By Alexander T. Fallah
Henry Costa has spent a significant amount of time and energy during the last decade advocating for the exposure of corrupt government officials from the administration of the immediate past President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the present one of President George M. Weah.
Several corruption scandals marred Sirleaf's administration, which brought her government into disfavor with the public and sowed distrust among the electorates. There was no political will on her part to prosecute alleged corrupt government officials and the attempts made by integrity agencies to investigate alleged corruption proved fruitless because of the President's lack of political will.
Sirleaf presided over a system that was based on favoritism and nepotism, in which her closest cronies were rewarded for misconduct while regular politicians who were not related to the President were used as scapegoats for mistakes. There was never an investigation into the claims of corruption leveled against Ellen's associates in government as she was typically quick to assume responsibility in most instances for said actions, thus preventing investigation or prosecution.
She led a nepotistic government where her closest allies were rewarded for wrongdoing while ordinary politicians not close to the president were used as scapegoats for precedent. Corruption allegations by Ellen's friends in government were never investigated, as Ellen was usually quick to take responsibility for said action to avoid investigation or prosecution.
The Rise of Henry Costa
As a disadvantaged youth and poverty-stricken person impacted by the pervasive corruption during the Sirleaf administration, Henry felt the need not to remain silent but to advocate for his generation and marginalized population by exposing corruption cases on "The Costa Show."
The show soon gained more followers and credibility. Everybody in Monrovia became active listeners of the Costa Show, and issues discussed on the Show were the talk of the town in taxi cabs, motorbikes, coffee shops, marketplaces, campuses, intellectual centers, professional circles, etc. Costa became a household name, and the government began to target Costa for exposing corruption allegations, but the more the government targeted Costa, the more he became popular as his messages resonated with the ordinary Liberians.
The Fall of Costa
The mission would suddenly change when government officials, especially those close to Sirleaf began to reach out to Costa for compromise in exchange for a handsome reward.
Costa started receiving money from government officials in exchange for protection, targeting and blackmailing government officials and others and exposing to public ridicule those who refused to comply with his demands.
Costa joined the ranks of corrupt government officials, blackmailing and exploiting other officials with dissenting views to damage their political careers. While officials were dismissed due to Costa's blackmailing, an audio recording of Costa negotiating bribes in exchange for damaging information against his victims began to circulate, thus causing credibility crises and dwindling of Costa’s popularity …the turning point.
The comeback of Henry Costa
Costa made a triumphant comeback in the public space when he joined ranks with and gained proximity to Amb. Boakai, Liberia’s foremost opposition leader who has earned the credit of an “Integrity Icon” based on his clean long public service record. Even though, Costa said the worst about JNB in the first round of the 2017 elections and later joined him in the run-off and termed JNB as the most decent public character and personality in Liberia with the experience and pedigree to lead while designating President Weah, then CDC Candidate as a criminal and ill-prepared person whose success from his feet was more than the judgment from his head.
But in a dramatic turn of events, Costa would immediately after the inauguration of President Weah in early 2018 switch support and loyalty to the very Weah he has described in the most demeaning and outrageous ways.
However, Costa later made a turnaround and rejoined the RESCUE MISSION and was very effective as a Rescue Agent which helped him re-garner his public fame and brought him back to stardom locally and internationally.
The final and fatal fall of Henry Costa
In Liberia's political landscape, Costa does not have a strong constituency due to his controversial standing; his support depends on which political party he supports, as the support of such a party automatically endorses and stands with him to support their candidate, but often, Costa misconstrues such support as his base.
Without a scientific or a well-researched finding and or reliance on his actual popularity, Costa, out of what many consider as greed and self-deception announced his interest in running as Vice Standard Bearer - VSB to Boakai on the Unity Party Ticket. The announcement was met with strong public resistance and resentment by not just the high-ranking members of the Unity Party but also the public due to existing bad blood between Costa and the Party's officials.
Many, then, saw and still see Costa as incompatible with Party values, given his history of blackmailing, inconsistency, immaturity, inexperience, and uncontrollable anger, for which many said that he could not be trusted. It is worth noting that Costa failed to resolve his differences with the Unity party's officials even with his proximity to JNB, which demonstrated his inability to build consensus and resolve issues.
Another factor is the age of the standard bearer which plays a critical role in selecting a VSB as that person is only a heartbeat away from becoming President. By all accounts, Costa did not meet these criteria. At age 41, he has no job experience, either in the private or public sector to use as a yardstick to measure his competence and career success.
All Liberians and others know Costa to master is receiving money from government officials and others in exchange for protection, targeting, and blackmailing government officials and others.
After all the flip flops of and by Costa, he severed relations with the people-centered and populace JNB and the Rescue Mission and went in silence for a protracted time. Many said that such silence was the best option for him to have an opportunity to make another comeback in the future as he had lost total face in the public space.
But to add gas to fire or insult to injury as the Liberian parable says, Costa said the worst about Weah and the CDC government in almost six years which caused this administration huge local and international embarrassment and brought the CDC closer to exiting power by popular protest vote of the Liberian electorates.
However, he now thinks that and feels that nearly six years of damage can be repaired in less than 14 days…what a utopic phenomenon. Costa is even on record as saying that he will die the day he supports Weah and the CDC. As a Christian, he must remember that it is recorded in Proverbs 18:21 that death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
With the vindictive nature that Costa brings to politics, it is highly unlikely that he would win any major elections in Liberia. The voters are getting wiser every day due to the high level of information disseminated in real-time by social media. Every town and village with a cell phone network has a smartphone that educates community members on national and international issues. Voters are no longer giving politicians a second chance due to their increased knowledge of governance issues.
Now, what is at stake? Should he worry? Why and why not?
Like the Unity Party, Costa had a bad relationship with members of the ruling CDC, his original political home from which he resigned and began to expose the government's confidential information to the public.
He targeted members of the CDC-led government and destroyed their reputation, with or without proof to justify his claims. It is noteworthy that in a propaganda war if you are found guilty in the court of public opinion, there is a limited chance of recovery. Costa was again successful in destroying the image of the Weah administration, both locally and internationally.
Costa did not only betray the voters' confidence but also the international partners who stood against Weah's bad governance. Will the international partners and friends ever take Costa as a reliable partner?
Of course not, but more interestingly, even George Weah and members of the CDC do not trust Costa due to the damage he has caused the CDC. Now, Weah is getting drunk in the river, and if you even give him a knife, he will hold it and get out of the river. All those going to Weah for cash-induced endorsements will regret it should Weah win this election.
The CDC and the Unity Party do not trust Costa due to his lack of confidentiality and outburst posture on issues. Henry Costa could succeed in being close to Weah or Boakai, but the people he hurt through blackmail might haunt his political career.
Every conflict has a history, and those who are hurt have followers, and their followers have followers. A story will be told, and Costa should be prepared to fight throughout his life. By all measures, Costa has fallen from grace to ashes, and overturning this damage may seem very difficult if not impossible.
Alexander T. Fallah is a member of Liberians residing in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Daily Observer's editorial stance.