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Liberian President Turns “Fortune-Teller” For 2017 Election

Liberian President Turns “Fortune-Teller” For 2017 Election

“I can say one thing that the person who builds, accepts and promotes the progress we have, will stand a better chance winning the election”… President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

When news broke on social media and other sources that Front Page Africa Newspaper website had been hacked, our only hope was for the damage to be harmless. Indeed in a recent conversation with Mr. Rodney D. Sieh, Managing Editor of the paper, he spoke calmly stating that they had put things under control. He in fact invited us to visit the reformatted or better still redesigned site which we did without delay. Because of our respect for him and his staff like we have for other media colleagues in Liberia, we were very aware that they would have had not only interesting but eye-catching stories. So true to our expectation, Rodney published an interview with the soon-to-be seventy-eight year old Liberia Leader Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf where she did not only boast of gains she claims her government has made, but turned into a “Fortune-teller”. The interview touched on a variety of issues ranging from her not-straight-forward support for Vice President Joseph Boakai in the 2017 elections, assessment of her government over the last ten years, to describing herself as having a “thick” skin. But our attention is drawn to the eye-catching declaration by the President that the only way to win the 2017 elections is to build, accept and promote the progress that her government has made. Seriously! What on earth will make our very revered President to think and believe that she and her government hold the key to successful elections in Liberia? With the full permission of Mr. Rodney D. Sieh and his Front Page Africa Newspaper Management, who have been so helpful in giving us access to the audio and text versions of this significant interview, we went into our little corner to have a very quiet read of it in order to write our analysis with a professional flavor. Listening to the audio version of the interview Rodney had with Madam President, she sounded so boastful as if she knew she should have been asked those questions. As if she knew she would interacted with a critical-minded Journalist. As if the questions were sent in advance and she rehearsed the responses. We are still pondering on the basis on which our President was so emphatic about the results of the elections in 2017. What yardstick did she used to be so sure of the outcome in 2017? Is it on the basis of empirical analysis or she wanted to brag about the achievements of her government? Is she not the same Africa’s first female President who during the interview said: “There is just one thing I like to say, there is no political party as I see it, based on my political experience that will win these elections without a coalition. I don’t think any political party can win on its own giving the number of parties. So if you see people negotiating, dialoguing, it is because that they have all realized that some coalition has to be made for a particular party or parties to be successful.” From the tone of the President’s voice when she responded in the interview, we respectfully doubt that the Liberian Leader did pass this on to her advisers or allowed them to give it another pair of “eyes”. Because in most instances regarding such high profile interview, the interviewee usually requests for the questions or at most questions line. So the President must have had this opportunity and decided she would go solo and depend on her ingenuity. Anyway Madam Sirleaf in the interview acknowledged her human frailty… how she made some mistakes in her performance. So maybe this could have been another committal of her weakness she referred to. Maybe we need to seek the expert view of people who have long years of experience in electioneering to discern the President’s comments about the 2017 elections…to talk about promoting her government’s progress and forming coalition. Because to make such a declaration ahead of the election could be misconstrued as “abstract and undue tampering” of the pending elections. In the same interview with President Sirleaf she praised the Liberian electoral commission for their work expressing confidence that the commission has the capacity to handle the 2017 elections. But what is troubling in her response is for her to be calling on the commission to examine the electoral guidelines “with a little more rigidity, that they will be tougher, to ensure that we have the number of parties that will not be overwhelming as it seems to be”. Should the President be dictating or suggesting what goes on at the Liberian electoral commission? Should she be making such a statement at this time when she appears to be acting in dual capacities…..President and “Fortune-teller”? Even though she has acknowledged her human frailty, we think she should seek the Wisdom of Solomon and refrain from making such “conscious” mistakes. Suggesting that the Liberian Electoral Commission takes a rigid stance when bearing in mind the Commissioner was appointed by her, could be understood as a dictation from your principal by the commission. Even though we believe in the ability of the Commissioner and corps of commissioners to discern, but even if it were a “passing” statement by Madam President, it could be considered as a mandate and that anything otherwise, could warrant a “Presidential Axe” at the National Election Commission to the detriment of the commissioners. We know Madam President may not have such intention, but a careful care must be taken in making statements like this to the press, especially a critical press like the Front Page Africa Newspaper and other Liberian Newspapers that will capture this in their publication. Madam President, kindly take heed in these finishing times of yours about the public statements you make. Let the Professionals around you who you have charged to assist you run your government, justify their inclusion and work for the Liberian people’s taxes they are taking home like you as salaries. Stopping bypassing them and acting brave. Like you singled out Amara Konneh as your favorite minister because of his “financial prudence”, you also need a favorite minister who will discern “professionally” on matters relating to the Press and other public issues. Please don’t delay in taking this giant public step. It will certainly do you better! Lest you forget or delay Madam President, Posterity already has a telescope on your remaining term in office…and will not hesitate to list you as the only female President of Africa’s oldest Republic who deliberately refused to take this advice. A hint to the wise is quite sufficient President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf!! Now commenting on Rodney’s question regarding something that Madam President would have done in the last ten years that she regrets; and that if the opportunity were to present itself again, how differently would she react or make better decision…this is the response by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: “I think, I wish I would have thought better about Government and media relations. I am not an expert on that; I am not a communication expert. I wish I had taken more time to see how we could have done it better—how we could have had more trainings for journalists, regulatory body to ensure journalists improve their skills, something that would have prevented a situation where today we have what 30 radio stations, we have how many newspapers, newspapers that just come and go overnight and as result, quite frankly the media maybe not fully conscious of this, but the media has tried to define the progress and the problems of this nation. In many cases they have done injustice not only to the government but to the whole country because if you slander the government unless it is fair accusations or criticisms, what you do is you take away from us for creating the environment for people to invest, for people to do business and what you do is, people run away. Today, someone just said to me and I said you know how true it is people say things are rough, money not flowing and someone said to me you know why? And I said no! They said people do not want to put their money through the banking system because they are afraid somebody will accuse them of this and the other. So, most of the money is in their safe, in their draws and whatever, when that money should be there in the banking system, circulating and being able to support businesses and that is because we create a scary environment here that is not necessary, when you can still do criticisms without doing this kind of undermining of the country’s progress. What gets pick up here gets picks up over there. Fortunately, people say the international community thinks well about us than people do here, the international community knows, they have better intelligence than anybody here, so they know what is right, they know what is wrong, they know what progress and what challenges we face.” In our opinion, this is a rather sarcastic comment by the President regarding the kind of relationship she would have envisaged with the media. Regrettably, Madam President may have been oblivious about the disjointed nature of her government’s communications machinery. A very recent classic example was the closure of all crossing points with neighboring Guinea as a result of the resurgence of Ebola in that country. Statutorily, it is the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism that is the official spokes arm of the Liberian Government. But can you imagine a Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization officer somewhere in Lofa County was the one announcing the closure measure? Information Minister Eugene Nagbe had to be called on the UN Radio in Monrovia to confirm the closure measure belatedly. The disjointed fashion did not only stop there…when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government decided to reopen the border and crossing points with Guinea, it was again the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization’s spokesperson Abraham Dorley who announced it that was captured as a font page headline in the Inquirer Newspaper in March, 2016. So shouldn’t Madam President be concerned first about cleaning and refining her government’s information machinery before talking about more training for Liberian journalists describing them as “enemies of progress”? Again, we respectfully disagree with Madam President that the Liberian Media is stagnating the country’s economic growth. We think this is a misstep accusation against the Liberian Media. We are wondering what kind of regulatory body Madam President is opting for in Liberia? A body that will slash the number of media institutions from 30 to 10 or 5? “Quite frankly the media maybe not fully conscious of this, but the media has tried to define the progress and the problems of this nation.” What exactly is the meaning of this Madam President? Is it a “bite and blow” situation you are propounding? Lest we are misunderstood, we are not just blindly coming down on Madam President respectfully. We are very aware that just as there are some “bad apples” in other professions, the Liberian media is no exception. But for our President to be so general and emphatic, that is so respectfully unfortunate. Madam has publically boasted that her regime can be credited for the promotion of freedom of expression and speech. Thumbs up for this Madam President…the record is printed in the “Guinness Record Book” already indisputably. So then why are you paranoid about the proliferation of media institutions in Liberia? Madam President the justice system is there…if a media institution engages in slander (spoken) or libel (written) against your government; litigate that institution instead of insinuating that the unprofessional performance by some media institutions is scaring investors away. Like you stated the investors have better intelligence than anybody in Liberia, so they know what is right, they know what is wrong; they know what progress and what challenges Liberia is facing. So if these people or partners know this wealth of information about Liberia then why panic Madam President? In conclusion Madam, we believe strongly that you still have the ability to steer the affairs of state to 2017; so kindly don’t show any sign that you are losing grip and slipping into a limb duck’s situation. You have proven that over the years steadily….leading to many international accolades with the media being among the presenters. It will be too foolhardy for Liberians to begin to harbor fear that their internationally acclaimed President is shivering as she concludes her tenure. We don’t ever want to reach that point. So Madam President our candid advice to you is kindly have well-calved out talking points on burning national issues…even if there are some personal ones you intend to give clarity on; like the one revolving around your family. How you boastfully said you and your children and other family members don’t have to depend on Liberia’s wealth and resources that you have been managing for many years for yours and the country’s survival. No doubt about your family’s qualification, but the prominence you have gotten at least during your Presidency, raised your moral in some financial terms. So please let your communication experts examine what you have to say in the future. It will be very harmless if you got a request in the future from a media institution, whether locally or out of the country with talking points or questions line to just pass by some of your communications gurus since you have admitted that you are not a communications expert. Fair enough, but let the communications experts give you guidance in this direction. A stitch in time saves nine Madam President! Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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