So be careful what you wish for
‘Cause you just might get it
And if you get it then you just might not know
What to do wit’ it, ’cause it might just
Come back on you ten-fold. (anonymous rock band)
The old saying “be careful what you wish for” can be aptly applied to cases of current President George Manneh Weah and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. In the case of the former, President George Manneh Weah, for 15 long years he persisted in his quest to become President of Liberia, having made an initial foray into the turbulent world of Liberian politics in 2005.
Having lost in 2005 to winner Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Weah did not waver but kept alive his hopes of eventually capturing the presidential seat. In 2011, he made another bid for the presidency but lost again to incumbent President Sirleaf. Yet undaunted, he made another pitch again in 2017. This time he emerged winner, howbeit, under a cloud of controversy, and only after acrimonious court battles where the matter had been taken for redress.
Through it all, President Sirleaf’s role as an impartial player was questioned, and even her own Unity Party resorted to expelling her on account of what they claimed was her support for then opposition leader George Manneh Weah. At one point, the then African Union (AU) Chairman, Guinean President Alpha Conde, openly upbraided her, telling her to ”stay above the fray,” which proved to be of little import to her.
All during the campaign period of the 2017 elections, candidate George Weah always underscored that his immediate and foremost priority as president would be to protect President Sirleaf and her interests — whatever that meant. The fact that George Weah enjoyed immense popularity apparently served to assure her that Weah had what would seem a “Midas touch;” meaning, his promises of assurances was golden and she could virtually run away with it.
But those were happier times and perhaps there was not the slightest inkling that things would have come to a head, at least not so early. But they have, and the solemn pledge to protect President Sirleaf and her interests appears already to be in tatters, with increasing vocal calls by CDC stalwarts to have her appear before the House of Representatives, to answer questions surrounding the “missing billions.”
She has since, on several occasions, spoken to international media outlets, including the BBC, to explain or clarify her government’s role in the printing of new currency banknotes as well as their subsequent alleged disappearance. Now out of government and completely bereft of the immunity that protected her, she has to now face the very embarrassing prospects of being called to answer questions of probity before a body she once commanded to do her bidding, such as the passing of bogus concession agreements, etc.
Given what the nation bore witness to yesterday, there is no telling that calls for accountability will increase and invariably there will be a search for scapegoats as we are now beginning to see. For example, CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu did not mince his words when he accused the former President and her officials of bearing the chief responsibility for the current debacle. He also accused ANC leader Alexander Cummings of supporting and financing Monday’s demonstration.
Equally so, has CDC Representative Acarous Moses Gray been vehemently castigating the former President, accusing her of a host of ills. This was unimaginable, given that just a few months back relations were fine and cuddly. But these developments speak to one fact: that is, in the murky world of Liberian politics, things are not always what they seem, for friends today could be enemies tomorrow.
As for President Weah, this newspaper, against unfolding developments, is left to question whether he did fully understand the implications of being President of Liberia. This is a post-conflict country beset with a myriad of problems, particularly impunity, which now seems to have reared its ugly head even higher, especially in the wake of the alleged missing billions.
Like his predecessor, he promised to take an uncompromising stance against corruption and corrupt officials who he once claimed will face the full weight of the law. But the first measure of commitment to this pledge came with the Asset Declaration requirement to which his officials as well himself have failed to adhere. Further, the report of the Special Presidential Committee on the ExxonMobil bonus payout to former officials recommending restitution is still gathering dust on his desk.
His recent visit to China, during which time a host of his officials took advantage to go on a holiday shopping spree, has not gone unnoticed by the public; and then there is the bombshell — billions of Liberian currency banknotes that have allegedly gone missing under the watch of this government. As expected, of course, there were denials and plenty of them too.
The government has pledged a robust and transparent investigation of the entire affair and it must do that sooner than later. The fact that officials of this government would, in addition to failed attempts to use force against protesters or dismiss yesterday’s mass demonstration as inconsequential, simply reveals a glaring disconnect between themselves and the people.
For a government that rode to power on a wave of popular support, finding itself this early confronted with mass public protest against corruption and other vices, there can be no greater indictment than what the nation bore witness to yesterday. This should constitute a wake-up call to President Weah to, as our people say, “close his eyes” and deal strongly with those found culpable of stealing the country’s money. They Must Bring Back The Country’s Money!