The entire nation was in a state of shock and awe when news broke out during the late evening hours of June 30, 2020 that Sinoe County District#2 Representative Jay Nagbe Sloh had passed at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Sinkor after a period ailment. As a matter of tradition, The Analyst Newspaper through its Publisher/Managing Editor Stanley Seakor therefore elected to pay a glowing tribute to a man who many had come to love to hate for his hardcore nationalistic stance, and his daring-do tendency of speaking truth to power, even when he is part and parcel of the very power structure he criticized.
House Leadership Role
Although he was one of the newest members of the House of Representatives who won a seat during the 2017 general and presidential elections, Jay Nagbe Sloh gained fame as a maverick for his critical voice in the Lower House. From the onset, Representative Sloh quickly established himself as a non-nonsense crusader for justice and freedom of expression as a staunch and vocal member of the Independent Legislative Caucus – a move that culminated into a solid alliance with the late Representative Adolph Lawrence of Montserrado County D-15 and Representative Yekeh Kolubah of District 10.
Although he would later jump ship from the former ruling Unity Party to the governing Coalition for Democratic Change, Representative Sloh would remain one of the strongest critics of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, as he vociferously campaigned for the ouster of Speaker Chambers for what Rep. Sloh termed as the Speaker’s inability to lead.
Additionally, Representative Sloh would be especially remembered for the yeoman leadership role he played in simmering down tension between President Weah and Representative Yekeh Kolubah, when he brokered a meeting between the two statesmen, an historical event that saw President Weah and Rep. Kolubah smoking peace pipes for the first time in a very long time.
The Man Jay Nagbe Sloh that I knew
The exploits of Jay Nagbe Sloh came to our attention within the early days of his election as Representative of Sinoe County’s District #2. Fresh from heading the Liberia News Agency (LINA) as Director-General, Mr. Sloh took a huge gamble by contesting a seat within the National Legislature for one of the country’s most impoverished districts.
From the very beginning, Nagbe Sloh shocked everyone who followed closely his transition from journalism to lawmaking, coupled with his daring political move from the Unity Party on whose ticket he had ran for the Representative seat, to the Coalition for Democratic Change.
Despite such radical political metamorphosis, Sloh’s vast experience as a long-standing media practitioner of astute proportions might have reinforced his conviction for venturing into lawmaking without fear or favor for the powers that be.
“In generations, these two functions have always worked together. Both journalism and lawmaking are interwoven, and that’s why we call the media the fourth estate. Also, you have the three branches of government namely the Legislature, which is the first branch of government, the executive, which is the second, and the Judiciary, which is the third, and the media being the fourth. There may be other interpretations from person-to-person, but this is my interpretation of the Fourth Estate. Further, what that suggests to me is that we should continue working together in the interest of the country and, that’s exactly what we are doing here right now,” Rep. Sloh had disclosed to us at The Analyst during one of his earlier encounters when he had just won the Sinoe County District #2 seat in early 2018.
Nagbe Sloh’s position on Kabineh J’anneh Debacle
Without a doubt, one of the most lasting legacies that Representative Jay Nagbe Sloh would be immortalized for was his strong stance of justice, especially his abhorrence of how the executive manipulates the other branches of government to the detriment of the Constitution.
A case in point was the Executive’s manipulation in ousting Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh from the Supreme Court Bench. Rep. Sloh stood tall in his criticisms about the entire proceeding, to the extent of risking ostracizing himself from his new party, the CDC.
At the time, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court of Liberia were embroiled in legal rigmarole over various interpretations of articles 73, 43 and 66 of the Liberian constitution, largely bordering on protestation on the formulation of a bill seeking the impeachment of Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh. The Supreme Court had issued a writ of prohibition on the impeachment bill’s formulation at the House. Plenary of the House replied with defiance, as well passing a resolution to impeach Justice Ja’neh, and forwarding said instrument to the Senate.
From the very onset, Representative Sloh was against the entire proceedings. And he did not fail to express his dissatisfaction.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Analyst at the time, this is what Representative Jay Nagbe Sloh had to say:
“The whole impeachment thing, not only about Justice Ja’neh, needs to be reviewed. There are so many inconsistencies and practice within the constitution appertaining thereto. I am not too young to forget the impeachment of Chea Cheepo. I think we need to reform the process. Impeachment is a political process. We should not confuse it with the law. Like the one that is going on now, whether we have reasons or not, as long as we have the number to remove, we can impeach anybody. For me, that’s no, and no. However, there has to be criteria set.
The ones in the constitution are vague. They are indistinct. For example, what you may consider a breach of office, for me, may be something else. For example, talking about former Chief Justice Chea Cheepo removal, President Doe said: “your remove the man because he put my girlfriend in jail.” Is that something to impeach a Chief Justice of the highest court in this country? The woman violated the law, and that she carried money to bribe the Chief Justice. The man got evidence, and reporters recorded all of that. So, he put the woman in jail. So, in your mind, is that something to remove a Chief Justice because she knew the Head of State?
So, we really need to look at this issue critically. And, the issue was reported that Chea Cheepo should be removed and, when he got the news, he resigned. He walked and carried his letter of resignation to the Mansion. They refused to allow him see the Head of State, and so he left it with the Security. President Doe said: “Your remove the man. I did not receive his letter of resignation.” So, impeachment is a political thing.
The place where the House refused to go to the Court, I want to say that we were in error on this point. Yes, I am a member of the House, but I didn’t support it. I did not. I felt that we are the same people (the Legislature and the Executive) that passed the law that gives the right to the judiciary to intervene in any matter in this country. We should have made it our duty to appear before the Court to explain why we proceeded the way we did.
The Supreme Court did not say do not impeach Justice Ja’neh. The Court simply told us (the House) that under the law, Justice Ja’neh is exercising his right. The Court said you wanted to impeach him, so stop until we can hear why you want to impeach him. The Court asked us to go and say why we should not grant his request. Unfortunately, we replied the Court that we were not coming to its call.
For example, tomorrow if a reporter come and say my boss is about to fire me, and he runs to the Court with a complaint and the court asks why you want to fire him, then his or her boss replies the court that he or she is not coming to Court’s call. And, some people suggest that you should be held in contempt for defying the Court. My question then is: Only certain people are supposed to be held in contempt? This is why I disagreed with my colleagues on this issue.
Nagbe Sloh’s Unfulfilled Desire to Improve the Lives of his People
One of the main reasons that drove Representative Jay Nagbe Sloh’s quest to lead his people in Sinoe County District #2 was to improve the lot of his people who had been marginalized since the foundation of Liberia as a republic.
Labeling his district as the “Walking District”, Rep. Sloh lamented to The Analyst how his district has no streets and roads, and hence, he was forced to walk from village-to-village, town-to-town, and place-to-place, to meet his people and discuss their welfare.
Said Rep. Sloh: “I ran my campaign on the platform of building roads and road connectivity. From the day I was born there up to today’s date, no condition has changed for the people. It has always been one government after the other, but nothing has really changed for them. It may interest you to know that I walked from the Grand Kru end to River Gee for one week. My district is very huge. We have climbed mountains and swarm in rivers. We always do this because that’s the only way you can go cross the rivers in my district. If you don’t know how to swim, then, you cannot cross the rivers there and, it means you have to wait until the dry season comes before you can have the chance to cross.
I can proudly say that I am the only Representative who has slept in every place where people live in my district. I have slept in one house, two houses, and I have slept in all. I know all of the clans, towns, and paramount chiefs in my district. I know the women organization leaders. I also know the youth organization leaders. Be it clean, or dirty, I shake everyone’s hands. I use my hands to eat with them. I drink the same water they drink from the creeks. As long as they are not dying from it, we all drink the same water from the creeks. So, I am in very good books with my people.”
The challenges in my district and across the country are not because of the lack of policies or laws. The general problem that we have identified is the lack of money. We need to find the money. Be it inside or outside of the government, we really need to find the money to address those challenges. My problems are no schools, clinics, and if one gets pregnant, you will have to leave your problem to God for solution. I am not woman, but I know how difficult it is to give birth to a child in this kind of difficult situation. So, until you can provide the new one, you cannot get rid of the old one. But we are working. And, one thing I know: the walking from far distances will stop with me. Before I leave this Capitol Building, whether five or six years, and, in fact, by this time next year, there will be road network in that district. I have already started working, and I just don’t want to start blowing so much alarm on this, but we are working to make a huge difference in the lives of our people.
I have engaged a lot of organizations that are willing to help. I am told that by next year, we will go back to the US$70,000 that Representatives used to receive for district social development projects. If I put US$70,000 every year into developmental projects in my district, by the end of my first six years’ term, the whole problem of road will be behind us. And then, I can at least build one High School for the three statutory districts.
Interestingly, my district is the richest in the entire Republic when it comes to gold deposit. Have you heard about the wonderful Bokonjedy Gold Mining camp? I am their Representative. It is one of the three statutory districts that I represent. Interestingly, we have all this gold in our district and yet, my people there are poor and underdeveloped.
I am fighting for Hummingbird to start operation in my district. Hundred percent of their operation will be in my district. The company is going to be operating in the district for 25 years. It’s a big company like China Union in Bong Mines. So, I cannot wait to see this dream come through. With that kind of company operating in my district, I would like to find out why there shouldn’t be roads, high schools, clinics, and hospitals.
The first part of the Hummingbird’s agreement talks about the company building the roads. We’ve crossed that path already. However, under the company’s corporate social responsibility, we will demand more from them. If you talk to us by this same time next year, we will be giving you progress report. We have our report card. We are going to catalogue all the promises we made to our people as the subject. We are going to look at each of those subjects.
Up to the time I started my campaign, there was no meeting place in the district. But today, the district has been transformed. You now have a different scenario. As of today, we have completed 52 palaver huts in the district. Each of the 52 structures has 150 person capacities. 20 bundles of zincs on each of them, and all of this came from my own resources.
We have a lot of food in my district. We have the Sarpo National Park. We have elephants that do lots of crossings in front of my people, but you cannot touch them because we have FDA (Forestry Development Authority) people living there. So, the district is really rich, but we are not really getting anything there. The rivers you are looking for are all there. You can also do fisheries there. In fact, we have a whole lot of coconuts there. The entire Liberia can go and harvest there and the coconuts will not finish.
Right now, I am in negotiation with a European company that has expressed interest in carrying on investment in the district. We are now in the business of discussing how we can bring in that company to process the coconuts there. I told them that “you will have to process the coconuts in here.” This is where we are, and the company has agreed to my proposal. This deal will help my people to get jobs. I believe in hard work, and that’s why I am working hard for my people in the district.
I am also working on ways to create means for the cocoa and coffee farmers in the district. I am currently in contact with the daughter of the late President Tolbert. She lives in the Ivory Coast with her Mom. She’s interested in big farming in my district for rice and cocoa production. We are talking about a very big investment here. We are talking about something around US$27million dollars. She had some European investors that she brought into the country, and they had discussions with me. I have been to their facilities and saw them, and I can’t wait to see them start in the district. We are waiting to see when they will start operating.
At the end of the six years, I want to turn my district into what it should be. I want my district to be called the richest district within the Republic of Liberia. If that is done in six years, trust me, I will not seek reelection.”
The late Representative is survived by his wife and three children, all resident in the United States of America. More details to follow on who was Nagbe Sloh as we mourn his untimely demise.