Time For Iron “Ladyism:” Going Beyond Talk Of Toughness

By Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Sometimes ago I wrote an article, explaining why people are given certain names. In that piece, I said sometimes it is because of the belief in reincarnation or something that the person had done or because people feel that such a person deserves such a name or nickname because of what they believe the person possesses or is capable of achieving, even in the face of difficulties, risks or uncertainties.

Nicknames, as we know, are not the given names of people, but are names given to people because of what they can do to the admiration or expectation of people. One book defines nick name, as, “an additional or substitute name given to a person, place, or thing: usually descriptive and given in fun, affection, or derision.”

I am making reference to the issue of nick name to bring to focus the nick name given to Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, then a Stalwart of the Liberia Action Party (LAP), which was the main opposition to the late Samuel K. Doe’s National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) during the 1985 general and presidential election, which were described as being rigged in favor of the then incumbent Gen. Doe, who because of the electoral process metamorphosed into a civilian to qualify him contest the process.

Reminiscently, because of Madam Sirleaf’s role in political activities and even after that election, she was nicknamed, “IRONLADY,” meaning that she was someone who could stand tension, stand her ground and could not compromise anything detrimental to the growth and development of the country. Since, then, Madam Sirleaf has been carrying the name until she won the presidency in 2005 and 2011, which she won when she sought re-election.

Madam Sirleaf who for years was out of the country because of security reasons, braved the situation to return home and contest the 1997 elections that saw Charles Taylor of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), as the winner, while Madam Sirleaf came second.

But what is interesting to note that during the transitional period, when Charles Taylor, then former leader of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) was on the ground, and it was reported that Madam Sirleaf was planning to return home, there were skepticisms that she could not do so because of serious security reasons. But she returned in the midst of that, which led this paper to carry its biggest headline thus far:”IRON LADY IN TOWN.”

However, many persons who supported the giving of this name because of Madam Sirleaf’s political activities in the past hold the view that she has not been able to live up to that name. They believe that she has not been able to exhibit those qualities or virtues of an “iron lady,” which was also given to the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher because of her stance during the Falkland’s war.

While acknowledging the strive she had made thus far such as improving the country’s image internationally with ongoing projects, there are disgruntlements and disenchantment in many quarters that much is not being done on the economic front, thus bringing about hardship and poverty. Some of these citizens believe that this is not the “Iron Lady” they knew in the past for which she was given the name. They feel she’s “too soft” and slow in taking certain decisions and actions, thereby undermining progress. The anger of the people has been compounded with the high exchange rate that has brought about inflation, thus affecting the purchasing power of the ordinary people.

Being fully aware of the economic situation on the ground, during her recent state visit to the state of Qatar in the Gulf, of which I formed part of the delegation, I posed the issue to the President, which she acknowledged and said there are efforts to finding solution. She then described the economy as, sound in potential and noted that the huge investment of about US$16bn has not really become operational, something she said the government has no control over, as this might be owing to infrastructure and negotiations.

Unsurprisingly, yesterday while concentrating on other things, I gathered that the President would be making a statement of the state of the economy. In her statement broadcast live, the President likened the Liberian post-conflict recovery process “to driving a bus while at the same time repairing its many deficient and dysfunctional parts. As we know, for the past years, our bus has been parked, some of the parts have gotten rusty, some are unusable, and many of our people were left stranded and abandoned on the sides of the road. From opportunity to morality; our children, and in many respect, have fallen too far behind.”

The Liberian leader also cited reasons for the budget shortfall and the decline in the growth rate projected in the agenda for transformation. But was quick to say that to remedy the situation, the administration is undertaking bolder and tougher measures to continue to streamline our priorities, reduce wasteful spending, create additional savings and increase revenues so as to continue to invest in roads, ports, electricity, education, health, security, water and sewer – all these things that will multiply opportunities and benefits for all of our people.

In the end, it should be realized, however, that the economy is not a machine subject to pulling of plugs or the pushing of buttons. The economy is people – people in private business, people in official entities, people in civil society, people in the media all of whom must play their roles without prejudice to the right to pursue their goals, but with the full realization that what each does will have consequences. We have seen that what each of us do can actually slow our bus or speed us along the way.

Yes, while it is true that these efforts to improve the economic situation rest with all Liberians in their various sectors, including other branches of government; the President has a greater responsibility to implementing these policies. For too long there have been statements and commitments to act to remedy the situation to move the economy from, its lethargic position to as more prosperity. The people now want to see concrete actions to improve their lives.

I am happy to hear that the administration is undertaking “bolder and tougher measures to continue to streamline our priorities, reduce wasteful spending, create additional savings and increase revenues so as to continue to invest in roads, ports, electricity, education, health, security, water and sewer – all these things that will multiply opportunities and benefits for all of our people.” However, this should not be business as usual because the people want to see result and not just the promises.


With the nation’s recovery program like that of a bus with deficiencies and dyfunctions; it is time for this iron lady to get tougher, even if it means necessary changes, and not one for mere public relations or scapegoatism; this should be done.

Madam President, put on your iron jacket to bring relief to the Liberian economy. Lest you forget that no matter the good projects, if nothing is done to impact the lives of the people, it means nothing is taking place, as the welfare and wellbeing of the people are essential for peace, stability and a conducive atmosphere.

Until the President realizes that there is a need to remove the frown on the faces of the people to smiles, I Rest My Case.


Edited-May 28, 2014-FAS