Ordinarily, Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 73, would not be the subject of a blog article of mine. But after reading her feature article attempting to justify President Goodluck Jonathan’s inclusion in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people rankings for 2012 on April 18, I cannot help but seek to clarify some of the disingenuous facts in it.
Johnson-Sirleaf embarrassingly said Jonathan “possesses the qualities needed at this moment of great challenges.” She added that “In two short years, President Jonathan has shown… the dexterity to find the remedies to [Nigeria’s] many complexities.” As if that was not enough, Sirleaf outrageously claimed that “[Nigeria] has grown out of its past of corruption, mismanagement and brutality…”
Any honest and objective observer of the Nigerian political scenario would disagree with Sirleaf’s obviously flawed postulations above. Time without number, Jonathan has demonstrated that he sorely lacks the qualities of a good leader, not to talk about the kind of leader Nigeria needs. Jonathan has been very insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. To cite examples as proof of that would take a full article. Also, it is such a big deception for Sirleaf to profess that Nigeria has grown out of corruption and mismanagement. Indeed, less than 24 hours after her article was made public, the House of Representatives panel on the management of the fuel subsidy funds revealed large-scale fraud of more than ₦1 trillion between 2009 and December 2011. Recently, Nigeria has been awash with news of huge pension funds stolen by senior state officials as well as accusations and counter-accusations of bribery in almost every sector or agency probe as for instance in that which involved Arunma Oteh, the Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Indeed, the jumbo salaries of legislators and the ₦1bn 2012 feeding allowance of the presidency themselves comprise a form of official corruption by greed!
It is worth noting that Johnson-Sirleaf has often been enmeshed in controversy. In 2010, Sirleaf announced that she was going to run for a second term, backtracking on an earlier commitment she made in 2005, before she became president. Also, Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which she created in 2006, included her in a list of fifty persons that it wanted barred from holding public office, for her role in Liberia’s first civil war.
Recently, in what has become her nepotic trait, Johnson-Sirleaf made one of her sons, Charles Sirleaf, the Deputy Governor of Liberia’s Central Bank and another, Robert Sirleaf, the board chair of Liberia’s national oil company (NOCOL). Robert is concurrently serving as a senior advisor to his mother. It should be recalled that Sirleaf’s brother, Ambulai Johnson, served as Liberia’s Interior Minister in her first term.
Ostensibly, it would not be out of place to think that Sirleaf’s article on Jonathan is akin to the sweet-talk that is characteristic of a typical African sycophant especially when there are lucrative deals at stake as indeed, they are, in the case between Nigeria and Liberia, with the latter receiving over 30,000 barrels of oil per day from the former. With her son chairing NOCOL’s board, the script is made even more inviting.
For some like me who passionately support women’s foray into politics, especially in Africa, Sirleaf has become a huge disappointment. Thankfully, a second African female president has just emerged in Malawi’s Joyce Banda.
Banda has officially stated that she doesn’t want to be addressed as “Madam President” but rather, simply as “Mrs Joyce Banda.” It remains to be seen, though, if that symbolic but inconsequential gesture will translate into Banda not abusing the privileges of her high office, and concentrating on doing the right things to prove that women can make a positive difference – a thing that is fast eluding Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf!
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