President George M. Weah last Monday delivered his first State of the Nation Address to the National Legislature.
Without reporting on the state of the economy, with the justification that he did not have enough information on the performance of his predecessor, President Weah assured Liberians that he would bring power to the people; and in this process, asked for legislative and judicial support as called for by the Liberian Constitution.
He vocally expressed his willingness to defend the Constitution fully, and went on to read specifically the “General Principles of National Policy,” which calls in various articles for national integration and unity, preservation, protection and promotion of positive Liberian culture, and elimination of sectionalism and tribalism and abuses of power, such as the misuse of government resources, nepotism and all other corrupt practices.
Listeners especially became excited when the President said he would reduce his salary by 25% and called on the Legislature to support him by following his lead by themselves doing the same thing.
What the President said, however, that raises eyebrows and sparked this editorial is that he would seek “guidance from my predecessor.”
Seeking guidance from his immediate predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is not necessarily the wrong thing to do because it directly goes in line with the old adage, “Sit on the old mat to plait the new one.”
There is fear, however, that given the predecessor’s administration that was marred by rampant corruption and nepotism that left the country “broke” and run down, how much sound advice can President Weah expect from his predecessor?
This is also a predecessor whose administration did not address the poor sanitation, debilitating education and health systems; nor did it carve (fashion) a road map for Liberia’s agricultural development.
Despite the enormous diplomatic, financial and technical support that came from international partners to support President Sirleaf’s administration, agriculture, health and many other sectors remain desperately wanting. In the health sector, there is an audit report published late last year revealing how over US$2 million was mismanaged during the Ebola crisis.
At the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), your predecessor’s son, Robert Sirleaf, presided over this company on a “pro-bono” basis, but in the end, led the company to bankruptcy, from which it has never recovered up to now. Some say between US$40 million or more was lost under his watch.
The Constitution that you promised to go by without compromise has a clause in Article 5(c) that talks about discouraging tribalism and sectionalism. Under your predecessor, we observed that after years of war there was no effort to reconcile the people and tribalism, sectionalism and religious intolerance remained a threat to Liberians’ peaceful coexistence. What happened to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report—a document which, despite its shortcomings, clearly pointed the way to national reconciliation?
We further recall the violent confrontation that existed between a church and the Muslim community in Lofa County in 2010, the tribal differences between the Sapo and Kru in the south-east and other tribal differences emerging among the people of Nimba County.
So, as you intend to seek guidance from your predecessor, it beats the imagination as to what guidance you wish to seek and what will you get in return.
Your campaign won the minds of Liberians to vote you to the presidency because you told them that you would bring change that will positively impact the poor.
Knowing the level of poverty, poor education, corrupt justice system and other vices that permeated the administration of your predecessor, this newspaper, the Daily Observer, urges that you be careful what advice you receive and how.
We recalled the time when the political difference was strong between you and your predecessor, and the time both of you became close and intimate. Equally, you have promised to fight corruption to the fullest extent.
Holding onto this promise, you need to be cautious, conscious and vigilant as to what advice you receive from your predecessor, in case you receive such advice, that may break the confidence Liberians have developed in you.