July 24, 2016      12:56

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Why I Keep Running For President of Liberia – Winston Tubman


Winston Tubman
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The Interview Magazine

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Winston Tubman is again running for the highest public office in Liberia after two failed attempts.  He explains why, at the ripe age of 75 when most people have retired, or are retiring, from active politics, he still believes he’s the man to lead Liberia’s youthful population into the future. He also speaks about his stint in the late President Samuel Doe’s ignoble regime and lots more.

You are 75, three years younger than President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is 78, but if you become president next year, you will be 76 at that time. Of course, you will be among the 10 oldest African presidents at that time. You’ve attempted this before, in 2005 and 2011, why do you want to do this again?

 

Well, the short answer is - because I haven’t done it yet. I want to succeed; I don’t just want to try. And having tried twice as you point out, I have the compulsion to do it the third time because I believe that this time I will succeed. And about my age, I have the age that gives me the energy to do what is required.

Often, Africans say, ‘Oh! He’s too old or he’s not young enough.’ In my country today, there are many young people that want to be president, and which of them do you think will agree that another of them is better equipped and ready to be president. They all think that they should be. We are a society of many years and, therefore, we have an accumulation of wisdom, interest and experience. We should be able to bring those together so that the nation benefits.

 I believe that my years give me that. But because I don’t have the age factor in my favour, I will not be like the typical African leader who thinks it has to be a one-man show, the guy who does everything. He’s all day running. He is there in this country today, in that country tomorrow. He comes in for a change of wardrobe and goes out again, and when people say what is the country gaining from all these? he says, ‘Oh yes, I am bringing this; I am bringing that,’ but if you were to do an audit of what really accrues from all that effort, it’s hard to point out where the success is. What our country needs is somebody that can make them cohesive, people working together, systems involving people of various ages so that there will be division of labour - people doing things, making the country work, and I believe someone who is able to do that is someone that has some years behind him, some experience in him or her. So I don’t think age in this case is a disadvantage; it’s an advantage our country needs at this time and that is why I believe that since I haven’t yet achieved the leadership that I have been seeking, I must continue and I believe, this time, I will succeed.

 Talking about age, Liberia has quite a number of young people. The statistics says that about 44 per cent of the population is below 15 years. I am wondering, how do you think these young people will react to having such an old president. By the time you become president, you will be 76 and you have all these young people, what do you think will be their reaction?

 I think they will react with respect. They will follow experience and leadership because the alternative is, which of them will agree for this country to be led by one of them? It will be harder for them to do that and they will be quarrelling. Each will think he is better than the other or more qualified than the other, and the cohesion that we are seeking for the country will not come about through that. But if we work together as a team at this point, we will work towards the transition, so that, in the process, the next generation that will be in leadership will evolve. But if we were to leave it to them now, they will have a squabble to determine who will go forward. It will cause us more setbacks.

You’ve talked about cohesion and you have used that word twice; what about connection - because it’s real generational gap? How are you going to be able to connect before that cohesion can happen?

Well, that’s what we tried the last time. I was the standard bearer to be president, and George Weah, who is quite young, was my vice president, so the connection was already there. The reason why we were trying to walk that way was because I believed - and he agreed - that we will bring the young people on board; he will be there with me sitting together to make the policies and the decisions; but the young people, a lot of them will not understand what is going on.  People often ask me, why do you think you need this man (Weah)? He is not as educated as he should be. What is he bringing to the table? My answer is that he brings himself. By coming to the table, the people out there who know him, love him, respect him, will say, ‘I can’t sit at the table myself but he’s sitting there and when he says things and things are being decided,  he takes into account our interests and we will be protected’. 

Looking at your age, would you be willing to make your medical records public. At your age, there might one or two things probably wrong with your health. Will you be prepared to follow the Bernie Sanders’ example of voluntarily making your medical record public?

Yes, I have no problem with that. I have diabetes and I try to take care of it. But other than that, I don’t think I have any life-threatening disease. I will be willing to let my medical records be shown.

Voluntarily?

Yes.

It was said that George Weah helped put you over the line in the first round of elections in 2011 when paired with Weah as your running mate?

Well it is true but it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because I sought him out and got him to become my vice presidential candidate. I wasn’t the only one that had the wisdom to seek that. Even Madam Sirleaf did; all the senior candidates did but he wouldn’t go with any of them except with me. Yes, I needed him, I realised that and I sought him out to bring to the table what he did bring.

Are you going back to the National Democratic Party?

I never left it. 

You are still there?

What happened was, as we got to the end of the campaign, there was a lot of confusion in the party, so I decided that I would go into retirement. I did not resign from the party. I said I would not be politically active, but I would sit back and watch and see what the country’s needs were and when the time came I would come out from that retirement, which is what I am in the process of doing. I am proposing to my vice president at that time that we repeat the ticket because I believe we won at that time but there were things that made it difficult to implement that victory. Now, I don’t think those things would be there. So, we should take that ticket to the Liberian people again and convince them that we would succeed.

But George Weah has already declared his interest to run.

Yes, he has declared his interest but the election won’t be till next year October and there are many formations going on. There are about 24 candidates and we don’t think we can make much progress unless we consolidate the best possible ticket that Liberian people can respond to. And I think because they saw us last time, because they know both names now and because we have both the experience and the youth advantage on our side, when we come up with this ticket, it will be the most appealing one.

So you think George Weah will be willing to step down to run as your vice president?

Under the constitution of the party, the standard bearer will be chosen in the Spring of next year; that would April. Whether by that time there will room for contest in the party; whether there will be discussions between aspirants that have come up on how we can present ourselves for the party, all that have to happen in the near future.

Weah has declared his intention to run again. Sirleaf Johnson's deputy, Joseph Boakai, has also declared his intention to run. How do you rate your chances against both candidates?

Well, I think Madam Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai will have had 12 years by the time they are up ruling the country. The Liberian people will have to ask themselves: are they satisfied with what has happened in the 12 years so as to want to continue it. And there is a lot of feeling that the country is not going in the right direction; therefore, we need a new direction. And you will not get new direction by taking the vice president who has already been there for 12 years, to continue. They will feel that it will not be the change that they are seeking and you will see that our ticket in these circumstances will be the right one.

Do you have confidence in the electoral system?

Not as much as I would like. But you know, this is a problem all over Africa, in many places where elections are held. But I think if we got the ticket, the support it would attract would be so  overwhelming it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to cheat, so that we’ll have such a massive following that our victory will be so apparent, and then we have to recognised.

What specific weaknesses in the electoral system would you like to see addressed before the coming election.

For instance, a system where the incumbent appoints the committee that controls the election and also controls the appointments to the Supreme Court so that if there is a dispute, with her chosen people making decisions in the first instance and we going on appeal to the Supreme Court that she has basically appointed, I think it gives too much advantage to the incumbent. I would like to see changes in that area so that something more neutral, more balanced will take place in helping to determine who has won.

We have these people coming from the various international groups to observe the election but I am sure you have seen - as I have - that they never come to say ‘things were not right; there was cheating’. Rather they would say the election ‘more or less reflected the will of the Nigerian or Liberian people’. So, the answer has to come from inside. We should have mechanisms inside that the people will trust. But ultimately, it is the result that people will be swayed by. If we produce a leadership that people have trust in and respect and believe will take care of their interests, that will make it work.

You have been around government for over three decades; what new lessons does Liberia stand to learn from you?

I am a reconciler; I try to bring people together. Much of my years were with the United Nations, I was with the UN in Somalia. I was the special representative of the secretary-general there. I worked in the Balkans. I dealt with people like (Slobodan) Milosevic, people in Croatia. I dealt with people in the Middle East where I worked in Kuwait and Iraq, so I have gained a lot of global experience and a lot of that, I think, can be brought to bear on our problems. I remember when I was running the first time, one of the candidates said to me, ‘Tubman, maybe you should run for the president of Somalia because you don’t know anything that is happening (at home). I said, ‘No, you can’t say that because things happening in Somalia are things that we can learn from. When I was determined to leave Somalia, my Somali friends told me to stay and help them put the country together because left to we ourselves, it will take us years to be able to do that. I told them that no matter how many years I stayed there, I would not be able to help them do it. The best way to help them to do it is to go back to my country where we have similar problems, and if I can succeed in putting things in order there, our example will provide the help they need to put their own house in order.

We in our various countries have to solve our problems ourselves. We can’t have people coming in from abroad to fix it; that’s part of the problem we have in Africa - people coming to fix everything. Everyday a problem arises and you waiting for the World Bank to say this and IMF to say that, and they come strutting around, giving you instructions and then they go back leaving you. And when you look around, you don’t see all the benefits that we are gaining from all this. We have to have a situation where we ourselves are able to tackle our problems, working together.

What are those specific lessons you gained from countries like Somalia?

 I learnt how to deal with the various groups, how to gain their trust. Leaders are not taught. Leaders are ordained; God appoint leaders. He brings leaders in circumstances where he gives them the opportunity and the wisdom to do what is needed. If I am able to emerge as the leader of Liberia, I will have the wherewithal to present to the people recipes that will bring them together and enable us to move forward in greater unity that we have done before, and that is what I think will produce the leadership that we need. 

When you say leaders are ordained I get a monarchical view of leadership..

No, I am taking about the role of God in the events and affairs of men

How strong is the "Americo-Liberia" sentiment a factor in Liberian politics these days?

You know, foreigners still make a lot of that than is the case in Liberia. We have moved on. The role that someone like George Weah has to play in Liberia has nothing to do with Americo-Liberia domination. For many years that was the case. For instance, my name - Tubman, when I say I am a Liberian, they say ‘he is Americo-Liberian’ but I am a Liberian because although my father was an Americo–Liberian, my mother is a Grebo woman, so I am a mixture of the reality of our country. And I have an appeal that is responded to by Americo-Liberians and non-Americo-Liberians. I have always felt - and I believe it - that the strength of our country will come to the fore if we bring the elements together.

In 2011, you pulled out of the run-off, but the Carter Centre and the African observers said your claims of rigging were not substantiated. Do you regret pulling out?

 I was not afraid that I was going to lose. We were cheated in the first round and we said so.  The people who had done the cheating were the same people we were being called upon to prove to them that what we were saying was true. And because we couldn’t do that, they said we didn’t want to go forward because we knew we were going to lose. But that was not true. Every time we say something to our people, for example, just before there was a referendum, Mrs. Sirleaf and her people were proposing various changes to the constitution which we felt were not warranted and asked for the process to be boycotted. It was a total failure. When we came to the elections, they came up with a result that we felt did not reflect what we had done and it came in the way they had announced it. One moment they said Mrs. Sirleaf’s side had won, then they came up with a finding that we had won.

 And both were made public?

Yes, both were public and in the end they said they made a mistake in the second round; that it was a slip of reporting. But we knew that we had done better than they were saying we had done. So, we said it was not acceptable. When we came to the second round, we said we would not go to the second round because they did not cheat us in the first to let us win in the second round, and so we said we would boycott the second round, which we did.

Why didn’t you challenge this anomaly in court?

Well, I couldn’t challenge for the fact that I said we would boycott. It was a decision we had made. So we did not go down that route of challenging it in the court.

 Do you regret boycotting the run-off?

No, I don’t regret that decision. I believe all that is happening now has put us in the position where we are now. And if we can come up with our ticket and put before the Liberian people again, we would have the strength that we will not otherwise have. This is the time for us to come forward, unite the nation and lead it.

Between then and now, what has changed?

A lot has changed in the sense that the government that has now ruled our country for 12 years by the time it ends has not produced what they have promised. For example, the president said that the fight against corruption would be priority but we all agree today that corruption is worse than it had ever been.  Nepotism is flourishing. When President was attacking the Tubman regime, she said nepotism was a bad thing. Now when she talks about nepotism, she says ‘Tubman has more people to choose from and she has fewer, and so she chooses her people because they have her values’. That is a redefinition of nepotism. So we think that the Liberian people have seen all of these and that they are not satisfied.  Because she was the first woman leader in Africa, she gained a lot international support, respect and influence; she won the Nobel Peace Prize.  She has travelled around the world where she is recognised. I don’t decry that because it brought our country to the fore of international attention which it never had.  For instance, when Ebola came along, because of that international prestige she had, she was able to make appeals and we were able to get all kinds of attention that we otherwise might not have had. But even at that, a lot of monies that came went down due to corruption.  People ask me, ‘how will you manage to stop corruption?’  But I tell them, ‘I won’t say I will stop corruption but I will use people who are not known to be corrupt; people who have the yearning to stop corruption. In Nigeria, people have a yearning to stop corruption but how do you stop it? So many people are involved. In Liberia, we say if you pull a rope, the rope will pull bush and maybe the whole forest down; that will be very difficult. But if you start using the young people, because they haven’t had all this baggage, because they haven’t been contaminated, they will feel a sense that they too must bring something to the table so they can make a difference on how the country is governed.

But young people are learning from the much older ones; they are Liberians; they have been in the system during this period of corruption. What’s the redemption in the young people?

 The redemption is that they will now be playing a role, calling the shots and not just taking orders. Their views will be brought to the fore, benefitting me and the country. One of the things I find in our politics right now is people who are claiming that they are the best to lead the country because they have big businesses and have employed many people. When you pay them, you pay them for their work, you don’t buy their votes. Their votes must be used for their interests and the interest of the country.  But we don’t make that claim; we don’t want people to vote for us because we have a big plantation. The great leaders of this world like Winston Churchill did not have any big business but when the time came and his country was in peril of destruction, he stepped out to the fore and did what was needed to provide what was needed to lead that victory. Also Franklin Roosevelt was an invalid in a wheelchair. He wasn’t going to schools around, helping people and doing charity, but he was able to bring the country together and face the depression and bring new hope to the republic. He was able to be the kind of leader that led the country until he died. So, leadership depends on people who can bring forth ideas that people in the country can recognize, and this is what we believe we will be to bring. 

In 2010, Liberia had one of the fastest population growths (over 4%) in the world. Do you think this is a problem especially in the face of dwindling resources?

Why do you speak of dwindling resources? This administration has had more resources to work with than any previous administration because of the international prestige we enjoy. We have had a lot of input from international sources. We have attracted more investment into our natural resources and if we had good government in the country, we would be able to use our resources better.

Would you then say that at the rate the population is growing, the economy will be able to support it?

I think our limitations have been caused by poor leadership. The resources are there. If you organise the country, put corruption down, utilise people who are more committed and not those seeking benefits for themselves, we would be able to move the country forward.

Some would say Sirleaf Johnson's leadership has helped to stabilise Liberia. But in an interview with BBC's Focus Africa, you called her a warmonger undeserving of the Noble Peace Prize. Do you regret saying that or do you still feel so?

 You know, that day when the news came, I hadn’t heard it. So when I was asked that question, the interviewer was the person telling me that this had happened, so my response was spontaneous, and more fact and less politically correct than it should have been, but I was speaking what I felt. I have not had cause to change that position. Mrs. Sirleaf was known to have called for burning down the executive mansion, that she would rebuild it. Luckily (for I don’t know who) within a few months after she became president, there was a big fire at the executive mansion and she has not been able to fix it back. All these years she has been making her office in the foreign ministry and she hasn’t been living in the presidential mansion. I don’t think I was totally wrong and, in any case, I expressed those views at that time in that manner because of how it came to me and that was my spontaneous reaction to what happened.

 In 1990, you travelled to the US to canvass the support of the United States for the Doe regime at that time. If in retrospect you still feel strongly as you said at that time that Johnson Sirleaf was a warmonger, now there are people who would also say that they are appalled that you supported a despicable and unwanted government like that to remain in power; what do you think about that?

I didn’t want his government to remain in power. The war was escalating, spreading throughout the country. People were being killed in their thousands, fleeing the country, and I felt that we needed a way of ending it. And I knew of the importance of America’s involvement in our country and that they, more than anybody else, could help us bring that problem under control.  

I was not a minister in that government at that point in time, but because I wanted to be able to go to America and speak for Liberia, I felt that I should become a member of his government in other that he might entrust me with that responsibility. And within a week after I decided to become a member of his government, he sent me to the United States as the head of a delegation of his ministers, the head of his party to bring our case to the Americans. And I went to the American government and I said, ‘Look, Liberia is on the brink of being destroyed. This is a country that you’ve had historic relations with from the very start. Only you can now step in to help us stop and end this war, because if it doesn’t stop, it would destroy Liberia. And the Americans said to me, ‘Tamar, what you are saying to us is like music to our ears. Are you sure you are speaking here for something that Doe is involved with?’ I said ‘yes I’m sure’.  They said ‘OK,  go back and tell him, if he would stop the war and call for early elections, we would go to the Congress and get the resources to come and intervene to help. But as it is now, we cannot come in because the Liberians would say, “this Samuel Doe man is not a new phenomenon; he brought problems before, you supported him, you said it was a start of democracy. If we come now when the Liberians have given their blood - died for it - they would say we are doing the same thing again. So you go home and tell him that.” And I went home. I sat in front of Doe with the delegation I had taken to Washington. He had members of the crew who were his lieutenants and they were telling him what I wasn’t telling him. They were telling him everything that was happening. So he said, ‘Tubman, you are a lawyer, you wrote our constitution (you were the lawyer there), where in our constitution does it say that we can have early elections? Why do you think I will sit here and allow the Americans make a fool of us?’ I said ‘No, you are right. We don’t have in our constitution any provision for early election. But you remember, some years ago, you said the Supreme Court was corrupt and you asked the members to resign and when they all resigned, you were able to appoint people who you felt would end this problem of corruption. Now you have the same thing. If you would resign because of the problems, the vice president would step up and we would be able to have a change without violating the constitution…’

(Cuts in) You were taking huge risk…

A huge risk, but it was spontaneous, just like my answer to the question of Mrs.  Johnson Sirleaf. If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have said those things that I said. But they came spontaneously and so it was really my true feelings coming out, and Samuel Doe sat there behind his presidential desk. For one full minute he could not say a word. Until one of the people who he had planted on the delegation said, ‘Oh no Mr. President, you cannot resign. Liberia people expect you to stay and to support them. We have to stop Charles Taylor from coming down to our country,’ and that was my last encounter with Samuel Doe. I took a risk, but I wasn’t aware why I took such risk and then I said, ‘Mr President, I’m very sorry I have to leave the country. My daughter is graduating from Harvard; I have to go to her graduation. I will leave tomorrow. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve our country’.

You were running for your life…

No. I was genuinely going to my daughter’s graduation (laughs).

How do you remember Doe now?

Doe was somebody who was influenced by President Tubman’s effort to unite the country. I remember I made a commencement speech one year, and I said, all the effort to change the country, to do this, to unite the country, things are worse now than they ever were. And the people said to Doe, ‘how can you allow this man to speak this way?! Arrest him! Put him in jail!’ And he didn’t. And when I saw President Doe subsequently, he said, ‘You know what? People told me to do this, but if you are a Tubman, whether you like me or you don’t like me, I would do nothing to you because Tubman was a good force for unifying this country, and I respect that’. So, I had good relations with Doe, the Tubmans were respected. We are enjoying that because of what President Tubman, in his way, had tried to do. I have seen myself as somebody who can build on that. In his case, he was a total American-Liberian, in my case I am not a total American-Liberian. I can see that the country will move forward better if we have our people more united. And because of what he did, more people know the name now, so that, for instance, I came into the political fore from being in the CDC. When I went up country, people recongnised me because I was Tubman. They did not have a negative reaction to that name.

Some would say President Johnson’s leadership helped to avert the Ebola outbreak crisis in Liberia, what would you say about that?

Well, I have already said. I said that because of her fame, the fact that she was internationally renowned and respected, she was able to make appeals for help which was responded to. That probably would not have been responded to so overwhelmingly had it been someone else less well known. So she did help us in that regard.

So you think she performed very well during that great crisis?

She did that. Because of who she was, she was able to attract attention.  As I also said, a lot of aid that were given to us were stolen by various people in her government.

Do you have proof of that?

I don’t have a proof of that.

So why did you say it?

Because I have heard it.  And it’s not for me to prove it. If they haven’t done it, let them come out and say it. Many of the ministers have been involved. I was at a programme here in Lagos where the question of corruption was talked about. Under your system and ours, he who alleges must prove, but one of the things the speaker said was that in corruption cases, it should be turned around. I mean, if you see someone with $50 million or pounds in his possession and you have to prove where he got it from, it won’t be easy. But, you don’t have that income, you have $50 million, explain where you got it from. And if he couldn’t explain it, then you already have a way of getting xx. And I thought that was a good thing and I said, ‘Have you done that successfully in Nigeria?’ He said, ‘Well, we will like to try it. And I think that for us, in Liberia, too, the fight against corruption is a real necessity; maybe this is something we could try to try and to get at these stolen funds that so many people have.

What do you think Liberia needs most at this time?

What Liberia needs most at this time is the involvement of more people in what goes on in the country; let them understand and participate in it. We don’t need saviours coming from outside or inside to turn things around. We need people who can inspire the people themselves - especially the young people – to become participants in making a change in their lives and the life of the country. That’s what we need most. We have a lot of goodwill abroad; Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf has been able to bring more. Once stability comes back to the country, good government comes back to the country, the natural resources we have, including the energy and intelligence of our people, will enable us to provide the things that we need most to move the country forward.

People sometimes accuse you of feeding off the legacy of your uncle, William Tubman, doing so conveniently; do think that that is correct?

Well, I have never disowned him. I have the connection that I have, not that I went into the super market and got it.  It’s something that I have. If it’s beneficial, I shouldn’t reject it for that reason. Yes, it benefits me, but as I have said earlier, it’s not what I am running on; it’s not what I’m trying to exploit.

In 2009, former President Charles Taylor accused President Obasanjo of setting him up for arrest; was that the widely held sentiment in Liberia at the time?

I wasn’t in the country at the time, so I don’t know how people felt. I know that’s how Charles Taylor felt.

He actually said that in 2009…

He knew what he was talking about, but I’m not in the position to say if that is true or not.

What’s your relationship with Obasanjo?

Good. He’s a friend of mine.

Did you ever meet President Goodluck Jonathan?

Yes, during the campaign. He played the role that Nigeria always plays in our politics. He wanted to make sure that things went forward smoothly. He sent his jet to bring me here to Abuja and I came and met him. And he said, ‘Don’t boycott the second round.’ I said, ‘Well, we don’t think after what happened this is what we should do? He said, ‘You can never tell, you could wait six months and you may do badly or you go now you could do well. I would say to you, go and do it.’ But when I went back, I didn’t do it.  I stuck to what we had already decided - that we would boycott the second round. I don’t think he would have peace with me for that. But that was how I felt. And then, on the eve of the election, the government sent security people to confront us and they shot at us. I myself was in the line of fire and somebody, one of the security guards guarding me, stood where I would have been standing and he was shot dead. So, it was a very bloody day…

That was close…

Yes, very close. Yes, I had that relationship with President Goodluck. He tried to help us in that way.

You should have taken some of his good luck away…

Maybe I took it. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t hit by the bullet.

What do you think about his leadership?

Goodluck? I thought that, at the end of it, when people thought that Nigeria might implode, he conceded. And that was a great contribution. I remember at a time, lots of people were saying he was a bad man, he was a corrupt man… but I said that he prevented bloodshed in Nigeria, maybe he should win the prize that is given for leadership in Africa, because if he saved Nigeria from what should have been a bloodbath, that should be recognised. And I was reading the papers since I’ve been here that he said he gave that as one of his best service in Nigeria, and I think Buhari doesn’t disagree.

Back to Obasanjo, we know that Obasanjo is also a very good friend of Mrs. Sirleaf Johnson and she would like her deputy to take over from her , and you have described Obasanjo as a very good friend.

Well, he was my friend before we got to this.

Have you shared your thoughts with him? Does he support your candidacy?

I haven’t shared my thoughts with him to that extent, but he was my friend before. I hope he still is.

You think he would back you instead of Johnson’s candidate?

Well, I don’t know how he would react but Mrs. Sirleaf herself is not a candidate anymore.

But she has a candidate…

And I’m telling you that Liberia people are looking for change rather than for continuity. I think President Obasanjo would recognise and see that point.

What one big lesson have you learnt in politics?

Nothing is achieved until it is achieved. And you can never assume that you have the answer; you don’t. And no one person has the answer. You have to go out there, meet the people, hear their views and only after that would you be in the position to really think how to solve their problems. All these people who see themselves as messiahs are wrong; they don’t lead the country well.  The country would be safe by itself, by the people themselves becoming involved and helping find the solutions that are needed.                                                                                         

Have you met President Sirleaf Johnson recently?

I meet her often.

Your last meeting with her, was it friendly?

I wouldn’t think that she would see me as a best friend, because during the campaign, I think she saw me as the person who attacked her most. If I said she didn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, I don’t think she would see that as a friendly response. But that apart, I have been able to live successful in Liberia. I haven’t been forced out as she had been forced previously to leave the country. I can live there, I run my law firm, I don’t get the best response from the client base that’s there, but at least I’m here, and I don’t feel molested by her government.

Finally, share with us your vision of Liberia; where do you see Liberia in the next 5, 10, 20 years?

I think a lot would depend on the elections that are coming up. Of course, it will be easy to say that we want that to be a great thing. But as for what I am saying, it should be smooth, it should be free and fair, it should be peaceful. If we can have that transition from this government to the government that people would freely choose, I think we would be able to put the country on the base whereby we move forward to a more prosperous future. The country is well endowed with resources; we have a good international standing; we are connected to the United States in a way that no other African country is connected because of our historical links; we have good relations with Nigeria. You mentioned the role that Obasanjo has played; it’s not something personal. He’s done it as Nigeria’s leader and this would continue to be the case, like we had with previous Nigerian leaders. And I am sure if we respond to it the same way as historically, we would continue to have good relations with Nigeria.

What inspires you?

Largely, President Tubman did, just like in the family you are inspired by your father or mother. In this case you could smell his cigar smoke, the air-condition coolness and the confidence he exuded, and I felt that I would like to be like that when I grow up. That’s what inspired me.


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