The resigned board chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Mr. Robert Sirleaf has said that he did not ask for the job that became controversial, especially when he was serving both as an advisor to the President and chairman of NOCAL.
When the previous board chairman retired, he said, other members of the board went to his mother, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and said that he was the best person suited for the job.
Mr. Sirleaf admitted that he anticipated the difficulties of being appointed to chair his country's oil company.
"But I'm also a realist, and I understand that being in the job was going to be extremely difficult," Mr. Sirleaf who is accompanying his mother in the US, told Allafrica news outlet during his visit at the United Nations General Assembly. Speaking about his work at NOCAL, Mr. Sirleaf said he anticipated that people could politicize his job which he said was challenging.
"People were going to use it as a low-hanging fruit to create politics, to create attacks - we knew that. It was extremely challenging, but it was still a job that we felt we were going to be up front and center and do the right way. And I think we did. As a matter of fact, I know we did," he said. Even before his resignation, Mr. Sirlead was under enormous criticism for playing a dual role as an advisor to his mother, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and at the same time chairman of NOCAL.
When President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed him to chair the NOCAL board, there were cries of nepotism and corruption but the president did not yield to the cries, saying that her son was qualified.
Many Liberians have also argued that it was unfair for Mr. Sirleaf to chair the oil company and at the same time serve as an advisor to President Sirleaf.
However, responding to question as to whether he knew that his appointment would have been controversial, Mr. Sirlead told Allafrica "I didn't ask for the job. [When the previous Chair retired,] the board went to the president and said that I was the best person for the job."
Mr. Sirleaf added: "The president and I had a very long conversation about what we wanted to accomplish - a very long discussion, a professional discussion, a mother-son discussion - about what the downsides and what the upsides were."
Asked why he resign the post since he claims achieving "a lot" Mr. Sirleaf said "In the beginning we said, once the reforms are in place, you're going to leave. And I said, "Fine, the reforms are in place." And I left. I'm very comfortable with that. I'm very happy about it."
He said he worked on Wall Street for 24 years adding that " In business, it's about relationships; it's about how you're going to manage the relationships, getting what you want done out of people. So me walking in with these oil companies - they automatically knew who was sitting across the table from them, and we were successful."