By Ramses K Nah, Lewisville, Texas
Reading the recent news on the defense by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the appointment of her son, Robert Sirleaf, as Chairman of the Board of Director of the National Oil Company of Liberia, I am left feeling how naïve this president thinks Liberians are.
It has been easy for this president to be selfish in her undertaking of the office for which she serves, with impunity. Nevertheless, the president has the constitutional right to appoint whomever she sees fit to serve. However, competence, integrity and ethics of governance must be the guiding forces in the selection of individuals to serve at the highest offices of public trust.
There is no dispute that Robert Sirleaf is a well-educated and qualified individual, no doubt! However, is it ethical for the president to employ her son in this highly sensitive position? And, is it right that the president can and has employed her children and many of her family members, her relatives and close friends throughout all sectors of the public offices? Is it Ethical?
It would be one thing if the republic of Liberia were the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf personal corporate entity. But this is the Republic of Liberia, where all citizens have a demanding vital interest. As such, the president needs to be ethical in her appointments, for the lack thereof breeds corruption, nepotism, lack of integrity and financial malfeasance.
The lack of ethics and the promotion of nepotism in government results in unfairness to the larger Liberian populace because one is selected for government offices and contracts based more on their connections rather than having the best and most qualified credentials for the positions.
In the aftermath of John F Kennedy, President of the United States of America, appointing his brother as Attorney General, there was a call for a government ethics agency because the United States government could not be used as a family personal entity.
Thus, 5 U.S.C. § 3110 (United States Department of Government Ethics) contained herein, stipulates the “anti-nepotism” statute, which bars public officials from appointing, employing or promoting individuals who are relatives of the public official. The statute and the implementing regulations make it clear that even recommending a relative for appointment or promotion is barred.
A review of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s cabinet will show that there are many of her family members and friends who occupy positions of trust, whose backgrounds have nothing to do with their academic discipline, qualifications, and moral aptitude. However, they are enjoying the pleasure of serving simply because of political payback, and being related to the president and/ or other government officials.
Not only is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf guilty of this practice, but also the Legislature is even more culpable due to its egregious lack of academic competence.
What belies the nepotistic appointment of close relatives and friends is the appearance and perception of unfairness; that a position may go to someone who is not competent and qualified. Moreover, it promotes favoritism, which can then lead to a decline of morale in the service of government and lack of faith in the integrity of government by the Liberian citizenry. There is also conflict of interest, which can lead to corrupt practices due to the motivation to act for the selfish interest of those involved.
Is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a states-person regarded as an unbiased and disinterested promoter of the public good, or someone who seeks good governance, someone who seeks to curtail impunity? Or is she simply a politician, only involved in politics for self-promotion and aggrandizement and to seek personal and partisan gain by scheming and manipulating to the detriment of the illiterate and ignorant Liberian populace?
Has Ellen Johnson Sirleaf employed in her government the most qualified individuals? Are the individuals called to service devoid of conflict of interest? Do they have un-reproached integrity? Can they stand and speak out against policies that are detrimental to the larger Liberian society or are they beholden to the President? Can they distinguish between what is legal and what is ethical? Do they know that even though something may be legal, it may not be ethical?
More than just blaming the President, Liberians in general are very unethical. We must first start to practice ethics and not only know what is right and what is wrong, but begin in our everyday behavior to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. Liberians must learn that bribery, maliciously maligning of others for our own selfish personal gain is detrimental to building a sustainable society. This is reflected in those who lead us in government today.
When one looks at the Liberian society and government as it has emerged from over 25 years of civil turmoil, we see in all levels of government, those responsible for the civil conflict serving and representing us. What does that say about our Liberian society? We have been unethical to our very own self-interest, as we have allowed impunity to be the order of the day.
We must ask why this government has not held anyone accountable for the civil conflict in Liberia. Why has the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and implementation been ignored and swept under the rug by this President? Are she and/ or members of the legislature that culpable? The answer simply is the lack of ethics, the promotion of corruption, malfeasance and impunity govern Liberia. This government appears timid and tenacious in acting, as most of those in authority may be indicted and face the harsh reality of justice.
Most countries that have had civil conflicts at about the same time as Liberia have had those responsible for the perpetuation of the conflict facing the wheels of justice. Think Kosovo, East Timor, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and even Ivory Coast. But in Liberia, we reward the perpetrators of war and destruction with the highest offices in the republic. What does that say about our values, our integrity, and our ethics? Then we wonder why our society is corrupt!
Liberians have to begin with themselves first and foremost. We must begin to be ethical and uphold integrity. We must learn to hold one another accountable for what affects us individually and our society as a whole. We must learn to fight corruption from the ground up, all the way to the President’s office, the halls of the Legislature and the chambers of Justice. Physical infrastructural development means nothing if the fundamentals of our moral and ethical structure are so reprehensible.
Let us develop, grow, and promote good governance, ethics, accountability and integrity. May God Bless the Republic of Liberia, its people, and institutions!
Ramses K Nah is a Liberian and a Quality Control Analyst/Senior Underwriter of FHA DE Nationstar Mortgage LLC. He lives and works in Lewisville, Texas. He can be contacted at email@example.com