As an academic, I travel a lot to attend conferences and workshops to share my views and to listen to others in my respective field do the same. One of the things that have struck me on my many travels, especially across Europe, is the legacy of George Oppong Manneh Weah.
I cannot count the number of times that colleagues, especially French and Italians, ask me ‘Hey, how is George doing as president?’ Couple those questions with some of my favorite African songs of the 90s like “Karolina” by Awilo Lumungba, and hearing him and other artists say, as they sing, “George Weah, waka waka,” I am reminded that this man was, and still is for many, an inspiration. Just to further the point of George Weah the footballer being an inspiration to many, I remember the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and listening to Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand naming legends of the game and Thierry saying that he had never seen strikers do the things that ‘Mr. George’ did at Monaco.
George Weah, for many across the world, was the epitome of what they would aspire to become. This man was capable of dragging an entire team of 11 men to victory on his own. You don’t have to take my words for it. Just watch his goal for Milan against Verona in 1996. Manneh collected the ball in his own 18-yard box, ran the length of the football pitch, dribbling about five players, and scoring a goal. Clearly, the ability to do the extraordinary is in his DNA and might even be a reason for his election as president of the Republic of Liberia in December 2017. I believe that the fact that he was able to leave the slums and conquer the world made many voters believe that even with all the odds against him; he could do the same for Liberia.
So far, ‘Mr. George’ has failed to live up to most of the expectations of the Liberian people. It was clear in the recent defeats for his party in the December 8 elections. To his credit, he did not try to rig the elections and promptly accepted the will of the people. However, I can see, and he needs to see, that his legacy is failing fast, as he is being labeled as corrupt, inept, and many other names.
He delayed in promoting transparency by disclosing his assets and even when he did so did not make the details publicly known, making bogus claims of concerns over the safety of his family. He has proven unable to rid the government of individuals who are clearly incompetent and are doing more harm than good. He promised in his inaugural address to tap into the mental wealth of the Liberian diaspora but has failed to attract anyone worth any salt. To crown all of that, he has not promoted Liberian ownership of the economy as promised or made corruption public enemy number one.
It is not too late for the president, as far as I can see. His Excellency would do well to listen to Rep. Acarous Gray of Montserrado’s eighth district and a member of his political party, who called on the president to start to cut ties with those who are bent on enriching themselves to the detriment of the Liberian people and his legacy.
I believe it was Chief Cyril A. Allen who said some time ago that there is no Taylor man or Ellen man or Weah man. He encouraged the president to seek out qualified Liberians to occupy key roles to help move the country forward. It is time for the president to rely on what he knows best: football. At half time, if the team is losing, managers do not send out the same players or use the same formation that was causing them to lose in the first place. They change course, try something new, bring new players into the game and try to improve their position.
I have said many times that all well-meaning Liberians, myself included, love George Weah the footballer. However, it is difficult to continue to love someone that is clearly hurting you and is unwilling to change.
Mr. President, we now know, because of Sen. Darius Dillion, that there are honest people in Liberia. I suggest you start by bringing some of them into the government irrespective of their political affiliations. Your friends keep telling us that you love our country. It is about time that you start to demonstrate that love by doing the right things for the country. But, if not for the country, do it for your failing legacy.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah