The Uncertainty Of Life: The Case Of Three Lawyers

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

As I always said, there are many things that I learned from my late grandmother, then an octogenarian, because of the time I spent with her as a child in New Kru Town. One of the things I still remember the old lady told me was that wherever I find a job, I should always learn to work with those there, whether in the high or low echelon of that office. She emphatically said that this was necessary because “no one knows the future,” as it was possible that we, as employees of one institution, could also meet as employees or officials of another institution.

Therefore, my late grandmother, who was unlettered, and not illiterate, as it is said in this country, stressed then that it was always rewarding to work with others so that when your time comes, others will work with you, stressing that one should never try to seek the downfall of others. Furthermore, the old lady would say in her Solomonic wisdom, one tree cannot make a forest, as it takes many to do so. In other words, one person cannot make a team; it takes many, but they must work together for the goal and aspiration of the team.

Literally, what the oldlady was alluding to was team work. That is, people or persons who find themselves working in an institution should always practice or cultivate that spirit of team work to get the job done. Even though people would be given different responsibilities in keeping with the doctrine of the ‘division of labor,” there still must be better coordination and cooperation to get the expected required result. This is similar to our governance system of three branches of government- the Legislative, the Executive and Judiciary. Although they are separate, they still have to coordinate for the governance process.

Scholars may have different meanings and definitions for team work. Also, intuitively, by looking at the word, one can deduce that it means working together, as a unit, to make a particular goal and aspiration achievable or attainable. Notwithstanding, one of the definitions that I subscribe to is the one on the Marriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, which refers to teamwork as “work done by several associates with each doing a part, but subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.”

By this definition, it means that whatever one finds himself or herself doing in an organization, he or she has to put aside that person’s ego, by working with others, to achieve a goal set. By “subordinating person prominence,” as the definition stresses, it means that one should not create the impression of indispensability, thus overlooking others, so as to be seen as the only person doing the job.

Today, I bring to focus the issue of team work because of recent development in the public sector, which is the nomination of Cllr. James Verdier, my former classmate from D. Twe High School (formerly William R. Tolbert High School), as Chairman of the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), replacing Cllr. Francis Johnson- Allison, whose tenure expired last month.

In some of my efforts to comment on some issues in society, I have repeatedly said that at times there might be some issues or developments that are not controversial, contentious or teary, but could be of public interest based on how the writer decides to pursue the issue. Besides, it may not even be complimentary; again, it depends on the objective and goal of the person dealing with such an issue for public consumption. Today, my objective is to highlight the issue of teamwork by people who find themselves in a particular area, stressing mostly cooperation, coordination, respect and tolerance, avoiding the “dog-eat-dog,” attitude at the work place, as well as the “crab in the bucket” mentality, which usually retards productivity, progress and development.

Historically, few years ago, Cllr. Verdier, as Chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of the Catholic Church, while leaving for further studies in the United States, in August 2001 turned over the chairmanship of the JPC to Cllr. Morris, who was in private practice. At the time of Cllr. Allision’s appointment to take over the JPC, Cllr. Augustine Toe, who later took over from her as the new Chairman was there as legal aid officer. He and the new Chairman worked together, as there was no issue of “you met me here” mentality, a situation in some work places that contribute to unnecessary wrangling or power struggle among some top managers thereby undermining the goal of the institution.

In 2008 when then Cllr. Morris, now Cllr. Allison, became the first Chairman of the LACC in 2008 her former Legal Aid Officer, Cllr. Toe, joined her, as he was nominated by President Sirleaf  in July 2011,as a Commissioner of the LACC, replacing the late Moulai Reeves. Unexpectedly and interestingly, last weekend, there was an interesting situation as James Verdier, the former chairman of the JPC, has now been nominated to replace Cllr. Allison, who he once turned over as the new JPC Chairman in 2001. Noticeably, the young and energetic lawyer is going to this new post again, with his former legal aid officer, Cllr. Toe, who has been one of the Commissioners at the LACC. What an interesting phenomenon of uncertainty.

I bring this to the fore, not as one of the usual controversial or contentious issues that always spark off acrimonious debates, as something that some of us can learn from in cultivating the spirit and attitude of teamwork, whenever we find ourselves in certain positions. As the example given with the lawyers at the JPC and also now at the LACC, naturally, they never imagined of one day finding themselves working together again. What a coincidence!

I know that counselors Verdier and Toe, did not expect to find themselves again in another team. But what matters is that in this world of uncertainty, whenever one finds himself or herself, in a specific place of work, it is imperative that people learn to work together, instead of trying to undermine others, as one does not know when his or her time will come to lead.

Unequivocally, this means that people have to learn the Golden Rule of life, which is a general moral principle stated. Also known as “The Ethics Of Reciprocity,” it simply stresses that people should “treat  each other as they would like to be treated likewise – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.”  As one former teacher said, “Give me today, so that I will give you tomorrow.”

To conclude, let us always remember that the evil we do to others will always happen to us in other ways. Hence, let us learn the dictates of teamwork, and avoid selfishness and self-centeredness. To say it the big way, avoid egocentrism. I REST MY CASE.