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George Weah won, but are we serious about our politics or the status quo?

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh           George Manneh Weah

 

 

George Manneh Oppong Weah finally won a senate seat in Montserrado County. He did not only crush his main rival, presidential son Robert A. Sirleaf, who ran conveniently and unsuccessfully as an independent candidate. Weah won convincingly by a whopping 79.6 percent to Sirleaf’s 26.1 percent.

With voter turnout very low reportedly at 23.6 percent (11.484) in the nation’s most populous county with a population of over a million inhabitants, tells me many things.

Possible reasons could be: a) voter apathy b) the Liberian people are still mourning the loss of their relatives and loved ones from Ebola, and are unprepared for any election c) President Sirleaf’s poor leadership, nepotism, her poor response to her initial handling of the Ebola crisis and d) her grown children’s aggressive involvement in the country’s economy and politics, are turnoff for most Liberians.

I was never onboard for the cancelled October senatorial election, and I wasn’t onboard either for the December 20, 2014 senatorial election either.

In fact I applauded in a previous article the Supreme Court’s earlier decision to suspend the October senatorial election until the Liberian people are fully prepared for it. For that same Supreme Court to come back later to walk forward and backward by allowing these elections to go on is appalling.

Why have elections – any election when the citizens are not ready and prepare for it? The low voter turnout proves my point about the nation’s unreadiness, and the Liberian people being unprepared in the wake of the Ebola virus.

In the wake of the deadly Ebola virus that devastated the country and killed thousands of our relatives and loved ones, I just honestly thought it was too early to have national elections when the people of Liberia are still hurting and mourning, with some still finding it very difficult to find a day’s meal or send their kids to school.

After all, national elections as a civic duty shouldn’t occur when the citizens are stressed out, are mourning, and when a national crisis uproots and devastates the lives of those citizens.

So when the nation’s political leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf whom I often disagrees with politically for her lack of leadership, and who heads the Ebola Task Force demand that those same citizens not congregate in large numbers, not travel from point A to point B because of Ebola so as not to spread the deadly virus, it is wise that those people listen to protect their lives and the lives of others.

However, for Weah’s throng of loyal supporters, this victory defines their candidate’s social and political journey – from being the best soccer player in the world in his previous life, to one who ran for president in 2005 and lost, vice president in 2011 and also lost, to finally winning something – a seat in the Liberian senate in 2014, says a lot about Weah’s journey to perhaps somewhere politically.

Weah’s persistence also says a lot about the man’s dogged determination by giving credence to the phrase, ‘three’s a charm.’

Even though I am not a supporter, kudos to Weah for his senate victory and his marathon efforts for political office, which should not be taken lightly because it takes courage and heart-wrenching toughness to run for any political office, let alone running three times and counting for any political office.

However, another candidate who truly showed persistence, and charmed his people to finally win a seat in the Liberian senate is Conmany Wesseh.

Mr. Wesseh won his RiverGee County seat by 26.1 percent of the total votes, after trying unsuccessfully twice. Voter turnout in RiverGee County was 34.0 percent. Superintendent Daniel Johnson, who should have won decisively like his counterpart J. Milton Teahjay did in Sinoe County (who also lived with his people as Superintendent), came a distant third with 15.3 percent. Former footballer, Jonathan ‘Boy Charles’ Sogbie was Wesseh’s main challenger. Mr. Sogbie got 16.8 percent of the votes.

For a man of Conmany Wesseh’s stature with such national clout and name recognition to loose a senate seat in his home county for a record two times, deserves our individual attention and analysis to really know why it took him that long to defeat lesser known candidates, what did he do right this time, and why did his people decide to give him a chance by electing this time?

Well, let me get back to George Manneh Oppong Weah’s victory quickly before I loose my train of thought, because he supposedly is the focus of this article.

Now that George Manneh Oppong Weah is “Senator Weah,” is he ready for the Liberian senate?

I posed this same question in another piece that I wrote close to two years ago.

The truth is, I doubt that George Weah is ready for the Liberian senate, or is even ready to be President of Liberia.

Why?

Weah (not the celebrity and iconic former football player), but Weah the politician hasn’t shown any leadership in his increasingly indiscipline, acrimonious and caustic CDC political party.

Weah hasn’t shown leadership on the national level on any burning national issues, and hasn’t shown any decision-making skills, knowledge of politics and the intellectual heft that comes with politics when one is in the middle of competing interests and issues.

For Weah, however, winning the Montserrado County senate seat that includes central Monrovia, the nation’s capital, Bushrod Island and surrounding areas is just the beginning of the head wind that awaits him.

And he must learn quickly and act quickly and decisively to cement his place not as a celebrity (care taker) senator, but as a serious legislator – a visionary legislator who is ready to stamp his mark on jobs creation, education, economic development, law and order, infrastructure development and the environment, etc, to be taken seriously.

Weah’s success on these critical issues or some of them in the Liberian senate could give him credibility and elevate him and his near-messianic status to the Liberian presidency.

However troubling is, with the senate victory in 2014 now out of the way, Oppong is poised to spend just two years in the Liberian senate; that is if his plan or strategy works well for him to run for the Liberian presidency in 2017.

This thing about Weah, the transitory Senator to be and President in waiting will be in the senate briefly to learn governance and leadership and then run for president in 2017, says a lot about some Liberians who want this untested man to be waiting in the wing to be President of Liberia, as if the Liberian presidency is an inherited royal throne awaiting a singular individual to grow up.

With stratospheric popularity that often mesmerizes political opponents, and also scares would-be rivals that they are willing to abandon their own political party in a heart beat for Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change political party, certainly encourages Weah’s supporters to believe he is the leader the country has been looking for in over a century of its existence as a sovereign nation.

Let’s learn to be realistic, folks, for our country’s sake and for the next generation.

 

 

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