Meeting him for the first time, one will mistake him to be an athlete. Slender and boyish, Eugene Lenn Nabge is Liberia’s Minister of Information. He is a fluent orator of unimmaginable proportion. Pror his new appointment, he was the Minister of Transport and later Sports. He spoke to ABUBAKAR HASHIM in Monrovia on a number of topical issues in the country
When you look back as the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, How has been so far?
First, we have to look at where Her Excellency took up the country from. If you could remember in 2005, Liberia was on the brink as a failed state. We had all our infrastructural amenities destroyed. No electricity, no running water, nothing to show case. Our country was considered a rougue state, a pariah. The economy has suffered a collapse, unprecedented since 2nd World War. So Madam President inherited a country completely destroyed and devastated by war.
So she had a big challenge, but through strong leadership, she has brought Liberia from the bottom of the pit. One can confidently say, Liberia is presently on the right trajectory to growth and development. Our National Power Grid is once again on line. We are exporting and diversifying our local manufacturing, the educational sector, though with few challenges, has seen a lot of improvements in terms of number of children going back to schools and the quality of education in the country. We have retained macro-economic stability, in spite of Ebola that caused our growth trajectory to slow down a bit. We are experiencing slow but incremental growth again.
So the President has consolidated her legacy. She has taken the country from the brink and breathed life back to Liberians. She has revamped, revitalized and rehabilitated a once broken society to one of promising opportunities. This is the corner stone of her legacy.
When where you appointed as Minister of Information?
I was appointed in January, this year. But prior to this, I had served as Minister of Transport in 2011 and later as Minister of Youths and Sports. I have been in this administration throughout the second term. So I do have a greater appreciation of some of the challenges we had and I have been part of the solution to these challenges.
Her Excellency Madam President was in Nigeria recently. She met with President Muhammadu Buhari. What areas of cooperation were mapped out, in view of the cordial relationship of the two sister countries?
Luckily, I travelled with Madam President on that trip to Nigeria. The trip was focused on three areas: first, cooperation in the area of Trade and Commerce. Nigeria, being Africa’s largest economy was a focal point. Madam President thought, with improved trade and commerce between the two countries, it will be mutually beneficial. Second, the two Presidents talked on how to improve security in the region and in the individual countries, considering that terrorism has been on the increase in West Africa. As we approach our elections, there is a draw-down of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
So Madam President urged President Buhari to still maintain Nigerian troops in Liberia in spite of the draw- down. This was key on the agenda. President Buhari was positive on his response. The other area was strengthening cooperation of ECOWAS itself, to deal with regional issues, in terms of economic relations, security and movement of people in the region. President Buhari urged Madam President to utilize her sterling qualities, particularly her goodwill in the international community, for the ECOWAS region. They also agreed on key issues among which are regional security and trade in the region in a more robust way.
What is the most outstanding achievement of Madam President?
If you look at where we are coming from, there are several achievements. The greatest is not the roads, the electricity and so forth that are back. We have a country that is over 168 years old. The greatest achievement is that this woman took the country from the brink of collapse and breathes life into our society. We now have a democracy at work, free speech and human rights. This is the greatest achievement and legacy of Madam President.
This achievement encapsulates the infrastructural developments on-going. She took the country from below the ground. We’ve restored life and dignity to Liberians. We’ve restored back the schooling system, electricity, running water, sanitary and health services. These are her greatest legacies she will ever been remembered in decades by Liberians and the International Community.
Though the Ebola dealt severely on the economy, we still maintained fiscal discipline and we run a balanced budget that is in line with IMF borrowing policies, within the frame work of the global financial system. Her greatest legacy is a complex mosaic of a lot of things, buttressed by the fact that she has brought democracy and freedom back to Liberia.
Who do you think will succeed her and how do you see the foreseeable future, particularly the elections that are on the door-step?
Let me just quote the President. She said: “Her greatest contribution to the country will be for us to have a smooth transition from one democratic President to another.” Free and fair political transition is among her key legacies. Who will that person be? He or she will be the person Liberians have seen to be tested and trusted in governance and leadership and has proven skills in leadership. The President has made public that he will support Vice President Boakai, because of his ability to bring all our people together. He has been tested and trusted for several years. But this is important, the President is not going to interfere with the democratic elections. But she will support her vice because he has a tested political history. She said there will be a level playing field. She will support the vice to succeed her but that will be done in a free and fair process.