What Holds EJS From Pulling The Trigger On Ineptitude?


Two years shy of her exit, Liberia’s President appears trapped in a twilight zone of one inept official after the next … running out of mercies and no time on her side

IN A RECENT FrontPageAfrica interview, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf acknowledged that she has lost some of the Iron persona that made her the political heroine, a persona she rode to power after more than thirty years in pursuit, battling fiery political nemesis.

ASKED WHETHER she still had the markings of the Iron Lady in her, the President replied: “Strong in spirit, strong in determination, strong in conviction, but sometimes a little sad now at some of the unfair talk around the town. The cheap talks that just take away from our effort. Like I say it does not deter me, I keep pushing on but you know, the iron to lash out at them, I do not do that anymore.”

IN THE SAME vein, Sirleaf spoke of her desire to see her place in history secured. “History will remember that I met Liberia, a broken nation, a pariah state and I put it on the track for sustainable development. There is no escaping that, nobody will deny me that because it is true.”

THIS MUCH IS TRUE. No one can deny that Sirleaf endured immense political battles with her predecessors Tolbert, Doe and Taylor; no one can deny that she fought against oppression, nepotism, corruption and the lack of accountability.

NO ONE can also deny Sirleaf’s rose to prominence as the first duly elected woman to lead an African nation.

HER’S HAS BEEN a life to marvel, in the norm and fashion of Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom(1979-1990) for whom the term, The Iron Lady was first coined.

THATCHER AWAKENED the world with a speech entitled: “Britain Awake” in which she charged that the Russians were bent on world dominance, rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. A day later, the Soviet military newspaper, Red Star, published a response to Thatcher’s speech by military journalist Captain Yuri Gavrilov with a headline aptly titled “The ‘Iron Lady’ Sounds the Alarm”, as an allusion to Otto von Bismarck, known as the “Iron Chancellor” of imperial Germany.

THE NAME has since been used, along with regional variations, to describe Sirleaf and other female heads of governments or political figures.

TODAY, THE IRON Lady of Liberia is at turning point in her presidency, staring down that barrel of a legacy of some notable high points – that has included millions of dollars in debt relief for a nation emerging from war and restoring the image of a war-torn nation, back in the good books of the international community; but also some very low ebbs that is very likely to taint everything she has worked for her entire life.

THE LATEST TO CATCH our attention is a letter dated March 16, 2016 directed to her minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Mr. Patrick Sendolo and copied to the Ministers of Justice, Finance, Agriculture and State and the heads of the National Investment Commission and the Public Procurement Concessions Commission (PPCC).

IN THE LETTER, the President expresses concern, disappointment and frustration over the time her administration is taking to complete the process that would improve the slow implementation performance which is the hallmark of her looming legacy.


“ONE CASE IN POINT is the long delay in finalizing the arrangement for the outsourcing by the LEC of the distribution system in Ganta to a private Liberian entity. I understand that this arrangement will also extend to the other three countries that are benefitting from the ECOWAS Border Project. As you know, we have obtained approval from the Cote d’Ivoire authorities to apply a preferential tariff that will reduce the cost per kilowatt hours from 14 cents to as low as 5.6 cents per kilowatts. Today, citizens and entities are using generators at a cost of over 40 cents.

“ANOTHER CASE in point is our inability to conclude the process for accessing the ratified US$144 million credit from India to expand transmission and distribution service. Another case in point is the Dangote Investment which has dragged for over two years, denying the users The benefits inn reduced electricity tariff and the country the potential for value addition in local produce and in employment. Similarly, the Obasanjo Farms which has invested over US2 million in poultry operation is slated and threatening closure due to the delay in concluding the investment incentives requested.”

THE PRESIDENT CONTINUES: “It is sad that we are very adept at moving at great speed to conclude talks and financing arrangements abroad but unable to achieve the needed objectives from these efforts which is to deliver the planned services to the citizens.”

THE PRESIDENT adds: “If we are to achieve our objectives over the next two years, it is imperative that we take a different track. Therefore, Minister Sendolo, I instruct that you take full responsibility for bringing these pending matters to an expeditious conclusion, and keep me updated about progress and further actions necessary and expedient to achieve this purpose. I urge the full support and cooperation of all ministries, agencies and individuals who have a role to play in ensuring that my instruction is successfully carried out.”

BUT THIS IS NOT THE FIRST time we have seen the President struggle to deal with incompetent and arrogant ministers and officials in her government.

A NATION sat and watch as her former Minister of Public Works, Antoinette Weeks delayed one project after the next until the President was forced to part was after concluding that she had not seen the minister’s handiwork on projects.

SIRLEAF WOULD EVENTUALLY fire Weeks, but disappointed many again, months later, by nominating the minister who had failed miserably in her government, to a major ECOWAS position as   Vice President for Infrastructure.

ACCORDING TO SIRLEAF, the minister met all the qualifications for the position. “Ms. Weeks is a qualified engineer, holding a PhD in that respect. She failed in Liberia because she lacked political sanctity. Where she is going, she will not be involved with political issues; she will be involved with professional job so she was qualified. But we made sure; we had two others because people also reading the notion, reading the papers and they will say things. We wanted to get delivery of our agenda, her own technical way but lack of political sensitivity made her delayed too much for us but she is on that list but we do not choose the person, we only listed and send them, they hold interviews, they look at the backgrounds, they do their entire test and they decide. She is attractive, a woman engineer, PhD in Africa.”

WEEKS may possess the qualifications but her mannerism and approach in dealing with people is a major component where she falls short and could come back to bite the President and Liberia in the not too distant future. A position like that requires someone with a track record of deliverables, someone who will look out not just for ECOWAS but for Liberia.

AFRICANS WHO rise to those position of international stature, have a history of ensuring that their countries develop; take the many Ghanaians, Nigerians and other nationalities who have risen to the World Bank, the IMF and even ECOWAS positions and what they have done for their country.

WE ARE NOT SURE Weeks fits the bill but history could prove us wrong.

THE PROBLEM of arrogance was aptly addressed by the President’s own Advisor on National Security, Dr. H. Boimah Fahnbulleh who said recently that some government officials were arrogant, deceptive and liars who encourage what he described as dishonest citizens to become dishonest with them. “If you have one shirt, keep it clean, he is talking about your character, if your character is decent and clean your people will be honest with you.” He says if Government officials play games, cheat and lie to their citizens they shouldn’t expect protection.

WE HAVE SAID HERE BEFORE that the arrogance and open disregard for those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder by those in government is becoming increasingly embarrassing for the administration.

WE ARE FORCED to wonder, why so many officials in one government are causing so much harm, pain and heartache to a President that has done so much in giving them the platform to shine, in giving them the moment in the sun; and why are they not repaying her back? But most importantly, why isn’t this President doing what is right to safeguard her legacy by ridding her government of those who continuously bring shame, embarrassment and an aura of ineptness to a political life she worked so hard to build?

THE LETTER to Mr. Sendolo exposes the frustrations the president is feeling and the disappointment knocking on her doorsteps.

IT IS A SAD COMMENTARY that is as puzzling to the eye as the light of day. We have no answers but only hope that this President Sirleaf will stop toying with caution. The writings are on the wall and time is running out. We hope for her own sake, she can find the stitch in time before the recurring atmosphere of ineptitude and arrogance of those she put her faith in comes tumbling down the ladder of what could very well be an uncertain legacy if she fails to put the brakes on incompetence.