As the debate rages on within the public sphere regarding President George M. Weah’s pick for the National Elections Commission chairmanship; and as confirmation hearings get into full steam for the President’s nominations at the NEC, a former Liberian diplomat has added his voice to the cacophony of dissent, calling on the Senate to revoke the nomination of Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike.
In a strongly-worded letter to the Honorable Senate, Liberia’s former Permanent Representative at the United Nations Amb. Lewis Browne questioned the rationale of stopping Liberians with dual citizenships from holding strategic position in government such as Chairmanship of the National Elections Commission; yet allowing naturalized Liberians to head those same strategic positions from which Liberians with dual citizenship are barred.
Eschewing discriminations against naturalized Liberians, Ambassador Browne also cautioned that discriminating against Liberian brothers and sisters who are natural born should never be condoned.
But in terms of weighing the pros and cons of naturalized Liberians and Liberians with dual citizenship holding sacred public offices, Ambassador Browne said it is even more reasonable and expected, that at all times, individually and collectively, Liberians must act to preserve a sense of intrinsic value for being born a Liberian – a valuation to be found and cherished nowhere else on earth more than Liberians themselves can, and must do, for themselves in Liberia.
“Whether one is born in a village or in a city across our country; whether we take on other citizenships or hold dearly onto only being a Liberian, there must be no sin or shame in being born a Liberian. It confers a special identity, and should envelop us in a sense of unique pride, which we are apt to find nowhere else, from our cradles to our graves”.
Therefore, the application of the goose and the gander test is relevant here. This same deliberative body, cannot agree, as it did in its approval of the proposition on dual citizenship, to proscribe Liberians by birth from serving in high positions of trust, including the chairmanship of the NEC, in the land of their proved nativity and birth, because they took on another citizenship, for whatever reason, and yet act to confirm a naturalized Liberian, with proved dual citizenship, into the position of chair of NEC,” Ambassador Browne stated.
“As already begun, the nominations have landed the nation in an unwanted place of controversy. A new composition of the NEC can do without such controversies. At the same time, we owe a duty to ourselves, and our emerging democracy, to continue to act not only in acknowledgments of our difficult past, but more importantly, in decided ways to ensure we do not return to those dark days but rather actively advance the peace and democratic health of our nation.
Interestingly, a much higher resonance of public controversy is being reserved for the nominated chair. And so in my letter to His Excellency, I drew attention also to two riding public concerns about the nomination of the chair. The first, which I believe will be no less important for the consideration of the Liberian Senate, and to which I beg to return shortly in further elucidation, is the roving effect of the presidential consideration of the nominated chair. The second concerns his nationality and allegiance, Amb. Browne said, noting that Liberia’s freedoms should allow its citizens to disagree on many things, if not all things.
“However, we should never be lowered into xenophobia, and or discrimination, nor should we settle for the wrong temptation to question the patriotism of another Liberian,” he warned.
Expounding further, Ambassador Browne said the lack of a singular allegiance to Liberia was the priority reason for the senate’s consent to proscribe natural born Liberian who took, and concurrently holds onto the citizenships of other countries, as they avail themselves for appointments to high offices of trust, including the chairmanship of the NEC.
“If this reasoning is right for born Liberians, it must be similarly right for naturalized Liberians,” the seasoned diplomat intoned.
“Mr. President Pro-Tempore and Honorable Senators, the nominated chair is not just an exclusive subject of Liberian citizenship and our laws by reason of his naturalization. He also happens to be the legal subject, and has the right to claim all rights and protections provided to born citizens of Nigeria. This guarantee of his citizenship rights and protection are variously enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Chapter III, Articles 28 (1) and 29 (1), of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is cited below, confers upon the nominated chair, even after the award of the Senate’s confirmation, all the rights, privileges and protections of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as that Government courageously and rightly does for all of its citizens of that sisterly nation.
28(1) Subject to the other provisions of this section, a person shall forfeit forthwith his Nigerian citizenship if, not being a citizen of Nigeria by birth, he acquires or retains the citizenship or nationality of a country, other than Nigeria, of which he is not a citizen by birth.
29(1) Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.
Taken together, these important provisions on citizenship in the Nigerian Constitution have unquestionably passed to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a primary claim of citizenship, and its accompanying allegiance and protection, of someone the Liberian Senate is considering for chairmanship of the NEC. It means, the Government and people of Liberia cannot exercise any exclusive right over the nominated chair of Liberia’s National Elections Commission, to answer to the Liberian people, for his stewardship of the most sacred process of our democracy, should we need to require him to, any time in the future.
Additionally, not only does his Liberian naturalization not undermine this fact in any way, but there is yet to be any evidence introduced into the public record to testify to his renunciation of his Nigerian citizenship, and the priority claim on him, as well as guarantee of protection from the land of his birth and nativity. Let it be clearly understood: that the nominated chair has taken on the citizenship of Liberia does not subtract from his first, and it is reasonable to argue, primary citizenship which he acquired at birth in Nigeria. Although he may claim to be loyal to and love Liberia, his naturalized home, by not denouncing his original and primary citizenship, he retains the right to be safely protected thereby, against all others including the Government and people of Liberia, for which he has a right, under Nigerian Law, to take up,” Amb. Browne reasoned, wondering whether Liberians are ready to surrender the chairmanship of the NEC, the body responsible to oversee the most sacred process of their democracy, into the hands of an individual with proved concurrent allegiance and citizenship to two countries.