Shortly after Senator George Weah (Montserrado County) accepted the petition statement mandating him to contest for the 2017 presidency by the Congress for Democratic Change’s (CDC) Legislative Caucus, he told the mammoth crowd that he would wage war against the poor standard of education if elected to power.
Respond to the petition, Weah, who dropped out of high school in his early years, described the country’s education as substandard, calling it a “national security threat.” He referred to the health sector as disastrous, calling electricity “elusive.”
However, Weah now holds a master’s degree from the Arizona-based DeVry University, an online college program for people who want to continue their education.
“Under my administration, there will be sufficient budgetary allotment to the education sector so as to meet international standards, as well as invite international experts to come and train teachers,” Weah declared to deafening rounds of applaus from supporters, who defied the scorching sun to grace yesterday’s ceremony.
He said he would rebuild the health sector by negotiating with partners in and out of the country, while also promising to revamp the agriculture sector by putting in place agricultural procurement programs for farmers.
As for the business community, Weah gave them hope that when he becomes president, he will create an enabling environment for them to employ more Liberians.
Meanwhile, Weah, who out-rightly rejected merger talks with any of the political parties, however, called on other political parties to join the CDC in the struggle to end the Unity Party rule.
Weah, who is now a first-term Senator for Montserrado County, first ran for president in 2005, coming second to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He ran again in 2011, this time as vice presidential candidate to Winston Tubman, a lawyer by profession, and again his party finished second to Sirleaf’s Unity Party.
As early as 6 a.m. yesterday, residents of several communities around Monrovia woke up to a dramatic crowd of mainly supporters of Weah’s CDC as they trooped to the party’s headquarters in Congo Town, where they petitioned Weah to contest the ensuing 2017 presidential election as a presidential candidate.
His partisans, some of them from the Monrovia suburbs of West Point and New Kru Town, were joined by fellow CDCians from the central city and made their way to Congo Town; some walked, while others were crammed in the trunks of vehicles heading in the direction of the party’s headquarters for the ceremony.
By 10 a.m., CDC partisans from the eastern end of town in the Paynesville District were also connected to their colleagues from SKD Boulevard, SD Cooper Road and the infamous “Peace Island” Community, jubilating with songs of victory and shouting political slogans they coined as they marched to meet Weah, who was on his way, heavily guarded, from ELWA to respond to the petition.
Although Weah’s supporters were peaceful, they chanted anti-government slogans as authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) increased their manpower to provide the necessary protection.
For his part, CDC national chairman, Nathaniel McGill, told the Voice of America’s (VOA) James Butty that the 10-year administration of President Sirleaf has failed to improve the welfare of Liberians in spite of the enormous international goodwill it has received.
As a result, McGill said “marginalized Liberians yearn for change, and they believe Senator Weah can be the vehicle for that change.
“Considering that the Unity Party-led government has not done sufficient in the face of the enormous resources it has received, we think there’s a need for change. Liberians believe Senator Weah can be the vehicle for that change. He’s a man who understands their condition, who indeed understands their plight,” he told the VOA.
Some analysts have commented that the CDC lost the last two presidential elections because, while the party was popular in urban areas like the capital, Monrovia, it failed to extend its reach to the rural areas.
McGill described the assertion as a myth. He said the only political party with national appeal is the CDC. “If we are a Monrovia-based party, how come we pushed this president to the second round in two successive elections? The fact that the government did not win on the first ballot shows we are not a Monrovia-based party. We are a national-based party,” McGill said.
He also said the CDC hopes to improve on its errors from the last two elections. “We realize that we needed to improve our ability to man the polls, and in that area we had some lapses. But we’ve improved on that, manning the polls making sure we have strong and vigorous poll monitoring officers. And we are quite sure that this time around there will be no reason to complain, because we will be on top of our game.”
Following the first-round of the November 2011 presidential election, the CDC decided to boycott the second-round vote because it felt it had been cheated in the first.
A rally of its supporters called by the CDC leadership in support of the party’s plan to boycott the run-off election turned violent when police fired on protesters, killing one and reportedly wounding several.
A commission set up by President Sirleaf to investigate the violence recommended, among other things, the dismissal of the Director of Police, Marc Amblard.
A number of Liberians have already announced their intentions to contest the 2017 election. They include Liberia’s current Vice President Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party; Charles Brumskine of the opposition Liberty Party, who also ran in the 2005 and 2011 presidential elections; and businessman Benoni Urey, who served as head of the country’s Maritime Affairs during the presidency of Charles Taylor.
Others likely to enter the race include Dr. J. Mills Jones, former governor of the Central Bank of Liberia; former Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, who resigned last year, saying he wanted to be an “active player” in the coming 2017 presidential and legislative elections; and Alexander Cummings, who was recently appointed political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).