Antoinette Weeks: Ellen’s Excess Baggage?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

The phrase “excess baggage” usually refers to a situation in which travelers are to bear extra cost for their baggage or “load,” to say it the Liberian way. In addition, excess baggage is defined as a “baggage in excess of the amount specified to be carried without charge by a plane, train, ship, etc.” That is, for every passenger, he or she is expected to shoulder the responsibility of paying for the extra cost of the baggage, as it is above the amount allotted or allowed to carry by each person on a flight or ship.

Extra baggage in another sense, does not only relate to the issue of bearing additional cost, but it also idiomatically, refers to additional burden that one must carry, beyond what one is expected, especially as it relates to responsibility, duties and problems. Having an “excess baggage” means facing a precarious predicament that has the propensity retarding progress.

In short, as an idiom, it means an obstacle to success, progress and development.  It is not just about paying money, but also facing unnecessary situations because of the action of an ally, as friend, a relative or confident.

Whenever the issue of excess baggage is linked to leadership, it simply refers to a situation faced by a leader that causes unnecessary embarrassment to those leaders. It also refers to a stumbling block or an official whose actions, behavior and attitude poses a serious problem to his or her leader.

Besides, the minister is someone with poor human relations and communication skills, which are very crucial to any effective administration. Worst of all, she lacks the basic office practice or courtesy of responding to communications, something that today got her in problem with the National  Legislature, for which she is expected to face contempt of that body tomorrow.

Today in the Liberian society, the Minister of Public Works, Dr. Antoinette weeks, is suitably fit in such a position or category as an excess baggage for President Sirleaf, because her action, behavior and attitude continue to cause embarrassment to the President, to an extent that many persons are today calling for her resignation and dismissal. This is the first time I have seen that the public is united on this issue of having this woman removed or that she should resign for being an excess baggage to the President.

In all street corners today, the major issue of discussion is that of the Public Works Minister, Dr. Weeks. In all fairness, when I heard that Dr. Weeks was appointed as Minister of Public Works, making her the first female, I was very happy for that because this is a job that had been handled by males in the country’s history.

And so I thought that this was a glorious opportunity for a lady to make a difference. Regrettably, my expectation or anticipation about her has proven otherwise because of the way and manner in which she has been running the ministry in the past nine months. She has now created the situation of infallibility and indispensability to an extent that “no one is qualified,” except she alone. How possible can this be?

But what is of great concern is that because of the way and manner she has been working, it is indeed, stalling government’s projects and have even made the President of Liberia to look bad in the eyes of the public because in her annual message, the President promised that the Somalia Drive Road should have started many months ago, but the action of the minister has been attributed to the delay in the commencement of that project. What a great embarrassment to the presidency?

Sometimes, others argue that the minister is not performing because this is not her field of specialization. This, I do not agree with, because there had been people who performed very well in areas they did not specialize in. For example, her predecessor, Samuel Kofi Woods, was not an engineer, but he left his legacy; Cllr. Moses Paygai, now with the Sherman Law Firm, was not an electrical engineer when he performed well at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) when he was Managing Director and one of my journalistic tutors,  Mr. Willies Knuckles, now a private businessman, was never an engineer when he did his best at that same Public Works Ministry, just to name a few, as there are more.

And so to argue that this is not her area of specialization, I disagree and see such argument or reason as amorphous, laughable and unpersuasive, because besides one’s field of specialization in college or university, one is exposed to other areas. I believe and still believe, based on what

I learned in my first degree that college or university education exposes one to lots of things to prepare them for future leadership.

This is why I disagree, if it is true that a lawyer was one appointed as Minister of Postal Affairs and the lawyer reported turned it down on ground that the area or post was not the lawyer’s field of specialization.

Based on what I learned from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Liberia at the University of Liberia, where among other things, Administrative Law is taught; a lawyer is capable of  performing the functions and duties of Minister of Postal Affairs because law is a diversified field that exposes one to nearly all fields and teaches one a lot. Perhaps that lawyer rejected the post for other areas rather than for qualification or competence because the profession also teaches people teamwork, administrative skills and better communication skills.

Again, the problem with the present minister is not the issue of schooling, but her failure to work with others and also for being very egocentric, which is the antithesis of altruism.

Today, the situation at the Public Works is all about the lack of vision on the part of a manager and failure to work with others to achieve the goal of the ministry, which unquestionably has a crucial role in post-war development.

I write this piece to draw the President’s attention to this matter which I know she is already aware of, as this is only to reinforce the prevailing concerns, because of my recent interaction with her, while returning from Doha, Qatar during her recent visit to that country, of which I was part of the delegation.

From my chat with the President on that trip, I saw her desire to move the country forward. She was quick to say that she would continue to get the support and commitments to develop the country.

But again, if she does not have people to share her dream, like in the case of the Public Works Minister, the President’s desire and dream would not become a reality. This is my concern, for which I feel that the President does not need an excess baggage, as the plane is now in motion and that any excess baggage would cause more unbearable problems.

Over the weekend, the government made great strives in infrastructural development with the dedication of the NASSCORP HOUSE at the ELWA Junction. If the NASSCORP managers had been excess baggage, this well-designed project, would not have been successful.

Therefore, the ball is now in the court of the President to decide to play it for the success of the team by dealing with the excess baggage, or to hold on to this excess baggage to the detriment of the team and her desire to move this country from backwaters to prosperity.

At one point while writing this piece, I almost decided to discontinue on public perception that whenever says, something about appointment, removal or dismissal, it is rare for the President to act. But all I can say in this matter is that this is a different scenario. The President, who is determined, is herself embarrassed and feeling the pain.  For this, I believe she would act promptly.

Until President Sirleaf realizes that there is no need for an “excess baggage,” or stonewaller, as this would undermine her desire and commitment to post-war development, I REST MY CASE.

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