By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Sometimes when I observe certain political newsworthy activities in the country, I always hope that it was those days when I was a roving or based reporter and later editor of the DAILY OBSERVER Newspaper in the 80’s.Today, if it were like yesterday, I could have asked my editor to continue to report on political activities, as I did in the past, with specific assignment to the opposition Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) because it is a political party that is chock-full of newsworthy events and activities that would be of great interest to any journalist.
Besides, it is a party of unpredictability, as one cannot predictably surmise what they would say next or what would be their position on a particular issue. It is a party that is yet to speak with one voice, as was seen recently when one of its founding members, Senator Geraldline Doe-Sheriff resigned from the party.
At times the situation exists in the CDC of Amb. George Manneh Weah and can be likened to a kitchen with many cooks. With common sense, in such a situation, there would always be problem with the savor or taste of the food. This is why it is often said that, “many cooks spoil the broth.”
Just as all eyes and ears were focused on the party for coming out with its position on its recent controversial primary in Maryland County, which was reportedly characterized by alleged fraud, for which the results are being probed, the party, as a party of unpredictability, has now embarked on a cleaver machination to divert people’s attention from the “fraudulent” primary in the county, by making allegations against the National Elections Commission (NEC), with the sole purpose of bringing that body to public disrepute.
In a press statement which the party said was authorized by its National Executive Committee, the party claimed that it has received “inside information indicating a grand scheme of envisaged vote-robbery to be engineered by elections magistrates and presiding officers operating in the 15 counties.”
Furthermore, the CDC said this “despicable strategy of this grand scheme would make it possible to manipulate election results to favor certain incumbent candidates and others of their choice.” As a result, the party is calling on NEC to “rotate and reassign election magistrates given that most of them have been serving in those capacities since 2005 and are now working at the best of incumbent political actors.”
I take interest in this matter because I feel that it is not healthy for the ongoing process to elect senators in keeping with the Liberian Constitution for the first time. This unprecedented process has been going on by NEC to ensure that all is well for the process. And so for the party to come out with such issues as questioning the credibility of the Commission in conducting the pending process is what I am really concerned about.
Let us take for the sake of argument that NEC desires to adhere to the CDC’s call for it to rotate and reassign magistrates and presiding officers; does that take away the issue that these officers have been working at the behest of political actors. Is the party saying if NEC reassigns or rotates these officers, for what the party claims they are today, would automatically change them from such act? I say this argument is unpersuasive, amorphous and therefore, cannot hold ground in the realm of logic.
In the second paragraph of its press statement, the party raised the issue of information sharing by saying, “.With hundred and eleven (111) days left for the conduct of the elections 2014, the National Elections Commission needs to relief accredited political parties of its information draught that has veiled and restricted the outflow of information deemed vital to enabling participating institutions to remain actively engaged in the elections timeline.
The party in the same paragraph pointed out, “that the Elections Commission treats the necessity of the information sharing as an optional discretion, is a reprehensible contrast to best practice that must be immediately disallowed if parties are to be adequately prepared to maximally participate and meet election timelines.”
For the third paragraph, the party went on:”going forward, the CDC insists that the Elections Commission takes steps to improve its information dissemination obligations, and proximate information-based interactions with all political parties, the larger community, the free press, and stakeholder organizations.”
As someone who has been following political development, especially as it relates to information dissemination on electoral matters, NEC has been doing well, unlike other agencies of the government. What I think is happening is the general reading apathy by some of us. It is not a gainsaying that many of us do not read, and so because we have not cultivated this culture of reading, we are not aware of certain things that are published in the media, whether based-statutory mandate or not.
Studies by scholars and students have shown that many of us listen to radios than to read newspapers, and so there is high probability that because many of us do not read, the CDC has not seen some of the information in the print media. Even when I did my thesis for my undergraduate in Mass Communication at the University of Liberia on said matter, I found out that reading was like a taboo by many of our people.
For some reasons let us assume that the CDC has not received certain information or that NEC has reneged on this function by not publishing certain information for public awareness and education; why couldn’t the party approach NEC on such rather than going public?
While I respect the rights of people or groups like the CDC to speak out on national issues, sometimes going public creates unnecessary confrontation, especially on unsubstantiated issues which give the public a different and wrong impression.
On the issue at bar, the impression one gets from the CDC’s statement is that NEC is out for something different to “rob” the CDC of anything when the game has not even started. Or is it that the party is seeing the “handwriting on the wall” in the face of the galaxy of individuals who have declared their intentions to contest in the pending special senatorial election?
Again, to insinuate that NEC is out for something sinister is what I do not want to accept. Furthermore, it is sheer naivety and ill-advised for one to think that an entire commission would be against one political party, given the “smallness” of the Liberian society.
The CDC, which is referred to as a “grass root” party, can do justice to its many partisans in such a matter by approaching the agency, like NEC, rather than bringing that body’s reputation and credibility into question, in a country with gullible public. As the party claimed that it got its information from an “insider,” the best approach was to contact NEC, as a responsible and matured party, rather than “crying foul.”
At this time when the party is yet to resolve the crisis that has engulfed its Maryland primary, the best it can do for itself as it speaks of fair, free and transparent process, is to make sure that this is the order of the day in its Maryland primary.
Until this party realizes that it must always engage NEC on such issues and avoid unnecessary press statements or conferences, being fully aware of the gullibility or suggestibility of some of our people, I REST MY CASE.