By David Thomas
As its custom is, FrontPage Africa has once again served its unsuspecting readers with half-baked and heavily skewed information. Running the headline, “Stealing from Govt and Building Here in Liberia is Good – Nathaniel McGill,” the local daily has cleverly characteristically propagandized news presentation for the deliberate purpose of defaming a national character, yet another prey within the administration of George Manneh Weah, in the name of reporting.
But the very front-page banner headline is the first thing that unveils the unprofessional and sinister motive of the writers, hugely exposing their grim intent to recklessly defame, slander and disparage their prey—this time State for Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel McGill. The headline reads, “Stealing from Govt and Building Here in Liberia is Good” – Nathaniel McGill.
One does not have to be an ace writer or journalist to know that when a writer inserts words in direct quotation marks, and more so when a journalist uses direct quotation marks around a headline, it literally means that the quoted words are a direct, unedited say of the source. By the FrontPage Africa flaunting ‘Stealing from Govt and Building Here in Liberia is Good’ – Nathaniel McGill, it means McGill has said “stealing and building in Liberia is good.’
However, there is nowhere in the entire 820-word or so story did the FrontPage Africa repeat the direct quote or the emphatic expression that “stealing and building in Liberia is good”. That the local newspaper editors did not repeat that quote is not a mistake. It points to the fact that Minister McGill did not say any such thing as reflected in the headline. It points to the fact that the headline is an opinion of the editors; it is something that is deeply etched in their psyche reserved for a longtime in wait for an opportunity to regurgitate and heap it on the character of someone they dislike. And this time, the disliked person is Nathaniel McGill.
Besides the mishap with the headline, the FrontPage Africa outplayed its anti-McGill venom so much that the editors lost their composure and sobriety to understand and appreciate the context—the unique background and circumstances—of the Minister’s corruption comments. The big trouble for the editors at the FPA was posed by the simple but powerful preposition “If”—the word “If” that always introduces conditional and suppositional phrases—and which prefixes Minister McGill’s comments about corruption.
In one moment, the FPA is read as quoting the Minister saying, “even if I was stealing the money and giving it to the Liberian people…” and in another moment the writer jumps to the an ill-fated approach of interpreting and analyzing that suppositional expression of “even if” to connote confession of guilt to “stealing money from Government and building in Liberia is good”.
Someone says, “What would you do to me if I took your wife from you”; does it mean that wife it already taken? Or FPA the answer is “Yes”.
Indeed, this is bad journalism. This is ridiculous. This is uncalled for. The FPA must stop.
One can understand the venom and desperation by opponents and critics, perhaps including the FPA, to see the George Weah administration, and mainly the President’s major associates, handcuffed, dragged in the street and disgraced over corruption charges. One can understand that much is being done to dig up the faintest and most infinitesimal wrong, blow it up to constitute ‘felony’ and use it as alibi to commit this administration and its key officials to the Golgotha.
But so far, and certainly for all of the lifespan of the administration now and in the coming second term, there is and will be no evidence or material trace of the least sign of graft and corruption to satisfy the wish of the naysayers. All of the graft institutions, all the veracious news outlet, all the uncompromising probity NGOs are all in the country with the radars and daggers hovering all over the place. In the past, the fiscal credentials and misdeeds of political administrations were in the limelight and the public glare in just one to two years of their existence. What we have all seen in the nearly five years of this administration is innuendoes, perceptions and hasty generalizations.
The fact remains that, despite the economic challenges plaguing the Weah administration, the President and his officials, including Minister McGill, will not be mean to the people of Liberia. The Liberian people will get a fair share of the wealth of their nation, not only through budgetary appropriations, but also through personal holdings however meager of individual public servants. And this will coming through cash for tuitions for suffering students, cash grants for startup markets for poor market women, and charity to the physically challenged and other unfortunate people.
It can be safely said that President Weah and his lieutenants, including Minister McGill, have tamed and disciplined themselves to ensure that corruption or the existence of it remains a mere imagination and fairytale in the court of public opinion, never to call their names in fact and evidence as it was the case with their predecessors. That is why it has been difficult for the self-styled investigators like the FPA to find explicit lead and cue by which to write evidence-based stories other when ones made up like the one in question.
It seems strange for many Liberians, including folks at FPA, that public servants use their hard-earned salaries and benefits in addition to budgeted allotments to share with indigent people. Public officials in the past have been extremely stingy and insensitive to unfortunate Liberians; some have been fearful of public perception or misperception, thinking that resources shared with the poor would be understood as purloined or ill-gotten. But this regime, which comprises children of market women, slash-and-burn farmers, subsistence fishermen and other indigenes, who were once upon the time seared by the bigotry and meanness of public officials and wealthy people in this country, will make no secret, and hold no apology, to anyone or any group for identifying with desperately needy people.
For the likes of Nathaniel McGill, the national budget process is too cumbersome, heavily politicized and unnecessary delayed to be awaited before responding to hundreds and thousands of Liberians, mainly rural Liberians, who are hungering for the bare necessities of life. Too many public officials in the Weah administration know full well what the toxins of poverty feel like for the poor while their plights are berserk in the furnace of Monrovia’s political bickering.
Thus, once in a while, and as often as possible, the good-natured officials of this administration will overcome the trappings of Monrovia, venture into the countryside even with it were their personal salaries and benefits or anything officially obtained from state coffer to put smiles on the faces of people clogged in the grips of poverty and want.
Innuendos, misinterpretation and foul perceptions of such redemptive moves will not hinder Minister McGill, his Master George Weah and other public servants of similar generous like-mind from returning to the people of Liberia with their justly theirs.