When President George Weah took the oath of office on January 22, 2018, there were many promises he made that warmed the hearts of Liberians which, if actualized, would see an intensified fight against CORRUPTION in all its forms as promised on January 22, 2018.
In his inaugural speech at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, President Weah among other things said, “And so, my fellow citizens, I want to admonish you, that the foundation of the New Liberia must be reinforced by the steel of integrity. We need men and women, boys and girls, whose integrity provides the foundation of the trust that is required for Liberian society to benefit her people.”
In furtherance, the President also added: “As officials of Government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. Those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people — the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
All Liberians and the media, including the Daily Observer, welcomed the statement with loud applause, ostensibly because it was generally perceived that the country had been drowning in a sea of corruption under the reign of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But now there are growing and worrying public concerns that it seems as if President Weah’s solemn pledge to fight corruption was just a mere political statement.
In other words, a mere play to the galley, it is and strongly reminiscent of his immediate predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who in her 2006 inaugural address pledged to make CORRUPTION PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE.
If President Weah is indeed true to his word that he needs men and women, and boys and girls with integrity to provide the foundation of trust needed to build the country, why would he be so persistent on bringing Cllr. Charles Gibson into government, especially in positions that should be manned by credible and trustworthy individuals?
Gibson’s initial nomination to serve as Justice Minister, sparked huge public outcry on grounds that he, Cllr. Gibson, was bereft (deprived of or lacking something, especially a nonmaterial asset) of the unassailable (unable to be attacked, questioned, or defeated) integrity required to serve in such a high position of trust.
This Liberian lawyer had been suspended by the Supreme Court from practicing law for duping clients, something that the ethics of law forbid. Gibson was told by the high court to restitute the money before his suspension could be lifted, but he waited until he learned that he had been nominated as Justice Minister before he made an attempt to pay the money.
Public outcry and a number of editorials in the Daily Observer and other local dailies led the President to withdraw the nomination, for which he was lauded so much. This is the same Charles Gibson who he is nominating this time as chairman of the already scandal-ridden National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
While his (Gibson’s) constitutional right to a job in Liberia should be respected, the Constitution also requires the state to take actions that will curtail corruption in all forms. How then can the President compare his decision to nominate an individual with tainted professional character to that of his inaugural declaration, “We need men and women, boys and girls, whose integrity provides the foundation of the trust that is required for Liberian society to benefit her people…”?
NOCAL is one public entity that has been virtually run to the ground by corruption which spurred President Weah into action, constituting a Special Presidential committee to probe allegations of bribery of public officials carried in a recent Global Witness report. Since the submission of the Special Committee’s report, the public is yet to be informed what decision President Weah intends to take against those linked to the scandal.
Yet President Weah is nominating an individual of questionable integrity to head an institution which has been mired in allegations of gross impropriety. We do not know what special interest President Weah has in Cllr. Charles Gibson to eye him for crucial public positions; however, what this action depicts is that he appears to be undermining his own inaugural pledge that he would fight corruption to the end.
There are, in fact, some other things done in recent days that tend to suggest that the fight against corruption may not be successful. They are, for example, appointment of unqualified individuals to positions of trust, pronouncements suggesting that government may conveniently by-pass the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) law to meet its objectives, and “That’s our time to eat,” all of which appear to cast a dark cloud over the successful fight against graft and official corruption in the country.
Does the President want the people who cheered him so much and expect so much from him to take him seriously when he talks about fighting corruption?
We believe that the President has enough time in his favor and has learnt much from others to do his best to meet the expectations of Liberians. We hope he will exercise prudence in decision making and show a good sense of judgment of character and, above all, to firmly place Liberia’s interest above personal loyalty and friendship.