Looking back in 2005 when President George Weah launched his initial quest for the Liberian Presidency, the overwhelming public endorsement of his candidacy left no doubt in the minds of political observers and pundits alike that George Weah’e entry into national politics was akin to an injection of healthy blood into a stale political process. For one thing, it galvanized a large section of the nation’s youth into active participation into electoral politics and national political life.
And the reasons for this were clear — he had won the admiration of the Liberian people by his exploits in international football and by his contributions to the national football team, the Lone Star. His contributions to the success of the national football team earned him a place in the hearts of the nation’s youth, a fact which translated into political support for his candidacy that eventually landed him the Presidency after two unsuccessful attempts.
However, success, it is said, has many fathers but failure is a lonely orphan. So it was with the star athlete now President of his nation with a large following basking in the delight of his victory surrounded by a host of individuals, some of them, well-meaning but most of them crooks, seasoned opportunists and carpet baggers. It is upon the shoulders of this motley crew that President Weah has chosen to rely and the results are showing perhaps too glaringly.
For example, since he took over as President, there has been a steady decline in the economy reflected mainly in rising commodity prices and ever falling exchange rate value of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar. Correspondingly, there has been a steep rise in official corruption, gradual erosion of human rights and increasingly blatant disregard and disrespect for the rule of law.
And this newspaper has unfailingly continued to remind President Weah of the imperative to take charge and lead from the front just as the Independence Day orator outlined in her speech. In several editorials the Daily Observer has repeatedly warned President Weah against the pursuit of a national agenda tailored to suit personal interests which could only serve to compromise his ability to act at all times in the supreme interests of the nation. More to that, his popularity and his grip on the reins of power could be seriously undermined as a result.
For its uncompromising reporting on national issues, the Daily Observer is considered in official circles as a newspaper unfavorably disposed to the interests of this government, which is far-fetched and blatantly false. And for this the Daily Observer is shunned, never invited to cover official state events and, worse of all, payments of legitimate bills for services rendered is wither unduly delayed or simply withheld. This newspaper is not an enemy to this government but a friend because only a true friend will tell his friend the truth.
In this regard, the results from the just concluded by elections are sure signs and indications that President Weah is fast losing his appeal and support and in so short a time because, more than anything else, it suggests popular disapproval of his policies, particularly his soft-pedaling on corruption. In the eyes of the public, certain close associates of the President, by virtue of their conduct, are doing him more harm than good and, because he has failed to pay heed to these public concerns, it is not surprising that the results have turned out the way they have.
But all is not lost because there is still time for President Weah to make amends by taking steps to set things right. In order to set things right he should first, as outlined in the July 30, 2019 editorial, place patriotism above friendship. This invariably means he must part company with some of his friends, muster the guts to look them in the eye and tell them they are fired for poor or non-performance.
He must also do all he can to ensure transparency and probity in his government and equal justice for all and not the kind of selective justice being served under the watch of the current Police Director. The Independence Day Orator reminded President of shared values of Liberians, themes that, according to her, kept coming up time and again during her transparency tour of the country. Those values, she said, included transparency, truth, equality and love for country above love for self.
Whatever the case, it is clear beyond doubt that the CDC has lost its predominance in Montserrado County which it had declared was a no-go zone for the opposition. But the resultant and unprecedented level of polarization does not augur well for stability and national social cohesion.
Increased economic hardships, caused mainly by bad or poor economic policies, runaway corruption and ostentatious display of wealth and wellbeing by officials and surrogates and selective application of the law are key drivers of the level of polarization currently being seen.
As his colleague and former Lone Star teammate put it, “George has achieved a lot in football and the people love him for it. But should he become President of Liberia, the public will forget his performances on the football pitch and judge him by what he achieves in office. People in the country are yearning for change and want it very quickly. If he doesn’t deliver it, the people could turn on him. It is a big risk he is taking and I wish him well”.
President Weah should therefore consider these elections results as a wake-up call to get his act right, else he could likely stare defeat in the face in 2023. The Writing is on the Wall Mr. President. Read the signs!