Ebola in his native Lofa during the early stages of the outbreak in 2014, he remained silent and ineffectual.

Weah’s populism, inability to articulate a coherent platform, and general lack of political swagger are deeply concerning. Success at football does not translate into success in the presidency of a traumatised, poorly managed, post-war nation.

While Cummings may suggest what appear to be carefully crafted policies and programmes, I remain troubled by his proposals to privatise essential services like electricity and water. Moreover, Cummings’ lack of experience in Liberia’s complex and toxic political ecosystem as well as questions around his citizenship and 10-year residency are also cause for concern.

Voting for anyone except Brumskine on Oct. 10 would be like using a primitive hose to fight an uncontrollable fire, like our Fire Service attempted to do last week.

I beg, for those of you who have valid voter registration cards, let’s solve Liberia’s wicked problems with more advanced tools.

Let’s start by electing Charles Brumskine next Tuesday to take over the mantle of national leadership in January 2018.

Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author of the anti-corruption children’s book, Gbagba. 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Thank God, Ms. Robptel Pauley will not be voting in this election for the very reasons she narrated above. If only this Pailey woman knew or mustered the conscience to remember how this same Charles Brumskine, not only orchestrated but encouraged Charles Taylor to expel the ECOMOG forces, the single most reliant factor that provided a safe heaven for Liberians in and around Monrovia at the time, a decision that exposed and led to the death needlessly of many Liberians, then she would just shut her mouth and avail herself quietly to Charles Brumskine in whatever other personal way. This election happens to be about the leadership of our country, Liberia, thus it requires someone along with a team of committed lieutenants imbued with a sense of nationalism to take our country at the proverbial next level. Not any self-centered rascal with no history of ever advocating for change, much more the socio-political emancipation of our long shackled people. So No! to political hyenas like Charles Brumskine and host of cheerleaders.

  2. He was elected senator under Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party. In addition he was the chief legal lawyer for The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) a rebel group. Misusing his legal knowledge he provided the stroppy justifications for NPFL rejecting all the agreements signed, thus prolonging the civil war.
    However, I do respect your decision Dr.

  3. Charles Brumskine is an arrogant man who will do anything to rule Liberia. He can fool someone like this writer. This man worked with Taylor and now has become a Bassa man. People will suffer under this man. Some people have book knowledge but lack common sense like this writer. However, she is not in Liberia and cannot vote. She had no problem with Ellen 10 year residency when she was working for Ellen. This man is so imperfect it will take 100 years to make a list. But don’t worry, you are not voting and the Liberian people will choose the right person. Brumskine will not be it.

  4. Robtel,
    Brumskin is sadly unworthy of the Liberian Presidency on a number of fronts. I am no Public Intellectual or Scholar, but common sense draws a clear distinction between advocacy and achievements. Brumskin achieved nothing for Liberia(legislatively) but is somehow expected to be lauded for quitting on Liberia when faced with the adversity one would expect from Charles Taylor (who was no stranger to him). Brumskin’s fight wasn’t for the people who elected him, his battle wasn’t to defend the Liberian democracy, his sacrifice wasn’t to weather the storm and stand tall despite “professional disagreements” with Taylor. He stepped down…as if this action would bring any more solace to the plight of millions of poverty-stricken Liberians! I’m opened to being educated on how his only notable action changed anything for Liberia. The late Ruth Sando Perry gives you a credible example of someone who stood up to Taylor, despite numerous and severe “professional disagreements.”

    I will refrain from suggesting a candidate to Liberians as my ineligibility to vote and the imbalance in the pool of candidates precludes me from doing so. I will, however, beg Liberian to both exercise the right to participate in this democratic process and ensure that their decisions are informed. This goes beyond the empty rhetoric, the hallow ascription of experience, the number of cars a campaign has, the innuendo of gender, the demarcation of tribalism, the size of a crowd at a rally, a t-shirt, or $10.

    I congratulate you on your academic achievements. I however note that if your defense of Brumskin share any parity to your commendations of Ellen in the years that you worked directly in her office, I cannot help but feel a nagging responsibility to question your understanding of “Liberia’s complex and toxic political ecosystem.”

  5. I have little else to add to what you guys have already rightfully stated about Brumskine and poor Ms. Pauley’s total lack of understanding of the political complexities and dynamics of her country.
    Thankfully, the Liberian people will never elect Brumskine to the Presidency. The man has no history of working on behalf of our people. If anything, he has often worked against their interests by putting his corporate interests and gains over and above the welfare of our people, including the very Bassa people he claims ethnic affiliation with.

  6. Why did Dr. R. N. Pailey resign from Ellen Johnson’s government?

    Something must have happened. Either she was unwanted because she couldn’t do what was expected from her or maybe Johnson-Sirleaf was too corrupt to work for.
    Also, why was she late to register to vote? Again, something must have happened. Maybe, her plane schedule from the UK was messed up or maybe she thought she could force her way through despite the fact that she knew it was late to register to vote.
    Lastly, if Dr. Pailey had campaigned for Brumskine and finally voted for him, no difference would have been made. Brumskine was born to be a three-time loser. In other words, Pailey’s praise and endorsement of Brumskine could not move a stone despite her educational achievement.

    Finally, should Weah offer her the position of Foreign Minister, Pailey will do a fantastic job because her academic record is outstanding. Of course, the complex word of politics isn’t as easy as some may think.

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