Liberia: Indeed, President Weah Achieved Something But …

Flashback: President George Weah on the campaign trail during the elections.

 

 

... Weah achieved alright but has he not shown his true colors in terms of his inexperience in leadership and his unquenchable thirst for self-aggrandizement and conspicuous ostentatious consumption?

During this period of electioneering in Liberia, candidates’ indecorous and vituperative verbal attacks on one another are tasteless and intolerable. Worse, physical attacks are manifestations of the attackers’ incorrigible bestiality. On the other hand, it is normal for supporters of parties and independent candidates to lionize their candidates in superlative terms.

In doing so, however, one loses face, fame, and character by resorting to questionable, indefensible, or worse, baseless proclamations and muddle-headed sloganeering. For instance, it has been stated repeatedly and in various circles that President Weah achieved more than all Liberian presidents before him.

No doubt, President Weah had achievements; it will be unfair and dishonest to deny same. For instance, during his tenure as President, Liberia did not engage in war against neighbors (God forbid) or in open hostility against itself. In addition, some hospitals were built (e.g., 14 Military Hospital and Emirate Hospital) and some roads were built.

However, when these achievements are compared to incomes to the government—revenues collected, loans, grants, and subsidies to the government), the achievements become a drop in the ocean. The achievements become even more minuscule when one considers that many of these projects were undertaken and/or funded by Liberia’s “foreign partners”. 

I must hasten to add that whether projects are funded by the government or foreign partners, they are appreciated as long as they benefit the people of Liberia. However, one should not reap or try to reap where he/she did not sow—e.g., Emirate Hospital in Gbarpolu, road to Lofa, etc.. 

Indeed, Weah achieved something, but one needs to take a closer look at the quality of some of his achievements. One shining example is the 14-Military Hospital which allegedly is a state-of-the-art modern hospital. However, while the hospital is not totally empty, a second look at the hospital will show that it stands wanting in many respects, especially with regard to the lack, or at best, paucity of doctors and equipment. Once more, this is only one example of President Weah’s questionable achievements.   

Apart from questionable new facilities, how, if at all, did President Weah’s achievements add to, or ameliorate the facilities he inherited. There, a shining example is the JFK Hospital. True, with the support of “international partners”, the hospital now has a dialysis unit and that’s appreciated highly but how else did he improve this government referral hospital?

It is believed, with some evidence that the hospital is far worse than what President Weah inherited. Again, this is only one example of the backward slide/deterioration of hospitals, schools, institutions of higher education, and other facilities President Weah inherited.  

  Indeed, President Weah achieved something, but we need to compare achievement to manner and extent money was used or misused. For example, one needs to take a close look at President Weah’s many expensive trips, the construction of edifices (and Heaven knows where all). Jaws will drop when one compares these expenditures to the salaries of teachers, nurses, and other government workers.

To clarify further, see the article on Frontpage Africa (FPA), Thursday, December 16, 2021. In that article, FPA points out that President Weah “has been amassing wealth one after the other …” To exemplify, the article cites President Weah’s slingshot (luxury vehicle), customized with his middle name, condominiums in Thinker’s Village, jet flights—perhaps ownership--shortly after becoming president, and the signing of a US$420M agreement with a Burkinabe company.

Furthermore, the article points out President Weah’s simultaneous construction of 41 duplexes, demolition of his 9th Street house which he turned into a palace, renovation of his Jamaica Beach property, building of his RIA Highway complex, and construction of his Forky Klon Jlaleh Family Fellowship church, along with a theatre, and recording studio.

One notes that, contrary to what his supporters claim, President Weah did not accomplish these as a world football player. On the other hand, one is encouraged to compare these acquisitions to former VP Boakai who has lived in the same house for more than fifty years—the same house through his tenure as regional director and later, Managing Director of LPMC, Minister of Agriculture, Director of LPRC, and eventually as Vice President.

Indeed, President Weah achieved something but why have we not received accounting of missing monies? For example, to my knowledge, there has been no accounting of the sixteen billion Liberian dollars or the twenty-five million U.S. dollars. One wonders what his achievements would have been like if such monies were expended directly for development purposes. 

True, there has been no war during President Weah’s administration but what is the status of the security situation in the country? By any standard of measurement, the security situation in the country is far worse than when President Weah took over. Then, what peace is this when the crime rate in the country has quadrupled and the influx of illicit drugs into the country has skyrocketed thereby ruining the lives of our young people and threatening the stability of the nation?

Why have the Liberian people not received any explanation about the armed shipment through the national port? Why have there been no vigorous investigations in the many mysterious deaths and disappearances? Remember the words of Spinoza, “Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.”

Indeed, Weah achieved something but how has any achievement addressed corruption? As afore mentioned, in a relatively short time, huge edifices have gone up and there is no accounting of government funds (e.g., the sixteen billion mentioned above). Furthermore, it is alleged that many, if not most, of President Weah’s cabinet ministers and cronies have followed in his footstep of building huge edifices and channeling huge funds abroad but there have been no investigations to refute or confirm these allegations. He himself has failed to publicly disclose his assets and therefore cannot expect others to do so. 

As opposed to accountability and transparency, President Weah and his chief lieutenants have admitted mismanagement of funds. For example, a May 9, 2019 article in Front Page Africa revealed that the then Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe, admitted that the government of Liberia unilaterally used development partners’ funds at the Central Bank of Liberia “for purposes other than ones agreed on by both the donors and the Liberian Government.”

Worse still, upon his return from state visits to France, Morocco and Senegal in February, 2018, President Weah himself admitted that “the United States (in particular), France and China cannot be blamed for Liberia’s setbacks and lack of progress, arguing that ‘billions of dollars’ given in aid by America have been mismanaged here” (the New Dawn, Feb. 26, 2018). It was therefore no surprise that the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, citing the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, indicated that in 2022, among the most corrupt nations of the world, Liberia ranked 142 out of 180 countries included in the study. What an achievement? 

President Weah achieved something, but what are the glaring evidences? One does not have to look too far. Look at the capital city of our nation and its environs and, as Shakespeare wrote, “destroy your sight with a new Gorgon”—filth, filth, and more filth. Go to the Capitol building, a government ministry or agency and ask to use the bathroom and there, meet more filth and battle insufferable stench. How then, in this case, does “charity begin at home?” 

Indeed, Weah achieved something but, to be sure of the manner and extent, ask the ordinary person—market women, laborers, the jobless, children out of school, etc.. They will assure you beyond doubt that they are by far worse off than when Weah took over. For whom then are Weah’s achievements? Himself? His cronies?

In spite of the foregoing, it is mind-boggling that Weah’s supporters claim he has achieved in less than six years, than any previous president of Liberia. Other supporters claim he achieved more than all previous presidents combined. Such preposterous claims are mind-numbing.

Did Weah achieve anything close to Tubman who was in office for twenty-seven years, six months, and twenty days and opened up the country, established numerous academic institutions, built hospitals, and raised the country’s reputation at home and abroad? Could Weah be compared to Tolbert and even Doe who came from the barracks? It is beyond belief that anyone with a clear mind and conscience could make such claims. 

Weah achieved alright but has he not shown his true colors in terms of his inexperience in leadership and his unquenchable thirst for self-aggrandizement and conspicuous ostentatious consumption? For instance, it is public record that his performance as a senator was dismal. Yet, he was given an opportunity to prove himself otherwise but unfortunately, he failed in that regard miserably. So, yes, he achieved but we need to take a second look.

Again, we do not deny that Weah achieved something so, let him and his supporters convince us in that regard by addressing the points raised above, among many others. This will be a better approach to promoting the President as opposed to ludicrous claims and pointing accusing fingers, claiming that some of us who point out these facts do not care about our country as allegedly, we unconscionably ignore facts and criticize our country and government incessantly.

Not so; quite the contrary, because we care deeply about our country, we do not only rise to praise Caesar but point out the pluses and minuses of our government. This is consistent with Mark Twain perspective when he wrote, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.” In my yet unpublished novel, Murders Too Many, knowing one might not be able to support one’s country always but can always love one’s country, I modify Mark Twain as follows: “Patriotism is loving one’s country all the time and one’s government when it deserves it.”

Finally, it is important to point out that, given the many and multifarious problems of Liberia, no candidate running, if elected, will be able to solve the nation’s problem overnight; no candidate has a magic wand to do so. I believe however former VP Boakai has the experience, brilliance, integrity, temperament, international connections, and more to tackle the nation’s problems.

Hands down, he is the best person to foster the changes and improvements Liberia dearly needs on both local and international levels. Despite that truism, however, it must be understood that even Boakai, if and when elected, will initially be a disappointment to some who wish for quick and lasting solution to all the nation’s problems.

He will have to make tough choices as a leader and that will also disappoint others. Yet, given six months to a year in office, I have no doubt VP Boakai will turn the nation around in a positive direction. He has proven so in every administrative position he has occupied; the presidency of Liberia will NOT be an exception.

About the author:

Dr. Sakui W. G. Malakpa, is a Professor, University of Toledo, Ohio.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Daily Observer's editorial stance.