Recently, the Liberian Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion against Brownie Samukai, in a case bordering on sheer impropriety. Samukai was accused of squandering US$1.1million meant for hungry soldiers confined to dingy barracks and grossly mistreated by the erstwhile government. This ruling is both symbolic, and, to some extent, it promotes the illusion that a so-called big fish can pay heavily for his corrupt footprint against the state in a land where egregious impunity has undermined access to justice and eroded confidence in the rule of law. For whatever implication the Supreme Court’s opinion holds, this is welcome news for justice-loving compatriots. It is an example that the next government will use to nail Weah and his collection of racketeers. But let us analyze the implications of the ruling and place it in the larger political context.
But before we venture to do so, no sooner had the court made its opinion on the matter than opposition-leaning politicos took to social media to cast aspersion on the court and call into question its impartiality against the background of mounting pieces of evidence confirming that the court has largely been the star chamber of Weah, executing his wet dreams. These opposition figures parrot the notion that since the Supreme Court has been compromised, we should treat every opinion it articulates with a grain of salt. By their own perverted standards, the not guilty opinion that the Supreme Court rendered to opposition figures facing civil or criminal charges, including the erstwhile chairman of the Unity Party in Varney Sherman, must also be treated with a grain of salt. This is where their logic cannot stand up to scrutiny: the same forces hatching onto the bandwagon to condemn the Supreme Court threw party for Sherman when he was exonerated. Today, they are the ones lecturing us about the non-independence of the court when the ruling does not favor their side. This is like being treated to the ridiculous circus of a hardcore prostitute offering lecture on morality—and it is oxymoronic—and it is scandalous offensive!
I have had my own misgivings about the Supreme Court and how it has conducted itself under the leadership of Francis Korpor, including Johnny Lewis before him. For instance, selling justice to the highest bidder, the manner and form some judges conduct themselves in an unprofessional fashion, and how Weah stacked the bench with his yes men are just some of my many concerns. But these are backed by an appreciation in reason. Brownie Samukai is no victim of a vicious political frame-up as some folks in the CPP would want to gaslight us into believing. He is a guilty man playing at being innocent. During the Sirleaf administration, certain individuals were super ministers. That label is a pejorative in the consciousness of the people, but it was a license to do anything without answering for one’s crimes. Super ministers would steal and walk with impunity on the streets of Monrovia without looking over their shoulders. They would commit crimes and walk scot-free. Samukai was one such super minister. Soldiers complaining about unpaid benefits, horrible living conditions are the ruins Samuaki left in the wake when he left government. And that was Samukai: a man who had a misplaced sense of his own worth. So intoxicated with power that he never thought this day of reckoning would come. While soldiers were subjected to the ruins of the barracks and a pittance in salary and benefits, Samukai simultaneously owned the popular Monrovia Liquor Store, the Supreme Car Rental, a private security and other business ventures in and out of the country.
Enter in this analysis the CPP. It is in the ranks of the CPP that the opinion of the Supreme Court has caused the most damage and the former might just never recover from this crisis, if care is not taken. By any measure, the opinion of the Supreme Court is a PR disaster for the CPP which has become a punching bag since Musa Bility became the chairperson of the Liberty Party (LP). In other words, the CPP formation has been placed in a tight spot to defend its thief or sever ties with him. Whether that political outfit would flex its so-called anti-corruption muscle by standing with the court or asking Samukai to resign remains to be seen. By and large, the CPP cannot get out of this crisis unscathed if it stands with Samukai who has been condemned by the apex court for his abuse of public office and patent corruption.
Meanwhile, the masses of people will be watching the reaction of the anti-corruption crusaders in the CPP, the so-called light and the choleric notable and the farcicial collection of vulgar patriots who have centered the fight against corruption in their politics and opposition to the Weah regime. Whether it has not been opportunistic posturing to garner votes and win popularity in the ranks of the beleaguered people, that hypothesis will be tested soon. But from hindsight, we already know the devout position of some of the individuals in the CPP, including certain political leaders who are fond of gesture politics than exercising leadership on substantive matters. Some have already resorted to employ deafening silence under the mistaken belief that the Liberian masses have a short memory span. This utter contempt for the people we have seen on repeated occasions when the CPP is under the spotlight. The lousy talkers in the CPP on everything verging on politics in the country would fold up and zip up displaying every symptom of servile yellowbellies.
But Brownie Samukai was always known to be a rotten element and a man with huge excesses who should have sat out politics. So, it was surprise, surprise, surprise that Joseph Nyumah Boakai, the paragon of virtue, had singularly handpicked and endorsed him even though the latter knew Samukai would collapse under the weight of rudimentary anti-corruption test. This says much about the judgment, values, and vision of Joseph Boakai. But there are even other dimensions to Boakai’s failures that we must highlight and expose. Rumors have it that in addition to Boakai being a colorless bureaucrat he is a hardcore ethnicist through and through. This we have not independently verified. But it raises further questions when he populates his inner circle with his tribal people, including the scoundrel Jake Kabokollie, his nephew, whom we are told, has the eyes and ears of the former vice president. Then we begin to believe the proliferating rumors.
To be sure, we have seen this script play out in the recent past, including now. The detritus of political patronage is causing a nightmare for the country, and we are yet to recover from it. Our national leaders building a cabal of loyal confidants and nationally dangerous figures around them are as old as the formation of the state Liberia. Ellen Johnson built a cabal around her which included her son and the likes of Amara Konneh, James Kollie, Jenneh Bernard, and many others. The wreckage they left is part of the reason for our national failure. Yet Joseph Boakai is well on similar path: Joseph Boakai, Jr, his son, is his key advisor; Jake Kabokollie, his nephew, is his eyes and ears. The result would be the defeat of the working people and the popular classes. If Boakai gets power, the Liberian masses will subsidize with their poverty the lavished lifestyles of Jake, Jojo and other leading elements of the Boakai clique. And that will be open season for looting. Thus, the more things change, the more they remain the same
“A good leader is a good judge of human character’’ says Siaka Stevens. It is either Boakia knew about Samukai’s corruption, participated in it, aided and abetted it and benefitted from it or he underestimated the collective intelligence of the Liberian people. Whatever this is, the halo around Boakai is beginning to collapse. And from now to 2023, his true self would be revealed. He cannot hide behind the tag of “elderly statesman’’ to be elected in 2023. The presidential election would be fought on leadership, action, and political programme. Here Boakai has to show determination, spine and vision. For the old “grandpa figure’’ epithet is a flight to political cul-de-sac. It has lost steam.
Just as the ascent of Bility to the chairmanship of the Liberty Party is a CPP failure, the nailing of Samukai by the Supreme Court is equally CPP’s. Political alliances must have rules governing how members ascend to positions in the ranks of the constituent parties. They must also have an integrity code in terms of selecting candidates for the legislature and the presidency. That the CPP does not have these basic rules to checkmate people and maintain its integrity leaves much to be desired. It is for this reason the hackneyed commentaries from certain quarters of the CPP making rounds on social media that the Samukai embarrassment is solely the failure of the Unity Party is a political joke. Yet this was the same rhetoric pumped up by the CPP mandarins when the CPP was scolded for allowing Bility to become chairperson of the Liberty Party. The Bility embarrassment is a CPP embarrassment so it is with Samukai’s. If political parties are the beating hearts of the CPP, we can generalize that the pitfalls of these parties are the pitfalls of the CPP. And what we are seeing in the CPP is impunity running amok. And it portends danger.
In all fairness, Bility and Samukai are a gift to a dying regime desperate to hold on to anything against the opposition to reinvent itself and restore its lost glory. But this is also delusional as the unpopularity of the regime has its basis in the economic, social and political crises and it would take more than propagandizing about the moral rot in the CPP to win back the support of the masses. The moral crisis in the CPP, instead of reigniting hope in the people for the CDC, would further sharpen their consciousness and cause them to look out for a more progressive alternative. This is the opening a conscious left-wing alternative will exploit for the historic mobilization of the people to capture state power.
The CPP cannot beat its chest about anti-corruption with the Bility & Samukai duo in its ranks as leading lights of the formation. True! The formation has dropped the ball on integrity. It is true the Samukai embarrassment calls into question Boakai’s integrity. From the CPP folks, Boakai has been embellished as the human avatar of integrity and a man of unsurpassed virtues. Mundane things such as taking a knee before him, bowing for blessing when political forces of the CPP meet him have been the ridiculous spectacle and the cult of the personality associated with him. Cracks have started to appear in that theatrical narrative. As Boakai has been found wanting on the integrity front.
The stakes could not be higher. Liberia stands battered by the Weah regime which does not even know its brief. The economy is in a downward spiral, unable to even grow by two percent even though we have been bombarded by the romantic forecast of the IMF. The duplicity of the IMF in Third World countries has been long and excellently documented. Currently, the IMF is urging the US and European countries to fiscally expand their economies while it force-feed austerity and economic structural adjustments down the throats of countries such as Argentina, Nigeria, Ecuador, Liberia and others. In Liberia, the trend of economic decline will only continue, creating a condition of mass mystery and poverty for the working people and popular sectors of society.
Given this very sad development and wholesale suffering in the country, the question for progressives and the popular forces is: with the CPP lacking in probity and with no emancipatory project, and with the CDC stewing in its contradictions and leaving ruins in its wake, what hope is there for our people? With 2023 on the horizon, the idea of a third force with an emancipatory political project that gives the people’s struggle a conscious edge and focuses on how to put social transformation on the cards is becoming ever more evident. The shipwreck of the CDC and the moral collapse of the CPP could just be an ‘act of necessity’ that has stimulated the emergence of a radical alternative. These two formations are sinking into decadence that makes them incapable to carry forward the immediate task of nation-building and the goal of economic emancipation. Much important is the point that after the lost six years, the task is to deliver the historical outcome of radical transformation. It means we need a political vehicle which rallies to the demands of the people.
Main Photo: Former VP Joseph Boakai, endorse Brownie Samukai for Senator