Is it not an interesting argument whether or not the House of Representatives took the decision to bar the former Vice Standard Bearer of the Congress for Democratic Change, George Oppong Weah, from entering the Lower House’s Chamber on Thursday March 8, 2012 at the Capitol Building? In some quarters, people want to know the news worthiness of the development and as one observer echoed: " What is the big news about Oppong being barred from entering the House’s Chamber"? Whoever had asked what the big news could be buried under the sleeves of ignorance.
By the way, Weah is a public figure of the presumed number one opposition political party that secured space for the 2011 presidential runoff, but boycotted the process based on protest over alleged frauds. He was quite recently given the green light to assume the standard bearship of the CDC as former Standard Bearer Winston Tubman announced his retirement from politics.
But what the visit was all about and who were the prime targets of the opposition politician? Well, the news unfolded that Weah had gone to meet his lawmakers. Who are they? Presumably lawmakers who won on the tickets of the Congress for Democratic Change at both Houses- House of Representatives and Senate.
Established, Weah had access to his lawmakers and on the overall, the Speaker of the House , Alex Tyler, who is a custodian of the ruling Unity Party was also met.
The biggest ambition one would suppose was that Weah wanted to enter the Chamber of the Lower House on that Thursday when lawmakers were in session. Good venture and a risk either to be contained or allowed to break a political record.
The venture and risk proved the opposite. Weah was barred thus raising numerous questions than answers. Was he wronged to seek entry into the Chamber without formal communication to plenary? Was allowing him entry going to impede the business of Thursday’s session? Was there any fear that Weah’s presence in the Chamber would overwhelm the prestige of the CDC at the Capitol Building? But, on the overall, what if it had been President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who had made an impromptu visit to the Capitol Building and chose to enter the Chamber of either the Lower House or Upper House, would she be barred in the same manner and form? Answers to these questions could be overwhelmed by politics.
In some quarters, barring Weah from entering the House’s Chamber was an undercut to democracy. The Capitol Building, in the opinion of critics, needs to be accessible to Liberians irrespective of status. Weah, with no exception, the critics assumed, should have been allowed to enter the Chamber unhindered. Logic seems to appeal to the minds of many that because Weah comes from an opposition party that appears desperate for state power, he had to toe the load of humiliation from his opponents.
However, for lawmakers who resisted Weah’s entry into the Chamber, they argued that agenda items for plenary were already concluded for discussion as such, allowing the CDC Executive during session would have distracted the body from being focused on deliberations. Another argument of the lawmakers was that Weah did not inform the body before attempting to visit the Chamber.
Moreover, analysts have a slightly different view concerning the development. Such view centers around the speculation in recent months in the media that Weah was concentrating on entering the mid-term senatorial election expected in 2014 for 2005 senior senators across the country. Accordingly, he intends to contest the Montserrado seat by then. The rationale, as scores of people have claimed, is to place Weah in the appropriate position of governance while awaiting 2017 elections when he shall become standard bearer of CDC. Therefore, the insinuation deriving from Weah’s visit that sparked debate at the Capitol Building recently perhaps was to test his popularity.
In any case, the real argument is whether or not the House was in error by barring Weah from entering the Chamber or not. Again, the argument of formal communication needed to be extended the body from Weah before visiting the lawmakers in session has remained substantive, especially if the standing rules of the House cover what one does, be it impromptu or otherwise to visit the body in session. Additionally, the public needs to ascertain whether there are exceptions to rules established by lawmakers that could resolve unforeseen circumstances like for example, the Weah’s scenario.
On the other hand, if Weah’s visit was purposely meant to meet only CDC’s lawmakers, presumably in their respective offices, or in an identified office where all could converge for the purpose it was better to escape the humiliation by not attempting to enter the Chamber. It was expedient to avoid the temptation of people using their rules against him based on what he would have done but didn’t do, perhaps due to oversight, if Weah had abandoned any plan of meeting a cross section of lawmakers, some of whom he did not know how likely or unlikely they would have embraced and interpreted his visit.
Nevertheless, the House’s stand on the controversial opposition politician visit at the National Legislature could be a lesson to learn. It could equally place the lawmakers on record that they stand for what they mean and also mean what they say. The public is as well on a standby to monitor, hoping that there wouldn’t be a twist in such determination, no matter who is involved. While this development has generated an interesting debate at different gatherings in Monrivia and elsewhere in the country, it has equally placed political actors and bystanders in check to the reality of agitation in pursuit of democratic tenets that nurture disagreements and agreements.
Indeed, the issue of Weah and the House of Representatives is one of many events in forms and manners experienced at the nation’s lawmaking body, where Liberians elected their sons and daughters to serve in the supreme interest of their country. Inevitably, issues of interest are expected to eventually come out for public consumption.