Liberian Democracy and the Scourge of Political Patronage

By Joe Bartuah

All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.(article 1, Liberian Constitution of 1986)


I gave my support to a candidate with whose personal characteristics, I was unacquainted, whose real intellectual attitude towards government was unknown to me and whose interpretation of government’s obligation to society I was ignorant. I took him on trust from reports of his friends and from what I afterwards learned, were his hypocritical letters to me (Wreh, p. 59:1976). Former President Edwin James Barclay’s acceptance speech on August 27, 1954 as standard-bearer of the Independent True Whig Party (ITWP).


The 2017 general and presidential elections slated for the second Tuesday in October, as mandated by our organic law, will offer an almost unprecedented moment for power brokers in the country and the  Liberian electorate at large, to be manifestly assured, or to assure themselves, that every bona fide citizen of the country who has attained the requisite age, qualification and competence, actually has an equal opportunity in seeking the presidency, irrespective of one’s socio-economic, political, or ethnic background, if such person is preferred by a majority of the voters, as might be reflected in their vote. To begin with, this will be the very first incumbent-free presidential election in 74 years, whereby the elected president, who is actually administering the entire territorial confines of the country, is expected to transfer authority to a successor without being a candidate in the election.

If my recollection is accurate, the last time such pivotal political moment availed itself was in May of 1943, when the de facto one-party True Whig Party hegemony was still in full swing. In other words, not only that the incumbent president will herself, not be a candidate in the impending presidential election, but also the election will, unlike in the True Whig Party era, be held in a multiparty environment, which evokes the intrigues of competing interests. In the 1943 “election”, it was the erudite Edwin James Barclay who was retiring after 14 years on the throne, having been dramatically thrust to the mantle of state power in the melee of the Fernando Po opprobrium in December of 1930.

Now, 74 years after that monumental occasion, I dare say that the 1943-44 fiasco was not an exemplary transfer of power. It must therefore, serve as an instructive historical guide for ALL LIBERIANS—power brokers as well as the down-trodden masses—to avoid repeating such colossal mistake in the annals of our history. To put it candidly, the authentic political will of majority of the Liberian people must impartially be allowed to prevail at the ballot box in the impending presidential election, rather than a certain small group of people arrogating the privilege of deciding who becomes the next president to themselves, supposedly on behalf of the vast majority of our people.

When Barclay was relinquishing the presidential chair, most Liberians were still being disenfranchised by the ruling elites; only so-called property owners were allowed to vote at the time. Likewise, women did have the right to vote then. In short, the prevailing political culture was a sort of token democracy among the coastal settlers, even though the pauperized citizens of the rest of the country were being taxed without a say in the government. Even at that, intense rivalries prevailed among the political elites within the TWP. For example, during the 1943 transitional period, Messrs James F. Cooper, a well-known rubber farming tycoon and Counselor Clarence L. Simpson, Sr. were interested in seeking the presidency, but Barclay, the outgoing president basically hand-picked his successor, against the popular will of the TWP permitted electorate at the time. The pre-eminent president’s argument, which probably convinced some TWP stalwarts, was that Montserrado had dominated the presidential stage for a long time and so, it was time for the ruling elites to give chance to someone from the “leeward counties.” It was through such unmeritorious argument that Edwin Barclay effectively quashed any modicum of competition and imposed the autocratic William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman on the unsuspecting Liberian people.

From a public policy perspective, Barclay’s decision to hand-pick Tubman was myopic, because the outcome subsequently turned out to be disastrous, not only for Liberia, but also very tragic for the former president himself. Barclay’s anointing of Tubman reeked of nepotism, because four years after Tubman took over the mantle of state power, he married Antoinette Padmore, Barclay’s niece, who was for all practical purposes, his foster daughter. The future first lady, along with her younger brother, the late Ambassador George A. Padmore, had been orphaned as a result of their parents drowning when their canoe capsized on the Saint Paul River. The two kids, then 9 and 7 years respectively, had been raised by their maternal uncle, the future President Edwin Barclay. What is not clear is whether Ms. Padmore and Mr. Tubman had had a courtship prior his assumption of the presidency, or he (Tubman) was simply practicalizing a quid pro quo arrangement with his predecessor.

The tragedy for the country was that seven years after Tubman ascended to the presidency, he manipulated the feeble TWP Legislature to abrogate a key constitutional provision, which limited the presidential tenure to an eight-year one term. His 1951 incredulous amendment to the constitution reads, “No President may be elected for two consecutive terms of eight years, but should a majority of the ballots cast a second or any other succeeding election by all of the electors voting thereat elect him, his second or any other succeeding term of office shall be for four years.”

It was through such comical amendment of a very crucial constitutional provision that William Tubman fiercely embarked on his epic decimation, degradation of the country’s political process. When the eminent Didwho Twe and the Reformation Party/United People Party coalition attempted to challenge him, Tubman brutally resorted to jungle justice and chased the Harvard-trained statesman into exile. There is no doubt that by 1954 or thereabout, Barclay himself was profoundly regretting the costly political blunder he had made 11 years earlier. However, being a politician, the former president didn’t want to take the blame. When he realized that the autocrat whose formal educated had ended at a Cape Palmas seminary, had no intention of peacefully transferring power to a successor, he teamed up with some forward-looking political stalwarts of the TWP in minting the Independent True Whig Party (ITWP) to wrestle power from Tubman.

Unfortunately, it was too late! Tubman had, by then, formidably entrenched himself into power to the extent that it was now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to democratically dislodge him from power. It was against this backdrop that ex-president Barclay made these assertions in 1954, in his capacity as the newly nominated standard-bearer of the ITWP: I heard of his reputation as a jolly, backslapping, finger-snapping fellow, who could carry his liquor well, popular with women of certain type, and a careless spender of his own and other people’ money…We did not move in the same direction.

The question here is: Do such weirdly colorful characteristics in any way, portray a basic aptitude of suitability for the presidency of a country? If Barclay actually knew that Tubman was a boozing, womanizing socialite, as clearly indicated in the quoted statements above, why did Edwin Barclay, one of Liberia’s foremost intellectual presidents, impose this apprenticed lawyer with such checkered characteristics from Cape Palmas on the unsuspecting Liberian people?

In his desperate attempt to absolve himself of the ominous political situation that was, by then unfolding in the country, Barclay further noted, I gave my support to a candidate with whose personal characteristics I was unacquainted, whose real intellectual attitude towards government was unknown to me; and of whose interpretation of government’s obligation to society I was ignorant. I took him on trust from reports of his friends and from what I afterwards learned, were his hypocritical letters to me. From my layman’s assessment, either the well-learned Barclay was such an inept human resources manager when it came to recruiting a qualified, highly competent and capable person to exemplarily administer the executive authority of the country, or he was being disingenuously dishonest about his nepotistic anointment of William Tubman at the expense of our strategic national interest. It is astoundingly incredible that Barclay, a former Attorney-General, a former Secretary of State (Foreign Minister) well entrenched in the highest echelon of the domineering Monrovia power elites, claimed that he didn’t know the political attitude and aptitude of Tubman, a former Senator from Maryland County, a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, a fellow lawyer.

More importantly, when Barclay delivered the above quoted speech on August 27, 1954, Tubman had already been his nephew-in-law for six years, the gentleman having married, Ms. Antoinette Padmore (Barclay’s late sister’s daughter) in 1948. Against this backdrop, was it not laughable for the former president to claim that he was not au courant with the political rectitude of his foster daughter’s husband? Apart from Barclay’s close marital relationship to Tubman, Edwin Barclay, then as Secretary of State, his uncle, former president Arthur Barclay (by then operating a very powerful post-presidential law firm in Monrovia), then Speaker Samuel A. Ross of Sinoe County, Vice President Allen Yancy of Maryland County, President Charles D.B. King and then Senator William V.S. Tubman of Maryland County had all been accomplices in the disgraceful 20th century slavery enterprise on the Spanish island of Fernando Po (now Equatorial Guinea), which was later euphemistically tagged as a “forced labor” episode by the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations.

The only distinction is that Arthur Barclay, Tubman and Edwin Barclay on the one hand, were the white-collar accomplices while then President King and his vice president were identified by the League of Nations as the primary blue-collar culprits, hence they had to resign in disgrace. When indigenous Liberian boys were being shipped to Fernando Po for as low as $9 per person, to intensely work and die in inhumane, degrading conditions on Spanish coffee plantations at the beginning of the 20th century, Arthur and Edwin Barclay’s law firm vigorously represented the interests of the Spanish companies involved in such reprehensible human trafficking. Moreover, as Secretary of State, Edwin Barclay’s State Department (now Foreign Ministry) was responsible for issuing the final clearance for the captured slaves, or the slave ships to depart Liberia.

Of course, when this mind-boggling human degradation was brought to the attention of the international community and the League of Nations subsequently set up a commission of inquiry to probe this disturbing issue, William Tubman “resigned” as Senator of Maryland County to represent Yancy and King, even though at some points in time, he (Tubman) and Yancy, a fellow Marylander, had fiercely collaborated in raiding villages and capturing young boys in the southeastern region of the country to be sold to Fernando Po slave traders. Following the initial verdict, when Speaker Ross was outmaneuvered by the Monrovia cabal with the appointment of Secretary of State Edwin Barclay as president, he swiftly appointed William Tubman as Associate Justice, a sort of big thank you for defending the status quo. In short, the lengthy collaboration of Tubman and Barclay prior to their political fallout of 1954-55 has already been well documented in numerous publications.

What I, however, want to stress here is that political patronage is not only a nefarious attempt at egregiously undermining any burgeoning democratic process, but also a gross disservice to the strategic interests of any country. The highly anticipated October elections in Liberia present a grandiose opportunity for us, as a people, to test our unequivocal commitment to majoritarian democracy. Because as a nation, we had in the past, unwillingly gone down the treacherous valley of political patronage, this time around, Liberians must say an emphatic NO to any form of tele-guided, or remote-controlled democracy, however camouflaged, or sugar-coated it might be. In the 1943-44 True Whig Party “elections”, when Edwin Barclay hook-winked the political establishment imposed Tubman on the country, it proved to be dangerous, even for those who had preferred to supinely sit on the fence at the time. Now that we are in this 21st century of unprecedented enlightenment, we must all prudently heed the instructive lessons of history, by ensuring that the actual political will of the Liberian people is reflected in the results of the October 10th elections.

The forthcoming elections must serve as a moment for Liberia to shed its deficient political past for the betterment of the country. The dismal sub-culture of manipulating the electoral process through all sorts of chicaneries, rampantly putting state resources at the disposal of certain politicians, political party(ies), or stipulating bizarre laws designed to hijack the popular will of the people must be discontinued forthwith. Liberia’s ethnic mosaic must be open-mindedly seen as an asset, rather than parochially perceiving it as a sort of liability. Those sordid political chicaneries in the past, whereby certain people were denied the right to seek the presidency, or whereby self-appointed power brokers blatantly hijacked the will of the people in a brazen, shameless fashion must now be things of the past. The conduct of this election must be utterly transparent, free and fair in order to send an unambiguous message to all of our compatriots that indeed, this country actually belongs to all of its citizens, irrespective of one’s ethnicity or surname.

Political patronage smacks of myopic arrogance and elitist snobbery. Hand-picking a successor is tantamount to saying that all the people in the whole country are stupid; that the people lack the basic capacity to freely decide for themselves. As a people, our last experience with a hand-picked successor was extremely tragic. Seven years after a hand-picked successor was sworn in, Didwho Twe was mercilessly flushed into exile; eleven years afterwards, Samuel David Coleman, once Tubman’s buddy in the Senate, was brutally butchered along with his highly educated son. Likewise, on November 6th of the same 1955, Tubman’s primary benefactor, for President Edwin Barclay was dead. Although his death was said to be “natural”, one cannot rule out the heart-wrenching bloodletting surrounding the deaths of the Colemans and others as part of the causalities.

In other words, usurping an orderly process, just to insert a detestable political patronage therein had in the past, not served the best interests of Liberia. Having been severely victimized by a hand-picked political imposition in the past, this time around, all Liberians must resolutely reject any form of political patronage. Having gone through 14 years of fratricidal upheaval, which snatched the precious lives of over 250,000 compatriots and foreign residents, having endured famines, starvations, diseases, and all other forms of human degradation, dehumanization, we have already seen some of the worst can befall us; we have already been through hell-holes as a people. Our steely character having been collectively molded by the intensity of those memorable calamities, we must not allow ourselves to be cowed into a subservient submission by shamelessly selling our fundamental birth rights for worthless alms and crumbs. On October 10, 2017, we all must collectively assure ourselves and posterity that indeed, “All power is inherent in the people”, as sacredly enshrined in the very first article of our constitution, by conscientiously voting for a virile, resolute leader with the requisite gallantry to move LIBERIA forward. HAPPY ’26!!!!


Filed in: New Thinking

You might like:

Gabriel Baccus Matthews: Ten Years After Gabriel Baccus Matthews: Ten Years After
Liberian Democracy and the Scourge of Political Patronage Liberian Democracy and the Scourge of Political Patronage
Judge Kaba Grants Korkoyah’s Request for Indefinite Court Hearing Judge Kaba Grants Korkoyah’s Request for Indefinite Court Hearing

38 Responses to "Liberian Democracy and the Scourge of Political Patronage"

  1. I haven¦t checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  2. antiques says:

    Great goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely wonderful.

  3. vintage says:

    Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too excellent.

  4. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely wonderful.

  5. Excellent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely excellent.

  6. I just want to mention I am just very new to blogs and seriously savored your blog site. More than likely I’m planning to bookmark your website . You really have good posts. Bless you for sharing your website page.

  7. MelodeeX says:

    I have noticed that your blog needs some fresh articles.
    Writing manually takes a lot of time, but there is tool for this boring task,
    search for; Wrastain’s tools for content

  8. I discovered your blog post web site online and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep in the great operate. I recently extra increase RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking toward reading much more from you at a later time!…

  9. It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or tips. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read even more things about it!

  10. I think this is among the most significant information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things, The website style is perfect, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

  11. I dugg some of you post as I cerebrated they were very useful very helpful

  12. Hiya, I am really glad I have found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossips and web and this is actually irritating. A good web site with exciting content, that is what I need. Thanks for keeping this web site, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can not find it.

  13. It is in point of fact a great and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Very interesting topic, appreciate it for putting up.

  15. Some really superb blog posts on this site, thank you for contribution. “Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors.” by La Rochefoucauld.

  16. Very nice style and design and great articles , nothing else we require : D.

  17. As a Newbie, I am always browsing online for articles that can be of assistance to me. Thank you

  18. I do accept as true with all of the concepts you’ve offered for your post. They’re very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very brief for beginners. May you please prolong them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

  19. I genuinely enjoy reading on this web site, it has got wonderful articles. “And all the winds go sighing, For sweet things dying.” by Christina Georgina Rossetti.

  20. I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are wonderful! Thanks!

  21. Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is fantastic, as well as the content!

  22. Hey I am for the first time here. I discovered tis plank and I find It truly useful and it assisted me out considerably. I hope to give something back and help others as if you helped me.

  23. I must show my affection for your kindness supporting those people who really want assistance with this one topic. Your very own dedication to passing the message throughout had been extremely invaluable and have in most cases allowed those just like me to arrive at their targets. Your amazing insightful key points signifies so much a person like me and even more to my mates. Thank you; from all of us.

  24. I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours these days, yet I by no means found any interesting article like yours. It’s lovely worth sufficient for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made just right content material as you probably did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before. “Where facts are few, experts are many.” by Donald R. Gannon.

  25. I as well as my friends have been checking out the great thoughts on your website then immediately I had a terrible suspicion I had not expressed respect to the web site owner for those secrets. These men were as a consequence warmed to study them and already have unquestionably been tapping into those things. Many thanks for genuinely quite considerate and then for having this kind of very good subjects millions of individuals are really desirous to understand about. My personal honest apologies for not saying thanks to earlier.

  26. I am really enjoying the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog audience have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any tips to help fix this problem?

  27. I love the efforts you have put in this, thanks for all the great blog posts.

  28. Really nice design and style and fantastic subject material , nothing at all else we need : D.

  29. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an shakiness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

  30. Fashion says:

    Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such magnificent information being shared freely out there.

  31. wonderful issues altogether, you simply won a new reader. What could you recommend about your put up that you simply made a few days ago? Any positive?

  32. obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I’ll surely come back again.

  33. I get pleasure from, cause I found just what I used to be taking a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  34. I enjoy you because of all your valuable labor on this blog. Debby really likes going through investigations and it is obvious why. We know all about the compelling medium you present helpful secrets on your web site and as well welcome response from website visitors on the article so our own girl has been starting to learn a lot. Enjoy the remaining portion of the new year. You are always carrying out a really good job.

  35. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one today..

  36. Usually I don’t read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice post.

  37. I appreciate, cause I found exactly what I was looking for. You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  38. I’m not sure why but this weblog is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

Leave a Reply

Submit Comment
© 2017 The News Pinnacle. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.
Proudly designed by Theme Junkie.