It is often said that the true test of leadership does not come when everything is smooth sailing, but rather when everything seems challenging and the road ahead is very rough and dark.

The manner in which leaders conduct themselves, including the level of honesty, integrity, and confidence in the midst of national crisis will reflect on the overall direction of a nation in troubling times.

While there is no one blanket solution to every problem, we know that every problem, especially national crisis, should be met with steadiness, preparedness, and integrity.

In the Liberian context, the issue that have always stood in the way of a responsible national approach to problem solving in recent years have included: Corruption, Lack of preparedness and sometimes political influences or partisanship.

And, as it is often the case with most national crisis, be it tornado, flooding, civil war, or pandemic, they do strike at unexpected times, meaning that there can be no adequate notice to prepare for them, and in many instances there can be no clear idea from the beginning how long they will last.

Therefore, the best approach in dealing with national emergency is to make allocation in advance based on the possibility that it might happen.

While every problem might be different in substance, leaders must consistently display the following attributes:

Caution, honesty, vision, and decisiveness. These are the attributes that create the unforgiving pressure to produce results, and while this pressure may sometimes make leaders feel like the weight of an entire nation is on their shoulders, it must be clear that that’s what public officials sign up for when they take on leadership roles.

For instance, in this moment of global covid-19 pandemic, world leaders are scrambling to make sure that their actions represent the best options available to protect their people.

Obviously, some nations are better equipped with science and technology to fight against this invincible enemy, while some nations, like our beloved Liberia, are lacking in the necessary supplies.

But one thing that is for sure is that in this critical moment, the government of the Republic of Liberia has demonstrated tremendous leadership prowess by bringing to bear and all of government response in dealing with this crisis. 

Through its massive awareness campaign and with the help of local partners, the Liberian government has educated its people on steps including washing of hands and avoiding the unnecessary social contacts that were recommended by the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) in these difficult times.

And while the government may not have all the tools needed to test and or treat patients, the on-going precautionary measures of isolating individuals that appear to have the symptoms of the virus is indeed a step in the right direction that must be lauded by everyone.

And as we hope and pray that our nation survives the current pandemic, we must also beware that leadership in times like these must come from all corners of our communities, including from civil society leaders, the religious communities, community organizers, opposition leaders etc. These are not the times to castigate and throw blames, but a time to come together and put love of country first.

The role of national government should involve for the most part providing whatever resources are available, and coordinating the various aid efforts, and in this regard, the government has done a great job.

However, since no leader is an island, my advice to the Government of Liberia is that when all of this is over, it must continue to build on the lessons learned in these difficult times, cultivating the power of networks and developing more action plans for the future in the event that national crisis hit again.

These new relationships should never be short-termed, instead they should be nurtured so that when ever needed, they are available to commit.

Tee Wonokay / Executive Director Foundation for Human Rights Defense (FOHRD) / [email protected]