In a just few hours, Africa’s first democratically elected female President; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will be turning over the mantle of authority to her successor, popular footballer George Manneh Weah.
The occasion promises indeed to be anxious moments not only for George Weah, who perhaps has yet to come to grips with reality checks imposed by the immensity and complexity of the problems he is about to inherit. They will also be anxious moments for President Sirleaf who will awaken to a sobering reality, come Tuesday morning January 23, 2018.
Troops of visitors, both official and unofficial, who lined up daily to see her for whatever reasons, will be gone as though they were never there. Perhaps first to be noticed will be the reduction of her bevy of security guards and of courses her coterie of attendants, many of who will have to now look elsewhere.
Also gone will be the hotlines to the Minister of Finance as well as to the Governor of the Central Bank, least to mention the Inspector General of Police whose men have kept round-the-clock security at the highly secretive operations at the Kinjor gold mines in Grand Cape Mount County.
As Mark Anthony in Shakespear’s Julius Caesar, declared, “the evil that men do lives after them while the good is often interred with the bones”, so shall it be with Ellen. Throughout the past weeks, she has busied herself with dedicating projects, some finished and others not or only partially finished, all in an attempt to establish her legacy.
Ellen has of course through her 12-year rule achieved quite a lot — yet those achievements are likely to get drowned and probably forgotten just as those of her immediate predecessors, Presidents William Richard Tolbert, Samuel Kanyon Doe and Charles MacArthur Taylor. For whatever good things President Tolbert did or may have done for example, none is perhaps more enduring than the often cited negatives of nepotism and corruption that flourished during his term of office.
And likewise Doe, for all what good things he did or may have done, none is most enduring other than the negatives of corruption, brutality, extra-judicial killings, tribalism and nepotism. As for Charles Taylor, the most enduring are also the negatives of corruption, nepotism, extra-judicial killings, war and plunder and blatant disregard for the rule of law.
In the case of President Sirleaf, of all what good she did or may have done for her country including debt waiver and restoring a failed state, Liberia, to the comity of nations, perhaps none will prove more enduring than the negatives of blatant nepotism, runaway corruption including 60+ bogus and illegal concession agreements, betrayal and cold-heartedness or lack of empathy, etc.
But one thing is sure; there will be a search for scapegoats just as soon as the reality of what President Sirleaf is leaving behind begins to dawn on her successor, popular footballer George Weah. The hungry masses teeming in their numbers, having virtually wolfed down their meal starters — election of their idol as President — will look forward to the full course which they say have been promised.
They include jobs, free education, housing cheap and affordable health care, reduced prices of everyday commodities, lower transport fares and a host of others. Soon and perhaps very soon, President Weah shall be asking questions about the tens of millions of US dollars that disappeared under the watch of Robert Sirleaf, favorite son of soon to be ex-President Sirleaf for which President Sirleaf took responsibility.
And what about the more than US$2 million filched from the nation’s coffers through a scheme allegedly masterminded by former Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh? President-elect Weah, while on the campaign trail, had promised and declared that the protection of President Sirleaf and shielding her from charges and possibly prosecution for corruption was his priority.
Whether those words were actually intended or whether they were mere campaign promises intended for the ears will now be put to test as Weah begins his sojourn as President. Already, signs of what is to come are in the air with the pronouncement by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) calling for a probe of outgoing Defense Minister Brownie Samukai in the AFL compulsory savings scheme “wahala” which has drawn so much public attention recently.
While many hold the view that such is mere posturing by LACC officials intended to ingratiate (bring oneself into favor with someone by flattering or trying to please them) themselves into the favor of President Weah, it nonetheless portends a gloomy outlook and an uncertain future for President Sirleaf, whose protection from prosecution Weah had assured during his campaign.
We say this because one can never tell where any such action will stop once commenced. Should President Weah, for example, remain indifferent to the LACC’s call, it may perhaps convey an impression that he will most likely tread softly on corruption.
On the other hand, should President Weah approve and give the go-ahead, Defense Minister Samukai as well as others including the very officials and Chairman of LACC may also likely find themselves under probe as well for a host of charges including corruption that have in the past been levied against LACC officials.
In such a scheme of things the hunter could then very well become the hunted. All of this goes to say and reinforce the wisdom of the proverb, “the way you make your bed, so shall you lie on it”.
Whether out-going President Sirleaf over her 12-year reign has made for herself a bed of roses or a bed of thorns on which she will lie, remains to be seen. One thing for sure as Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” says “the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with the bones”. And so shall it be with President Sirleaf!