A few days ago, His Holiness Pope Francis delivered his annual Christmas message to 300 bishops and cardinals gathered in a 16th century chapel at the Vatican. While previous Pontiffs have used the occasion to thank and praise the cardinals, the radical and truth-speaking Pope Francis chose to put his finger on the deficits that ail the leadership of the church. He listed 15 ailments, inviting the leaders to diligently search their souls, confess their sins, and seek forgiveness. Greed for power was among the Pope’s 15 ailments. Leaders who suffer the pathology of power fail to deploy power to advance opportunities for their people.
Though spoken to the curia in the Vatican, the Pope’s admonitions echoed loudly in Monrovia, Liberia. There exists an entrenched pathology of power that asphyxiates life, progress, and development in the nation. In the last two generations, Liberia’s political leaders have consistently been sub-par in dispensing the benefits of state power.
Our recent political history is replete with examples of the powerful – and those enjoying proximity to the powerful – engaging in power hoarding. This is evident in public corruption that proliferates with impunity; evident in suppression of constitutional rights; evident in impregnable, surreptitious inner circles that mislead our leaders for their personal gains.
We can enumerate a litany of consequences of the pathology of power; it is not a victimless disorder. In Liberia, victims include the countless children who receive mediocre education every day in mediocre schools; the victims are the 3,300 babies who die every year during birth or in the first 24 hours after birth, as well as the over 700 mothers who die in childbirth; the victims are the unemployed, hopeless youths who roam the streets of our cities in search of stability. Need I say more?
But it does not have to be this way. The failure to properly exercise state power can be remedied. Those who suffer this dreadful disease must confront the plague in their own hearts. Liberia deserves better. Those who possess state power now – or in the future – must embrace our better angels and seek improved quality of life for all Liberians.