Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Allegations Of Corruption In Liberia: Blessing For Government Officials But Bane And Achilles Heel For The New Unity Party?(God Forbid!)

Last night during my usual “thoughts thinking” time and introspection, I arrived at a controversial but rude awakening that the issue of corruption in Liberia is becoming the "Achilles Heel" of the New Unity Party led government of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. In the confusion of my “thought out thoughts”, I resolved that if the New Unity Party does not take quick actions to meet corruption in the middle of the arena, the bout in 2011 might be more gargantuan than it imagined; if corruption continues to be a blessing for opposition parties, and a bane and Achilles Heel for the Old Ma and her New Unity Party, Counselor Varney Sherman’s march to victory will present untold angst.

My introspection was spurred by the recent speech delivered by one of Liberia’s finest statesman and journalists, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, during the Anti-Corruption Day Observance in Monrovia. Mr. Best raised concerns over the rate at which corruption is becoming rampant, and dissented from the manner in which corruption cases are handled in our country. In his highly acclaimed speech, he challenged the President to take more concrete actions against corrupt officials instead of sending them on “administrative leave”, because according to him, such actions were only “slaps on the wrists”, and would not even assuage the situation. Adding her voice to Mr. Best’s food for thought, US Ambassador Greenfield advised, “Fire them.”

You see, Liberian people have the proclivity to label anybody who raises concerns over national issues as “opposition”; who would not concur with Mr. Best on such a constructive concern, a man who has proven a true patriot, and who has also stood the tests of time like Madam Johnson-Sirleaf herself? Mr. Best cannot be considered an opposition for expressing such lofty views, but a voice of conscience and caution for the New Unity Party.

The Blessing for Corrupt officials

The blessing from my introspection can be explained from several perspectives. For instance, corruption has proven to be a blessing to civil servants from abroad and local quarters. For those from abroad, the gains they make from corruption will always be blessings because they wield power they never imagined would come in a lifetime, not here in America, God forbid; some take home or send back remunerations they would never have dreamt of in the Diasporas from their “Group Home” jobs; if they ever earned those remunerations, it must have been by working their backsides on the hour. As Liberian civil servants, they don’t have to drive disabled and sick people around in their cars before making huge over-time wages, but simply sit behind a desk in Liberia for few hours and take long lunch hours. Who would argue that they are not blessed for such grave but glorious opportunities?
The Blessing for Opposition Parties
Blessing from another perspective is that corruption has become a tool with which opposition parties are being equipped to fight the incumbent New Unity Party. Come 2011, the mantra which will reverberate over the length and breadth of this nation among opposition politicians will be, “The Ellen led Government is corrupt and we all heard her confirm that many times, so why vote for her again?” The oppositions will use this tool in so many situations that it will become their trump card. Oppositions will back bench all of the achievements of this government including the highly welcome “Debt Forgiveness” and free speech, just to name a few. To the oppositions, these are just a drop in the bucket because, according to them, if Ma Ellen’s officials were not stealing the country’s money, we would have moved further than where we are.

The Bane for Madam Sirleaf

While it is true that corruption is commonplace, unlike leaders of other countries which were found to be corrupt, Madam Johnson-Sirleaf has kept herself very clean. It is understandable and sympathetic that she was betrayed. For instance, having won elections, the first thing I, Mwalimu-Koh Blonkanjay Jackson, would do is to recruit people who helped my campaign; the other people I would bring on board would be by recommendations from my so-called trusted-friends-turned hyenas. Now if these hyenas let me down, it becomes my “bane” or my bad luck. This is where I sympathize with the President. Let’s face the fact, nobody in her sound mind would find pleasure in recruiting an unabashed lot with signs of shady characteristics, to damage her administration. Unfortunately, the President has to drink from this bitter cup being served her by those who she thought would deliver the goods to the Liberian people.
The Achilles Heel

For brevity, an Achilles’ heel is a deadly weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially lead to downfall. Baker (2005) in his thesis on "Capitalism's Achilles Heel and Dirt Money" metaphorically applied this Greek mythology. When Achilles was a baby, it was foretold that he would die in battle from an arrow in the foot. Naturally, his mother did not want Achilles to die so she took him to the River Styx which was supposed to offer powers of invincibility and dipped his body into the water. But as the mother held Achilles by the heel, his heel was not washed over by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew up to be a man of valor and war, and survived great battles. Unfortunately, one day, an arrow shot at him was lodged in his heel, killing him instantly.
In her response to Mr. Best’s, Madam Johnson-Sirleaf made insinuations, without any disrespect to
Her Excellency, that the fight against corruption was becoming the Achilles Heel of the Unity Party led government. Don’t smile yet, there is nothing wrong with admitting an Achilles Heel though. Note that even Barack Obama of the great USA identified his own Achilles Heel as the “Hell No” Republican Party attitude towards him. The great Apostle Paul also alluded to his Achilles Heel, “a torn in his flesh,” that he had accepted to live and die with. He lamented, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (Holy Bible, 2 Corinthians 2:7). In my struggle as a country RiverCess boy back in the days in pursuit of quality education, I identified my own Achilles Heel as being born to a poor painter in abject poverty, and here I am today audaciously writing this piece for worldwide consumption, having  engaged the insurmountable.

My word to the New Unity Party is simple. Because corruption is “systemic” does not mean an “All Out War” cannot be waged and fought tooth and nail. If corruption acceptably becomes the bane and Achilles Heel of this government, the New Unity Party is in serious trouble with the scores of opposition parties that are lined up, perched, teeth and claws sharpened, and geared up for a fierce 2011 political waterloo. 

Having thought out my thoughts, I could not sleep over the idea that an “Iron Lady” who has battled many governments over corruption, being vilified, jailed, and sacrificed her life many times, would accept the fight against corruption as her bane and worst of all, her Achilles’ Heel.
I refuse to stomach the notion that Counselor Varney Sherman, an erudite and highly acclaimed man of virtue and jurisprudence would allow such an irritating vice as corruption, dwindle the New Unity Party’s dream of a 2011 victory march and celebrations. God forbid!
When I finally began to rub some sleep into my eyes, I asked myself, “Is corruption in Liberia going to continue being blessing for corrupt officials, but bane and Achilles Heels for Ma Ellen and the Unity Party?” The answer quickly came, “God forbid!”
I am simply just “thinking thoughts.”

About the author

Mwalimu-Koh M. Blonkanjay Jackson who hails from RiverCess County, is a former senator of the Harvard Graduate School of Education Student Government, a YALE and UPENN Fellow and a Doctoral Student at Temple University. This Ivy League scholar’s authorship includes curricula in physics and mathematics, an anthology, and informative essays on education in Liberia. The Swahili title Mwalimu-Koh meaning Veteran Educator & Scholar, was conferred on Blonkanjay Jackson by his East African colleagues due to his achievements in academia. Mr. Jackson can be reached at 267 210 7531/6105343508 or,