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George Weah: A Patriot or Pariah?

Someone once said that if you want to know a person’s true character, give them power.

The great British play right, William Shakespeare, partly supported this view when he wrote that “There is no art to tell the mind’s construction in the face”, meaning that appearances can be very deceptive, and you cannot tell the character of a person just by looking at their face.

I have quoted all of the above as a prelude to an indepth look at a character who has not only surprised but shocked many Liberians and the world. That person is world football legend George Manneh “Oppong” Weah.

Just a few years back, “Oppong” was a name that conjured success, love, innocence and unparalleled patriotism.  Shot into stardom from a lowly semi-illiterate slum kid to a two-time World Best Footballer, George refused to bow to the temptation of turning his back on his destitute war-torn nation, Liberia.

Between spells of respite from his hectic football schedules, George lavishly invested both his time and money into helping needy Liberians at home and in refugee camps in the diaspora. The love was easily reciprocated by the Liberian populace who practically worshipped Oppong, making him the most popular human being in Liberia.

New Direction

So, when ex-warlord President Charles Taylor announced at one point that George Weah was aiming to become President of Liberia, Liberians instantly rejected the claim, accusing the feared Liberian leader of being jealous of George Weah’s popularity, and was seeking to destroy him.

A few years later, Charles Taylor’s suspicions were confirmed when George Weah formed a new political entity known as Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) with himself as Standard Bearer, running for President in the 2005 Elections in Liberia.

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It was a very surprising move, for almost nobody inside or outside Liberia saw George Weah as political material. Many people assumed that this was not George Weah’s own decision, and that George was being pushed by greedy failed politicians, including G. Baccus  Matthews, who wanted to use George Weah’s popularity to project themselves into power.

First Surprise

Not surprisingly, George captured the imagination of Liberians, especially the youth, who threw their weight so heavily behind him that CDC rallies practically brought Monrovia to a complete halt. Predictably, George Weah took a decisive lead in the first round of the polls, pushing experienced politicians behind with a wide margin. The political novice seemed set for a landslide victory to the presidency!

But as the saying goes, “Man proposes, and God disposes”. It was not God’s will for this politically unprepared semi-illiterate youth to become President of “Africa’s Oldest Republic”. In fact a year before the 2005 Elections, a renowned Liberian Seer, Prophet Zor, had prophesied during a deliverance crusade in Banjor, Lower Virginia, that a woman would become President of Liberia and this woman would lead the country for two terms. Most people attached no significance to the prophecy because at that time, there was no serious sign of any serious female contender for the presidency!

But God’s real word can never go unfulfilled (although there have been many false prophecies, including one by a group of Christian leaders who had claimed that C’llr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP) was the one chosen by God to become President of Liberia).

As the second round of the 2005 elections drew closer, Liberians began to wake up to the reality of George Weah’s many limitations, including his low level of education and lack of political experience.  Many Liberians, including a good number of “CDCians” began to realize that while the loved George Weah as a football hero, he did not have the qualities to be entrusted with the destiny of a fragile nation recovering from nearly one and half decades of turmoil. Further, many “CDCians” emboldened by the CDC’s decisive lead in the first round, became complacent of victory, believing falsely that the scores in the first round would be taken over to the second round so that they didn’t need too many votes again to win the election!

Bad Loser

So, when the second round came, George Weah found himself tailing behind “Iron Lady” Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the Unity Party! Having programmed themselves entirely for victory, George Weah and his “CDCians” were not prepared to accept defeat! Crying that they had been cheated, the “CDCians”took to the streets in a massive demonstration that paralyzed and kept Monrovia on edge for several days. It took persistent interventions by many groups and prominent individuals, including ECOWAS and South African President Nelson Mandela, to persuade the “CDCians” to accept the election results for the sake of peace.

The same scenario appears to have been recreated this year with the CDC again rejecting election results and claiming “massive fraud in elections that everybody else, including international and local observers as well as the Carter Center, ECOWAS and the African Union, have all declared to have been free, fair and transparent.

As a former international soccer star, George Weah should know that in every game, one must expect to either win or lose. To refuse to accept results of a game after the referee, linesmen and even spectators confirm a winner, is very poor sportsmanship.

Dangerous Trend

In pursuit of their claim to victory in an election that our own institutions and the whole world have certified to have been won by someone else, George Weah is turning himself into a pariah – a despicable person who is to be despised by everyone.  He and his Gang have committed many untold atrocities. They have thrown petrol bombs into people’s homes, threatened many others and even physically attacked many people.

Not satisfied with this level of insanity, they have poured into the streets in defiance of the law and challenged the security forces. In a supreme effort to avoid confrontation that could play into the hands of these detractors who are desperate to plunge our country into chaos, the government has turned a blind eye, hoping that they will eventually come to their senses.

Security intelligence, coupled with information from inside sources as well as voluntary confessions by key CDC defectors, indicate that these are not ordinary protests, but the initial steps in a campaign of terror that George Weah and his CDC inner corps have prepared to unleash on Liberians!  It is now evident that they are determined to engage in a campaign of terror, and their participation in negotiations with the ruling party are only a way of buying time while they train and deploy their forces for battle.

The desperation to get power at all cost has dramatically transformed the previously innocent slum kid who used to be willing to sacrifice anything – his riches, his talents, and his time – for “Mama Liberia”. Overnight, this peaceful youth has become a monster who is now so desperate for power that he is willing to split Liberia in half, and to turn our “Sweet Liberia” into a “Bitter Liberia”!

Sick and Tired

I am not a politician, nor am I interested in politics beyond going to the polls on election days to cast my ballot for the candidate of my choice. But like most ordinary Liberians, I believe that there is a time for elections, there is a time for election results, and there is a time for our people and our country to move on with daily life.

Those who know me from internet discussions and debates, can vouch that I have no fish to fry in politics one way or the other. Having performed my civic duty of casting my vote, I expect the winners of the elections to take their seats and lead our country until we get to the next elections. I will not take kindly to anyone who thinks that because they didn’t win the elections, the whole country must stop until they either get power by other means, or die in the process.

No, nobody is going to hold this country hostage. Period. Liberia is a Republic in which our leaders are elected through popular ballot. Our country is not a Monarchy where the next King or queen is determined by a pre-determined pattern of inheritance where when the right person doesn’t get the crown, they take to the bush and launch a war to get back their inheritance!

Liberia doesn’t belong to any one Liberian –  whether that person is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, George Weah or Winston Tubman.  Liberia belongs to all Liberians, and our leaders at any given time are those whom we have freely chosen through the ballot. If anyone feels that they have been cheated in elections, the place to go is not in the bush with guns, but to the courts with evidence to prove their case! Any attempt to circumvent that clearly defined process, will not be tolerated.

The National Elections Commission (NEC), which is the sole body clothed with the authority to determine the winners and losers of elections, has spoken. The Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of justice under the Liberian legal system, has spoken. International as well as our own local observers have spoken. ECOWAS and the African Union have spoken. The United Nations Secretary-General has spoken, the UN Security Council has spoken.  They are all unanimous in their findings that Liberia’s elections were free, fair and transparent, and that the winner of the 2011 was Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her Unity Party.

If, in spite of all this overwhelming judgment, Mr. George Weah and Mr. Winston Tubman still feel cheated, the only place left to take their case is to the Almighty God who is the final arbiter of justice on earth and in heaven.

But to take our country hostage and keep the entire nation in the bondage of perpetual fear and intimidation, is totally unacceptable. We have had enough! Our cup is full. We are now prepared to fight back!  

Solemn Vow

As an ordinary businessman who has devoted a substantial portion of my life and resources to ensuring that our country has peace and remains stable for our children to go to school and have a better life than we had, I solemnly swear today that I will fight to my last breath any individual or group that attempts to undermine or disrupt the peace that so many in Liberia and the outside world have sacrificed so much to get for us.

Let the word go forth to Mr. George Weah and Mr. Winston Tubman and their cronies, that enough is enough. If they are not ready to allow us to have peace, they should prepare themselves to face the wrath of we ordinary Liberians who want to put the elections behind us and move on with our lives. Let them remember the saying that “A child who vows to prevent their mother from sleeping must also be prepared to have a sleepless night”. 

I hereby warn our power-hungry compatriots and their cronies that if they get on the street one more time for any demonstration over the 2011 elections, I and other concerned Liberians will mobilize all peace loving Liberians to get into the street to have them removed!

Let these agents of doom know from today’s date that there are more good people in Liberia than bad people. If they think that they can pull crowds into the streets to destabilize our country, let them know that we who love peace can pull bigger crowds and if it ever comes to a show-down, they will lose hands down!   A word to the wise, I believe, is quite sufficient.

Tamba Yarsiah is a private Liberian businessman who is passionate about issues that affect the peace and stability of “Mama Liberia”. He has contributed to several internet debates of such issues. He can be contacted at: tambayarsiah@yahoo.com

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