Liberians would not be scratching their heads over news that President George Manneh Weah is contemplating on remaining in office for three terms if the claim had not come from the President’s political buddy, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson of vote-rich Nimba County.
But Sen. Johnson, an insider of the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government and political buddy of President Weah, reportedly made the claim on Sunday, 25 October while preaching at his church in Paynesville City.
“When the referendum passes, this current six years is a zero year for us. After this one, President Weah is going for two more terms; that is the third term”, The NEW REPUBLIC, quoted the Senator to have said while preaching on his pulpit during worship.
Liberians go to national referendum in December to vote for reduction in the presidential term from six to five years; the Senate from nine to seven years, and the House of Representatives from six to four years, respectively after which Sen. Johnson said Mr. Weah would have an opportunity to make his case for a third term.
However, the Government of Liberia, including the Executive Mansion is not short of words in debunking the statement that seems to have kept many Liberians, including politicians looking over their shoulders, given current political realities in neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast, where leaders have gone beyond their constitutional tenures and are on their way to serving third terms, respectively.
The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathanial McGill has swiftly dismissed the claim as unfounded, saying that President Weah has no intention to remain in office for long – whatever that means. Under the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, Mr. Weah enjoys 12-year tenure in the presidency.
Minister McGill during a press briefing held at his residence on Tuesday said President Weah would do nothing to undermine the Constitution, as he [Weah] wants to provide leadership opportunity to younger generation of Liberians, and would not perpetuate himself in power.
Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Eugene Fahngon similarly joined McGill in dismissing Sen. Johnson’s allegation noting, “You want to be in office for a long time and you reducing your time already? That’s the actual fact. It’s not a secret. For the referendum, President Weah is saying my first term is six and I want my second term to be five and every other term after that is five. Our constitution is clear and it says two terms for president and we will respect that and if there is a need for a third term, you and I must agreed and that cannot be a secret.”
President Weah himself has not commented, but despite denials by the two cabinet ministers, a famous Liberian proverb says, ‘where there is smoke, there is fire.’ Besides, Senator Johnson is very close to President Weah. During the runoff presidential election in 2017, he took Mr. Weah on campaign trail to Nimba County and asked his kinsmen to elect the CDC leader to the presidency, which became successful.
Currently, he is the conduit between President Weah and job opportunities meant for the people of Nimba. Even prior to the election in Liberia, Sen. Johnson took Mr. Weah to his spiritual father Prophet T.B. Joshua in Nigeria for prayers to win the presidency.
How could someone like Sen. Johnson who have had such very close ties with Mr. Weah before and after the presidential election that brought the latter to power, without any strain in their political marriage, announced publicly that they are seriously considering seeking third term, and officials from the Executive, who are equally participating in the misrule of the State amid continuous citizens’ outcry, want the Liberian people to believe there is no such imagination? Liberians should shine their eyes and watch the writing on the wall.