By Ralph Geeplay
Recentl, the Lord Mayor of the City of Monrovia, Madame Mary Broh finally appeared before the Liberian Senate few days ago and delivered the apology they long sought. It seems the legislators have been begging for the apology as if some how to legalize and validate their importance, what else can I say. Incensed, that the Lord Mayor of Monrovia ignored several attempts to appear before the senate in a matter that had all to do with the judiciary and the courts, it threw to the window shamefully the republican form of government that oversees Liberia’s political governance when they declared a Vote of No Confidence in Madame Broh, as if Liberia has a parliamentary form of government, guys we’re not!
For starters and here’s the story: Nancy Gaye, a special assistant to Maryland County Senator John Ballout complained that the Monrovia mayor assaulted her a fortnight ago. The mayor admitted to the incident, when she was quizzed by the Monrovia based Daily Observer on May 28 2012 when she said, “She insulted me and I had to teach her a lesson as a mother.” Ms. Gaye however, instead of running to the courts to file a suit, complained to her employers, the Liberian Senate. The newly elected senate immediately sprang into motion to show all and sundry its powers. It cited Madame Broh several times to appear, and she refused, directing her accusers to go to the courts to seek redress. Gaye too, refused to go to court by hiding behind the first branch of government to teach the mayor a lesson. This was when the upper chambers slammed the brakes. Truth be told Ms. Nancy Gaye made a name for herself; the little known office assistant brought the entire Liberian Senate to its knees and made the body throw its weight behind the little known office staffer. Gaye must be the most powerful woman on Capitol Hill.
Misusing or using its contempt powers the senate held Broh in disdain for disrespecting the august body for none appearance. Its next move was to instruct the President of the Republic to removed the city mayor and have her replaced, but Sirleaf wasn’t prepared to do that to her best friend.
The Senate Pro-Tempore who hails from Grand Bassa County, Gbazongar Findley and his peers then threatened when it became eminent that the president would not succumb to what amounted to an interference into the affairs of the executive branch of government and its functions, since the constitution provides for three separate but co-equal powers with complimentary roles, said it would institute budgetary strangulation for the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), which amounts to about 9m annually, if the Johnson Sirleaf administration did not remove the controversial mayor. Senator Finley added that no citizen would disrespect the Liberian Senate and get away with insolence.
But the Lord Mayor of Monrovia is not an ordinary citizen and for the those of us who are, the senate has no right to act arbitrarily in a constitutional setting if that was the case!. Besides the president, and the Superintendent of
Montserrado, the office presides over a bigger constituency per population ratio of any elected or appointed official in the country! I have always argued that the Monrovia Mayor who knows what he/she is doing will always be an arm reach from the presidency.
The upper chambers drew its actions from article 44 of the 1986 Constitution which states “Contempt of the Legislature shall consist of actions which obstruct the legislative functions or which obstruct or impede members or officers of the Legislature in the discharge of their legislative duties and may be punished by the House concerned by reasonable sanctions after a hearing consistent with due process of law…” given the aforementioned, it is hard to see according to observers how realistic it was to sanction the mayor, because she neither did impede the senate functions nor was she liable under article 44 for wrong doing.
Hence, a case in which clearly the senate declared itself a party, it also wanted to be the judge and the jury at the same time in a matter that was meant for the courts, never mind the fact that all executive appointees hold their offices to the will and pleasure of the President. But the issue won’t die or go away, so Sirleaf upon her returned from the United States where she was when the story broke visited the Liberian Capitol to iron things out with the upper house. It was a closed door meeting according to reports that lasted several hours with the angry senators whining like kids and adamant that Sirleaf would paid a political prize if she did not fire Broh, according to insiders privy to the discussion. Sirleaf is an adept political operator, she knows what was coming, either sooth the egos of these senators or have her legislative agenda go nowhere on the last stretch of her presidency. She chose the obvious, and it’s clear to see why.
Broiled in a quagmire and knowing full well, the Unity Party has no majority in the senate and the house, she had to find a way to appease senators from Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP) they were the loudest in complaining, there are about six of them out of thirty, and the likes of Senator Prince Johnson, who principally proposed the contempt charge against Broh that was bought by his peers, and essentially a president pro-tempore who wants leadership respect and credentials from his colleagues as he cements his control in his new position. He almost narrowly lost to Charles Taylor’s ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor of Bong County, but more than that, the Liberian senate has seen three different heads at the helm in less than six years, so Findley knows which side of his bread is buttered, his cards are close to his chest.
Sirleaf was left with no option but to expel Broh for two weeks to save the senators the embarrassment, since in fact they had made it a really big deal. And then, the expected happened, Broh based on Sirleaf urging, according to Executive Mansion sources, finally issued her apology: “I deeply regret my failure not to appear before your honorable body due to ailment for which I was admitted and receiving medical treatment at the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital…. esteem gentlemen and honorable members of the Liberian Senate, as a citizen who respects [ the] value for constitutional authority, I would do nothing to cause disrespect for your honorable body…” Broh said to the members of the upper chambers.
It cannot overstated that the legislature does have over sight responsibilities to summon government officials and, or the general public alike to appear before it in a bid to enhance the smooth operations of the state as far as its legislative functions are concerned. But when the senate flaunts its naked use of powers which in this case it was, by bullying the mayor of Monrovia who presides over a population of 1.3m inhabitants while ignoring the other branches of government and their unique functions as the country seeks an end to impunity after almost two decades of war, the actions from the legislators raises eye brows.
It all appears Broh’s apology therefore, comes from appeasing the Liberian senators who are yet to pass or write any significant piece of legislation since their election. Pundits say Sirleaf is determined to move her legislative agenda forward smoothly through the lower and upper houses instead of picking a fight over a matter which everyone knows should have gone to the courts. It is not a matter of, if the mayor was wrong in her confrontation with Ms Gaye, but the Liberian Assembly was the last place she should have gone and more so, being forced to read an apology letter.
Says an analyst, “the respect the senators seek won’t come by bullying, they must be reminded.” Senators especially so, draw their respect and powers from staying above the fray in society, because the citizenry see them as noble custodians and distinguish barons of the land as must also be exemplified in their actions and bearings. If they pass good laws, hold themselves accountable and in high esteem and work for the people who sent them to Capitol Hill, they would need not to have begged for respect, it will be given.
Mary Broh’s apology therefore, wasn’t about apology, it more was about soothing the egos of men and women who want to be revered at all cost and Sirleaf play them to her game and this is unfortunate, because it should not be that way.