Just Call Me Mr. Hodge: Answer to My Critics at ULAA

By Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 25, 2004

After I published my last article, "An Old Question Revisited: Is ULAA Relevant?" I received a number of messages. The first message came from Mr. Morris Koffa, ULAA's national vice president who wrote: "Mr. Hodge, thanks a million for the well balanced piece on ULAA's relevancy…" He referred to it as an excellent article.

The second message I got came from one David K. Johnson who claims to be a member of ULAA's Board of Directors and Vice Chairman of the Board for "Liberia Council on Foreign Relations". Although Mr. Johnson's referred to his response as a formal "rebuttal", he seems to agree with the crux of my observation, i.e., that there is disunity and distrust (and perhaps disrespect) in the hierarchy of the organization. The following points he raised confirms my conclusion:

· He refers to President Rashid as a liar - "she did not tell you the whole truth…"

· Confirms that there is a power struggle within the principal branches of ULAA – the presidency and the board.

· President Rashid did not support a town-hall meeting in New York because "New York was the venue where Mr. Ranney Jackson was voted out as Chairman of the Board…"

· That there were at least two teams representing ULAA during discussions with Hon. Harry Greaves, the board and the administration - led by the president.

· "…But if you have an administration that doesn't know how to lead, you have a problem. The current ULAA administration is being run by REMOTE CONTROL from MONROVIA, and we will not tolerate it."

· The president preferred to be accompanied by her VP instead of the Chairman

· "ULAA President Roberta Rashid did not conduct herself as a leader."

Despite agreeing with me in principle that the "administration" and the "board" do not see eye to eye on key issues pertaining to the dispensation of leadership, Mr. Johnson makes the following unexplainable remark: "Furthermore, Mr. Hodges, [Sic] please try to get the facts of an issue before putting anything on the Internet. Because to every story there are two ‘sizes". You could find yourself in serious trouble, if you do not ask the other party of what transpired…"

I do consider the statement by Mr. Johnson a direct, unveiled threat against me. In this public manner, therefore, I politely request Mr. Johnson to issue a public statement to retract or clarify that statement. It may even be necessary for these organizations he claims to represent to issue statements denouncing his undiplomatic attempt to deal with a very simple matter. The failure to do so may tarnish their reputations.

Some one seriously needs to tell Mr. Johnson that just because one happens to disagree with one's fellow citizen is not ground for threatening remarks, such as his. Like he says, "there are two "sizes" to every story. Apparently this size does not fit him but fits Mr. Koffa who refers to it as "excellent". I did not commit a crime, sir.

A response to Hon. Ijoma Flemister…
Hon. Ijoma Flemister wrote, "Brother Hodge: Usually your pen is extremely accurate, but this time you have failed!" Admitting that I have been "extremely accurate" in the past gives me some consolation. However, Hon. Flemister writes further: "I challenge you to show how and where ‘…the various actors were determined to abuse the established custom of maintaining perfect decorum…' I also challenge you to show the accuracy of your assertion of ‘… a crushing blow for his nemesis, Hon. Ijoma Flemister…' I have never been the "nemesis" of Mr. Ranney Jackson".

That ULAA's leadership exhibited incivility in dealing with each other is a matter of record, no proof necessary. On the issue of being Mr. Jackson's "nemesis" – defined as "an opponent that cannot be beaten or overcome", that may have been too strong a term to describe the rivalry. In this public manner, I do retract the use of the term, although it is only a matter of semantics; the idea behind the thought still stands.

Mr. Flemister also wrote, "Please note carefully that I have never been a Vice-Chairman of the Board. If you don't know my role on the Board, how are you competent to assert that I was a "tragic victim""? Again, another fair challenge. I did verify that Mr. Flemister was not a vice-chair, simply a board member. I do publicly retract and correct that statement I made carelessly; it was not intentional. Let's just say, Mr. Flemister was not even a "tragic victim" – simply a victim.

Responding to the Chairman of the Board, Anthony Kesselly…
The last rebuttal to my piece comes from the new "country devil", Mr. Anthony Kesselly. It is obvious from the outset of his piece that his would not be a simple rebuttal but the diatribe of a man perceiving himself as a giant politician; a man not on a simple mission to set the record straight but to lecture a mere "journalist" who has the audacity to present a counter-prevailing point of view. Oh, how dangerous the intoxicating effects of power, in this case, perceived power or "empty" power.

It is hard to read Mr. Kesselly's rebuttal and come away with the impression that he is interested in a genuine discussion. He uses the world "journalist" over and over in an obvious attempt to be derisive or intimidating; this is an old style he uses to stymie political debate, yet he calls himself a "progressive, working for the people". That old approach to propaganda doesn't have that effective stint it used to have. Now, we truly live a in "democratic and pluralistic" society where ordinary people have the inherent right to question their "country devils" while respecting them.

It seems Mr. Kesselly has drunk from that kettle of power that turns an ordinary citizen into a "powerful man" whose duty it becomes to lecture others while diminishing their roles. For example, he lectures us about the role of journalism and journalists in society, assuming his position as "board-chair" gives him the authority to dispense such wisdom.

Secondly he describes where we sat respectively when we attended the donors' conference in New York and how I appealed to his "highness" for a simple favor. How he introduced me to another "powerful" figure to "assist" me, giving the impression that he knows people in "authority". Well, it is no disgrace that I sat where I was. I was fully accredited to the conference representing a publishing organization; I sat with the press. He was there as a guest of the government, hence the difference in seating arrangements. That little matter did not imply any superiority or inferiority; though it may have seemed so to him. Let it also be known here that his Mr. Waritay did me no favors at all.

It is clearly beyond the scope of this piece to address all the issues raised by the ramblings of this board-chair. One thing that is clear is that we do agree on one thing: There is bad blood among the people who run ULAA, clear and simple. Mr. Kesselly gives us ample evidence that that is the case, which concurs with my initial observation. My only crime may have been that I had a conversation with the president and did not have a conversation with the board-chair. In any case, that is a minor point given the main issue at hand.

The two points I want to make in closing are: First, it is irresponsible and misleading to conclude that every time a citizen expresses a view or challenges a figure of authority, he must be toting the party line of an opposing politician. Mr. Kesselly refers to my opinions as PR, implying that I'm working for some individuals. Again, that's an old line that has lost its effectiveness. In the past I was referred to as Johnson-Sirleaf's, Brumskine's, Kromah's, Mohamedu Jones' PR man; now it's Roberta Rashid's PR man. Has it ever occurred to you powerful people that we, ordinary people, have our own opinions, too? Must you become a powerful politician to express a simple, independent view? I think not!

Lastly, Mr. Kesselly, "the new country devil", you would have saved yourself valuable time had you bothered to check some of my previous writings. This is what I wrote in an article entitled, "The Role of the Liberian Christian Churches: A Case Restated":

"As for me, the views expressed were strictly mine and I wrote simply as a concerned and observing citizen. I made no attempt to write ‘authoritatively' because I am hardly an authority on the great subjects of religion, politics, sociology, philosophy, journalism, etc. I simply write about Liberia because I care! It may now be too late for me to become an ‘expert' in these great studies. If I wait any longer, I'm afraid I'll have to wait forever. That's a choice I reject! That's why I write now!"

The above passage sums up my approach to these matters. Mr. Kesselly, I'm not a professional "journalist", but that doesn't mean I don't have the ability to articulate my views. I'm not a politician, a philosopher, an historian, or a lecturer; nor do I hold a fancy title of any kind. I have served notice before and I do so again: I'm a concerned Liberian, not a paid PR man. As a public "servant", please get used to hearing my views, I am entitled to them, just like you are entitled to yours. And just call me Mr. Hodge.

Editor's Note: Mr. Kesselly's response to Mr. Hodge's article was not published on our website on grounds that before we had the time to review the response and while we were still receiving revised versions of the article from Mr. Kesselly, the response was published on the Liberian Mandingo Association of New York's website (LIMANY). Mr. Kesselly claimed that he sent the response to LIMANY because LIMANY "reproduced" Hodge's article on their website. The truth of the matter is, LIMANY created a link to the article on our website - LIMANY did not reproduce the article nor did Mr. Hodge send his article to LIMANY for publication. Regarding free speech, our record speaks for itself. Furthermore, based on policy, we reserve the right to publish or not to publish any article submitted to us.