In Act V, Scene IV of Shakespeare’s play Henry IV Part 1 Falstaff had been playing dead on the battlefield to avoid being killed. And he says to Prince Hal, who had mistakenly perceived him as dead, “the better part of valor is discretion, in which better part I have saved my life”.
That phrase, “Discretion is the better part of valor” has since entered into English language use as an idiom which according to Wikipedia, is generally understood to mean the avoidance of problems or unnecessary risks by thinking carefully and exercising caution before taking action.
And this is, perhaps, why President Sirleaf’s weekend tweets about her successor’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony have ignited such a firestorm. She wrote:
“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.”
And the response from President Weah to his predecessor was swift and harsh. He took a hard swipe confronting her with hard issues which may eventually provoke a response. President Weah wrote:
“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.”
“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.”
A prominent political figure (name withheld), reacting to these developments has said, President Sirleaf should have known better than to rattle the nerves of an already beleaguered President who had once before declared that his primary concern was to protect her interests, whatever those interests were.
He furthered that President Weah is the same young man into whose hands she had virtually entrusted the future of the nation and on whose behalf she had gone all out to ensure that he did become President. This was despite the fact that she had a loyal vice President who had served her for twelve (12) unbroken years; yet she ignored tradition and opted instead to choose another individual (George Weah).
Though President Weah’s response was not just scathing but damaging as well, he however fell short of any declaration of intent to initiate prosecutorial action against his predecessor for her alleged transgressions. But truth be told, President Weah has succeeded in unwittingly indicted himself. His allegations of misconduct levied against President Sirleaf prompt the question of why has he not initiated prosecutorial action against her.
And of course she will be expected to maintain innocence so it means that President Weah will have to muster the evidence to support whatever prosecutorial action he may consider now or in the future. But questions are being asked just what may have prompted President Sirleaf’s remarks.
According to a political observer (name withheld), he believes President Sirleaf’s tweet was intended to distance herself from the decision taken by her son prior to the just concluded elections, to join the CDC and declare open support for its Montserrado candidate, Thomas Fallah.
His decision to do so was widely perceived as a political gesture, an act of reciprocity so to speak, for being let off the hook and this was something which, according to a political observer (name withheld), the former President may have found potentially threatening to the saintly image she has always sought to portray to the outside though, internally, the public strongly feels otherwise.
But to be sure, the controversy may not go away anytime soon. Allegations of gross corruption by this government against the administration of President Sirleaf and against the President herself have or shall at a point compel her accusers to provide evidence of her alleged misdeeds.
And President Weah now has the duty and obligation to produce the evidence against the former President. It is no secret that the economy is failing and may eventually crash if something is not done urgently to reverse its downward trajectory. And neither is it strange for governments/leaders faced with seemingly intractable challenges to resort to scapegoating.
For the last three years the opposition and the media in particular have been the obvious scapegoats accused of painting a false picture to the outside world of developments in Liberia. Journalists have been harassed, physically assaulted, threatened and even killed since the incumbency of this government.
And if the economic situation continues to worsen, the search for more scapegoats will more likely than not intensify. Thus, it is by no means surprising that President Sirleaf is being rebuked in such manner by the very individual who had publicly declared a commitment to the protection of her interests. His retort to her comments however suggests the possibility of that commitment being torn into shreds at some point.
But President Weah ought to be reminded that his allegations against President Sirleaf (former) shall have the ultimate effect of heightened public demands for accountability. And that includes accountability of this government as well as that of his predecessor.
The results of the just concluded elections should prove instructive in this regard, for it is a warning to President Weah, according to political analysts, to deal with runaway corruption in his government and end what they call a painful experience of dysfunctional governance.
In all this, President Sirleaf can only have herself to blame for stoking dying embers of public concern about corruption under her watch. But this is the leadership she bequeathed to this nation. She, like all of us, must learn to live with it until it is removed through the ballot box. Now it appears, the ghosts of the past, never yet laid to rest, have returned with vengeance to haunt. May God help us all.