Liberia: An Open Letter from Olubanke King-Akerele to Pres. Weah on the Nomination of the New NEC Chair Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike
I have the honor to extend greetings and Best wishes for this Year 2020. In that regard, I wish to refer to your above-mentioned nominee that is before the Liberian Senate for confirmation.
I find myself impelled to add my voice to those in the Senate; from the Civil Society; Former Ambassador to the United Nations, Amb Lewis Brown, amongst other citizens on the radio and news media request that you withdraw the said nomination.
My reason for this has nothing to do with his being a naturalized Liberian of Nigerian heritage. In this regard, my own Great Grand Father – ( C.T.O. King I), was of Nigerian /Sierra Leone descent; emigrated to Liberia in the 19th Century and naturalized, at the urging of Edward Wilmot Blyden, who had encouraged him to come and help build a new nation that was being born and needed Africans like him, to come and build that nation – Liberia. His son, Charles D.B. King (my grandfather), was born in Monrovia (not Sierra Leone as the official calendar of Presidents of Liberia, continues erroneously to state), while his decedents (late Amb. C.T.O. King II, my father), were/are all natural born Liberians, including myself. Thus, there can be little question of the eligibility repeat eligibility for consideration of the nominee for an appropriate governmental position, as you have done, in this case.
Having said that Mr. President, my issue has to do with the advisability or otherwise of the Cllr’s nomination for this particular post. For your information, I have interacted with the Cllr as head of the Governance Commission. As such, I am aware of his intellectual capability of which there is no question! Yet, it is only prudent that you investigate thoroughly the expediency or otherwise, bearing in mind what is coming from those having reservations to the nomination.
Amongst the issues being put on the table is that the Cllr, though a naturalized Liberian, may still hold Nigerian citizenship as Nigeria permits dual citizenship, whereas, our constitution currently does not permit dual citizenship. Moreover, it is my understanding that on the books presently is a law to go to referendum that would permit dual citizenship but for natural born Liberians. Clearly this suggests a matter to be investigated. But also of great importance is that with the strong belief that the Cllr continues to hold Nigerian Citizenship, in the event he commits an act that warrants action against him, the nation could be unable to have him give account for his deeds as Nigeria, the nation he is said to continue to hold citizenship of may be unwilling to have one of its citizens subjected to a trial in Liberia.
We can easily reference a Latin American nation whose former president held dual citizenship. Upon being accused of the commission of acts which bordered on criminal offenses, the individual traveled secretly to the other nation (Japan) in which he held citizenship. Japan refused to have its citizen extradited to the nation in which he had served as President and which in the course of his service he was alleged to have committed criminal acts. There was also the case of Ellen Cockron more recently in Liberia which speaks to this very point.
But my issue with the Cllr.’s nomination is primarily due to the sensitivity of the post and its implications thereof for national security. Any decision by the Head of the National Elections Commission (NEC) will have significant implications for the future of our nation. With the Cllr holding dual nationality, we must take care in determining if he is the appropriate person to determine the fate of the nation. As Head of the National Elections Commission, he will not only determine the nation’s leadership, both the Presidency and the Legislature (Senators, and Members of the House Representatives), but he could have in his hands the determination of whether we have peace or chaos in our land. Indeed, the slightest error could plunge our nation into chaos, and the Cllr. Could easily seek and find refuge in his other home of citizenship, beyond the reach of Liberia to hold him accountable. It is with these exposures of insecurity to our nation that I make this appeal to you Mr. President to withdraw the nomination.
“Amongst the issues being put on the table is that the Cllr, though a naturalized Liberian, may still hold Nigerian citizenship as Nigeria permits dual citizenship, whereas, our constitution currently does not permit dual citizenship. Moreover, it is my understanding that on the books presently is a law to go to referendum that would permit dual citizenship but for natural born Liberians. Clearly this suggests a matter to be investigated. But also of great importance is that with the strong belief that the Cllr continues to hold Nigerian Citizenship, in the event he commits an act that warrants action against him, the nation could be unable to have him give account for his deeds as Nigeria, the nation he is said to continue to hold citizenship of may be unwilling to have one of its citizens subjected to a trial in Liberia.“– Olubanke King-Akerele
Elections are security risks, going to the very foundation of the leadership of the nation. Elections determine who will lead a country for a specified period of time and cannot be allowed to be hijacked. Conflicting loyalties continue to be of concern. One cannot risk anything but complete loyalty to one country only – in this case Liberia. There must be singular commitment and loyalty that is unquestionable. That is why naturalized individuals are bared for certain posts. We cannot risk one of dual loyalty, being influenced or swayed by the interests /or preferences of other countries. Foreign allegiances should not be tolerated in such a post, not even the suspicion of such allegiances should be given any credibility in our elections. Thus the imperatives of being a Liberian born to hold such a position that determines election results should prove paramount, even if the law does not spell it out explicitly as such. It is clearly prudent. As such, it is imperative that there should be broad consultations with relevant stakeholders, in choosing the proposed nominee.
Lastly Mr. President, the Cllr. will have to supervise a referendum on dual citizenship in which he has direct interest and therefore issues of impartiality can be expected to arise. Would he not, in fact, have to recuse himself from such a process?
It is in view of the above-mentioned considerations, Mr. President, that I propose the following:
Your withdrawal of the nominee;
Give due consideration to the issues being raised by Civil Society Organizations (i.e. Election Coordinating Committee – ECC); former Ambassador to the United Nations, Amb. Lewis Brown amongst others;
Request the Liberian National Bar Association to submit to you at least three potential nominees, one of whom should be a woman.
As “Feminist-in-Chief” so proclaimed by yourself, I am sure that you would have no objections to this!
As I close, may I draw your attention to the editorial of the Daily Observer of 26 March 2020entittled “Look Before You Leap, Mr. President”, in which it basically urges you Mr. President to learn from the lessons of History. In that regard, there is a saying to the effect that “a people or a nation that does not learn from History is bound to repeat itself.”
Moreover throughout the Bible, we hear echoes of this, while from the case of Ahab in 2nd Chronicles 18:5-27, we learn that it is imperative that one listens to the voice of truth, even when it may contradict one’s personal preferences. Indeed it was in 1984, I believe, when the late Arch Bishop Michael Francis, as Man of the Year, said: “I am not against the Government but we (all of us) must be the conscious of the nation,” meaning, it behooves us all to uphold the “Lone Star” and not desert it!
Hence, I am left with no altsernative but to Pen this “Open Letter” in the interest of upholding the integrity of “Mama” Liberia – the Lone Star.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Former Minster of Commerce & Industry
Retired Senior Official of the United Nations for some 24 years,
Liberian Institute for “Growing” Patriotism
and a Liberian Patriot