Now That You Are President, Your Excellency
JANUARY 22, LIBERIA became the center of attraction to nearly all the very big media institutions around the world, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Cable News Network (CNN), Al Jazeera and China Global Television (CGTV). Other media entities that were at the inaugural ceremony also included Ghana Television, Ovation of Nigeria, Deutsche Welle (DW), Russian Television, Agency Franc-Presse, Reuters, etc.
AFRICAN PRESIDENTS AND representatives of other foreign governments flew in and landed on Liberia’s shores. Foreign guests and friends of Liberia also jetted in from far and near to grace the very auspicious ceremony.
IN ADDITION TO THE SEVEN African Presidents, four former African Presidents and representatives of other governments, some past African footballers, including Samuel Eto’o Fils of Cameroon and Austin Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria and African movie stars, packed the star-studded ceremony.
THE OCCASION WAS VERY auspicious as it has never happened in the country in the last 74 years since 1944. In that year, former President William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman took over from former President Edwin J. Barclay. Tubman, who ruled for 27 years, died in office and his Vice President, Dr. William Richard Tolbert, Jr., of 19 years succeeded him. Unfortunately, Tolbert was brutally murdered in a bloody coup d’etat by 17 non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in April 1980. The leader of those soldiers, Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, who later became President of Liberia, too, met an unfortunate end in September of 1990. Seven years after Doe’s death, Charles G. Taylor was elected President and he, too, never had a smooth ending. He resigned and turned power over to his Vice President, Mr. Moses G. Blah, who, too, after two months of ending the remaining term of President Taylor, handed power over to Mr. Charles Gyude Bryant, former Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL).
ALL THROUGHOUT THOSE 74 years, Liberia didn’t conduct any smooth transitional transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another.
THE MONDAY EVENT had to be heavily publicized to give it the feeling it deserves and especially so Africa’s first democratically elected female President was set to smoothly transfer power to soccer legend George Manneh Weah, who is the first footballer to ascend to the highest office in any country in the world. He becomes Liberia’s new President.
PRESIDENT WEAH HAD fought to become President once in 2005 but lost to Madam Sirleaf, whom he now succeeds. In 2011, he didn’t opt to run for President rather he chose to go as the running mate to Cllr. Winston Tubman, who, too, lost to Mrs. Sirleaf. Weah tried again in 2017 against the Vice President of Mrs. Sirleaf and won.
NOW THAT YOU ARE PRESIDENT, Your Excellency, the expectations are high from your compatriots, who elected you overwhelmingly to steer the state of affairs for the next six years.
PRESIDENT, BEFORE you announce your lieutenants, who are going to help you in running an effective government intended to address and improve the livelihood of Liberians, we have few cardinal things to bring to your attention. We think that when you pay attention to them, you are going to make a better President.
YOU MENTIONED YESTERDAY in your inaugural speech: “I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate.
“AS OFFICIALS OF GOVERNMENT, It is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. Those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people – the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
EXCELLENT, MR. PRESIDENT, unfortunately, you didn’t say how you are going to fight and defeat this corruption menace, which has got a very strong grip on every fabric of the Liberian society.
SIR, YOUR PREDECESSOR made similar statement in 2005 and did little or nothing to stamp it out. She dubbed it “Public enemy number one,” but as time when on, Liberians began saying that it was “Public friend number one.” We think you can make the difference. Here is where we think you should begin now with your fight against corruption: ASSET DECLARATION! Before any of your appointed official takes office ensure that they do a verifiable asset declaration both at home and abroad. We strongly feel that you are going to lose the fight when this is not done.
PRESIDENT, SOME of your good friends in your tripartite Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) are facing corruption charges. You can’t be seen closely associating with these individuals. They are going to put dent on your character and your fight against corruption might be just be another ‘white elephant in the room.’
PRESIDENT ANOTHER thing that might probably be overlooked is the appointment of Liberians, who hold US citizenship and are bound by that country’s law to fulfill certain financial obligations to it no matter which part of the world they are. These people are going to be tempted to always put their hands in the cookies jar as most would have student loan and mortgage to settle in addition to paying their oversea tax to their first of second allegiance.
NOW THAT YOU ARE PRESIDENT, Your Excellency, one area your predecessor failed miserably is national reconciliation. She admitted to it in her last Annual Address to the Nation. We think with your previous backgrounds as UN Peace Ambassador and Peace Ambassador for Liberia, you can bring everyone under the palava hut to talk, do and live reconciliation. This is especially needed after the 2017 Presidential and General Elections, including the runoff, which at some points became so acrimonious between and among different political parties supporters. Don’t be surprised; some people still carry that bitterness in their hearts and you can lead the way for national reconciliation.
LASTLY MR. PRESIDENT, you noticed and saw yesterday, the thousands of ordinary Liberians, from West Point, New Kru Town, Clara Town, Gibraltar, Soniwein and other places, who thronged the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex to see their “Country Giant” inaugurated. Like the elections campaign days when they shouted “George Weah, George Weah…,” you heard them again on Monday shouting your name. It shows the confidence they have reposed in you. They look to you as their savior: you can’t afford to fail them.
REMAIN TRUTH TO YOUR word to “construct the greatest machinery of pro-poor governance in the history of this country.”