Fiascos in Opposition Making "Charlie" Look Good Again

By: Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 13, 2002

It is generally believed (and rightfully so) that the victory Charles Taylor enjoyed at the polls in 1997 was thrust upon him by the opposition. It was observed that the opposition parties were so disorganized and antagonistic toward each other that the voters actually believed that electing Taylor was the lesser evil - in other words, they opted to stick with the devil they knew rather than to usher in a new band of leaders whose motives, methods and general disposition were not known. Up to the eve of elections (1997) Taylor had taken on the dubious distinction of being the most ruthless and heartless warlord among competing warlords who were just as brutal. But as elections neared, Taylor created a political machinery that worked effectively to give the impression that he was the safe choice. The Liberian public (by then wearied of further wars) as well as the international community (also sick and tired of the senseless violence) gave their support to Taylor while the opposition destroyed itself.

Now, as another election is being anticipated, the opposition goes into full gear destroying itself as Taylor's organization gathers strength from the mess created once again. Why would seemingly intelligent people fail to analyze their actions and be proactive in dealing with the very important matters of life, career and death? Why would the opposition engage in mudslinging and character assassination of each other, yet claim that getting Taylor out of office is a major priority? How are they ever going to accomplish that if they wipe each other out first? They are making Taylor's job too easy for him, and one wonders why.

At one time in Monrovia Taylor purportedly said, "Kromah or Sirleaf for president? Over my dead body." That statement makes it quite clear that Taylor is willing to go to an extraordinary length to prevent a Kromah or Sirleaf presidency in Liberia. Logically, one would assume that if even Kromah and Sirleaf didn't particularly care for each other, that statement would do a lot to forge unity between the two – at least to develop some sort of common strategy to turn the pressure on their arch enemy. But the opposite is true. At least one of them is trying desperately to wipe out the other. Doesn't that eventually make the job easier for Taylor? Now instead of dealing with the "twin evils" of Kromah and Sirleaf he may just have to deal with one or maybe none of them.

Mr. Kromah in a recent article entitled: "Alhaji Kromah on Hypocrisy at the Perspective", goes to excruciating pain in dismissing the integrity of the Perspective Magazine, which hitherto has been viewed as the premier outlet for the expression of thoughts and ideas (on Liberia) in the Liberian Diaspora.

Mr. Kromah does this simply as an exercise in getting at one of his perceived political enemies, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to whom he refers sarcastically as "Madame". He also claims that "Madame" is the "trans-Atlantic remote controller" who pays the managing editor and staff of the Perspective to publish views favorable to her. He also plays the tribal card by referring to Mr. George Nubo (the managing editor) and the staff as Kwa-speaking people. But we do remember that when he tore his fellow Lofian (Hon. Sumo Jones) to pieces he did not call him Kwa-speaking.

We live in a society where freedom of speech is a guaranteed right for the individual as well as for groups. I think it shows very poor taste for Mr. Kromah to dismiss the managing editor and staff of this reputable magazine as unintelligent, uneducated, biased and unprofessional just because he has an axe to grind with Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. Strangely, as he refers to the managing editor and staff of the magazine as cronies of the "Madame", he refers to the publisher as "noble". Doesn't the publisher have any responsibility at all? Are we to assume that he is a figurehead? Wake up, Brother Nyanseor.

Mr. Kromah may be accused of a number of things, but nobody accuses him of stupidity. That's because he's not stupid. When he wrote, he correctly predicted that his attacking The Perspective and Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf would be gleeful news at, the Taylor government's propaganda website. In other words, Mr. Kromah, with a great deal of introspection, knew his harangue could be damaging to the opposition and helpful to Taylor. But that did not stop him. Mr. Kromah is fiercely bent on defending his personal honor no matter what the cost.

My advice to Mr. Kromah is simple: "This is politics, chief. Remember it is the big picture that counts. How you comport yourself while keeping your eyes on the big prize matters a lot. Remember you are in a presidential race, so the most dignified composure is expected. Nothing less. Please don't let the imbeciles at the Liberian ministry of disinformation have a field day at the expense of the opposition."

Also making news recently at the expense of the opposition was Dr. Boima Fahnbulleh's response to one Mr. Ike Coleman in a piece entitled: "When Fools Become Critics: The Platitudes of Ike Coleman". Dr. Fahnbulleh was responding to an opinion piece written by the said Mr. Coleman under the title: "Contributions First, Presidency Later", in which he dismissed or downplayed the importance of the contributions made by a number of political activists and social scientists advocating social change in Liberia during the turbulent 1970's.

An economics professor once explained the difference between the words "effective" and "efficient" by using an analogy. He said using a sledgehammer to kill a fly might be effective but certainly not efficient. You may succeed in killing the fly but end up creating a lot more problems.

So, in this example, Mr. Ike Coleman is a tiny fly - maybe even a gnat - and Dr. Fahnbulleh is an elephant armed with a sledgehammer. Dr. Fahnbulleh tried to crush Mr. Coleman but may have caused serious structural damage to the house in the process. He may have even crushed the house. The bad news is Mr. Coleman (the mosquito) got away and is still making those annoying noises.

I do agree with Brother Fahnbulleh that English Grammar is certainly not one of Mr. Coleman's strong suits. Secondly, his concept of elementary logic is just as poor. His arguments are incoherent, his reasoning flawed and his conclusions bizarre. Thirdly, Mr. Coleman needs to work on his fundamental grasp of the theories of political history to enter a discourse of this magnitude.(NOTE: I do not know Mr. Coleman but derived the observations above from his published writings. So no offense, Brother Coleman, certainly nothing personal.)

After having said the above, the truth of the matter is Mr. Coleman is a Liberian who is entitled to be heard. More so, he does live in America where the freedom of speech is a guaranteed right. The Ike Colemans of this world must be heard even as we acknowledge their academic shortcomings.

The brilliant Dr. Fahnbulleh didn't stop at dissecting the erroneous views of Mr. Coleman. He went after Mr. Tom Kamara, the journalist who published the article and somehow dragged Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf into the matter unceremoniously. Then Dr. Fahnbulleh wrote a subsequent piece that crossed the line of civility, in my view. A barren wife? Come on. Where does that fit into civilized discourse? Low blow, buddy.

So you see why the folks (Taylor's) had a wonderful time with this: Dr. Fahnbulleh goes after Mr. Ike Coleman (who was he again?) but importantly in the process takes cheap but damaging shots at Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf while causing structural damage to the "institution" called Tom Kamara. All this makes pretty good reading. But only in the sense of super market tabloids - I think they used to call it Yellow Journalism? The fact is we are dealing with very serious issues here and this kind of distraction is sad and harmful to us, although the deranged propagandists in Monrovia think it comical.

On July 29, 2002, Mr. James Harris, a staff writer at The Perspective Magazine wrote a stinging attack on some Liberian political personalities who met in Bethesda, Maryland in anticipation of a subsequent conference to be held in Ouagadougou. Their agenda was to discuss the pros and cons of the up-coming 2003 elections. According to the story, The Perspective received a written invitation from Cletus Wotorson, Chairman of the Bethesda Conference. Based on the invitation, the paper selected James Harris to attend the conference and that was communicated to Mr. Wotorson. Although Mr. Harris showed up at the conference in his official capacity as a journalist and representative of The perspective, he was asked to excuse the conference. Mr. Harris angrily wrote that those gathered were not true representatives of the Liberian masses. He further charged that some of them should be criminally indicted for their alleged roles in the Liberian civil crises.

Mr. Paul Japheth Sunwabe followed with another article, "Deception in Bethesda", expounding on the viewpoint advanced by Mr. Harris earlier. The brunt of the criticisms was leveled against Mr. Alhaji Kromah, although all the other major participants were also criticized. But as it is usually the case, the tribal element surfaced as the main strategy used in defense of Mr. Kromah. One Mr. Abdullah Tombekai Kiatamba rose to the occasion this time.

Mr. Kiatamba had been introduced in the piece as "a student reading Philosophy and Global Studies at the University of Minnesota... worked with the National Disarmament and Demobilization Commission (NDDC) in Liberia and was actively involved in the disarmament and demobilization of combatants." He said that it was unfair to attack Mr. Kromah simply because he was a Mandingo and Muslim. He attempted to turn the tables on Mr. Harris (not a Mandingo or Muslim) and questioned his credentials as a journalist, among other things.

A battle had begun! The learned journalist responded by rebuking the aspiring philosopher and defending his credentials and record as a professional journalist and in terms wondered about the up-coming philosopher's ability to understand these deep issues being debated. The philosopher-to-be was eventually dismissed as not measuring up. The journalist had the last word.

Recently a fiasco was brought to the attention of the reading public. We were informed via cyberspace that the Liberian People's Party (American branch) had convened and held elections. A resolution was released naming the new corps of officers elected. So far, good, right?

Within about forty-eight hours, the chairman announced that the conference at which the alleged elections were held was illegally convened, thereby rendering the announced election results null and void. There apparently were so much confusion and uncertainty within the party ranks that the chairman's proclamation denouncing the earlier resolution came in the form of a question: "LPP-America's Resolution Classified as Illegal and Unconstitutional?" Confused? So am I. A clarification is yet to go to press.

The point here is, there seems to be so much negative forces at work within the Liberian political opposition that Taylor is beginning to look good without even trying. The opposition is supposed to work assiduously to keep the administration on its toes, forced to defend its rotten record on human rights and other issues, both domestic and international. But with these character assassinations, insults and mudslinging being hurled at each other, the impression conveyed is that the opposition is falling apart and "Charlie" is looking good, unfortunately. That's my view.

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