Coronavirus Exposes the Arrogance, Ignorance, and Incompetence in Liberia

NEW YORK – Liberians are quick to blame their presidents for whatever goes wrong in the country, mainly concerning national issues and concerns.  Fair and reasonable, and to a more significant extent, most Liberians could be right to cast blames on their presidents because presidents are, somehow, the ultimate deciders in many developing nations.

Like in any developed, democratic and non-democratic country, the President of Liberia appoints his cabinet officials and those officials serve at the pleasure of the President. When a president appoints his officials, he or she most times frequently believes that the appointees are knowledgeable, qualified, competent, experienced, and prepared to serve – in this case, serve the Liberian people.  But what we have seen of late baffles even President George Weah.  The President is now witnessing the arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence of some of the people he appointed to help him change and improve the lives of millions of Liberians.

Liberia capital, Monrovia

In this age of deadly global epidemic, the Executive Director of the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Nathaniel Blama, upon arrival in Liberia from Europe, refused to follow instructions from health care workers urging him to be isolated and quarantined.  Instead, he reportedly told and asked the healthcare workers and law enforcement agents assigned at the airport the typical “bigshot” Liberian question: ‘You know who I am?’   Hence, he walked away and drove home, putting his driver, family, friends, and the Liberian people at severe risks. 

Nathaniel Blama, suspended EPA boss

Now, the country’s Minister of Transport, Samuel Wlue is said to have done the same thing: refused to be quarantined.

These are unprecedented times for the entire world, for governance, businesses, the economy, and for the citizens and residents of Liberia.  In these times, people who should know better are the ones who are not only endangering lives in Liberia but endangering the entire country.  One thing is sure:  this is not President Weah’s fault.  

Minister Sam Wlue

The President has shown some degree of leadership on the issue.  However, he needs to go beyond just suspending any official who displays such grave arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence to taking a solid look at his entire administration, examining the caliber of people running most of these agencies.

If these are some of the people running these agencies, Mr. President, then this is the apparent reason why many of them have not been able to help you move the country forward as you would like to do, and as millions of Liberians expect you to do since taking office.

Many Liberians and non-Liberians alike have repeatedly complained about the arrogance displayed by some officials in crucial government functionaries. To some of them, the manifestation of pride reflects power, influence, and relevance.  No. It does not.  It only shows ignorance and incompetence.

Everyone in government, especially in critical Liberian government roles, should be able to pass a humility test. They must be able to render excellent customer service to Liberians as well. That’s what public service is all about.  By this, they should be prepared and ready to serve both Liberian citizens and residents as well as foreign investors. 

Imagine public officials endangering the entire nation and refusing to obey the policies and procedures put in place by the very government they serve.  If senior officials can do this, what do they expect from ordinary Liberians?

It is a serious issue and concern because, according to labor and productivity philosophy, one possible reason for the weak and poor performance of bureaucrats and some leaders is arrogance – when people in authority are mostly too stupid to recognize their ignorance.

For Liberia to move forward and succeed and for President Weah to build and leave the kind of legacy he deserves or may want, he has to stand firm against officials in his administration who display arrogance and ignorance. Arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence limit influence.

The recent coronavirus crisis involving the two Liberian officials justifies why humility is vital in Liberia’s public service.  Without humility, Liberian bureaucrats and others will be incapable of saying, “I need others, I need correction, or I need help in pursing certain programs that will improve my performance.”

Many Liberians and foreign investors alike have complained that arrogance in certain Liberian officials –past and present – does not mean that they (officials) have too much confidence.  It only reflects incompetence and too much ignorance.   There is nothing wrong and weak about being humbled. The fact is humble leaders are better able to admit their mistakes, seek advice and help, as well as willing to delegate responsibility, which makes those in their team more motivated or around them feel innovative.

Liberians do not need coronavirus to truly see how arrogant their officials who serve them have been or are.  Public service is a duty that goes with humility and sacrifice.  Mr. President, please make sure individuals in your administration are the first to obey the laws of Liberia. Because if they do, the citizens and residents of Liberia will do, too. If everyone does, Liberia will succeed and you will make a great leader!

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