Liberia under economy dictatorship


Fadiga says paying off political opponents undermines democracy

Fadiga says paying off political opponents undermines democracy

Having followed the Liberian presidency of Madam Ellen Johnson for almost a decade, it has become apparent that she is an economy dictator. Unlike a noble leader, whose actions are intended to advance national interest by managing resources responsibly in order for nearly all citizens to benefit, an economy dictator cunningly protects cronies and rewards loyal followers. In the case of President Sirleaf, she placed emphasis on building networks of loyalty and enticing proposal to compensate for weakness of democratic enforcement mechanisms.

An economy dictator creates loyalty the same way companies do, by paying efficiency wages or wages in excess of a person’s opportunity cost.  The salary disparity and alleged huge payout of individuals critical of the Unity Party (UP)-led government is indicative of President Sirleaf’s intention to reward loyal supporters with extra benefits. 
The current administration has shown gross ineptitude in the handling of the Ebola crisis initially and corruption in government; nonetheless, influential political parties, including vocal critics of the government are speaking less on these issues. Such an unusual trend can be attributed to political economy of dictatorship – a strategy of rewarding or paying off individuals for their silence on significant issues.

In his book “The Political Economy of Dictatorship”, the author, Ronald Wintrobe, articulated how dictators stay in power and how political authoritarianism and economic performance interact. According to Wintrobe, loyalty systems allow the dictator’s supporters to enrich themselves at the expense not only of the ruled but perhaps of the ruler as well. Evidently, this has been the doctrine employed by Madam Sirleaf, and she has managed to maintain absolute control over the state of affairs of Liberia with limited resistance from opposition political parties.
Although Liberia might not be experiencing the ruthlessness of prior tyrannical regimes, the idea of aggressive persuasion through monetary inducements and job offers undermines democratic tenets.  The latest revelation that Mr. Ali Sylia cancelled his senator bid due to medical reasons is not only questionable, but it also denotes a pattern of economy dictatorship. It is an open secret that the lack of support from the ruling Unity Party (UP) was the driving force behind Mr. Sylia’s withdrawal from the senate race. More importantly, it is alleged that President Sirleaf’s personal appeal to Mr. Sylia played a crucial role in his decision to abandon his senatorial ambition.

Like Mr. Sylia, there are many individuals who have been entangled into the web of Sirleaf’s economy dictatorship policy. The likes of Mr. Eugene Nagbe, Dr. James Kollie and Amb. George Weah, who were staunchly opposed to Madam Sirleaf leadership, had been indoctrinated into Sirleaf’s network of enticement through gainful employment. Mr. Nagbe was rewarded with numerous ministerial positions including minister of youth and sport for his loyalty; while Dr. Kollie was awarded position as deputy finance minister for revenue. The head of the largest opposition political party in Liberia, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Amb. George Weah, also fell prey to the president’s political policy of economy dictatorship. Mr. Weah was offered a position as “peace ambassador” – a position he accepted, making it somewhat impossible for him to criticize her failed administration.

Some folks continue to benefit from President Sirleaf’s loyalty rewards scheme while there are other individuals like Alomiza Ennos, Darius Dillon, among others who have lost favor with Madam Sirleaf. After her re-election, Madam Sirleaf compensated Miss Ennos, a former law maker, with a position as chairman of the board of directors for the National Transit Authority (NTA). Honorable Ennos had retained the position for three years before she was subsequently replaced. Mr. Darius Dillon, on the other hand, was afforded the privilege to go with the president on her numerous routine official travels abroad. There was also an allegation that Mr. Dillon was awarded a scholarship but he dismissed the claims.
The approach of using others to foster one’s political agenda when it is expedient and then abandoning them when they are not of importance is morally wrong and inhumane. In the shortest inaugural address recorded in history, President George Washington stated ” government is not reason, it is not eloquence…It is a force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; not for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” It is incumbent upon every patriotic Liberian to stand up against the irresponsible actions by President Sirleaf and other elected officials.

At this crucial time in our country’s history, Liberians must demand the Sirleaf-led government to create a plan of action that would alleviate hunger and extreme poverty in Liberia. Majority of the citizens of Liberia are currently living in a hopeless state due to high unemployment and the Ebola crisis; while others are living lavishly. Liberians must speak in unison against economy dictatorship and weak leadership. With our hearts united, we can effect the fundamental change required for a prosperous Liberia.
Hassan Fadiga, the writer of this article, is a community activist, co-founder of Radio Africa, a blogger, security consultant and Federal Protective Service Officer. Mr. Fadiga holds a Masters in project management and public safety administration, and is currently pursuing an advanced degree in forensic psychology and human services. He lives in Minnesota, USA.