By Martin K. N. Kollie
Liberian activist and columnist
In 2014, young Ali Sylla had a golden opportunity to etch his name in Liberia’s political history. The Unity Party (UP) chose Sylla as its Senatorial Hopeful to contest in Liberia’s populous County, Montserrado. Young Sylla cheerfully chose to eat his lunch before the recess period. This was a missed opportunity.
Even though Sylla was never the most qualified or the most competent candidate to contest on UP’s ticket in 2014 Senatorial Election, but he was preferred, through a democratic process, because the Unity Party thought that Sylla was a symbol of their party’s youthful future. The platform that UP gave Sylla was far more significant than his political stature and political capital.
Sylla had two (2) possible changes or options to his advantage:
- To maximize this unique opportunity to build his political profile and strategically brand himself by demonstrating loyalty, honesty, integrity, humility, hard work, discipline, and patriotism;
- To position himself as a “formidable political force” to reckon with in Montserrado County and across Liberia. Sylla had every opportunity to be like Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of the Liberty Party.
Pathetically, Sylla willfully chose to betray thousands of Liberians, including diehard partisans of the Unity Party. Young Sylla chose cash over character. He chose self over sacrifice. The Unity Party (UP) was not only shocked by Sylla’s precipitated action but embarrassed when he finally sold out to the wealthiest candidate (Robert Sirleaf) even though Sylla could win more votes than Robert as a candidate on UP’s ticket.
Sylla’s only excuse for hurriedly withdrawing his candidature was based on “medical reason” and that “medical reason” remains unknown to date. Young Sylla finally backed off from the race at the ninth hour as the Unity Party was left to wonder and ponder over such an unpredictable shift.
Young Sylla had no idea that he was selling or auctioning his political future for 30 pieces of silver. He abused an opportunity that would have made him a political icon in Liberia’s history. This tragedy has rendered Amb. Sylla, a political wanderer for about 6 years now. This egregious dent or disloyal past of his may hunt him for decades.
Some political pundits have openly averred that Ali Sylla is “hustling” or he is a “hustler.” But I think that Sylla is involved with what is often described as “Political Prostitution.” And “Political Prostitution” is usually provoked by desperation and egotism. This syndrome, “Political Prostitution,” leads to “Political Polarization.”
Every time a popular election is nearing, this is when Ali Sylla becomes politically active. Most likely, he is looking for his next prey to predate on. Like Unity Party became a victim of his chicanery in 2014, ALCOP or CDC could be next. Sylla is not willing to remain in a political party to build it or to struggle with it. He shifts and swings between parties. Zero Loyalty – Zero Consistency – Zero Commitment – Zero Integrity. For Sylla, politics is more of business (profit above service). Sylla seems to be a premier dealer in retail politicking.
This mode points in the direction of political opportunism and carpetbagging. Is Sylla a political optimist or a political opportunist? The latter would suffice, in my opinion. How will the next generation even trust our generation when most youngsters are not willing to sacrifice and struggle for an all-inclusive CHANGE? When did Sylla even become a “revolutionary”? Four months to 2020 polls or 3 years to 2023 polls?
Two (2) things have grabbed my attention of late about Sylla’s showboating:
- Sylla’s closeness or proximity to President George M. Weah and CDC;
- And his expeditious shift from UP to ALCOP ahead of 2020 and 2023 polls.
Sylla has a motive for doing this. I studied Political Science as my minor at the University of Liberia. I studied “Hannah Arendt’s Concept of Political Action” and the “Theory of Consequentialism.” All of these concepts deal with motives and behaviors in times of political action. Where is Sylla? Is he still with UP or with ALCOP or with CDC? Sylla currently has a “Triangular Identity” or a “Tripartite Phenotype.” Such three-facedness is collusive and corrosive to our body politics. Like I called out Madam Mary T. Broh a few months ago, Amb. Ali Sylla must also be called out too for his three-facedness.
Ahead of 2020 and 2023 polls, Sylla wants to position himself as a “Support Base” or a “Canvass Caravan” for President George Weah and CDC. Sylla intends to use ALCOP as a vehicle and subsequently use the “Mandingo Community” or “Muslim Community” as his political base or comparative political advantage. I pose no objection to Sylla’s choice or right to join any political party. It is his right.
But using “Tribal Sentimentalism” or “Ethnicity” or “Religious Bigotry” as a “Trump Card” to gain political capital is dangerous, obsolete, and anti-democratic. Liberia has passed this level. The new debate or national conversation should abhor these sentiments. Political contestations should now be based on the clash of ideas/philosophies and not seeking solace in tribal bigotry, religious sentiment, and egocentrism.
Sylla now calls himself “Leader” of ALCOP even though there has been no convention or congress held to propel his ambition to such height. Is Sylla fit to become a political leader of any party as he deceivingly attempts to hijack or arrogate unto himself such laurel/title? This style of leadership is undemocratic and has no place in the stock market of competitive political ideas.
Sylla has even appointed one of his kin as Co-chair of ALCOP. Another kinsman is the Chairman of ALCOP. On whose power are they operating? The PEOPLE or a few? In case I want to join ALCOP, how will I think or feel about such an arrangement? This precedent should be discouraged in all political parties everywhere in Liberia. ALCOP, like every political party, should be open to all Liberians regardless of tribe, religion, economic status, or culture Geopolitical balance through tribal/religious tolerance at every level of our society, including in every political party, is crucial to building a robust democratic architecture and a peaceful climate in Liberia.
What is Sylla actually up to? In fact, where is Sylla? Is he with UP, CDC, or ALCOP? The inconsistency of Sylla has rendered him “Three-faced.” Is Sylla a political optimist or a political opportunist? In the latest Facebook post, Sylla is blasting at a group oppressed Liberians who recently burned a few tires in Monrovia as a way of protesting against the increment of charges on internet data/call.
Paradoxically and painfully, Sylla could not blast when our L$16 billion got missing and US$25m unaccounted for. I have not seen Ali Sylla blasting against the 4G acquisition of large private estates and mansions being constructed by Pres. Weah and his cronies. I am seeing Sylla standing and smiling with Pres. Weah at his newly-built complex on RIA Highway. Who is Sylla then? Sylla is yet to even blast at the government for not doing enough to prevent RAPE and to reduce youth unemployment.
I have not seen or heard Sylla blasting about the continuous cut and delay in the salaries of civil servants. When Pres. George Weah visibly conspired to impeach Associate Justice Kabineh J’aneh illegally; I didn’t hear or see Ali Sylla blasting like he’s doing now. I, along with Emmanuel Gonquoi and Carlos Edison, had to organize a mass protest on the grounds of the National Legislature to resist this conspiracy against Justice J’aneh. Where was this so-called “revolutionary” in Ali Sylla when we risked our lives? Probably he couldn’t see or hear then. Huh…
Must we allow an opportunist like Sylla to pollute Liberia’s political corridors with such parochial agenda once more? No..No..No. We must be bold and honest about how we do politics or business in Liberia. The action of Sylla can only fit in the triangle of opportunism, egocentrism, and sectarianism. Since Pres. Weah, along with his government, has become so unpopular, Weah intends to rig 2020 and 2023 polls.
To do this, he needs to re-solidify his political base against popular opposition political parties (e.g., CPP). So, Weah is building relationships/solidarity with smaller parties. Sylla is an emissary/conduit of this game plan. Weah intends to use this strategy as a pretext to steal votes. But it’s going to be an impossible and a fierce pursuit that is eventually going to produce a dead end.
Additionally, Amb. Sylla should not even be actively participating in politics as a political appointee who currently has an assignment in Qatar, Asia. The action of Sylla is a violation of The 2014 Code of Conduct Law. But who is seeing and talking about this? We must be bold with the truth. Our political system in Liberia is intensely polarized due to disloyalty, inconsistency, bigotry, et al. Henceforth; our society must begin to deal with these unethical precedents. People cannot continue to abuse the doctrine of “free association” or “freedom to associate” to continue being disloyal, dishonest, and inconsistent.
Politics should be based on honesty and not disloyalty. It should be based on philosophical principles and ideologies that are primarily intended to deliver the people from poverty and misery. It should not be based on rhetoric and bigotry. Like I would do to anyone, especially any public official, I am calling Sylla out. I hope he accepts this bold critique in good faith.
Martin K. N. Kollie is an exiled Liberian activist and columnist. He is a former student leader in Liberia and an emerging economist. He can be reached via martin email@example.com