Does The Liberian Constitution Speak Of Regional Or Geo-Political Balance?
By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
The constitution of any country is considered as the organic law of that country, meaning that it is the fulcrum and foundation to guide such country in enacting any other laws to be made, whether it is through legislative enacted or judicial review, should not contravene any portion of the country’s constitution. This is why it is defined as “a law or system of laws which forms the foundation of a government, corporation or other organization’s body of rules.” Hence, this is why the constitution of any country is also referred to as the organic law because it forms the foundation of a government.
In addition, the constitution, as a body of laws, rules or regulations is intended to guide a nation and its people in whatever they do, as such, no law should be completely diametrical of provision of the constitution. The constitution states the rights of citizens, the kinds of freedoms, and its governance system, among others. In Liberia, it was because of constitutional rights that a portion of the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to bar some individuals, without the due process, that sparked off a lots of controversies on that recommendation.
I cite the issue of the Constitution to bring to the fore ongoing discussions in many quarters about the issue of geo-political balance, otherwise, referred to as regional politics. This concept seeks to ensure that individuals heading the three branches of government and other high offices should be done in a way and manner to project regional balance and representation of the entire country.
It usually crops up whenever there is an election in the Legislature, regarding the Speaker and the President Pro-temp. Since the debate for the new Pro-temp, many persons have been raising the issue of making sure that this time around, they want someone from the southeast since the President and Speaker are from Bomi County (the Western Region), the Vice President (Western also), the Chief Justice, (the Northern) the Vice President (Western region), the Chief Justice (Northern region).
But there are others who are against this in that it has not been followed in the past and therefore, the precedent that has been set in electing officials to those top offices, should be followed in the case of electing the new Pro-temp for the Liberian Senate. So far, there are three persons contesting for that post. They are Margibi County Senator, Oscar Cooper; Sinoe County Senator, Cllr. Joseph Nagbe, (Southeast) and Gbarpolu Senator, Armah Jallah (Western Region).
Admittedly, let me say that since the debate started, I decided to remain mute because the three individuals in the race are my good friends and I do not want to create any sour relationship between anyone of them and myself. But I am constrained to join this debate because the issue of geo- political balance or regional political balance continues to characterize this discussion in that the Liberian Constitution guides us an idea of what is being discussed. Whether we have been following it or not, is another issue.
The very Constitution, by which we elect national leaders, provides us the basis for making sure that leaders do not come from one County or region. In this country’s Constitution, regarding the criteria of who should be elected president, Article 52(c) makes it succinctly and unambiguously clear that no person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice President, unless that person is(c) “resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election, provided that the President and Vice President shall not come from the same County.”This, I see as a guide to us in making sure that one region does not dominate the national leadership.
Whenever the phrases “geo-political balance” or “regional political balance” are spoken of, they simply mean making sure that the country is represented. I am also aware that this also comes into play whenever the President is making appointments to ensure a cross representation of the country. Sometimes by coincidence, two or three persons may find themselves at a particular place. I do know that this also occurred as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Even the person to be elected as President Pro-temp would also consider this issue “geo-political balance” or “regional political balance” to avoid one or two counties dominating various committees.
As I stated earlier, I had planned not to comment on this issue because the contestants are my three friends. Senator Nagbe, who is a doyen now in the Senate and I are Methodists and members of the same local church in New Kru Town; Margibi County Senator, Oscar Cooper and I even have a nickname, as friends. And that nickname is “Mission Impossible,” based on an article someone wrote many years ago, when it was said that the senator, then a businessman, was a possible candidate in the 2005 election. But the writer concluded that such a mission was impossible. It was from there we got the nickname. As for Senator Jallah, he and I were classmates at the law school.
Again, this piece is not to suggest who should be the next President Pro-tempore of the Liberian Senate, but to pinpoint the issue that there is a guide in the Liberian Constitution, the organic law of the country, which intrinsically talks about regional balance or geo-political balance. A Hint To The Wise Is Quite Sufficient. I Rest My Case!