By S. Karweaye
Arguably, Liberia has the funniest electorate of any nation in the world. Come election season, the credibility of a candidate standing for election to any office in the land is gauged based on the size of his/her campaign war chest, tribal, religious, and regional affiliations. Politicians running for elections go as far as renting crowds at campaign rallies, all in the bid to have a temporary feeling of being the most popular candidate. Because such crowds are sort of a mirage, to reassure themselves of electoral victory, the politicians go further by spending huge sums of money on the electoral umpire, – National Election Commission (NEC), traditional leaders, religious leaders, voters, party leaders, and thugs loyal to the party.
Aside from the fact that Liberian politicians spend their way to political offices during campaigns and elections, the foundation upon which elections stand – the voters register – is in most cases faulty. The credibility of an election rests largely on the credibility of the voter register; not only the casting and counting of votes. I was elated by the introduction of a biometric voter registration system during the 2023 general elections, believing it would take care of those multiple registrations that survived the filtration process of unifying the voters’ records on the NEC’s database. Just like every man-made system in the world, biometric voter registration has revealed its vulnerabilities, including 27,000 Liberians registering twice, and because of such vulnerabilities, it wasn’t used in the first round of the presidential and legislative elections.
During the first round of the 2023 presidential election, a sizable number of the electorate willingly sold their votes to the highest bidder. In areas where that proved impossible, the violence option was activated, using thugs loyal to the candidate and his party, as in the case of Nimbs County. What am I driving at, and what is the correlation between elections and bad governance? Our politicians are not omnipresent beings. They cannot be everywhere doing everything at the same time. To manipulate the system, they need the cooperation of every stakeholder in the electoral process. Compromising election stakeholders requires huge sums of money. Remember, our politicians are not aid workers, nor are they related to Santa Claus. Whatever they spend during elections is spent with the hope of recouping such funds with interest after being sworn into office, while the unsuccessful ones end up being miserable after the elections. Their only hope of surviving until the next political cycle is by decamping to the ruling party, be it at the county or national level. Our political parties are run like kitchens; once the cooking and dishing out of food stops, no one bothers visiting the kitchen anymore. The party in power then becomes the love of every ‘patriotic’ politician in the land. Imagine that we elected perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption who are sanctioned by the United States’s Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
Whatever religious belief/moral code you live by, there is a basic principle that governs life and the consequence of one’s actions: The Principle of Sowing and Reaping. Whatever one sows, one is bound to reap in multiples of the same seed when it’s harvest time. Take our electioneering campaigns and general elections as the onset of the rainy season. Our politicians are the farmers and we the electorate are the ground upon which they plant their political seeds. As the successful ones at the polls spend their way into office, they get to enjoy the fruits of their electoral labor – the bountiful harvest of our commonwealth. Whereas we the electorate are left to wallow in misery: wondering what our crimes were, for God to “curse” us with the type of politicians we have. Are we being sincere with ourselves? The truth is: that our politicians are not aliens. They come from families, communities, and nationalities. Whenever it is election season, before collecting that bag of rice, salt, motorbike, face cap, mobilization money for campaign rallies, recharge card, free seat for pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and money for your votes, just know that what you are collecting is an advance overdraft for that road/water/electricity/school project your community is in dire need of. Have you ever asked yourself why our political officeholders always find it hard to pay workers’ salaries months after general elections?
As we come together in unison condemning budget padding and the theft of bailout funds and other related monies by our legislators and executives, both at the three branches of government levels, we should also know good or bad, what they are doing to us and the generation of Liberians s unborn is guided by the principle of sowing and reaping. So long as they anticipate yet another cycle of high-spending electioneering campaigns in 2023, we should expect many more cases of budget padding and primitive looting of our country's resources. And after recouping what they spent during the 2023 elections, it’s only natural that they go further into saving for the future, knowing that the only way to find themselves in the good books of the electorates come 2029, is by outspending each other – a basic survival instinct. And how can they steal a kobo from the treasury, without the cooperation of our civil servants in the various ministries across the nation? We can’t keep selling our mandate to the highest bidder and at the same time expect good governance. Whenever we complain about the impunity of our political officeholders, we should also acknowledge the fact that their sense of entitlement and impunity were given to them through our choice(s) at the polls. When someone ‘buys’ himself a position in government at a premium, it’s only logical that person exercises the power of that office to the fullest value, for money spent. You can’t sell a car to a person and still dictate to him which color he paints it or which road to drive it on and which not to. The amount of money spent by our politicians at the polls is inversely proportional to the quality of governance to be delivered to the citizenry while in office.