By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
One of the good things writing in journalism is that which has to do with feature articles, which affords a writer the latitude to comment, analyze, comment or even do a critique on prevailing issues, especially those of national concern and interest. Unlike news stories or articles which are time-bound, feature articles are not time-bound, for which they are referred to as “EVERGREEN,” meaning they can be written today, tomorrow and in the future based on a particular issue that has links to the previous happenings.
Equally, through feature writing, a writer can revivify an issue based on the ingenuity or creativity of the writer. And so features are such that they “never die” because there would always be interesting aspects of a happening or event that still deserve commentary, discussion and analysis. By this time, sometimes the news value has lost because it has been reported in keeping with the news element of “timeliness,” as all news aspects have been exhausted.
Today it is a known fact that one of the issues of public discussion that was even lionized in the media also was the open letter written by Mr. Christopher Neyor to President Sirleaf. Mr. Neyor once served as Energy Advisor to the President and later became President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
In his open letter which was fraught with insinuations of malpractice on the part of the President and her son, Robert Sirleaf, former Chairman of the Board of NOCAL, Mr. Neyor also claimed that the President was in a campaign to frustrate his bid for the senatorial race for Montserrado County. He said he “reliably” learnt of this campaign by the President. The President’s former Kitchen Cabinet member claimed that the President embarked on this because of information that her son, Robert Sirleaf is also interested in the race and that this was also so because he refused to be a part of some corrupt practices, while serving as NOCAL boss.
Although there have been much public discussions on the issue, I take particular interest in one aspect which relates to Mr. Neyor’s reported meeting with President Sirleaf on his intention to contest the senatorial race for Montserrado County. I take interest in this because of the level of deception that usually characterizes the democratic process in electing leaders. Sometimes people are carried away by the crowd, believing that they stand a chance in the race, only to prove otherwise.
In his open letter on his meeting with his former boss (President Sirleaf), Mr. Neyor said, “I met with you on April 24 at your Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in the presence of your Chief of Staff, Dr. Edward McClain and informed you of my intent to honor petitions to contest the Montserrado County Senate seat in the October 2014 Special Senatorial Elections in order to help the National Legislature be more responsive to the critical issues of the country.”
He went on:”You inquired why I wasn’t running for the Rivercess senate seat instead and I explained among other things that I was born and raised in Montserrado County to a father who came from Morweh in Rivercess and I was a registered voter in Montserrado. You stated it would be a difficult task for me but I told you that elections is about number and from survey, I had the number to win in the county. You told me then that others had approached you for the same seat and that you would do your own survey and see whom to support. I said that was fair enough for I was just informing you out of courtesy but not necessarily for your support.”
Mr. Neyor then claimed: “Since I left your office that day and began consultations with cross section of Montserrado citizens, you have been doing everything to undermine my participation in the election in favor of your son whom you did not reveal to me that he intended running for the same seat. You have been trying hard to coerce officials of your government who are supporting or sympathizing with my anticipated candidacy to work with your son instead even when some advised it would not be a good idea for your son to contest the Montserrado County senate seat.”
For this article, I would not be dwelling on the issue of Mr. Neyor’s claim of the President frustrating his plan and is in a campaign to “destroy” him. My focus would be on the aspect that the President told him about his chances in the race, as this would be a difficult task because election is number.
Furthermore, he said the President told him that others had approached her for the same seat and that she would do her own survey and see who to support, for which, Mr. Neyor said, that, that was fair enough, as he was just informing her out of courtesy, but not necessarily for her support.
As stated earlier, my reason for taking on this article of the open letter after dealing with other aspects is how people behave during the process. Many times political candidates and aspirants are always carried away by mammoth turn out of persons claiming to be their supporters, only to see the opposite with less voters, beyond one’s imagination and expectation.
Sometimes this is so because if someone tells a particular candidate that he or she would not support that candidate, the candidate or aspirant would take it differently and see such a person as being their enemy. As a result, people or voters consciously do not tell any candidate or aspirant if they are not supporters. Owing to this, there is always high level of deception in the whole process, because people, who candidly tell a candidate or aspirants their feelings, are seeing differently and in most instances are viewed or labeled as their enemies.
On the issue at bar, if President’s candid assessment to Mr. Neyor is the reason why he feels that the President is deceptive, then, I beg to differ with him. It was good that the President was fair to inform him of how she sees his campaign, rather than assuring him of her support or to run. The President, like any other voter, is entitled to her view on the candidates or aspirants.
As we try to nurture this new democracy, we should be prepared to welcome all of those who frankly and candidly tell candidates or aspirants how they feel about them, rather than being carried away by people who deceitfully claim to be supporters of those candidates and aspirants. I believe, if we accept this frank and candidate view, it would lessen the level of deception in the electoral process.
I am saying this because this level of deception by eligible voters had made some candidates to view the electoral process as not being free, fair and transparent of the results they usually accrued from the process. The story is told of a particular candidate who left his home, along with 18 of his supporters. Unbelievingly, when the result came, it fell beyond expectation. As a result, the candidate cried foul. How sure is it that all of those who accompanied the candidate voted for him?
In a similar situation, the story is told of a candidate and his wife who went to vote, and when the results were announced it was only one vote for the candidate. Believing that for any reason, he expected two votes, he also cried foul. How sure is it that his wife even voted for him? There are many similar stories to this issue of deception by voters, only because if they are frank, they would be perceived as enemies, or being against someone, failing to realize that these voters have the right to decide for who to vote.
Once again, if it is true that President Sirleaf gave her assessment on Mr. Neyor’s candidacy, then this was not deception, because deception which comes from ‘deceive’ means, “cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid ; to give false impression…”
As I said, this article is not intended to dwell on the allegations as contained in Neyor’s letter, as the House of Representatives is expected to probe those allegations against the President and some members of the First Family.
Until we begin to appreciate people for being frank and candid with us in our political sojourn for elective offices, I REST MY CASE.