By Atty. Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Days following the demise of Catholic Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, I wrote a piece, entitled, “Keeping The Dream of Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis Alive,” in which, among other things, I said the nation should not only mourn this great son of the soil, but to also practicalize those things he advocated for during his active years. I said the first is to ensure the rule of law and adhere to the rule of law, treating all as being equal before the law. The next is the respect for the basic and fundamental rights of every citizen; equitable distribution of the resources of the country so that every citizen will benefit from the nation’s pile; a continued campaign against corruption.
More importantly, I concluded the piece by stressing the need to reactivate or reinvigorate Radio VERITAS and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), which were very active and efficacious during the active days of the Archbishop who died after nearly a decade of illness. Furthermore, I said, “It will be a paradox if we claim to be admirers of the fallen hero, if we consciously fail to live up to those aspirations he stood for over the years. His dream of a better and peaceful society, a society or country in which there will be no marginalization, a society in which there will be press freedom and freedom of speech,(which relatively speaking exist) as well as a society in which democratic values and tenets will flourish and furthermore, a society in which there will be religious tolerance.”
Now, with days to the funeral services of the Archbishop, I have credibly learnt that Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, who served as the first Director of the JPC, has decided to keep the dream and ideas of the Archbishop alive. Accordingly, he has reportedly tendered in his resignation to President Sirleaf as Minister of the Public Works to avoid his “hands being tied” and also “conflict of interest,” serving concomitantly as a cabinet minister and also an active advocate. The news of his resignation was first published by the FRONTPAGE Newspaper of Rodney Sieh last week when the minister signed an agreement for the construction of the Caldwell Bridge.
The paper quoted the Minister, relative to his resignation as saying: “I must keep that promise as I embark on my new journey and my thinking. I only pray that God will guide me and guide all of us and like they say, God, will bless the works of our hands.”
It went on: “This is an important act for me because at this moment I’m involved in a deep reflection as to where this journey of career will take me; I still believe there is much more in Liberia to be done beyond this and as I think through these things I ponder; certainly I intend to make a clear decision on where I go from here and how we can continue to fulfill the dreams and ideals of Archbishop Michael Francis; Before his death, on February 6, this year, I woke up with a dream and that dream reflected that he had passed away so I was moved by that dream to write him a discourse,” Woods said. “I was not able to be at his side during his birth anniversary. I communicated with him in words that I thought I knew he understood and he appreciated. But those words for me reflected his great aspiration for this country. I’ve given my tribute to him while he was alive and I made some promises to him and those are promises I must keep. I must keep those promises as I embark on my new journey and my thinking. I only pray that God will guide me and guide all of us and like they say, God will bless the works of our hands,” Atty. Kofi Woods intimated.
In a follow-up story on Tuesday by THE INQUIRER newspaper with headline:”WHY KOFI WOODS RESIGNED,” written by Alva M. Wolokolie, the paper reported that Minister Woods took the decision to take on the advocacy of social justice and human rights, especially in fulfillment of a promise made.
Although Minister Woods has refused to comment on the issue because he is mourning the death of the Archbishop who was his mentor, sources at the Executive Mansion have confirmed the resignation of Minister Woods but unconfirmed report says President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is still appealing to the Minister whom she considers as one of her trusted confidants to stay on the job. However, an insider at the Ministry of Public Works has told the INQUIRER that Minister Woods has vowed to return to the private sector where he originally came from.
Still citing some possible reasons for his decision, the sources said Minister Woods, who incredibly performed well at the Ministry and had won several awards for that but was not comfortable with President Sirleaf led government policy and how concession agreements are managed. The source also revealed that Minister Woods is frustrated over some comments made by individuals against peaceful citizens including the media which has assisted to ensure social justice; equality, democracy and freedom enjoyed by everyone. Likewise, it was said that the issue of corruption and threats against the media was also highlighted as some of the reasons given for the Minister’s resignation.
I am filled with joy and happiness that this man has voluntarily decided to take on this challenge of keeping the dream or legacy of the fallen Archbishop alive. Many times in such situations, we praised the dead and recount the person’s contribution to the society. We also outlined some of the desires or wishes of the dead person. But the problem has always been our failure to doing those things the person stood for, while alive. Sometimes during the funeral service, we announce the establishment of trust funds or scholarship programs in memory of the deceased; which I have observed and continue to observe are usually ephemeral and unachievable. This is why I am glad that Mr. Woods who was nurtured by the ‘old man’ for which he continues to hold him in high esteem, even on his dying bed. This is a possible move and breakaway from that traditional path of only eulogizing the person and failing to continue or practice those virtues and principles the person stood for.
As I monitor events back home afar, I am happy with the report that RADIO VERITAS is on a “test transmission” and may carry the funeral of the Archbishop live. This is a clear indication of the renaissance of this station that was admired by many for its objectivity and critical reportage. I hope in the same vein, the JPC will awake from its slumber to continue to monitor human rights activities and other activities such as the Legislative Report Card instituted by its former Director Cllr. Augustine Toe, now one of the Commissioners with the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC) and its periodic report on human rights activities in the country.
Today because of the absence of the JPC, the nation only relies on the U.S. State Department compilation of human rights activities in the country, which is usually published by the local newspapers, for the nation to see as to whether or not we are making progress on the issue of the protection and respect for human rights, as enshrined in the country’s Constitution and those of international conventions. And so with the revitalization of the JPC, it would continue to glean information on human rights issues and publish them, as it was done in the past, following a major press conference that usually highlighted the gist of the report.
To Minister Woods, a former neighbor in the Borough of New Kru Town, an area commonly called, “Saigon,” you have made history because it is difficult or rare to see people of such status, taking such a stance to voluntarily leave from the public sector, especially a Cabinet Minister in such a manner. DON’T ASK ME WHY. But in most instances this usually occurs when an individual finds himself or herself in a quandary or corruption scandal, with no choice but to quit as the only option is to resign to “save face.” But your case is different; history will always remember you. You have indeed set precedence; thanks for trying to live up to a promise made. It takes a principle-minded person and also a person of courage and determination to pursue such path.