Analysis By Zayzay M. Kpadeh
The radical language and overly assertive posturing of former Auditor General John Sembe Morlu, II is all that any well-meaning Liberian leader or political administration must crave to nurture, and not reject, if they are to depart from the long-deprived state of Liberia; if they are to convert into practice their rhetorical expressions of cutting the corner and breaking away from business as usual. Liberia’s woes are chronically entrenched and rooted. Thus, they only need extremely radical remedies, not the hanky-panky, romanticizing and fantasizing approach to which many past regimes fell prey. No one needs a Doctorate Degree in Political Science or must be a tycoon of Sorcery to know that anything short of this is a clear sign of defeat and failure upon arrival—a revert to the rejectable status quo.
Throughout the nearly two months of transition—from the date victory announcement was made in favor of President Joseph Boaka in 2023 to the day of inauguration, Mr. Morlu wrote and spoke forcefully about vexing issues that must be tackled to reflect seriousness on the part of the incoming administration and to give assurance to Liberians that this is a genuinely dawned New Day.
Extensively, he identified a horde of Liberia’s traditional nemeses, and why the Boakai administration will be wanting to tackle them. He spoke and wrote about the urgency to prepare to fight corruption and graft or the use of public offices to accumulate quick wealth by a few; about the reckless disregard for the felt needs of the people; the domination of the country’s economy by foreign moguls; about bad labor practices against Liberian workers; about governmental subservience if not slavery to international lending institutions such as IMF, World Bank, etc.; about the pride and arrogance of government officials, about elitism; about growing filth and garbage in urban and rural communities; poverty wages for civil servants and corporate workers.
It is not known whether the anti-corruption czar did consult or did get the approval and acquiescence of Mr. Boakai and his advisors on these game-changing philosophical framing of the new UP administration. But two things are clear: Firstly, Morlu’s utterances projecting his passion for a clean break with traditional Liberian political culture are popular. They resonate with the masses of Liberians who are often the victim of political failures. The Morlu clarion calls are consistent with the campaign mantra of the Unity Party. And he was being celebrated by the section of the Liberian public that thinks that truly, a change was dawning on the horizon.
The second thing, sadly, is that Morlu has made himself a premature vicious enemy of hardcore inner circle UPists, who see his posturing as inimical to their quest for plunder and pillage; that Morlu is opting to put sand in their gari. As a consequence of the foregoing, Morlu has disappeared in the maze of things right now as the government is being formed.
Morlu’s overtures are not merely rhetorical. He’s proven and tested. His inclusion in government as the Auditor General is one of the best crowns in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s legacy. He broke the glass ceilings, stood up to entrenched economic pillagers, named and shamed them, flashed enormous light into Liberia’s dark, corruption-laden bureaucracy, and gave the Sirleaf government an aura of local and international approbation, even to the discomfort of the president and her top advisors and supporters.
Interestingly, President Boakai who, just before today was preaching the dawn of a new day based on anti-corruption fight, transparency and accountability, is perfectly mute on the dogma. He has dropped the arrow he perfectly needs to achieve the long-held objectives of his pre-presidential ambitions.
Much more sadly is the fact that even supposed human rights and transparency icons associated with the Boakai administration, people who are the remnants of Liberia’s progressive struggle for “rice and rights”, such as Samuel Kofi Woods, Tiawan Saye Gongloe, Alaric Tokpa, Dougbeh Chris Nyan, and others have been deafeningly silent and clearly aloof not only on what their dogmatic direction for the new government is, but also on the necessarily radical and progressive overtures of young John Sembe Morlu, II.
So far, the only voice on the record in the wilderness crying for an effective war on, and an end to, rampant corruption, egotism, elitism, dependency, stagnation, foreign domination and monopolies, or business as usual is this Bolahun progeny. He may not be a known cadet and follower of Diwho Tweh, or Tipoteh or Sawyer or any of the iconic Liberian progressives, but is an ardent student of Harry Truman and his Marshall Plan, George Mason, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Adams, Andrew Jackson and other radical leaders. He may have read models of Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, John Pombe Magufuli.
“It is too soon, and John is moving too fast,” some skeptics may say about him. Instead of emboldening him, and craving to be blessed by the rise of more John Morlus, who will “call sin by its name”, who will name and shame scoundrels, and entrench the ruling party into its dogmatic space as to keep its campaign promises, some high-up UPists are calling for Morlu’s elimination.
In fact, one UP bigwig who was heard counteracting Morlu on Spoon Talk recently said: “If John thinks we will be taking armed soldiers to government officials’ offices to demand accountability and transparency, he’s kidding. We won’t. We have no x-ray machines to scan human bellies to know who’s corrupt and who’s not.”
But are these valid arguments?
Here is the sad fact: Liberia has never at any time in the past missed out on rhetorical expressions and good intentions by power seekers to radically transform the country and improve the lot of the people and the nation. The nation and those chosen to lead have had golden opportunities. But, in the end, these opportunities often get squandered and warded off.
What many people don’t know is the root or the genesis of the problem—the genesis of how leaders or proponents of an administration so well-intentioned when out of power become carried away and snore on their intents when power is in their hands. That genesis, which is actually the demon, is the initial formation of government. In other words, those who have come to Liberia’s political leadership—in the case of most recent administrations—were never without a heartfelt vision, intent and determination to make a difference, to prove a point, to make a name and to work for a distinct legacy. But sooner the baton of power is passed onto their hands, right from the point of inauguration, the roving demon of political and economic stagnation if not retrogression immediately descends upon them. And the demon never stops its scandalous and diversionary woes until the prey, the Liberian leader, is out of the throne.
Right now, the demon is visiting Mr. Boakai at the initial forming of his government, causing him to seemingly miss out on the unarguably most reliable arrows he needs, such as a man like John Sembe Morlu. And except he quickly unshackles himself or is unshackled by well-meaning Liberians from the stupor of this “initial government formation mania” to which many before him have fallen prey, the nation yet again risks another waste of six years.
It is at the point of forming a government that a cabal of mischief-makers, thieves and rascals, moves in ferociously and cunningly and commandeers and hijacks the entire government formation process, seize and trample on the original vision, often on the pretext of building broad-based administration. All this evil maneuver leads into blurring the vision of the visionaries, including the leader, to pursue their original intent for leadership, and leaves the mischievous cabal in charge of their ill-conceived agenda.
Let’s reflect, at least briefly, to see how most well-intentioned recent leaders of Liberia got swayed off from the tracks, from their purposed drive to lead well.
President Samuel Doe, despite the horror beginning of his reign, clearly set out to create a freer and nobler social, economic political space after the 133-year hegemonic rule of the True Wigh Party. He did not achieve this and the rest of what happened after is a sad history. The glitch is traceable to inner circle forces—individuals picked at the onset of his regime—who appeared to be more interested in ethnic domination of power and wealth.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at least before her presidency, was also well-intentioned about radical transformation of the postwar nation. And her passion was powerfully expressed not only in speeches and works credited to her opposition days, but also heard in her extremely moving inaugural oration. But the demon visited her, and before she got to know it, her family inner circle forces had lured her into nepotism. Even her Unity Party zealots were elbowed. In the end, she lost her transformational vision to a band of scoundrels and “economic vampires” as she described them.
President George Manneh Weah’s crusade for leadership, as well as the spirit of his takeover at inauguration, is widely equated to populism. His Congress for Democratic Change, which metamorphosed into the Coalition for Democratic Change, had opted for change, campaigned against elitism and exclusionism, a dogma summoned up in their pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development. But as the President was getting prepared to midwife the long-held vision, right at inauguration, the demon visited him. His dogmatic intent to liberate the “masses of the people of Liberia from squalor and marginalization,” got truncated in the choice of advisors and inner circle people who effectively quarantined and blinded him from his vision and his purpose.
And once the demon sets in, the vicious circle comes on: political failure after promises of liberation and freedom from the country’s the nemeses.
Provocatively and adequately, John Sembe Morlu, as far as the Liberian people know, has confronted President Boakai with this vicious circle in time and the new president appears to missing out on it.
What an ominous sign!
If we were the youth wing of the current government, even despite the high temptation for the young people who had been in opposition for so long to recover economically and financially quickly from ‘years locusts have eaten’, we will built a ‘iron curtain’ around the original progressive ideals and promises by jumping at any opportunity and any source that guarantee a distinctively nobler legacy for the party. Immediate, short-lived gains seem cool and tempting, but “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.”
The young people of the new Unity Party needed to learn from previous regime that left power with tattered legacy. They must know that a longer and honorable occupancy of national leadership comes with sacrifices to do the right thing, now, heed what Morlu is adamant about than to espouse great, quick riches often naturally followed by shorter, shameful fall from power.