The Daily Observer welcomes the rather swift action taken by President Weah to withdraw the nomination of former Speaker Alex Tyler, following much public outcry against the appointment.
Whether or not such decision was influenced by expressed broad public concerns as speculated, remains a subject of debate. However, the decision is welcome and perhaps could be signs of change suggestive of President Weah’s about-turn on the issue of corruption, reports of which have dogged his administration.
But there are troubling concerns as to whether the President fully understood the implications and consequences of his nomination of a criminally indicted individual to public service. If he truly did not, then it raises questions bordering on competence.
But in case he did but had a last-minute change of heart in deference to public concerns or because some members of his inner circle prevailed on him, it then also raises questions bordering on coherence.
Whatever the case, Tyler’s dismal record of public service was well known to the public including former members of the National Legislature, some of who are now occupying top posts in this new political dispensation.
The bitter feud between Tyler and former President Sirleaf which resulted in his impeachment and disgraceful exit from power was said to have emanated from disputations over the sale of oil blocks involving hefty but illegal payoffs to suspected top officials in government including Tyler and Sirleaf as well.
Having seen his political fortunes wane considerably under Sirleaf, Tyler broke ranks with the Unity Party and proceeded to form his own political party styled the Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP). His was to later form part of a winning coalition that included the National Patriotic Party (NPP) and Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
President Weah’s decision to annul the appointment, in the opinion of political observers, was in recognition (belated), of the contradictions which he could have engendered as the result of prosecutorial action against former officials charged with corruption.
Perhaps President Weah, on hindsight, has realized that his publicly expressed commitment to protecting President Sirleaf’s interests was something which he should have never done because of the stymied effect such would have on attempts to prosecute corrupt officials.
His announced decision to prosecute corrupt officials indicted in audit reports over the last 10 years is welcome but much belated because, in the eyes of the public, this is something he should have done from the onset of his administration, but opted not to.
When, for example, he appointed a Special Presidential Committee to probe bribery claims against former officials involved in fashioning out the ExxonMobil concession agreement, he sent strong signals that he was now ready to confront the corruption menace head-on.
The Special Committee completed its task and recommended that those officials pay back the funds received from ExxonMobil because they constituted a bribe. To the utter disappointment of the public, however, President Weah failed to act on the findings of the Committee recommending restitution of the funds.
As this newspaper has pointed out on several occasions, President Weah would do well to avoid sending signals that his is not a quest for justice and accountability but a witch hunt targeted at certain individuals who previously may have had rough edges with him or who may have openly opposed him for one reason or the other.
President Weah will also do well to recognize that while the public supports his decision to prosecute corrupt former officials, such will not succeed in whetting public concerns about corruption occurring under his watch.
Lest he forgets, selective prosecution of perceived corrupt former officials will only earn his government increased woes. By any standards, it appears inconceivable that former Special Advisor Robert Sirleaf, under whose watch a whooping sum of US$50 million was lost or stolen, would be left off the hook while his former teammate James Salinsa Debbah would face prosecution for allegedly receiving board fees (US$19,000) in an amount that pales by far in comparison to the US$50 million stolen under the watch of Robert Sirleaf.
Above all, President Weah should bear on mind that selective prosecution of alleged corrupt former officials is publicly perceived in the same light as the selective prosecution of Representative Yekeh Kolubah allegedly for ordering the flogging of a man while his colleague Acarous Gray is left off the hook for allegedly ordering the stabbing and brutalization of a sports bar proprietor right in his presence.
An elderly female resident of Crown Hill in Monrovia, Louise Howland, reacting to these developments said “Your wait because President Weah is finally putting on his shoes. Right now, only the LEFT foot is on, but you will see the difference when he puts on the RIGHT foot”.
Wise words indeed, for Liberians truly hope that President Weah has got it right this time and will not lose his footing.