Perhaps already gone with the winds, but few weeks ago the outgoing US President, Barack Obama, was outraged when he accused the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, of “manipulating” the US presidential elections. A high treason, no doubt, and his reaction was immediate and retaliation commensurable. And for us who have been subjected to manipulations since eternity, I believe we could learn a lot from this script of these two World Powers, and take cue to re-direct our national future.
President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize just when he took office, but at least, he was wise enough to acknowledge that he had done nothing to merit it. But by then his opponents had already fled up with suspicion of some ulterior motives for the Nobel choice. Of course, nothing was proven, but could there have really been some ulterior motives for the Prize – perhaps to support his vision as a man of peace; so as to refrain him not to carry out reckless wars as his predecessor, George W. Bush jr? It is hard to tell, but certainly the timing made it not only an embarrassment, but also an handicap during his entire administration.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won the same Nobel Peace laureate just few days before the elections (2011) for her second term bid. Her opponents too hit the roof to declare the timing as a deliberate attempt to boost her re-election. And here too nothing to substantiate the accusation. Notwithstanding, six years on most Liberians do not seem to know that they still have two living female Nobel Peace laureates in their midst who, apparently, cannot even see eye to eye. And while the country stands at the precipice awaiting another saviour’s hand.
Permit me to add this latest scoop in passing. I have just learned - at this late age, and during Trump’s inaugural ceremonies - that normally foreign dignitaries are not invited to the inauguration of an American President (except only Ambassadors accredited to the US) because it is strictly an internal affair of the United States of America. This same principle certainly holds also for the inductions (less grandiose and simple) of European leaders. This restriction tells a lot that an election is a contract only between the citizens and those they elect, and it is no one else’s business. But our situation is the complete opposite; we start off by begging outsiders to finance our elections. And of course, once you are elected, the financiers put you in their pockets or manipulations begin. That is why the more parade of high foreign dignitaries at our extravagant inaugurations – while the inducted leader sits ridiculously like a Queen or King on an artificial gold throne, and the hungry citizens looking on in amusement – the easier our brains are further manipulated to portray our President as being next to God – imperial, powerful and most influential with the international community – a license to also sit on our heads at will.
And back to our subject of unmasking this vicious circle of manipulation. For example - I have observed that since the Sirleaf administration the US, European nations and foreign institutions have all assigned mostly female Ambassadors or representatives to Liberia. Ask yourself, what is the purpose and what impact it has on our leadership? Or, imagine that China, Russia, other European countries and foreign institutions had all sent only black Ambassadors or representatives to the US during the presidency of Obama. What would have been the interpretation– simply because the man was a Black man, an attempt to encourage and promote Black leadership or hegemony over the Whites, a mere manipulative tactic or sign of deceit and hypocrisy? From what we have got in Liberia for the last 12 years, you may be your own judge. But do not get me wrong folks, these are excellent, generous diplomats and representatives who are serving their countries diligently with Liberians and Liberia deeply at heart.
Now, granted that no merits in anything I have said thus far, then the world should be a better place. But look, President Obama has left office with America more than ever divided racially, politically and confused. Anyone would have thought that Obama’s eight-year Presidency would have sealed and reconciled America’s past sad history of slavery and racism, but not – it re-surfaced simply its past demons. As for the rest of the world – chaos and unpredictability reign uninterrupted; the youths are fed up with their “systems” of lies and manipulations.
Whence comes my deepest disappointment with former President Obama on his mentioned showdown with Putin. For what it worth, I think it only honoured the Russian President as an exceptional master international chess player or manipulator. Because from my observation of geopolitics, I really thought the “art of manipulation” by the World Powers was an accepted norm of amusement or only a gentle abuse of power – to get their kicks as the world turns around them in an absolute disarray – wars, terrorism, debts, poverty, refugees, and you name it. So, I never knew it could hurt so deeply - especially our world’s only super power. But believe me, this is how profoundly we are also hurt those of us whose leaders have been transformed from being “manipulated” to becoming the “seasoned manipulators” - not only of their suffering and innocent people, but also the entire international community. Yes, it tears up your pride and boils out your deep-seated nationalism to know that you are manipulated, but powerless and voiceless.
Frankly, I expected Obama (or the protestors still against Trump) to have turned his or their rage on the “system” that elected Trump, and not on Mr. Putin. Because in an election, where the loser got over 2 million more popular votes than the declared winner - then the problem, if not manipulation - may be within the electoral system, and not necessarily from the outside. What is more, this is not the first controversy that surrounds an American election – a nation we pride as having the greatest democracy, freedom and liberty. I have been pondering why the Western Powers do not seem to have the courage to question and reform their own democratic systems before giving lessons to others. They are stocked in an obsolete “apparatchik” like in the time of the Soviet Union, and even in the face of the growing wave of populism which is overtaking them. This was the identical blindness of the Soviet Union as democratic fervours overthrew the communist block.
Well, on our home front - Madame Sirleaf is leaving Liberia with a fragile peace, deeper in corruption, bad governance, economy in tatters, poverty and a people totally confused more than ever. With this groomed picture, she recently told Liberians that no President would achieve as much as she did – imagine.
For this reason, I too have been in a rage. And though a fervent democrat, I wanted a victory for Donald Trump. First, because I was convinced that a female President in the US would have definitely increased our temptation to manipulate (or rig, if deem necessary) the 2017 elections, in order to enable the status quo, with the acquiescence of the international community or “partners.” My second reason was on Trump’s campaign slogan: “Anti-system and America First.” I knew, at his age, he would not want to change a “system” that made him a billionaire. He was only in a state a profound nostalgia to re-invigorate the old status quo which really had never been changed. As for the “America First” (no different from “national interest first”, more subtle, which has been the hymn that determines the policies of all World Powers), its adverse effect could be to re-surface the forgotten nationalism and patriotism that exist in every corner of the globe.
So yes, I wanted a Trump’s victory; so that not only the US, but also the entire Western Powers - to begin seriously looking more closely at themselves in the mirror to see and examine their contradictions, deceit, hypocrisy, manipulation of their proper public opinions and the weak and poor nations without any consideration.
Of course, I know it is a pious hope; if Obama did not change the system, Trump can not. Thus real novelty in Trump is the renaissance of the absolute power and dominance of “big multinational businesses” like EXXON Mobil, Coco-cola, Mittal steel, Chevron , Sable Mining, etc, that already have Liberia by the throat - in full control and manipulation - and no different from our time with Firestone, Liberia Mining Company (LMC), Bong Mines, LAMCO, NIOC and others. They established then their own security forces, paved streets and pipe born water in their concession areas; hospitals, schools, housing, duty-free commissaries to cater most to the needs of their expatriate employees and a selective local senior staff members and government officials – and while our government looked on as a powerless spectator, unable to take care of the needs of its people and develop the nation. Worse, today it is a game of the investors take all, but only leave us our small “cold water.”
In short, we have long ignored that “manipulation” has been and still is a major source of our rampant corruption. Now that we have scanned through its contours and identify its formidable potential danger, we must make it our next “Enemy N°1” – not only in words, but with our collective, determined actions to resist it.