By Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed, PhD
President Weah needs help with some of his decisions, especially those ones that have to do with appointments and dismissals of officials of the government.
When we speak of help, we are telling the President that whenever he is about to appoint or dismiss any appointed officials, he needs to consult trusted individuals not those, who will simply say yes. Based on that honest advice, the President will make an informed decision whether such appointment or dismissal is in line with established laws or protocols.
We will argue in this article that with what we have known thus far since his incumbency, President George Weah is prone to making errors as it relates to appointments and dismissals.
His decisions on these two issues are almost always questionable and demonstrate a level of un-sophistication. It seems to us that those errors are mainly based on mere ignorance, and the don’t care attitude.
Since I am an academician and interested in education, part one of this article will deal with education.
Few weeks ago, President Weah dismissed Dr. Ophelia Weeks, President of the University of Liberia, and then appointed Dr. Julius Nelson to replace her in flagrant violation of an established protocol.
Usually as is the case, when there exists a vacancy at the University of Liberia, and other public colleges, a search committee is constituted to vet individuals qualified for the position.
In all these exercises, the Search Committee is keen on qualification and competence. The Search Committee after completion of its mandates, recommend to the Board of Trustees at least three names of qualified and competent persons for the position.
Usually, because politics can be a factor in such process, and not to put the Appointing Power in a box, the Board will submit to the President at least a minimum of three names where the President will have the leverage to select one.
This in part, are some of the protocols in recruiting qualified and competent individuals.
Sadly, since the ascendancy of President Weah as President of Liberia, all decisions regarding established protocols are no longer considered.
The appointment of Dr. Nelson without the initial involvement of the Board of Trustees was a major administrative blunder on the part of the President.
We know that Dr. Nelson is the President’s kinsman, and at all cost, wants to bring him at the University of Liberia.
Granted that the President wants to appease his kinsman! We wonder whether the President really knows the academic level, and competence of this kinsman in question?
Granted that Nelson once served as a Dean, but does that qualified him to be President of the University of Liberia? What we know thus far about Dr. Nelson’s records, we maintain he is not that academically qualified to be a president of the University of Liberia (UL).
We want to remind the President that the UL is a reservoir of knowledge, and almost all past presidents of the University, including Ophelia Weeks have earned terminal degrees with scholarships and sophistication embedded.
There are other well educated people from the Southeastern region since the presidency is entrenched with ethnicity that could be nominated, and eventually appointed as the President of the University of Liberia. If our proposition is true that the University is a reservoir of knowledge; we expect the President, who is the torchbearer to be academically inclined.
Such a president will be extending an invitation for our young people to join him/her at the end of the academic tunnel.
In our opinion, this is not the case with Dr. Nelson. What Nelson has is not an actual academic degree. It is a restricted doctorate intended for people, who want to be in a church ministry.
According to Union Theological Seminary’s website, the seminary Dr. Nelson is a product of, the highest degree is the Doctor of Ministry.
The seminary website states, “The Doctor of Ministry (Dmin) is a professional degree in the practice of (Church) ministry.”
In our opinion, the UL is not a church ministry, but an academy where rigorous scholarship and excellence are honored. What is seriously and equally disturbing is the conduct of the Board of Trustees of the UL. This current Board of Trustees under Sister Mary Laurene is Browne is an embarrassment, because of its acquiescence to President Weah’s deliberate challenge to established protocols.
Another excuse would be that there was an in-house discussion with the President even though he was procedurally wrong for his action, but we let things go.
In our opinion, should that be the case, we term it as self-defeatism at the highest level. For Sister Mary Laurene Browne, known for her rigidity and honesty arms to be twisted in the twinkling of an eye to give in to George Weah’s constant habit of undermining education is disturbing.
Not just Sister Mary Laurene Browne, but there are others, I mean well-meaning Liberians, who could have protested, and even resigned for such disrespect and blatant challenge to established protocols. With the Board of Trustees approbation, and appointment of Dean Nelson, we maintain that education at the UL is moribund, and just awaiting burial.
We equally wonder what Wilson Tarpeh and Ansu Sonii, who once worked for the University and current members of President Weah’s cabinet, said to the President with respect to Nelson’s qualification and competence? Something is inherently wrong in Liberia.
The current Board of Trustees at the UL is weak, sick and dead. We expect the alumni to forcefully weigh in.
President Weah’s continuous violations of established protocols can also be seen in the nomination and appointment of one Alvin Wesseh, Assistant of Research and Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture.
It can be recalled that this Alvin Wesseh was once a student (Sophomore) at the UL, and was expelled for bad behavior through legal means.
He went to court to compel the UL to reinstate him, but the Court upheld the University’s decision of expulsion. This student in question transferred to a mushroom university, and was given admission.
President Weah knowing all of these things, nominated and eventually appointed the man Wesseh as an Assistant Minister for Research at the Ministry of Agriculture. What are his qualifications that a sitting president can appoint such a person as a research officer?
Certainly, it is under George Weah and his presidency. The President’s actions in ignoring the University’s decision against Wesseh, as well as that of the Court undermines and demonstrates President Weah’s continuous violations of established protocols without any compunction.
One of the dangers of ignoring established protocols, is that when those who have arbitrarily been selected for appointment do not perform, the culpability is on the President. Some of us do not like the office of the President and the President to be mocked and ridiculed.
It is in this vein, President Weah must learn to listen and take in advice. The president does have advisors, many of them have legal knowledge on all of these issues under discussion.
We wonder whether these advisors are really advising the President, and the President too, on the other hand is not listening or simply, they too are not performing and just want this president to fail?
Sadly, this is how President Weah has been appointing individuals as president of public universities and colleges. There is serious confusion emanating from the Office of the President, and the onus is on him to do the right thing in accordance with established laws and protocols.
About the author: Kadiker Rex Dahn holds two Masters and a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Oklahoma. He formerly served as 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 Liberian Women: An Oral History from 1979-2006.” He is also a member of the North America Scholar Consortium, membership with the Highest Honor. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.