MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Liberian Senate has passed a vote of no confidence in the leadership of George Werner as minister of education.
The Senate took the decision in plenary on Thursday following Werner’s failure to apologize for an opinion recently expressed on social media.
Prior to a presidential debate organized by a group of media and civil society organizations, under the banner of Deepening Democracy Coalition, Werner made a post on Facebook, suggesting that debates were not a necessary factor for electing leaders.
He questioned the purpose of political debates, wondering who the debates were being organized to impact. He also questioned the evidence of a candidate being elected president in Liberia because he or she was a great debater.
“Let those who manage the candidates advise them to campaign to their strengths. Don’t debate if it isn’t your strength,” he wrote.
He said, there are other ways for people aspiring to become leaders can articulate their platforms or vision, rather than in political debates, stressing that, “Da book talk we’ll eat?”
He argued that the debates could be a way for elites to show how educated and knowledgeable they are.
“It’s been an essential part of Liberian history, of exclusion even, to eliminate the perceived uneducated through ‘book’ talk,” he added.
“They like hiding behind books to lie to the people. How does a debate, an intellectual exercise, help you to “live Liberia, think Liberia, and love Liberia?” Werner said, evoking the slogan used by Unity Party’s standard bearer Joseph Boakai in his campaign for the presidency.
He also wrote in his post that education does not promote equality and shared prosperity.
“Education alone is not enough to make anyone a “good” leader. The suggestion that all must participate in debates to justify their quest for leadership and their ‘educatedness’ is tabata (origin in Kru, anything that does not make sense), to say the least,” he added.
“How about meeting voters in the palava huts, under the trees, in their communities and homes.”
He advised candidates to campaign to their strengths. “Don’t follow the meritocratic elites’ intellectual stagecraft. They set it up to their advantage with their unscrupulous recorders and editors,” he concluded.
Appearing Thursday when he was cited before the Senate’s plenary, the education minister justified his comments and insisted that education should not be used as a weapon against the uneducated.
“Being book smart alone is not enough to succeed in life. Education is not just about being smart,” he said.
Members of the Senate argued that the minister’s statements were detrimental to education in the country, and asked him to apologize.
Werner, however, refused to apologize, an action that led the body’s decision to cast a vote of no confidence in his leadership. “I have listened to your advice, and will contemplate on your advice,” he said.
Senator George Tengbeh of Lofa filed a motion for reconsideration, against the body’s decision.
The Senate has promised to communicate its decision to the president. The Constitution gives the president the power to appoint cabinet members and other officials, with the consent of the senate. However, the decision to dismiss an appointed official lies squarely with the president.
Featured photo courtesy of David Stanley