Liberia has a system problem, but the failed politicians want to keep the country-congau debate going –A Critique Of Political Administration (Part1)

Wonderr K. Freeman – ATTORNEY

The country-congau chief ideologue, Jay wion, is not going to be a happy man after reading this article, because it makes so much sense he will not have an answer for it. Like Rip van Winkle JAY fell asleep in 1957, and just woke up in 2017. So he finds understanding the present-day Liberia too downright bizarre. But Jay Wion is not alone in this predicament.

Our uncle Joe [Boakai], is quietly pushing the country-congau debate (though unlike JAY who firmly believes in it, our Uncle Joe Boakai, doesn’t believe in it, but he’s doing it (opportunistically) for the votes. Frankly, I understand the Oldman’s position – his UP has precious little to sell, so why not go for the politics of the gutter. The

Unity Party, despite the hype, ended its two terms asa huge disappointment.  Unfortunately, whether it’s Jay Wion or Uncle Joe [Boakai], these constants resort to country-congau finger-pointing is an unnecessary distraction from the [real] issues for the destitution seen in Liberia. Liberia is poor and suffering, because the [governance] system is bad or (as some would say: there is, in fact, no system).  And when the system is weak and/or porous, whether country or congau, people are people, and they will exploit the system.

A ONE-MAN SHOW POLITICAL PARTY SYSTEM

Firstly, from what I see, we don’t have real political parties. A political party should be a group of people who share similar vision for how a country ought to be governed. But no, in Liberia, it is mostly a personality-driven issue or in some worse-case scenario’s, it’s a belly-driven issue.

But truth be told, Liberia has some deep systemic issues, that if not addressed, this system (or non-system) issue will always lead to a“countryman” exploitation or a “congau-man” exploitation. For example, in all the parties running, there was no real contest for the Standard-Bearers. It was all a one-man show, from Weah’s CDC, Cummings’ (ANC), to Boakai’s (UP), or Urey’s (ALP) – you name it – it was all a one-man show. In a real democracy, a party’s primary is a serious issue. Nobody has a birthright to a seat or a candidature.

There must be real contest and a contestation of ideas in which the best ideas win. That is the first step. When you have a party structure on the basis of a one-man show, this leads to a government structure that is also a one-man show – and all the attending sycophancy, cronyism, nepotism, tribalism, bootlicking and the rest of the other governance vices. And any government that is a one-man show is a disaster waiting to happen whether it’s a “countryman” one-man show or a “congauman” one-man show.

A MERIT-BASED CIVIL SERVICE TOTALLY DETACHED FROM POLITICS

A government at the top level is to provide the vision and the direction for the country. But the administration ought to be left with the technicians. That’s the kind of system you have in the Scandinavian countries, for example, or in Singapore, HongKong, Botswana and other widely-recognized well-governed nations.

What we have in Liberia is a system in which the President appoints nearly everybody – even up to accountants and procurement officers. Even ministers are allowed to move staffs around without any regards to a merit-based civil service process. This kind is system (or non-system) breeds corruption, nepotism, cronyism, tribalism, bootlicking and all other negative “ism”.

Presidential appointments should probably stop at ministers, deputies, foreign service etc, other positions should be converted to civil service posts in which a scrupulous merit-based system is put in place for hiring and for promotion. If we continue with this president takes all, makes all appointments and ministers (also) makes all appointments of directors and other mid-level managers without regards to merit, whether country or congau, Liberia is doomed. It will forever be a failed state!

A PROVINCIAL GOVERNANCE SYSTEM ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PEOPLE IN THE COUNTIES

Our constitution provides that the President appoint officials who serve at her will and pleasure. That works pretty well for high-ranking officials. But when you extend this approach to provincial officials(i.e., to superintendents, city mayors, township commissioners), it’s a recipe for disaster. People in these places ought to serve at the will and pleasure of the people in the counties/communities, in their cities and in their townships, and not at the will and pleasure of the President.

The net effect of such a system is that these people report to the President, and they report a lot of lies, which the President imbibes, because he/she is not in the provinces to know the happenings. Now, as long as these county officials please the President, they are guaranteed a job, even though, they may be treating their citizens very badly.

In our provincial (county) administration system, what has to change is that, county superintendents and their key deputies must be elected by their people and serve at the will and pleasure of the people who elected them. Also, we can have provisions in the law for recall election, if a certain number (percent) of signatories are acquired. For other county official in the areas of health, law, education, agriculture etc, they need fixed term-tenure, so that they have the job security and independence they need to work in the interest of the people, and not be coerced and manipulated by local politicians, as is the case now. Liberia should fight to reboot its system and forget all this useless debate over country and congau. It’s just a distraction.

A RESTRUCTURING OF THE POLITICAL ADMINISTRATION SYSTEM TO WEED OUT THE WASTE (SUPERFLOUS AGENCIES)

When Professor Simon Greenleaf wrote the initial Liberian constitution, his frame of thought was set in America. So he left us with a structure based on America but set in Liberia – thereby creating an unwieldy dichotomy.

For example, the Americans can explain why they have two (2) senators per state, but do we in Liberia have any explanation for why we too have two (2) senators per county? Or are we just following what Simon Greenleaf wrote in the 1800s? The Americans have their FBI, NSA, DOJ, CIA Department of Homeland Security and all the rest.

But is such a structure efficient for Liberia? So we too (in Liberia) want an NSA, NBI, LDEA, LNP! We want a Procurement commission (PPCC) as well as General Services Agency (GSA), and a National Bureau of Concession. But can we afford all these bureaus and agencies and commissions?

The problem is (1) we can’t afford it (2) monitoring and evaluation becomes so much difficult when you have so many agencies, ministries, bureaus and commissions (3) owing to the lack of monitoring and evaluation, people will do “their own thing” – little fiefdoms, in which they rule without oversight, transparency or accountability? I know this because I have spent the last ten year working for various government agencies.

We have a Ministry of Defense and we have a separate Ministry/Commission for veteran affairs. What logic is that? Most successful countries have less ministries and less bureaucracy. They merge ministries and agencies for greater efficiency. How different is the Governance Commission from the Law Reform Commission, from the Constitution Review Commission – in the midst of a Ministry of Justice and a Presidential Legal Advisor?

There is only one word to describe this: DUPLICATION. So Liberiansneed to sit down at the table and look at the political administration system and see what it needs and what it doesn’t need in terms of structure and design, and go for a structure that is effective and efficient for Liberia. We don’t need to be dictated to by anybody as to what political institutions we should have. We only need to be guided by our needs vis-à-vis our means.

Sorry Jay Wion and Uncle Joe, that is the problem in Liberia, not indigenious/natives vs repatriates/congau. If we don’t address this matter, we will have a country mess, a congau mess or a country-congau [collabo] mess (as the UP/NPP governments have demonstrated in recent times). Sometimes, I even wonder how a country of 170 years can still be talking about indigenous vs repatriates. How can a people who have been around for nearly 200 years still be considered non-indigenous?

A TENURE CUT AND/OR A PROVISION FOR RECALL ELECTION FOR POLITICIANS

Of course, the politicians won’t like to hear this, but every Liberian with his/her common sense still intact knows this“two senators per county thing is a terrible waste of resources”, as much as their nine-year tenure. Liberia does not need any tenure in excess of 5 years. Plus, we need provisions in our laws for recall elections. If our politicians are not performing in a manner and form as we expect or as they promised, we need laws that will provide us an opportunity for them to be recalled. For example,if a superintendent/senator/representative gets elected for say 5 years, after a minimal of 2 years, if such person is not performing to our liking, we must have provisions in our laws in which such person(s) can be recalled.

Perhaps, the law can say: if one-third of the people who elected a sittingsuperintendent/senator/representative signed a petition for recall, then such petition should set the legal basis for the National Election Commission to call a snap election. That way we can dispensed with failed politicians must faster, before they do more damage to the country. Imagine if we had such a law, the UP would have had no more than 7 or 8 years. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a law, so the UP had 12 years to do maximum damage to the country. And shockingly, they have the audacity to still be asking for another 6-12 years!

There are many governance challenges in Liberia. No article can cover all the political governance issues our country faces. But let’s be fair to ourselves and let’s be honest to our country. This nation, Liberia, has a system problem, a governance problem – and not a country-congau problem. If we don’t fix the system, it will be exploited by the countryman, and it will be exploited by the congau man. Jay Wion, Uncle Joe and others like them, I know we are all looking for votes (this October 2017), butlet’s agree to keep the discourse on the issues and stop this divisive rhetoric just for the sake of votes. I won’t get us anywhere!!!

Wonderr K. Freeman

ATTORNEY

Monrovia, Liberia, August 5, 2017

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About Cholo Brooks 5286 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists.