columnBy Joe Bartuah
It seems that some political neophytes are bent on a sort of political blackmailing in Monrovia. They are shamelessly seeking what amounts to a political ransom and the unsuspecting Liberian electorate are their obvious hostages. Some of those involved in this scheme had in the past, declared themselves as millionaires. At least on one occasion, one of them claimed to have been a "billionaire", even though I am not quite sure whether this particular gentleman knows how many zeroes are in a billion.
In any case, that's not the point of discussion here, because in a free society, anyone can claim to be whatever in their exercise of free speech, once such an expression is not in violation of the law. What is, however, the issue at bar is that some political flunkies are adroitly orchestrating a shabby scheme to siphon highly needed funds from the national coffers purely for self-aggrandizement. Yes, some of those fellows are apparently broke, after living luxurious life over the years, and are now determined to capitalize on the fragility of our emerging democracy and mercurially enrich themselves. For me, that is absolutely unacceptable; the Liberian Government must forthrightly reject this cunningly designed, sugar-coated political blackmail in whatever form it might come in.
For readers who might still be in suspense, I refer to a virtual Ponzi scheme being euphemistically tagged as the Party Support Bill in Monrovia. I consider it a Ponzi scheme or black-bag politics because for me, "black-bag" connotes something shady, something that is not authentic, something that is fake, an effigy. For operational purpose, a black-bag politician falls in the category of quacks or swindlers who pretend to be real.
If passed, this law will certainly be a grotesque, obnoxious political mutation in the history of democracy. Whether it was in ancient Greece from whence democracy sprouted, within the Roman oligarchy, in the intellectually charged British parliamentary system or the American presidential vibrancy, nowhere in the world am I aware of certain groups of people being entrusted with national revenue just because they claim to be leaders of political parties.
My layman knowledge tells me that being a political leader is NOT a profession. Putting a select group of individuals on salary, or dishing out a huge sum of money to them just because they had in the past, been able to forge a few thousand names and subsequently received certificates from the National Election Commission will be extremely unfair to the vast majority of our down-trodden compatriots who are struggling daily just to survive.
For advocates of the so-called Party Support Bill, they must feel obliged to explain the objective or goal of this vampire proposition to the Liberian people; they also bear the burden of citing exemplary precedents in blossoming democracies around the world that they are seeking to emulate. Let them tell us in which country are some neophytes being paid simply because they claim to be "politicians." The object of democratic politics is crafting sound public policies; it is therefore imperative that those who aspire to the zenith of national politics be au courant with the intricacies of public policy formulation and the cardinal goals that such policies are intended to achieve.
Unfortunately in the case of Liberia, any Yarkpawolo or Saye who deludes himself about his "popularity" hallucinates about becoming president, hence the irrational proliferation of political parties. Had their farfetched imagination been a reality, every Hollywood star would have been a U.S president. It is obvious that no substantive ideological differences set aside nearly all the political parties in Liberia; they are solely based on "personalities". It is for those personality parties that certain elements in the opposition circles are now demanding patronage from the national coffers. For a country historically notorious for "systemic" corruption, the "Party Support Bill", if passed into law, would be a recipe for chaos. To begin with, there won't be any iota of accountability in the dispensation and expenditure of such funds. I foresee inter-party and even intra-party fist fights involving leaders of political parties, if this laughable bill becomes law. I foresee a scenario in which certain black-bag politicians would insist on getting a lion's share of the largesse because they consider their party "the main opposition party". Of course, there might be a counter-argument that all political parties are equal, and therefore, should be treated equally and needless to say that there is bound to be vitriolic disagreements on such issues. Conspicuously, the proposed law would have a domino effect on our body politics, because it would definitely lead to the unnecessary proliferation of political parties in Liberia. When I last checked, there were 26 political parties in Liberia; the 2011 elections featured 16 presidential candidates, even though most of those candidates conscientiously knew that they had no chance of winning.
Is it such nonsensical mockery of democracy that our people must sustain through their tax dollars? Wouldn't that be tantamount to committing an economic suicide? Moreover, giving public funds to political leaders rather than expending the funds for the common good of the public, such as multiple infrastructural development projects would be a mindless misdirection, misapplication of public funds.
National politics should be an arena in which those with impeccable credentials and solid history of achievement can avail themselves, showcase their brands to indicate their desires to actually serve their country, not a ghetto in which con artists bereft of any exemplary credential would hypnotize an unsuspecting electorate to cunningly web opulence. Why must we pay certain people just because they are master mobsters? Doing so would be institutionalizing anarchy; it would be tantamount to tearing down the foundation of the modest progress we have made democratic consolidation.