A key grievance against the Tolbert administration enunciated by the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) after the 1980 military coup d’etat was the president appointing his family members to key positions in his administration.
The modern day English word for that grieveable offense is nepotism; meaning, “patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship, as in business and politics.”
The Samuel Kanyon Doe-led PRC military government’s grievance against President Tolbert did not say anything about qualification, because the families of the late President, according to most Liberians were qualified to work in his administration as heads of departments and agencies.
There is also a counter argument that the children and other family members of presidents are qualified to work in their parent’s/family member’s administration, and that leaving them out of the process is unfair.
The same can be said that such practice is not only disadvantageous to qualified Liberian citizens who are non-family members of a president, but is also unfair to those Liberians who are not given a chance to compete for the same job because it is reserved, or has to be given to a presidential son, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, etc.
Then again, there is this thing about discipline, (who disciplines this person?), access to sensitive information, legal and illegal business dealings, influence peddling, and favoritism toward a presidential family member, who now thinks he or she is above the law.
As if the centuries-old discriminatory policies against the indigenous majority (he inherited from his predecessors and the True Whig Party) were not enough to trigger resentment against the moderate Tolbert, his embrace of a nepotistic policy – no matter how qualified his relatives are also contributed to his fatal downfall.
After going through successive leadership change and a civil war that radically transformed the landscapes of Liberia, news report that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has resulted to hiring her sons and other family members to key government positions, has made her a part of Liberia’s problem than a solution.
The appointment of sons Robert Sirleaf as Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia, and Charles Sirleaf as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, are examples of an arrogant President who continues to operate above the law, and not ready to listen or abandon the practice of old that has never been a popular option in governance, and obviously not popular in Liberia either.
However, because the hiring of presidential children and family members to head lucrative and sensitive government posts helped to agitate resentment, and later a fatal political uprising in 1980, should have been a teachable moment for President Sirleaf, who should have stayed clear of this controversy.
Instead, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose presidential ambitions sprouted from discrimination, nepotism and the violations of democratic rights against a segment of the population, has constantly ignored the crippling reality of Liberian politics, which prohibits a president from appointing his or her children/family members in key government posts.
Even before the recent wave of criticism about nepotism in her administration permeated the public sphere, President Sirleaf, in her first term appointed other family members in her administration: namely, Fumba Sirleaf, as head of the National Security Agency, and Ambullai Sirleaf, Minister of Internal Affairs. Ambullai Sirleaf has since left his post at Internal Affairs.
Like his mother who threatened to file a lawsuit against Jucontee Woewiyu, in 2005, for implicating her as playing a major financial role in the civil war, Robert Sirleaf also threatened (or has already filed an $11 million libel lawsuit) according to some reports against Jefferson Koijee and couple of newspapers in Liberia.
How libelous can it be when it is obvious that presidential son Robert Sirleaf was appointed by his mother to chair the board of the lucrative oil company of Liberia? Is it not a fact that his mom appointed him? Is it not a fact that his mom also appointed her son, Charles, to be a deputy at the state-run Central Bank of Liberia?
These are all gimmicks meant to intimidate critics of this government who have legitimate concerns about President Sirleaf’s governing style disguised as democratic; and her administration, (as Liberians have heard all along) as having no political prisoners on their watch.
Not having a political prisoner on her watch does not mean other violations are not visibly apparent, in an administration that prides itself as democratic but not accountable to the people of Liberia.
How democratic is this government when political opponents who are supposedly free cannot speak freely with the thought of a lawsuit looming in the back of their minds if they do speak?
Is it a healthy democratic exercise when the president’s backpedaling and reactionary friends are not ready to discuss the issues, but are always ready to launch incendiary personal attacks against the other side for keeping a watchful eye on the administration?
With the nation still polarized, fragile and not yet healed from the recent presidential election and years of armed warfare, and families still haven’t had the closure from the loss of their relatives, the last thing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wants to do is to be insensitive to the legitimate concerns of the Liberian people
With these nepotistic appointments constantly stirring the political consciousness of Liberians, no wonder some are bold enough to speak against such flagrant abuse of power.
Where is the Legislative branch on this issues and other burning national issues? I really want to know.