New Thinking with Joe Bartuah – Tiawan Saye Gongloe: He Stands Out Among the Rest

After 175 years as Africa’s oldest independent Republic, Liberians have poignantly realized the stark reality of the nation’s abject underdevelopment, in comparison to other relatively younger African countries, in terms of their independence. As a result, most Liberians have resolved and are ready than ever before to radically break with the decadent, ugly past in effectively utilizing Article One (1) of our Constitution, in order to put LIBERIA on a transformative path of comprehensive national development. And so, for those who are still not yet aware, the Global Gongloe Movement is an Article One Project, with Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe as the indisputable Project Manager.

According to the very first article of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, “All power is inherent in the people.” Is that not clear and unequivocal enough? The constitutional scholars emphatically declared that collectively, we–the Liberian people–are the original source of “all power” that our politicians so brazenly exercise, often with utter arrogance and indifference to the plight of the very people. Remember, our constitutional gurus did not say “some power.” Instead, they concisely noted that the people are the ultimate origins of “all power.” Perhaps to disabuse the cynical minds of all the political doubting Thomases, Article One further declares, “All free governments are instituted for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require.”

As the sages have told us from millennial, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time. And so, for 175 years, Liberians have been patiently and eagerly waiting to reach the covetous, highly anticipated developmental Promised Land, but decades after decades, the undesirable outcome of our epic patience, the dividend of our patriotic yearning, of our resilience, our perseverance and fortitude has unfortunately been one leadership mishap after another, a dismal phenomenon shrouded in arrogance and fueled by bad governance.

For example, in the early 1940s, then incumbent President Edwin James Barclay, after spending 14 consecutive years in the Executive chair, pleaded with aristocrats of the erstwhile ruling True Whig Party to draft his nephew-in-law, then Associate Justice William V.S. Tubman as his successor and on January 3, 1944, Tubman was enthroned as a fresh face from the so-called “leeward county.” Of course, the appalling result was 27 years of socio-economic, political inertia, characterized by the insidious usurpation of the inherent people’s power, exemplified by the shameless removal of the 8-year presidential term limit in the 1847 constitution. When the Liberian people began to boldly resist Tubman’s enigmatic autocracy, he resorted to terroristic tactics and bloodletting that victimized several innocent souls, culminating in the murders of Senator Samuel David Coleman and his son in 1955.

Now, fast-forward to the aftermath of the 14-year fratricide during which Liberians were cajoled to draft a political celebrity, so as to get the job done by laying a formidable foundation for the country’s long overdue developmental leap. Again, Liberians waited and waited to get to the developmental mountain top, but pathetically, it turned out to be a fiasco. When the political celebrity faltered, a few compatriots with no known credibility, concocted to ride on the popularity wagon of yet another celebrity—a sporting celebrity with no known commitment to fundamental democratic principles for, as is now notoriously known, egregious reasons. In other words, overnight self-enrichment was the primary motivation for the clique that brought us to the prevailing status quo.

It is against this debilitating backdrop of chronic under-development that the Global Gongloe movement, which has identified Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe as the best-suited Project Manager to put Liberia on a forward-looking developmental trajectory, has emerged to resolutely utilize the very first article of our Constitution in putting the eminent human rights jurist in the Executive chair. Even though I’m not sufficiently fluent to convey the impetus of Liberians’ gravitation towards the movement, the foregoing basically sums up the rapid upswing in what some pundits are now labeling as the Tiawan Gongloe factor in the 2023 presidential election.

In the anticipated election of 2023, we as a people, have an obligation to robustly prove Mr. David Park right. Mr. Park, then Director of Public Affairs at the United States embassy in Monrovia, once declared in 1996 that “There are more good people in Liberia than bad people”, adding at the time, “It’s time for the good people to win.” Indeed, the philosophical splendor and altruism of Mr. Park’s assertion remain unchanged. That is, there are actually more good people—people who really mean well for the Liberian nation; people who yearn for a day when public funds would be scrupulously expended for the benefit and well-being of the Liberian people; people who wish and anticipate that most, if not all of  those basic human development fundamentals, such as better road networks, better health posts, clinics, hospitals; better schools, colleges and universities, safe-drinking water, reliable electricity system, youth empowerment, agricultural development, mainstreaming local entrepreneurship, etc—be available and accessible–are more abundant in Liberia than bad people, who naively delude themselves that they’ll live forever and are therefore, foolhardily bent on stealing the taxpayers money without any remorse of conscience.

Unfortunately, however, the problem is that over the years, the good people, who are clearly in a majority, have allowed themselves to be manipulated, to be hypnotized and hoodwinked by kleptocratic villains; to be outmaneuvered by scoundrels, by con artists who somehow consider Liberia as their personal property, by thieves who are bent on callously ripping the country of its resources for self-enrichment.

Now after all those disastrous turns of event, whereby political celebrity and a sporting celebrity have all been tried with dismal results, Liberians have now resolved to try what has all along been lacking—INTEGRITY. It’s against this backdrop that forward-looking compatriots from the territorial confines of Liberia and those currently residing abroad, have resolved to draft Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe, the gentleman who is an embodiment of those crucial leadership acumens that Liberia urgently needs, to occupy the Executive chair following the 2023 presidential election.

Interestingly, as the Gongloe movement rapidly gains traction, some cynics have been attempting to devise a new set of political caste system in Liberia. Prior to 1980, the decadent caste system used to be based on one’s last name or segmental background. But now, the sentiments are being switched to a sort of “bank-book” caste system. Such regressive sentiments hold that even though Counselor Gongloe possesses the requisite qualification, competence, orientation and character traits, or moral rectitude to get the job done, “he doesn’t have money, because the man is a poor man’s lawyer.”

My response to that is historically, some of the most successful leaders were not among the richest of their time. In the days of old when the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were among the wealthiest souls on this planet, Moses a leader emerged who succeeded in enabling the Israelites to cross the Red Sea. Certainly, Moses was not among the most opulent in ancient Egypt when God selected him to lead his people. Joshua was not a millionaire when he emerged and led the Israelites to the Promised Land. In our own time, after spending 27 years in apartheid South Africa’s penitentiary, the venerable Nelson Mandela was not the richest among his compatriots when he became President of that great nation in 1994 and coincidentally, Tiawan Saye Gongloe as a United Nations election observer, was one of the democratic activists from around the world who helped usher in the Mandela administration. Even in the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the only black man whose birthday is currently observed as a Federal holiday, was not among the richest of his time when he led the Civil Rights movement.

In other words, Gongloe is admittedly not a millionaire, but he’s best suited to put Liberia on a comprehensive developmental fast-track. Currently a law professor at Liberia’s only law school, Counselor Gongloe has a better diagnosis of the country’s perennial socio-economic, developmental malaise. He has been reiterating that as a society, our gross inability to equally apply the rule of law with consistency is the pivotal underpinning of our abject backwardness. Now with the pathetic ineptitude and penchant for uncontrolled corruption of the Weah regime, Gongloe has not been mincing words when he says that Liberia is like a patient in an intensive care unit (ICU) in a hospital. Obviously, when a patient is in an ICU, you urgently call experts to get the job done, not quacks.

In other words, because the Liberian presidency is enormously powerful, it’s not only prudent, but also imperative to entrust our national leadership to a compatriot with an unquestionable democratic credential, not someone whose commitment to the principle of democracy and the equal application of the rule of law is unknown. And so in the 2023 presidential election, Liberians for the first time, have a clear choice between big names and honest, forward-looking leadership.

Even though I might not have sufficient reasons to doubt the sincerity of other candidates in the 2023 presidential election, for the vast majority of fellow Liberians who are trooping towards the Gongloe movement, our aspirant’s consistency of purpose over the years stands out among the rest. Even the staunchest opponents of Counselor Gongloe will grudgingly concede that the eminent jurist has a steely will and his principle, his fortitude of fearlessly cultivating fundamental democratic tenets have been unshakable for decades. For more than three decades now, Gongloe has consistently been standing with and advocating for a cross-section of Liberians from diverse backgrounds.

As a society, one of the errors in judgment of our political subculture has been our failure to elect people with known principles to occupy crucial political offices. We tend to chase shadow over substance. But in 2023, Liberians from varied socio-economic, political, religious and cultural backgrounds have resolved to make a positive difference, by electing Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe as the next President, because they’re aware that the gentleman is best suited to put Liberia on the right path to comprehensive national development.

Not only that he’s attempting to elevate his exemplary advocacy for fundamental human rights to the apex of Liberian politics, but he’s also eager and very determined to build a formidable path to the future, so as to enable Liberian youth  move forward in tandem with their global counterparts in forging a brighter future for themselves and posterity. But as Gongloe and his movement gear up for building a viable path to the future, a few people are suggesting that he should look backward and carry along a political baggage of the past, a seemingly counter-productive sentiment. The harsh reality is that you can’t be anticipating the erection of a vibrant future and at the same time carry over relics of the past ineptitude that actually produced the dismal status quo.

Because he’s conversant with the nation’s past deficiencies, which continue to shackle Liberia’s progress, Gongloe is better positioned to lay a better foundation for sustained economic regeneration. Physically, he has the toughness and agility to better cope with the rigors of campaigning in a rugged terrain, because unlike some of the other candidates, he has a practical experience of traversing most parts of Liberia for decades. Counselor Gongloe is better positioned to be the next President of Liberia because throughout his 34 years of advocacy, he has been able to familiarize himself with the rich cultural mosaic constituting the socio-political fabrics of the country. Folks, Liberia needs a conscientious president who clearly understands the socio-cultural intricacies of our country, not a cultural neophyte who is very uncomfortable to closely interact with his fellow Liberians.

Moreover, unlike some of the other candidates, Gongloe has never suffered from a patriotic identity disorder (PID). In other words, our presidential candidate never had any mental anguish at some point in his life time, whether he should identify himself as a Liberian or not; neither does he have any mild expedient nationalism syndrome (ENS). Put another way, when the going was tough, when others were faking their identity, camouflaging their nationality at the altar multinational corporate expediency, or pretending to be Americans, Tiawan Saye Gongloe, then a human rights education fellow at Columbia University in New York City in 1990, was one of the technocrats summoned by the leaders of West Africa to serve. When the going got tough, when corpses and debris littered our cities and villages, Tiawan Saye Gongloe was one of those who ably served. In other words, he has been with the Liberian people in bad times and in good times. Moreover folks, we need to keenly monitor the antics of the current batch of presidential aspirants. If you see a presidential candidate trying to bribe other candidates with millions of dollar to drop out of the race, that’s a red flag, because it indicates that if such a person becomes president, corruption will remain unabated.

Besides that, Counselor Gongloe is abundantly known, not only for getting the job done, but more importantly, for getting positive results. As a Teaching Assistant in the Economics Department at the University from the early 1980s, he got positive results. As Executive Assistant to the late venerable Amos Claudius Sawyer for four consecutive years, he got positive results. As Solicitor-General of Liberia, he got positive results; as Minister of Labor, he got positive results; as president of the Liberia National Bar Association, he got positive results. As Managing Partner of Gongloe and Associates, a leading law firm in Monrovia, he continues to get positive results.

Within the international arena, as a United Nations election observer in South Africa (1994), he got positive results. As Resident Consultant of the famous Carter Center in Ethiopia during that east African country’s transition (2005), he got positive results; as a Carter Center election observer in Ghana (2008), he got positive results. Even more recently as a presidential aspirant on a tour of the United States, he got positive results by meeting with top policy makers at the U.S. State Department. His State Department exploits against the backdrop that the Weah regime in Monrovia is now basically a diplomatic pariah, indicates that when he’s elected President in the 2023 presidential election, Tiawan Saye Gongloe will be a crucial diplomatic asset for Liberia to regain its lost national dignity. That’s some of the reasons why he’s considered the very best presidential candidate among the rest.

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