Now and then, when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf adds her voice to local public discourse, the ripple effects of her rhetoric can be felt for days around the nation’s capital. And when her messages, directed at her successor, President George Manneh Weah, carry a didactic eloquence that borders on pontificating, it appears, those are the ones that strike a nerve with him. And this time, he did not hold back in his retort. A couple of years ago, they had a duel over the meaning of GDP. This episode about the definition of ‘opulence’.
Just over the weekend, former President Sirleaf tweeted: “The opulence displayed at the lighting of the Liberian President Christmas Tree was indeed impressive, but with the country’s difficult economic climate it is an affront to the thousands who have not been paid and are hungry.”
This single sentence from the former President who ushered in the current President after her regime is not taken lightly. In a couple of harsh responses, President Weah said: “Madam former President, let me refresh your memory about what Opulence is: Opulence is when Chevron gives 10 million USD or CSR and you gave it to your son to squander.”
Giving cynical definitions of opulence, President Weah continued: “Opulence is when you have 4 billion in Foreign direct investment, but leave Liberia in abject squalor and poverty; Opulence is when you have 11 budget shortfalls in 12 years and yet spent tens of millions of failed projects like the Executive Mansion repair fiasco, Opulence is when after 12 years of billions of dollars of Foreign Aid, you still leave the country with 1 billion dollars debt that my government is now paying back.”
“There are a 1000 more examples, but let me leave you with these for now. Opulence is not when you use an old Christmas Tree and Choirs to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus,” said President Weah to former President Sirleaf.
Responses of the President to the former President’s single paragraph post have generated a lot of comments on social media. In one comment, President Sirleaf is cautioned to “Shut her mouth” because she allegedly did all she could in 2017 to bring in President Weah to get the country the way it is.
Another comment also challenged President Weah to respond to an alert by the US Embassy near Monrovia cautioning its citizens to take some good amount of cash along with them because the country’s Central Bank has run out of cash.
Still in other views, another person commented that the President’s reaction to the former President was the right rejoinder, noting, “What a hypothetical piece of tweet that was from a former President.”
Yet another person cautioned President Weah that he will be audited when his term expires after building mansions in Monrovia within three years.
Another comment predicted that President Weah will soon be walking in the same shoes as President Sirleaf because, in his response, there is no difference between himself and the former President in terms of squandering money if his statement is anything to consider.
Another person also said: “You have all this evidence and you fail to prosecute the former regime. You are just [revealing] your [incompetence] to govern Liberia.
Since President Weah succeeded Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he has always blamed hers and other past administrations for whatever has gone wrong in the country. With reference to squandering money by the son of the former President, the Weah Administration is in hot water for alleged missing L$16 billion; US$25 million mop-up money unaccounted for; the recently-printed L$4 billion, which the public is in doubt of its circulation amid circulation of mutilated notes; and building of private estates by the President and his officials.