For all what it is worth, opposition political parties appear bent and perhaps fixated on a singular objective – the defeat of the Weah-led CDC at the 2023 polls.
They point to results of the last senatorial elections in which the CDC lost heavily as the writing on the wall foretelling the fall of the CDC.
To ensure this, some opposition parties, notably the former ruling Unity Party, the Alternative National Congress, the All Liberian Party and the Liberty Party have since formed a collaborative venture with the hope of fielding a single ticket to oppose George Weah in 2023.
Already, the jostling has begun in earnest.
There are indications that ANC leader Alexander Cummings is looking forward to his emergence as front-runner on the ticket of the Collaborating Political Parties but yet prepared to go it alone if needs be.
On the other hand, former Vice President Joseph Boakai has not only declared himself fit to lead but also as the only one capable of defeating George Weah at the 2023 polls.
Liberty Party leader Nyomblee Karnga is calling for the inclusion of a female on the Presidential ticket and is reportedly being wooed by both Cummings and Boakai.
As 2023 is still relatively a long way off, only time will tell just how this CPP arrangement is going to play out. But there may be other claimants to the throne as well, some of who may be biding time and weighing their chances.
Others appear not so circumspect and have already entered the fray. Foremost amongst these individuals is the Dr. Daniel Cassell who has already declared his intentions to contest in 2023.
Of late, he has been on a spending splurge and making political statements, perhaps intended to make his presence known and felt.
But aside from declarations of intent to contest and open criticism of this government for a host of ills, especially corruption, none of the current crop of political parties or presidential aspirants has added anything new to the national discourse.
Aside from references to the dismal state of the economy, no political party has so far laid out an economic blueprint on which valued judgement can be made. What President Weah fetes as his Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development is in essence a rehash of President Sirleaf’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.
And the consequences are plain for all to see. President Sirleaf’s strategy was based primarily on growth spurred by huge inflows of foreign capital, otherwise referred to as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
A total of approximately US$16 billion in Foreign Direct Investment flowed into the country. The economy did indeed grow but, at the end of the day, the development such growth was intended to foster remained elusive.
By the time she left office, the national debt which she had reduced to zero through debt forgiveness, had soared to nearly 1bn US dollars with virtually nothing to show as development.
President Weah’s PAPD strategy, as noted earlier, is but a rehash of President Sirleaf’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). However, foreign capital inflows in his administration have virtually dried up.
Presidential aspirant Alexander Cummings, for his part, has declared it is possible to grow the budget to 2 billion by cutting waste.
But his critics contend that he has so far not provided a clear road map of how he intends to achieve his declared intent to grow the budget to US$2bn.
But it is not the lack of identifiable and relevant issues that is responsible for this, says a Liberian political economist. Rather, according to him, it is the lack of ability to recognize that the Liberian economy, structured as it is along neoliberal lines, is geared towards the benefit of predatory foreign corporate interests and not those of the Liberian nation and people.
And no party yet appears prepared to change this paradigm.
Why should the World Bank, and not Liberia, for example, be a shareholder in the gold-rich Kinjor mines and at the same time be a major creditor to Liberia, he asked.
Why foreign donor assistance to agriculture in Liberia totaling US$50 million in 2017 was not used to produce food in Liberia but was instead given to the Word Food Program (WFP) to import food to feed Liberians?
These are but a few of the hard and relevant questions that national political leaders appear too timid to ask. Judging from the current discourse, such issues appear to play second-fiddle to that of President Weah’s perceived failure to “mend fences” with the US Government which has allegedly impaired his ability to pay official visits to the US.
Former President Charles Taylor, prior to his exile in Nigeria, told journalists that amongst his greatest regrets was his inability to reconcile his differences with America, noting that any Liberian leader, to be successful, must cultivate good relations with Washington.
He was however careful to stress that he was not the kind of leader who would take or who took “late night phone instructions from Washington”.
Taylor reportedly told aides that he was at odds with Washington.
And according to him it was due to his unflinching stance on state participation in the exploration, production, and export of oil, as was reflected in the 2001 New Petroleum Law, which also provided for 10 percent equity for Liberians desirous of participating in the oil sector.
Unlike Taylor, President Sirleaf enjoyed good relations with Washington during both the Bush and Obama administrations. She was a regular visitor to the White House during the Bush years.
The question is, did she take late-night phone instructions from Washington as some critics suggest?
Whether such had any play in her decision to sign a predatory concession agreement with ExxonMobil outside the ambit of the 2001 Petroleum law, which was not amended until two (2) years after the signing into law of the ExxonMobil Agreement, remains speculative, at least for now.
The question now is, will the Biden Administration be prepared to accept a national leadership unfavorably predisposed to taking late-night phone instructions from Washington?
If not, then the change from a Weah to a Boakai or even to a Cummings may have no impactful difference.
From the other side, it appears that Weah may very well be the best fit, as he can be easily managed or coerced, it is perceived.
It should therefore come as no surprise, all things being constant, that Weah could likely emerge winner in 2023. But can he in a free, transparent, fair and unfettered voting process? Only time will tell!