No Liberian leader enjoyed lavish international admiration and brought home bundles of accolades than President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Even while wrestling her way for a second term, some foreign bodies defied the rules and awarded her high honors on the eve of election. But while the first quarter of the first year following elections is yet to come to pass, the President’s final political trajectory is showing signs that she is losing grip on her most formidable charm–international adoration. The first clear sign is coming from the revered Times Magazine which, having named the first African head of state amongst its 100 most influential people last year has scrapped the President’s place this year. The Analyst looks at the probable causes of the relegation from the perspective of independent pundits. Source: www.allAfrica.com
When the world’s population is well over seven billion and someone is chosen to be amongst 100 most influential persons, not in his or her home town or country, but in the entire world, that’s so much a great honor to behold. It was therefore not a surprise when at about this same time last year Government’s public relations gimmickry was on fire as the President was named amongst the world’s 100 most influential persons.
But the President’s PR architecture this year–this month–has gone dead even though the Times, which got the tradition of drawing the list of the world’s influential persons, did not breach it; it has come out on time with the 100 men and women who “inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world.”
Having won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize award and a second term election bid, many Liberians and perhaps the international admirers of President Sirleaf must have rushed for a copy of the Times Magazine’s April edition in the hope the Liberian achiever would be listed in the hall of fame again. But careful reading the 100 names found something disappointing: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is out.
Though most of those with whom Madam Sirleaf shared the title of the World’s Most Influential People last year, including Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, were re-crowned, the Liberian slot was omitted.
Towards Ellen’s Admittance
Times’ selection of President Sirleaf as one of its 100 most influential people in 2011 was an affirmation of many nations and organizations had done–inundating the 24th President of Liberia with various prestigious accolades and decorations.
Elected in 2005, Madam Sirleaf came as Liberia’s first and Africa’s first female President who has brought to the fore a background of political and civil advocacy and credentials from reputable international organizations, including UNDP.
Sirleaf’s advocacy for social justice and democracy in Liberia sent her to jail multiple times, made her endure risky conditions and caused her to spend most of her adult life in political exile.
Under unsuccessful bids for the highest public office in Liberia, including her contestation for the presidency in 1997 and during the Accra Peace Agreement in Ghana in 2003 turned out positive in 2005 when she triumphed over nearly two dozen other contestants for the top job.
Since her ascendency to the Liberian presidency, the combination of the President’s international civil servant background and her economic policies appear to appeal to the approbation of the international community, particularly Western powers that had loathed and resented Madam Sirleaf’s immediate predecessors, mainly Presidents Samuel Kayon Doe and Charles G. Taylor.
Bolstered by paid international public relations consultancies, President Sirleaf’s comparatively low popularity at home has not stopped reputable western governments and organizations from publicly acknowledging her strides for national recovery and stability in Liberia.
Besides the fact that every known high official of Western Country has visited Sirleaf in Monrovia or has invited her for state visit abroad, the world’s prestigious financial institutions have treated the Sirleaf administration with unusual favor as evident by the waiver of the country’s debt in less than two years by Governments and creditors.
These are aside the horde of personal decorations conferred upon the Liberian President by a clamoring international community.
When Times therefore named the President as one of 100 persons who influenced the world, many pundits did not show countenance of surprise since Madam Sirleaf’s bewitching personality even defied the sanctity of even the western media.
The President’s public relations machine at home did not leave the honor lying down. The press release announcing the President’s placement amongst the 100 most influential people in the world made huge headlines in addition to special press conferences and live radio talk shows resonating the achievement and raining eulogies on the achiever.
Towards Ellen’s Omission
This year, the headlines have gone sour with a few critical sections of the media whispering that the President has missed the enviable place she had obtained last year.
The reports have come as utter surprise since the President, just three months ago, had won major presidential elections at home and the venerable Nobel Peace Prize abroad.
If there was any better time for Time to list President Sirleaf amongst the 100 most influential people of the world, political pundit James S. Toby, Sr. said, the time is this year because the two achievements nearly jointly received are more revered.
Toby’s reaction appears to be shared by some observers but there are others conjecturing that Times, a media organ, could not have been unaware of unsavory events in Liberia to maintain President Sirleaf on its esteemed pages as one of 100 most influential persons in the world.
As University of Liberia student J. Wilmot Teah opines, Times is not deaf and blind to political events of last year and this year; events that saw state security forces under Madam Sirleaf opening fire on peaceful protestors and re-ascending to the Liberian presidency in elections she was the only candidate.
Wilmot Teah wondered how the Times Magazine could have corrupted its pages with making Madam Sirleaf one of 100 influential persons when she did not win a clean, competitive election; when she won over the tears, blood and life of innocent electorates.
Similarly, other pundits contend that President Sirleaf’s reneging on promise to form a government of inclusion following the elections rejected by opponents over fraud allegation could have dissuaded Times from including her amongst the 100 most influential people of the world.
Teah said: “Times says those listed in this year’s 100 most influential people are those ‘who inspired us, entertained us, challenged us, and changed our world.’ Sirleaf has done none of these. And more so, instead of inspiring us, she has further divided us. Instead of entertaining us, she has irked us. Instead of changing our conditions, she brought grief to us. Times was right.”
Still, there are other observers who think the deleting of Sirleaf’s name from the list of influential persons this year has also got to do with her the economy, particularly the budding oil economy which has effectively turned into a “family affair”.
The President is enduring incessant public censures over her appointment of her son, Robert Sirleaf, and other familial relations to head the National Oil Company with powers to superintend the affairs of crude oils found off Liberia’s shores.
The Times Magazine, community leader Oretha Z. Mathis said, would have stunned the civilized world if it has named Madam Sirleaf who is perpetrating a regime of nepotism and parochialism as one of the world’s influential persons “changing our world”.
“The problem of marginalizing other Liberians from the public service is not only about the opposition,” Mathis said, “it is also a problem amongst her partisans as well. In this her second term, what we see is the appointment of cronies, buddies and family members. And despite public outrage, the President is continuing her nepotistic tendencies.”
If you are running a government on the basis of nepotism for the purpose of securing personal and family loots, Madam Mathis asserts, how do you expect a reputable media organ like the Times to select President Sirleaf as one of 100 individuals ‘inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world’ when what we actually see is a leader creating more division, anger and anguish for the people.