For over a week now Liberians have been glued to their radios, televisions and mobile phones following developments unfolding in the confirmation process of nominees to occupy vacancies at the National Elections Commission (NEC). The process has been very controversial and has, without question inflamed passions triggered by the appointment of Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike, a Nigerian born national, whose claim to Liberian citizenship has come under intense fire from the public.
This has come amid accusations that the nominee has fake naturalization papers. Sources say that Nwabudike has been hard-pressed to produce his naturalization papers and that documents he produced in attestation of his citizenship appeared to have been forged. Additionally, he has since claimed that he applied for citizenship in 1982. He claimed to have been born in Nigeria in 1965 and subsequently came to Liberia and applied for citizenship in 1982.
But in 1982, the nominee (Nwabudike), by his own accounts of his date of birth, he was only 17 years old, a minor at the time and was therefore legally incompetent to file an application for naturalization. It therefore suggests that his application for citizenship was void ab initio given his age and status as a minor and if he did acquire citizenship, it can be rightly assumed that he more likely than not acquire Liberian citizenship illegally.
Under Section 21.3 of Liberia’s Alien and Nationality Law, Count 2, entitled “Age Requirement” which reads as follows “No person shall file a petition for naturalization unless he shall have attained the age of twenty-one years”, Nwabudike’s was estopped by virtue of his age from applying for citizenship whether or not he was accompanied by his mother, father or even grand-father. His interpretation of the law stated in Section 21.3 is but an invention contrived out of nowhere because the law is clear and unambiguous on the age requirement. There is absolutely no provision in that law requiring a minor to be accompanied by an adult.
Additionally, Nwabudike’s claim that the Nigerian civil war ended in 1971 is blatantly false and misleading as the Nigerian civil war otherwise known as the Biafran War actually began on July 6, 1967 and ended on January 15, 1970. Such ignorance on the part of a Nigerian, particularly an Igbo from Delta State, once part of the former Biafra, is completely inexcusable for one born, bred and educated in Nigeria up to completion of college.
But more to that the nominee has a history of involvement in activities that appear analogous to and indistinguishable from criminal behavior. He has since been fighting to shake off allegations of improper conduct and bamboozlement of a fellow Nigerian whose ship he allegedly sold, pocketed over a million dollars from the sale and left the actual owner of the vessel MV Potts Express clinging on to a bag of empty promises.
In another instance, leaders of the Nigerian community when contacted, told the Daily Observer that the nominee had previously contested the leadership of the Nigerian Community in Liberia but lost. According to officials of the Nigerian Community, due to his unwholesome activities (alleged embezzlement of Community funds) his (Nwabudike’s) membership in the organization was suspended and has not been restored up to present.
But the issue of nationality aside, what is of utmost public concern is the issue of character and integrity as well as competence. The Elections Commission as a national integrity institution must be manned by competent individuals of impeccable character given the critical sole the institution plays in maintaining peace and national stability. This is why this newspaper, in addition to Nwabudike’s nomination has called for the annulment of Floyd Oxley Sayor’ s candidature for the post of Commissioner.
In addition to his membership in the CDC which is an open secret, Sayor is one individual whose illegal tampering with the Voters Registry during the 2017 elections nearly railroaded the entire process. He messed up the Voters Registry so much so that even elections experts brought into the country to help were unable to clean-up the Rolls.
And despite the Supreme Court’s mandate to NEC Chairman Korkoya to have the Voters Registry cleaned-up before the elections Korkoya did not budge and proceeded, with the full blessings of former President Sirleaf to conduct the elections using a compromised Voters Registry thanks to Sayor’s illegal actions. In the District 15 by elections, Floyd Sayor found himself again at the center of controversy owing to manipulation of the vote count results a charge to which he is reported to have admitted but was not chastised aside from ordering him to undo the fake results he had posted.
What President Weah needs to do urgently is to withdraw his list of nominees and as per tradition, open up the space to allow full consultation with political parties and civil society as he seeks to reconfigure the NEC given the departure of nearly the entire crop of Commissioners with the exception of Commissioner Davidetta Lansanah who is also reportedly a member of the CDC. He has absolutely no need for all this controversy and the sooner he moves to make amends the better it will be for himself as well as for Liberia.
President Weah should instead look to history for guidance. Perhaps he needs to be reminded to stolen elections results was an immediate and major contributory factor that led to the country to war. By attempting to impose non-credible individuals on the nation certainly will not augur well for him as history tells us well that there will be resistance which he may not be able to dispatch with a wave of the hand.
Accordingly, he can and must do better. He should focus his attention on proper governance of the country rather than on a second-term quest which could prove as equally illusive as Charles Taylor’s Vision 2024.