Change or Chain: Weah Start-game—Of Scandal, Vulgar Display & Rapid Theft
By Alfred P. B. Kiadii
What seems to be a scene in a melodramatic play that is complete with pathos and grotesque caricature is in full cycle in the war-torn African Republic of Liberia—not in the Roman Coliseum. For a land which is not strange to tragic occurrences as well as comic episodes, the current happening is poised to smash all records and outclass all dark periods in the history of the country.
As if previous conflictual years did not wreak much havoc, the current situation in Liberia is akin to an individual who goes to sleep and have the horror of a nightmare. When such individual wakes up out of fear of the nightmare, such scenes are replicated with utmost exactitude in his/her real life. This terse anecdote summarizes the collective disbelief of compatriots who are asking the question: how did we degenerate this fast, but answer for such question is being given varying interpretations.
Looming Tragedy in Liberia
It all started on January 22, 2018 when an accomplished soccer star but inept political mediocre was inaugurated president of the tiny war-torn Liberia, which has no shortage of brilliant men and women to steer the ship of state. In fact, in the last election in which the flunkey George M. Weah emerged as the winner, without saying the process was thoroughly rigged, at least some progressive personalities threw their hearts in the race to rescue the homeland from imminent collapse and state failure. However, the result went the way of Weah.
Liberia is likened to a brothel which houses prostitutes that are terminally infested with aids. Due to such illness, the girls in such facility have decided to go on the rampage to contaminate people in their environment. Such scandalous act would thus lead to near extinction of individuals in the neighborhood. It is in this context that one can aptly describes the wave of corruption which is sweeping across the Weah government.
It is fair to conclude that the Weah government is essentially an arrangement of thieves, plunderers, gangsters, crooks, fortune hunters, and mercenaries. Those rotten personalities who only claim to fame is to plunder on an industrial scale, leaving the masses of the people to rot in grinding poverty, while the debased elites loot the state to the core. In Liberia what we have is not a genuine government, but a “basket of deplorables.”
What is getting increasingly obvious is that Liberia has the tendency for shocking the world with the most mundane of things. It goes to say that it is one of the few backward countries which is fond of degenerating to the bottom of the garbage to elect a leader each time when potentials are high for the country to move in the right direction. There can be no palpable rationality for the emergence of Charles Taylor, Samuel K. Do, and George Weah to the pinnacle of leadership in the country than such conclusion.
Two Factors led to the Emergence of George Weah
However, two factors can be attributed to why George Weah emerged as President of Liberia. On the one hand, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf thoroughly plundered the country to the extent its economy hit rock-bottom. She feared that any Liberian nationalist who would have assumed the leadership of the country after her, would have established a commission of inquiry to probe the outright mismanagement of the resources of the country by her administration. Against this fear, she floated with the idea of installing a docile pawn who will let her off the hook. Of all the candidates in the race, she chose George M. Weah not only because he has no clue of governance, but also due to the fact that he could be used as a plaint cannon fodder to do her bidding. Towards this end, she manipulated the result of the election for him to win—massive rigging was orchestrated in the leeward counties where the former ruling party didn’t have poll watchers.
Against this backdrop, it is thus fair to say that the supposed will of the Liberian people is nothing but a farce. Rather, it is the will of former President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf which prevailed. This is how the people was short-changed, as former President Sirleaf installed her puppet to pull the strings from the back.
Populism or Knack for the Mundane?
Views have been mixed on the subject at hand. Whereas one school of thought argues that the Western style democracy franchised to Africa cannot achieve genuine social transformation to uplift the masses of the people. This side further argues that democracy is for enlightened people that understand. It adds that in most African countries where the people are so backward the local office boys of imperialism always become victorious simply because those agents of foreign capital are sponsored so very well by their benefactors in London, Paris, Washington, and Belgium. Consequently, instead of the hungry masses using ideas and integrity as the barometer for electing people into public offices, they are enticed by cash, tribal and religious bigotry to elect the wrong people into public offices.
As for the Liberian process, political pundit are still debating the causes of such national decay after the nation made a bit of strides, signaling to the rest of the world that it was serious to move forward, in spite of the unbridled corruption which characterized the erstwhile regime of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The trend seems to fizzle and the period of stasis has thus emerged, making the nation to rescind to the lowest ebb while other countries in the region are making a profound strides in the appropriate direction.
Make no mistake the declassed, lumpen elements in the slums of Monrovia and parts adjacent voted Weah not as a result of the populist fervor that is sweeping across the globe, but it has more to do with the low consciousness in our people and their knack for nonentities. It goes to say before populism reached global heights, Liberians have been voting individuals with no consciousness to lead the country.
Of Looming Dictatorship
In the locus classicus, the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, which is an authoritative literature on the leadership decay which rocked France in the 1800s, Karl Marx asserted the following: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Although Marx wrote those words some hundred years ago, but they so aptly describe the current tragedy in a nation which is regarded as the trouble child of West Africa: Liberia.
Under six months at the helm of authority in Liberia, President George M. Weah is bent on replicating his soccer genius on the political scene of the homeland. In the game of soccer, he is famous for the right reasons, breaking the glass ceiling and holding the distinction for being the only African to have won the World Best Title in 1995. While he may have won himself a great feat in the arena of soccer, unfortunately, in politics, the contrary is being seen, leading to the conclusion that the homeland is on the path of gloom and doom. He is set to become one of the most corrupt African leaders.
In Africa, tragic historical figures share the same characteristics: love for display and design with the aim of naming everything after themselves. Like former President William V.S. Tubman before him, President Weah has embarked on this venture. The first attempt was to change the name of the first Saturday monthly cleaning up of the city of Monrovia from ‘Mary Broh Day’ to ‘Weah for cleaning city.’ On top of that, the supposedly military hospital which is under construction has been named the 14th military hospital, in honor of Mr. Weah’s # 14 jersey.
Studies have shown that certain factors indicate that the current political executive is on the abyss of slipping into dictatorship. One of such factors is the deliberate disregard for the rule of law. The second one is the personalization of the leadership of the country by the president. Another one is the silencing of critical voices, and a vicious struggle to silence the independent press. All these symptoms have been manifesting itself one after another. The latest being the deliberate refusal of the Weah administration to conduct the by-elections in two of Liberia’s fifteen counties as the result of the election of Mr. Weah and his vice president to the presidency and vice presidency of the republic respectively.
Of Implacable Scandal
From his actions, it is not too far for the world to stumble over the fact that the constructing of three state-of-the-art houses by President George Weah, which he demolished under six months into his first term, will make the Nklandla scandal a child’s play. The Weah regime has the smell and trappings of a scandal-plagued regime. It is all but certain that his administration is poised to sink the homeland deep into the abyss.
According to a research done by the Center for Policy and Research (CePAR), the ill-fated Elton Finance PTE Limited- Government of Liberia Loan Agreement is a ‘smells of financial odor.’ The report of the local think tank revealed Elton has been struck off from the Singaporean business arena since January 10, 2017. The report added that given that the US$ 536.4M will be given to the government in approximately 110 days, the tendency for elements within the GOL to plunder such funds or divert it to other activities is rife, as the raw cash will be placed in an account in the Central Bank of Liberia.
Under six months, one can clearly say Liberia doesn’t have a government. It essentially has a national scandal which masquerades as a government. Too many scandals and mishaps have being happening like water oozing out of a concentrated with a frenzy of rage. Whether it is the proposed ill-fated US$536 million Elton loan with the government, or the proposed criminal US$ 426 million EBOMAF Group loan deal with the government, or the private jet saga involving President Weah—it is thus clear that the regime and corruption are one and the same.
The Executive Mansion has revealed, in an act of quid pro quo, that the regime is entering into a pre-finance loan agreement in the tone of US$ 426 million with the EBOMAF Group — company owned and operated by Mr. Mahamadou Bonkoungou, the man who lend Ambassador Weah his private plane. Such news comes barely after days of mounting criticism by the public against President Weah for flying a luxurious private jet while the people live in mystery and agony. If this is not a classic case of conflict of interest than this writer doesn’t know what is.
Section 9. 1 of Liberia’s Code of Conduct states: “Public officials and Employees of Government shall not receive nor encourage the giving any form of bribe or casual gift in connection with the performance of his or her official duties, whether for himself or herself or members of his or her family or any other benefits that could have any influence on his or her professional approach to issues and the discharge of his or her official duties. This shall not include gifts given during traditional ceremonies and celebrations, and fees paid for Lobbying. The legislature shall enact laws for the regulation of lobbying activities.”
Article 62 of Liberia’s Constitution states: “The President and the Vice-President may be removed from office by impeachment for treason, bribery and other felonies, violation of the Constitution or gross misconduct.”
The The Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia in case bordering on bribery—Andrew et al V Gardner et al; 10 LLR 389 (1951) held that, “Bribery involves a promise to give, or an acceptance of money or other things of value. Almost anything may serve as a bribe as long as it is sufficient value in the eyes of the person bribed to influence his official conduct.”
This attitude of President George Weah who lavished his football fortune on pomp and pageantry was predicted by savvy political commentators. It was said that for a man with a taste for extravagant lifestyle which led him to squandering his wealth on jamboree and exotic parties, winning the presidency of the homeland is akin to winning a lotto to sudden wealth. The nouveaux pauvre is keen on sucking the national treasury to make up for old dates and settle his bills. The Liberian taxpayers are expected to shoulder such burden.
Suffice it to mean when an individual with no discipline to manage wealth finds it, such person uses it with reckless abandon. An illustration of how President George Weah has a reckless appetite to misuse wealth can be liken to our illiterate compatriots who are engaged in an open-pit mining of precious minerals such as gold and diamond. Due to the fact that a lot of them find the wealth they didn’t create, their knack for profligate display can be seen. This is an instructive illustration of how President George M Weah is proceeding. A corrupt former AC Milan man with a peasant worldview who has the penchant for chasing money and having fine time.
Change or Chain?
There can be no palpable metaphor to describe the nexus between President Weah and the masses of the people who floated with the fantasy that his ascent to the presidency would mark the era of progress for them than the mention of the Frankenstein monster. Far from the assumption of some of his die-hard followers, the homeland looks like a vale of tears. Out of the people emerges a monster which is set to devour them, dashing their hope and moving in a complete opposite direction, marking the true era of brazen deceit and wholesale plunder.
It is all becoming clear by the day that the Weah experiment is a massive failure and terminal nightmare. The rot is so putrid and offensive that one wonders whether this regime will last any longer. But the people didn’t detect this because they felt that Weah had the magic wand to solve the complex socio-economic crisis which has plagued the nation.
Of scandal, vulgar theft, and lousy material display is the apt characterization of this regime. In its infancy, potential is high that it is poised to outdo the sordid records of the erstwhile regimes before it. In just about six months, the regime is utter useless and completely naked. Sadly, there is nothing so worse than having the wretched personality presiding over the homeland. Expect scandals, corruption, and backdoor deals.
Kiadii studies Political Science with emphasis in Public Administration at the University of Liberia. He is the Secretary General of the Movement for Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA). You can reach him through Cell#: +233552176627, or [email protected].