Looking back into history, when Charles Taylor, then rebel leader of the National Patriotic Front (NPFL), entered Monrovia in 1997, his convoy was swarmed by thousands of cheering supporters who thronged the streets joyously celebrating the arrival of the individual who some of his supporters called the “long awaited one”. And the nation anxiously settled in looking forward with great hopes of prosperity to come.
Those hopes were however not to be realized for barely two years into his six-year rule, public complaints about the conduct of his security forces especially his Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU) began to proliferate and, at his Vision 2024 National Conference, the erosion of civil liberties as well as the misconduct of the nation’s security forces and their wanton disrespect for human rights were major concerns voiced by virtualy all conference delegates . Before or by the end of his six-year tenure, rebel forces were banging on the gates of Monrovia, thus forcing him to leave power and go into exile.
But Taylor’s woes were all self-inflicted and, by all accounts, his insensitivity to public opinion about the excesses being committed in his regime was perhaps the key factor, amongst others, that led to his undoing. President Weah, like former President Taylor, was popularly elected but Taylor proved unable to translate such huge popular support into tangibles from which the country could have benefitted. In similar fashion, President Weah was popularly elected but now appears to be fumbling and losing his footing.
For one thing, the conduct of Taylor’s security forces served well to alienate him from public support and thus it was by no means surprising that rebel forces virtually came to within doorsteps of the Executive Mansion, thus forcing his exit from office. Under President Weah, the nation is again bearing witness to the ruthless conduct of the security forces, particularly the Police.
Video footage of the Monday October 14, 2019 incidents show LNP officers storming into the compound of the GW Gibson High School on the Capitol By-Pass, invading classrooms and brutally assaulting students beating and even stripping some female students naked. The conduct of the LNP officers caught on film evokes strong memories of the dreaded Police Special Operations Division (SOD) under Charles Taylor for they behaved no differently. Is this the reformed LNP on which millions of dollars were spent to rehabilitate and transform it into a force for good?
Once again, the Daily Observer is constrained to inform President Weah that video footages of these ugly incidents have gone viral around the world on social media. Questions are being asked, and rightly so, whether this is the kind of image that President Weah desires to present to the world — an image of an intolerant leader resorting to the use of brutal and naked force against unarmed students justly and rightly demanding that their teachers be paid to enable them continue their learning activities.
But more importantly, the question now on the lips of a concerned public is whether President Weah is the right fit for the job. This is primarily because it appears President Weah is either being held hostage by a cabal of unsavory elements who are goading him into making such mistakes or he is simply overwhelmed by the immensity of the job as President. In a way, his performance tends to convey a distinct impression of a little boy in a pair of outsized shoes or as our people say, “Big Boy Shoes Small Boy Can’t Wear”.
This newspaper hopes that this is certainly not the case, for it is of the strong conviction that President Weah can measure up if he rightly and diligently applies himself to the task he opted to take on. He can no longer continue to dwell on the now trite excuse that he met the country broke and that he did not create the “mess”. Truth be told, he certainly did not create the mess as it was his predecessor who did. But he declared that he could and was ready and prepared to fix the mess.
But indications so far instead suggest that President Weah may be veering off course and if he does not get it right before it becomes too late to do so, things could spin out of control. Inflation is rising as the Liberian dollar continues to depreciate against the US dollar and the associated hard times are not waiting — they are biting and will continue to bite even harder in the days ahead.
And lest we forget, the patience of the people will not endure forever under circumstances that present little or no hopes for a respite. If the shoes are too big and makes walking difficult, simply take them off. And so we ask, is our current dilemma a case of “Big Boy Shoes, Small Boy Can’t Wear”?