I find it very difficult describing Liberian politics.
I also find it hard describing the participants – the ones who often refers to themselves as either ‘politicians’ and ‘progressives.’
One is already in office, and the other, well, are in the background or in the public sphere constantly pinpointing the wrongs of the other side as they or their surrogates benefit politically or financially from the ones in office; even as they too attempt to become officeholders.
What’s wrong with the picture is that it becomes laughable, blurry and corrupt to the naked eye; making the various groups to appear dishonest and not credible, in a political game that always claims its share of poor and helpless victims.
We saw the same movie in the past when the so-called ‘progressive’ agitators rallied to defend a country they once believed was sinking, only to add to the problem.
Some of the progressives would bend over shamelessly in latter years to work and get rich quick, in those patently corrupt and dysfunctional governments of the past that continues to be an embarrassment to the Liberian people.
With the history of the past is still haunting Liberians and the Liberian nation, some haven’t learned the lessons of putting country first, but would rather prefer to blindly follow and support their friends and relatives in government and whoever is President, at the detriment of the country’s prosperity.
Liberians are also good at selective criticism.
They will criticize another person in office, but will leave their favorite person out intentionally because he or she is a favorite person.
A friend or relative who is appointed or elevated to a government post but engages in corruption cannot, should not and will not be criticized because he or she is a friend or family member.
In most cases, those Liberians are always in the admiration mode often bestowing their brand of false adulations on the family member or friend, because he or she was appointed minister or director of a particular ministry or agency by the President of Liberia.
At least the Liberian opposition groups (with their singular interest of replacing President Tolbert) were united during the administration of the moderate Tolbert, whom they were ready to replace at any costs and eventually replaced.
However, the polarization of Liberian politics began after the so-called ‘native son,’ Doe, whose understanding of governance is the militarization of Liberian politics to suit his blind and naked ambitions of being President of Liberia.
During his 10-year oppressive rule as a military leader or President, Liberians surely were divided on ethnic and political lines – with Mr. Doe’s ethnic Krahn tribal loyalists (and some non-Krahns whom he helped financially and with jobs) sticking with him, even as he pillaged the nation’s resources and ruled the nation his way and with no accountability, whatsoever.
The coming of the disgraced Charles Taylor even intensified the polarization of Liberian politics, as the former Americo-Liberian ruling class whom President Doe had destabilized during his 1980 coup, were emboldened to return to power.
This period also saw the return of the bookish, opportunistic, job-seeking and obsessively rhetorical and impractical native or indigenous Liberians of previous years.
This group considers themselves “progressives.”
They built their reputations on the past, and began a conveniently surreptitious and overt campaign to undermine the same pluralistic democratic country they always believed they fought to build.
Some of these so-called progressives who are/were already members of disorganized political parties, are also obsessed with the presidency.
Their leaders or standard bearers are often disconnected from the political aspirations of the people, and not even concerned with the idea of building democratic institutions, and organizing and articulating a genuine road to pluralistic democracy.
Their standard bearers naively and arrogantly believed they can be a service to Liberia only by becoming President of Liberia, or can do better by running for president every election season.
The progressives also want government jobs. Getting a government job, however, requires the individual to surrender and sleep with the devil, which many has done over the years.
Some are now even sleeping with the “devil” Madame Sirleaf for government jobs, even though she refuses to even recognize the verdict of her own Truth and Recoliation Commission (TRC), that made it crystal clear she cannnot participate in politics for 30 years. She defied the commission and ran for president in 2011.
The Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), the paralyzed and discredited umbrella organization of Liberian organizations, is often up in arms with the Sirleaf administration and visiting government officials, often beating their drums as if it is normal for the current Liberian government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to be corrupt and ineffective.
The lack of a genuinely cohesive and united voice in Liberian politics today has done damage to progressive politics, as we know it. A call for protest demonstrations or rallies against the Sirleaf administration often brings out of the woods opportunististic elements.
The last protest rally against the government never happened, because organizers were reportedly bribed by the Sirleaf administration to halt it.
The advent of the “me” and “I” mentality – the obsessively personal and selfish nature of individuals trying to get rich quickly on the sweat of the poor, has done tremendous damage to cohesiveness in Liberian politics.
Polarization in Liberian politics has also intensified under the Sirleaf administration, as the president continues to play one group against the other to solidify her grip on the presidency.
The opposition is ineffective and mainly concerned with seeking individual employment and financial handouts from the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who should have been deposed or overthrown non-violently by now.
Running for the presidency without putting together a clear and formidable bread and butter strategy to win, has emboldened Madame Sirleaf to run her administration as she so chose to do.
A Case in point is George Oppong Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change political party, which supposed to be the leading opposition party in Liberia.
George Weah, the former football star and opposition leader is a paid member of President Sirleaf’s National Oil Board, and also Peace Ambassador in the Sirleaf administration. George Weah and his CDC party has no ounce of credibility to run Liberia after Madame Sirleaf is gone.
How can an opposition leader who supposedly disagrees (together with his political party) with the President’s policies, work in the government he has fundamental differences with?
The Sirleaf administration, which received tremendous local and global goodwill since coming to power has not only embraced the lack of cohesiveness within the opposition which has benefited her mammoth political aspirations, but also squandered all credibility to be taken seriously.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is not ready for the presidency, and the past years have shown her obvious lack of leadership and a desire to build institutions, and respect existing institutions.
Rampant corruption and nepotism are evident in every sphere of her administration, Sirleaf is not accountable to the Liberian people, and she continues to manipulate the judiciary and the electoral process.
Madame Sirleaf appointed officers of the National Elections Commission (NEC) whom oversaw the 2005 and 2011 elections, even though she was a presidential candidate and an incumbent at the time. Is that considered fair, independent and neutral?
Rural lands and natural resources are being sold to the highest international bidder. Unemployment is close to 80 percent, healthcare is under funded, poverty has skyrocketed, and the education, environmental and transportation systems are in shambles.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a frequent flyer and globetrotter, who spends the nation’s meager resources like a drunken sailor. Where’s legislative oversight and accountability? Where’s the opposition, anyway?
The truth is, we are not serious; and are our own worst enemy.