It is indeed unprecedented in Liberia’s contemporary history where the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission and the Minister of State would in succession challenge and defy the authority of the Supreme Court and urge open disobedience and disrespect for its decision which is in effect the law.
If there were any doubts before that respect for the rule of law in Liberia was under threat, remarks made at the press conference held by Minister of State Nathaniel McGill on Tuesday, November 23, 2020, appear to have dispelled all such doubts according to several leading lawyers (names withheld) when the Minister of State publicly insinuated that the Supreme Court had erred in its interpretation of the law and because of that the referendum would go ahead as planned.
According to them, such acts, which were characteristic of Charles Taylor’s style of governance, led in the final analysis to open rebellion against the state during which the rule of law broke down completely and armed gangs roamed the land, terrorizing the population.
Others spoken to including former military and security officers have also expressed alarm at these developments, noting that such would more likely than not result in increased general disrespect for the rule of law with a strong potential to eventually snowball into free-for-all violence.
They observed that, unlike both Presidents Taylor and Doe, President Weah lacks the wherewithal in terms of troop strength as well as the capacity to counter neither sustain a general public mass uprising or a protracted armed struggle against potential adversaries opting for regime change through the barrel of a gun, rather than the ballot box.
They further observed that, should President Weah not be careful, he could end up driving significant opposition elements into exile and from where they could organize, recruit men and purchase arms to wage armed struggle against this government.
And by so doing, the country could return back to its dark past. Any government which believes in the ‘might makes right’ approach to national governance, the former military and security officials maintained, embeds unknowingly in its womb, the seeds of its own destruction.
The former officials maintained that such was the case with Presidents Taylor and Doe who, in trying to eliminate the opposition, virtually invited unto themselves opprobrium with Taylor chased out of office, arrested, charged, convicted and jailed while Doe met his end at the feet of his nemesis, Prince Yormie Johnson.
In view of this, it would behoove Minister of State Nathaniel McGill to take a step back and reflect deeply because, from all indications, based on experiential knowledge, the decision will come to haunt him because as sure as night follows day, disputations and challenges to the results of the elections and referendum would arise.
Is it this Supreme Court, whose authority is being undermined and subject to ridicule, to which the parties will be expected to appeal for resolution of the disputes and challenges that may arise from the conduct of the elections?
This is doubtful and as pointed out before, such a situation could prompt the parties to seek relief from the ECOWAS Court of Justice. But the question is just why would officials of this government appear to be openly courting trouble by advancing causes that could lead to its undoing?
Are they not cognizant of history? Do they actually believe they can succeed in cowing the Liberian people into submission? Did President Doe not harbor such ambitions and intentions as did Charles Taylor with his grandiose vision 2024 plans?
Just where and how did they get in the realization of their lofty dreams and ambitions? Despite the enormity of the economic problems facing this government especially the economic situation which continues to worsen by the day, it still has three (3) years left on its tenure.
Rather than trying to consolidate whatever gains it may have achieved since it assumed office as a way of assuring and winning the confidence of the people, officials of this government appear bent, head-over-heels, desperately trying to secure a second term when the end of the first term is still three (3) years away.
And unfortunately, officials of this government appear to have a mindset, entrapped in the throes of a yesterday reality that no longer exists.
The purchase and distribution of thousands of T-shirts and caps/berets to its supporters and providing money, food and free buses to transport them to a political rally is a far cry from yesterday when the party faithful would print their own T-shirts and walk miles to the party rally.
Party officials should bear on mind that inflammatory rhetoric intended to intimidate the opposition, and flowery promises to their supporters of a better tomorrow are being undermined by the harsh economic conditions facing the masses of the people.
And when things get to the point where the people feel they can take it no more, they take to the streets to vent their feelings of anger. This is nothing strange in the annals of history.
It happened to Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Park Chung Hee of Korea, Idi Amin of Uganda, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor of Liberia and Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, and others.
Thus, Minister Nathaniel McGill is urged to reflect on history and come to the realization that his utterances and actions will ultimately hurt President Weah more than it will ever help him. But all is not lost. President Weah still has time, but very limited time, to call his Minister of State to order. Liberia, it appears, is showing emergent signs of slipping into pariah status and failed statehood and, if President Weah does not realize this now, he will eventually but, by then, it may very well be too late.