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Why Have Debates When the Liberian Presidential Candidates are not Debating?

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh           


I watched the second Liberian presidential debate.

Truth is, it was boring.

Like the first debate, I came out even more disappointed with the moderators who did not do a good job of presenting themselves as knowledgeable and thoroughly prepared to take on the task before them.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the presidential candidates seemed like they were or are running for President of their senior high school class than vying for the presidency of a country with so much problems as Liberia is today.

Presidential candidates Joseph Boakai, Charles Brumskine, Benoni Urey, and of course, George Manneh Oppong Weah, did not show up at all for the second debate.

It was Alex Cummings, Mills Jones and MacDella Cooper’s time to soak in the limelight before a global audience.

Anyway, why have debates when the presidential candidates are not showing up to debate?

As usual, perennial presidential candidate George Weah, who hasn’t clearly articulated a sound domestic or foreign policy, but has clearly displayed a cult of personality, and hasn’t articulated a vision for the country that he desperately wants to govern, traveled out of the country to polish his so-called foreign policy chops by meeting with corrupt African dictators and other leaders elsewhere.

How can this guy, Weah, who believes in flattery continually and abruptly reject those presidential debates that would have allowed other sectors of the electorates to know him, and know what he wants to do for Liberia and the Liberian people?

Did Weah not know about these debates in advance, or he just got arrogant because he’s George Oppong Manneh Weah, the popular former football star who could be the next President of Liberia?

As is already known in Liberian politics, politicians in that lawless country are not accountable to the electorates, and will say and do whatever the individual wants to do, anyway.

Weah and the other absentee candidates displayed that arrogance when they refused to show up at the presidential debates.

Mr. Weah is not President of Liberia yet but his supporters are already bringing back the Tubman era idolized, worship image, and the “Happy Birthday” Tubman-style celebratory greetings that William V. S. Tubman, the nation’s longest-serving autocratic president popularized during his heinous reign.

“Happy Birthday, President Weah,” as in “Happy Birthday, President Tubman.”

George Weah’s selection of Charles Taylor’s wife, Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate was the nail in the coffin for me, and the last straw that actually collapsed the little respect I ever had for him.

Like my Kru-Krao people will say: “Weah say tor kon.”

Weah doesn’t have any sense.

Anyway, fast-forward to the recent presidential debate.

Mills Jones who did not show up for the first debate showed up this time; but was dull in his answers, too academic, too biographical, uninspiring and lacking solidity.

As a guy who oversaw the nation’s central bank, I expected Mills Jones to dominate the debate with substance and economic projections. And I also expected him to speak forcefully about creating jobs in a country that needs jobs for its many poor and unemployed citizens.

During a segment that dealt with the nation’s horrible economic crisis, one of the moderators blurted out without a clue that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was a “Harvard-trained economist.”

To his credit, however, Mills Jones quickly spotted the mistake and corrected the moderator, which the moderator stubbornly rejected.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf indeed studied economics and public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government from 1969-1971, and got her Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Alex Cummings showed why he got in the race in the first place; to challenge the status quo, and to also challenge institutional candidates like Weah, Jones, Boakai, Urey and Brumskine, one of whom unfortunately, could be President of Liberia after October 10.

With a strong managerial, administrative and global corporate background and his own money and experience, coupled with his understanding of hierarchies and huge bureaucracies, Cummings spoke with confidence, clarity and purpose, and displayed a true grit as one who understands Liberia’s problems, and is ready to roll his sleeves to find practical solutions to solving those problems.

The problem with Cumming’s candidacy, unfortunately, is his short time in Liberia to run for president, which seems politically convenient, nakedly ambitious, opportunistic and appears to be carpetbagging.

Another drawback for Cummings’ presidential run is the light that the corruption-plagued, 12-year failed tenure of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, another former global powerbroker, shone on him and his presidential run.

If Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former global financial expert cannot do it for Liberia in 12 years, can this other former global manager/vice president do it for Liberia?

Perception counts, my people.

If Alex Cummings doesn’t win the presidency this time, I will urge him to run in six years, during the next presidential election.

With name recognition, honesty, (untainted and uncorrupt), a competitive and serious game plan and hard work, he certainly can win the Liberian presidency in 2023 or 2024.

Madame Sirleaf’s past as a global financial executive who was going to rescue Liberia from its many problems, but failed, coupled with her questionable accomplishments as President of Liberia, shines light on Cummings’ own bona fides as an outside corporatist who wants to be President of Liberia, to rescue Liberia, because of his experience and stint at Coca Cola.

Joseph Boakai?

Joseph Boakai is inextricably tied to President Sirleaf’s waist, period.

The septuagenarian Boakai’s claim to the Liberian presidency is his 12-year working relationship with Madam Sirleaf in the Executive Mansion. Other than that, Boakai hasn’t shown any leadership, and hasn’t articulated a convincing reason why he should be President of Liberia.

Poor MacDella Cooper!

Macdella Cooper showed up at the second presidential debate and played her part as one of the candidates.

But did she make a dent in the minds of the electorates?

I doubt it seriously.


Category: Editorial, News Headlines

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