>By: Thomas D. Kruah
Source: Liberian Journal
Whenever we come across the word “Dictator”, images of a ruthless leader who commits atrocities on people to get their own way come to our mind. If we look at some of the famous dictators in the past, such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, they have reinforced this point of view of dictators being ruthless and doing anything to hold on to the power.
Liberian leaders who took over from colonizers had a choice between accountability and unfettered access to enormous state funds for personal use. Power brought Liberian leaders unlimited luxury which became an addiction as well as a trap amidst the poverty of the rest of the population. Leaders stayed on to enjoy the lavish lifestyles which they prescribed for themselves using unlimited presidential powers (like the one Johnson-Sirleaf used on her Ministers). There was no guarantee that their successors would fund the extravagant lifestyles they became accustomed to while in office, so they stayed on. The lacks of economic opportunities outside of government deter Liberian leaders from leaving office. There are no institutions to absorb them and guarantee a lifestyle close to that enjoyed in office.
Due to lack of accountability and stable democratic traditions, power in Liberia is a continuous joy ride. Being at the helm is not stressful. Major decisions involve how to enrich oneself and reward loyal ministers and other officials and to ensure that one hangs on to power.
If there were serious downsides in office, no Liberian leader would last more than four years or declare themselves for ‘Reelection.’ They would give up, suffer from exhaustion or choose to spend more time with their families or to enjoy their hobbies.