By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Some individuals venture into the realm of Politics after retirement from their first choices of life’s endeavors, although Aristotle (Virtuous politics) held that politics is the highest vocation in life. Politics is unique, in that, it is concerned with the vital interests and service of the people – their passions, choices, decisions, public and private, not for personal enrichment by illicit means, wholesale stealing of public resources, overnight “rags-to-riches and disregard-disobedience of law, according to Liberia’s century and three-quarters facts of History.
Quite recently, we have been treated to a new, encouraging discourse on democratic politics by a retired football (Soccer) striker and coach, relatively young (perhaps in his late 40s or early 50s) and Candidate seeking to capture District #9 of Montserrado County.
Significantly, Mr. James Salinsa Debbah (of the opposition Labor Party) is one of Liberia’s legendary football (Soccer) Supper- star, nationally-, internationally-well known as much as the-now President George Weah, also retired football (Soccer) supper-star.
This young or middle-aged Liberian’s approach to Politics is the old, traditional classical principles of democratic politics and Thought, under the rule of law; it is as new to Liberia’s Past, Recent Past, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s “Generation of new Leaders”, The prevailing Politics of Corruption, high crimes of armed robberies, murder, Poverty and Hunger.
Mr. Debbah’s Approach
Mr. James Salinsa Debbah’s Old-New Approach to politics is a cool, calm and collected analysis of validated facts and figures regarding District #9 of Montserrado County. He attacks and/or accuses no one, but presents himself as a viable candidate to represent the citizens of the district as catalyst, together, with the citizens to find solutions to the problems of the district. Said he, according to the newspaper (Front Page Africa, August 17, 2020):
“I was born, raised and nurtured in district 9; I have never had the capacity to, at least, give back. . . . The time is ripe for me to give back to my community . . . in a more distinctive and a more complicated capacity”.
About District 9 Lawmaker Madam Youngblood of the CDC Coalition who passed away recently, Candidate Debbah says that “she was a down-to-earth, very good human being who was people-centered. I am here to continue her legacy. If is say she did not do well in the district – that would be like an abomination. I have always been affiliated with the (opposition) Labor Party and could likely run on the Party ticket”.
That “his main priority, if given the chance to represent District 9, would be apply the same level of consistency he has lived his entire life and exhibited over the years. I am hard working, I’m energetic and I promise to do the same. Poverty is still a major concern and I will work toward that to empower the young people”.
“Most importantly” Debbah says, that “he wants to bring a different approach to the National Legislature by avoiding (repeat of the mistakes of History) the mistakes of those currently serving. I think a lot of mistakes Representatives make is that they take decisions unilaterally. If elected, I will make sure that elders (men and women) and young people constituents (also men and women) in the district will have a seat at the table and form an integral part of whatever decisions that are made. I’m not going to take decisions unilaterally. They are going to be decision-makers that will be inclusive with elders and young people . . . District 9 has a lot of young people and there is no recreation. When I am elected, I am going to form a council that will be comprised of young people and elders . . . because they know the ills of the society”.
On National Issues
Debbah says that he knows not why his former partner, footballer for decades, now President George Weah, shuts him out. “I think he (Mr. Weah) should look beyond the past. We came a very long way, we have been in the same fraternity for decades, I think he should retrospect on that because those that are surrounding him are not his friends, they don’t have his interest at heart. At times, you do not realize that – and I don’t blame him because he is in a very – I do not know how to describe it. It’s unfortunate. He’s very charismatic and he a lot to offer but he’s been swayed by people he brings in his circle. We are not opponents, he is my next of kin”.
Mistakes of History
It is very important and encouraging to note that Candidate Debbah is aware of and commits to avoid one of Liberia’s major sources of socio-economic and political problems – ignoring the mistakes of history since 1847. For, it is said that “those who ignore the mistakes of history are likely to repeat them”.
Indeed, Candidate Debbah’s new-old political approach presents, apparently, realistic challenge to Liberia’s political tradition of “business-as-usual” – monopoly of the universal, phenomenal vice of corruption and historical cycles of defective governance characterized by the Unitary system of the Liberian government.
Announcing Government’s National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance, Liberia’s Governance Commission declared that “Liberia shall remain a Unitary State with a system of local government and administration which shall be decentralized with the County (Political sub-division) as the principal focus of the Devolution of power and authority” (Page 2, Section 1.0, National Policy on Decentralization & Local Governance), although the Governance Commission, in its own Preamble to Decentralization Policy based on Research and Analysis held:
- That “. . . Since 1847 and throughout the history of Liberia, governance and public administration (of the Unitary System of Government utilized) have remained highly centralized in Monrovia and controlled mainly by institutions and structures of the central state which have not allowed adequate legal opportunities for the establishment of a system of participatory local governance”;
- That “The system has impeded participation in the management of public affairs and led to the gap in economic growth and development, equal access to social and economic opportunities and well-being between Monrovia and the rest of Liberia”; and
- That “These conditions have impeded Liberia’s democratization process leading to underinvestment in human resources development”.
But in Representative Democracy
The right to vote in the election of important public officials, in the case of Liberia – mayors of cities, town, clan and paramount chiefs and superintendents of counties – is regarded NOT as a privilege but inalienable right that inheres to adult citizens by virtue of their citizenship. This right is the primary means by which governments are responsive to the governed.
Regarding Systems of Government
There are two most popular systems of government worldwide, the Federal and Unitary systems. Both Systems refer to or define “devolution” as decentralization of power. But there are distinct, important differences and conditions, critical to successful democratic practice and results, particularly, in the light of Liberia’s turbulent past and recent past. Examples:
- In the Federal System, devolution-decentralization is guaranteed by written constitution with mutually-binding terms and conditions upon both, the central Federal government and its regional, semi-autonomous constituents; and whereas,
- In the Unitary system, devolution-decentralization is non-constitutional and that the central Unitary government reserves the right to alter, re-arrange and/or abolish the devolved-decentralized powers without consultation with and/or consent of the regional constituents, because unlike the Federal system, the regional constituents of the Unitary system lack constitutional right to exist, in the first place.
Consequently, devolution of political power, as defined by Liberian Government’s National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance and announced by the Governance Commission affecting the right to vote in the election of mayors, town, clan and paramount chiefs, and Superintendents of Counties, desired and expected by the Liberian people is not governed by written constitution and that the present Unitary Central government reserves the right to change, alter and/or abolish the devolved powers without consultation with and/or consent of the regional constituents, the counties of the Republic of Liberia, according to the law now prevailing.