EDITORIAL: The Weah-Jewel Strain Is Unhealthy For Liberia
LATELY, THERE HAVE BEEN a lot of noise surrounding the relationship between President George Manneh Weah and his Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor.
THE LATEST involves a leaked audio recording on which the Superintendent of Bong County, Madam Esther Walker, who happens to be a long-time aide to the Vice President is heard narrating an ordeal she says suggest that President Weah was unhappy that the nation’s highest traditional honor was bestowed on Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor – a ceremony that led to the dismissal of the county’s Dakpanah (heads of chiefs in the country).
WHETHER IT IS A COINCIDENCE OR NOT, the fact of the matter is that Chief Moses Suakollie, the Dakpanah, and Arthur Kulah, native superintendent in Bong County (head of chiefs in Bong County) lost their jobs, following a high-level traditional meeting headed by Assistant Minister of Culture at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Joseph B. Jangar, and Chief Zanzar Karwor, chair of the chiefs and elders of the National Traditional Council of Liberia in the county.
MADAM WALKER is heard on the audio obtained by FrontPageAfrica, suggesting that the President was likely to dismiss a few traditional leaders over the row.
THE SUPERINTENDENT is heard on the recording explaining to her aides that she had attended a party organized by First Lady Clar Weah after President Weah delivered his second Annual Message. According to her, it was at the President’s Jamaica Resort, along the Roberts International Airport highway, where at least three of Pres. Weah’s trusted lieutenants – Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and Minister of State Nathaniel McGill were seated.
HOURS AFTER THE recording went viral, the Executive Mansion announced the superintendent’s suspension for time indefinite.
THE SUPERINTEDENT’S SUSPENSION was preceded by a Facebook posting from the government’s chief spokesman, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, who issued a word of caution that the superintendent’s days in the government were numbered.
THE MINISTER DID NOT STOP there. He went on to accuse the Superintendent of being a liar and a gossiper, even insinuating that VP Taylor was her Puppet-master. “Bong County will soon have a new superintendent. Since you want to be a lying gossiper, we will send you back to your “puppet-master,” the minister wrote.
ALL THIS on the heels of a first year that saw heightened strains between the pair resulting into distrust that VP Taylor has personal ambitions to become President and aides to President Weah propelling that to deepening animosity.
PRIOR TO A TRIP TO REYKJAVIK, Iceland last year to attend the Women Political Leaders Global Forum in the Icelandic capital, the vice president ran into trouble when reports suggested that she was denied access to the President who placed a call to her later that she should return home because she did not get his approval for the trip.
THE VP HAD REPORTEDLY gone to the President’s office to inform him of her travel to Reykjavik, Iceland to participate in the 2018 Women Leaders Global Forum which runs from November 26 to 29 and her travel to Accra, Ghana for an international health conference.
TO HER SURPRISE, FPA has learned, the VP was kept waiting for nearly two hours before being told by the President’s Chief of Staff, Finda Bondoo that the President was too busy to see her. The VP, according to sources, reportedly left a file detailing her travels with the Chief of Staff and asked her to kindly relay the message to the President. The VP, prior to that visit had reportedly been denied multiple requests to see the President, according to sources.
TO THE VP’S SURPRISE, FPA has learned, the President reportedly called her while in Accra, ordering her to return home at once, declaring that he had no knowledge of her travel and would face consequences upon her return to the country.
THE VP, in an Instagram post, explained that she chose to accept the tantamount role of standing next to, then the would-be president of the great Republic of Liberia knowing it would not be easy. “It was not a decision I entered into lightly. My agreement was not only with George Manneh Weah but also with and for the people of Liberia.”
IN A LATER POST, the VP, in a cryptic Instagram post, channeled former US President Roosevelt, alluding to her current ordeal. Roosevelt in one of his famous speeches on fascism and democracy said: “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power…. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.”
THE FEUD BETWEEN the pair was further heightened by an accusation from Rep. James Biney, former head of the National Patriotic Party, who is a close confidante to President Weah, that VP Taylor has presidential aspirations.
THE VP HAS continued to reassure the President of her loyalty. “I will continue to support him and hold him to his words laid out in the pro-poor agenda for development strategy and for the courage of selecting a female Vice President especially in Africa where women are still marginalized for standing tall and strong. For recognizing my abilities to be his able deputy, President Weah’s choice of a Female Vice President sends a loud message to the world that male champions are here and are playing an active role in closing the gender gap with women in leadership. Encourage our women and girls to be leaders.”
THE ISSUE HAS ALREADY drawn the attention of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who told FrontPageAfrica in an interview last year, the reported confusion between the pair undermines peace and security and will instill fears in the citizens as he urged the President and his vice to face the reality that they both need to work together instead of ignoring their respective duties.
SAID VP BOAKAI: “Sometimes people have to face the reality, Jewel is a lawyer and former lawmaker. She knows the role of the Vice President is to preside over the Senate and assist the President. I do believe that there is a need for harmony and there is a need for people to see that they are working together. I must admit that the President and I got together very well. She will never say she and I had problem and with all due respect we work together and she respected me because I behave as such.”
THE FORMER VP said when he served as Vice President under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he stayed in his lane. “I knew how to stay in my lane; we work harmoniously. I wish that it is the condition and there is a need to encourage them to do so,” he advised.
FORMER VP BOAKAI ALSO took issue with attempts to wrestle the National Lotteries away from VP Taylor. Last year, President Weah submitted a bill to the Legislature seeking reduce some of his Vice President’s oversights, including the National Lottery.
FORMER VP BOAKAI frowned on the action which he says could lead to the usurpation of the functions of the Vice President’s Office. “Usurping my function never occurred between former President Sirleaf and I, in fact, it was the President, who gave me those responsibilities.”
AFTER MORE THAN a decade of civil war, and a successful democratic transfer of power, Liberia is at a threshold of enormous possibilities. Lingering feuding between a President and Vice President is unhealthy of Liberia’s burgeoning democracy.
THIS IS WHY WE HOPE and pray that President Weah and his VP should find common ground for the good of Liberia.
TOO MANY surrogates with selfish agendas are on the prowl to create confusion and animosity where it is really unnecessary. Others are totting news between the pair and sowing seeds of distrusts that if not repaired could cause a leadership crisis in the not too distant future.
PRESIDENT WEAH chose a vice president he felt was a strong woman who could compliment him and help him win votes. Thus, there is no room for errors in a nation facing an uphill battle to secure its democracy and restore a semblance of economic sanity.
THE LINGERING feud sends a bad signal to the world and creates a messy environment for potential investors to explore.