As Nvember draws near, and the world awaits the choice of Liberia’s electorate among the presidential aspirants of; George Weah, Prince Johnson, Benoni Urey, MacDella Cooper and incumbent Vice-President Joseph Boakai, it is appropriate to offer some perspective on the impending exercise.
The world over, in the matter of choosing presidents, it is my opinion that there are three foundational qualities of a good and effective president namely:
· [a] character;
· [b] mission and vision;
· [c] and relationship-building expertise.
Subjected to the tests identified above; the question then is who, of these candidates, can and will tackle the critical issues confronting Liberia? What has each done as incumbents of their previous office and assignments that point to their preparedness for this unique office? Who possesses the essential qualities of a president?
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to provide an answer to each of the three posed questions; Joseph N. Boakai, Joseph N. Boakai and Joseph N. Boakai. For the purposes of the remaining portion of this article, let me offer some discussion of these foundational qualities of a president and why Joseph N. Boakai is Liberia’s only logical choice.
Character is the defining quality of a good president. Character compels the holding of values and principles that would not be violated however uncomfortable the imminent situation might be. Having character involves making trade-offs between personal and national interests. For example, Hon. Boakai, in a supreme display of character, is on record as having supervised and personally financed up to 75% of a 7-mile rural village road construction to Warsonga, Liberia. He also worked
with the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY) and the Danish Youth to construct a school for 150 students and a clinic for a community of 10 villages. He influenced the erection of OIC project in Foya Kama, Liberia, organized and headed fund raising for rural electrification of Foya Kama in Lofa County, Northern Liberia.
Successful presidents make decisions and engage in activities based on their inner convictions not the Mathematics of Expediency. The absence of character ensures that a president cannot “walk the talk.” Neither can he “talk the walk” so that the options left to him are those that satisfy self-serving desires. Consequently, integrity and decency go to the dogs!
Character also determines how a president will engage in the work of leadership. Hon. Boakai has displayed tremendous leadership capabilities across all the spectrum of the Liberian society having served as a member and chairman of many boards; private and public, including service as Chairman-Liberia Finance and Trust Corporation; Chairman of the Board of Star Radio; member of the Board of LOIC; member of the Board of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary; Founding member of Bethesda Christian Mission; Founding organizer-African Methodist Episcopal University; Founding organizer of the C.W.A. Methodist University; President of the Monrovia YMCA; President of LUSU Resource Corporation and as Ex-President of the Monrovia Rotary Club .
Presidents with character are noble and they handle issues with equanimity, grace and tact, while those with base character will resort to such tactics as manipulation, power plays, over-centralized control, emotional outbursts and tirades that tear down anyone who provokes their ire. As a country, Liberians, hopefully have seen the last of these. A president’s character gives a country the sense of direction which a president intends it to follow; a guiding map for action.
Finally, any and all behavior and all goals are not acceptable and the end does not justify the means. When presidents with highly developed characters are in power, they do not compartmentalize their lives, activities and utterances in other to act one way at home or in one situation and another way in the work place or outside. Real character permeates and influences the president’s entire life. Consistency and accountability are the watchwords. Score one for Joseph N. Boakai
MISSION AND VISION
A president has the responsibility for defining a country’s strategic mission and for the successful implementation of the mission as well as ensuring the implementation of the strategic vision. Before accepting responsibilities for the success of the mission, a president must have the capacity for envisioning future possibilities. Visionary presidents provide a compelling direction and focus. This ability to see the future is characterized by insights about future trends, needs, opportunities, and barriers. The visionary president sees the future [live and in living color], develops a mission and strategy for getting to that future, and establishes a plan for articulating and selling that vision to others. This he has displayed by his service to the nation, which has spanned more than 35 years in various positions in government, including his present position as President of the Liberian Senate.
A president’s ability and need to understand the circumstances of his people is determined by his ability to simultaneously assess all the aspects of the environment after which a good dosage of intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, resilience, commitment and consistency are applied to what has been discerned. The resulting picture of the purpose or the desired end-state leads to the goals that support and lead to the fulfillment of the purpose. If the vision is appropriate, then it leads to the greater good of the community and not just for a select few.
Joseph N. Boakai’s strategic mission and vision are evident in his often quoted statement which is: “to chart a new course for Africa’s oldest Republic which is just emerging from a long and bitter civil war; to restore law and order in Liberia; to ensure the reconstruction of the country to ensure that peace and tranquility exist in the country; to encourage investors to take advantage of the investment climate in Liberia; and to ensure that basic social services are provided for the people of the country.” He has not changed this focus. These are simple enough and give focus of direction for Liberia. The staccato agenda of his opponents are all hoopla and offer no sense of direction.
Effective presidents present missions and vision statements that inspire the hopes and actions of their people; yesterday, today and in the future by tying it to national purpose and strategic direction. It is epitomized in the Liberian adage: “It does not matter where you are coming from, but where you are headed.” He is a radiant of hope for his home town and a model citizen for Liberia. Score another one for Joseph N. Boakai
RELATIONSHIP BUILDING EXPERTISE
Many pundits would prefer to call this the skill for “building bridges” that span a nation’s divide; a critical quality for a president when diversity is an important ingredient in the life of a country. Relationship building expertise refers to how presidents work with the diverse segments of their societies [employees, associates, team members, clients, suppliers, partners, communities, parliaments, senators, royalty, and countless others] to get the job done. As indicated earlier, good presidents know how to inspire and motivate others to participate in implementing the mission and the vision.
When a young President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans in his inaugural speech to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” millions of Americans were inspired into action. They created or joined organizations that gave back to the country or the world; the Peace Corps, among many. This is what relationship building expertise is made of; the ability to galvanize people into purposeful action.
Using relationship building expertise to inspire others implies the ability to create environments that provide resources that give the people the incentive to bring and do their best to the fore. A president that has this quality is able to capitalize on his people’s strengths and talents while improving and strengthening areas that need development. The ensuing culture must be hospitable and accommodating to all.
In a country like Liberia where diversity abounds in all its ramifications, the value of divergent thoughts, ideas and perspectives cannot be over-emphasized. These perspectives sharpen a country’s strategic mission and vision and increase the country’s ability to effectively participate in the world comity of nations. Consequently, a good president must possess good relationship building expertise so that inclusive environments where all members are valued, respected and fully utilized are in existence.
Against all odds and the prognostications of many political pundits, Joseph N. Boakai, in his capacity as Vice President, has assisted President Sirleaf in galvanizing a group of Liberian progressives into an effective political organization that embarked on the arduous journey and task of rebuilding the ruins of Liberia left by years internecine conflicts. Newspaper reports around confirm the laudable methods with which the challenges and difficulties of the venture were met. That mission and vision continue to guide his efforts via relationship building.
Good presidents cannot afford to lose high quality talent unnecessarily. They must find and cultivate ways to encourage, dialogue, collaborate and enhance performance. Keeping a positive focus on listening to, including, and developing others is essential. Score a third point Joseph N Boakai.
My dear readers, from the fore-going discussions, the logical choice for Liberia in the 2017 Presidential elections is apparent; Hon. Joseph N. Boakai. He is the only choice. He encapsulates the three foundational qualities of a good president. In the spirit of the African proverb: “A three-pronged stove never spills the soup.” Liberians cannot afford to miss the opportunity for a clear, purposeful and decisive decision in 2017. The hoopla and distractions must stop. CONTINUITY is the way!