The standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), George Weah, last Saturday made a number of promises to the Liberian people when the party launched its campaign for the 2017 general and presidential elections. Key among his promises were total elimination of bad governance, inclusive government without discrimination, citizen’s equal rights, and fighting corruption to the extent where there will be no reshuffling of corrupt officials. These are cardinal national issues that Liberians yearn to hear in a campaign message from any politician, and we know of no politician in Liberia who has expressed anything negative to what Weah proffered.
Since no politician can divorce himself from such positive ideas, it makes political debate necessary and mandatory. It also makes it binding on all politicians to welcome debates wholeheartedly and willingly, and to actively participate in them. This would give each the opportunity to clarify, explain and give some measure of detail to their ideas. In addition, participating in the debate would allow each candidate to answer the burning question as to how he or she intends to implement his or her ideas and even venture to offer a time frame within which to accomplish the vision s/he has for the country. Appearing for a debate also allows your detractors, opponents and others who don’t understand a candidate’s competence and political ideology to gain knowledge of what a candidate truly stands for. Undecided voters and even partisans of various political parties use debates to evaluate politicians to build trust in one that they know is honest, realistic and patriotic to his country.
Our concern with George Weah’s appearance for a debate is not because he is the only one who failed to participate in the August 17 debate. No, he is not. Dr. J. Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) did not show up either, on excuse that he was taking his political campaign to Grand Cape Mount County, where he indeed spent three days campaigning. We understand that Mr. Weah, too, was away from the country, and that was the excuse given for his absence from the debate. Our concern is that Mr. Weah is the standard bearer of the main opposition political party in the country, which could take power at any time.
Moving on, the debate will, therefore, enable Liberians of different political and social backgrounds and persuasions to listen keenly to a candidate, in this particular case, George Weah, as he presents his logical analyses on national issues raised. The public would eagerly await an opportunity to see and hear Mr. Weah answer the debating team’s questions and, before a nationwide audience, articulate his vision for Liberia. When the four politicians appeared last week, they explained how they understood security and rule of law, the economy, reconciliation and anti-corruption, the issues which the debating team’s managers challenged them to address. That gave voters an initial opportunity to decide who was clear, sincere and realistic in his approach to these national issues.
Now, that Mr. Weah has told partisans, sympathizers and the general public what he will do, how will Liberians know that he is indeed knowledgeable in what he say he would do if elected? How can Liberians and other stakeholders know Mr. Weah’s level of competence to deliver what he promises, if he does not appear to explain and convince them? Let it not be misconstrued, however, that calling on Weah to appear for debate is meant to test his ability to speak English. Speaking Standard English is just a minor issue to the many national concerns. Remember the late Representative Moses Tandapollie. With all his poor grammar, he was well respected for his knowledge and logical analysis of issues. In fact, international non-governmental organizations and other local observers regarded him as the best lawmaker of the 52nd National Legislature.
So, Ambassador Weah, the Daily Observer pleads that since you did not appear for the August 17 debate, due to whatever reasons, you should make available time for the next debate or even pressurize the Debate Committee to set a time when you can appear to talk to the Liberian people. You could also disabuse the minds of the public by stating the reason why you stayed away. You could be a good leader that people are underestimating, but until you prove them wrong by confidently expressing yourself in a political debate, the rest of the people, except your partisans, will always doubt your ability to lead Liberia. The ball is in your court, and the historic challenge yours to meet.