MONROVIA- George Weah, the Liberian born international soccer star seems to be the only one standing between the old and new political orders in Liberia. Ever since the soccer legend launched a presidential bid in 2004, the political landscape has been obsessed with him. He has given well known and established political actors a run for their money and made many of them to rethink their political participations.
At first, when George Weah received a petition from a group of Liberians in September 2004 to contest the presidency, many political actors and pundits considered it a joke. But when in November 2004 he announced to the country and the world that he would accept the petition and contest the October 2005 elections, the size of the crowd that attended the acceptance program sent a loud message deep into the spine of the political class. It was then that they knew that George Weah was a force to reckon with.
George Weah, prior to his 2004 political move had not been active in politics of any kind. The closest he came was in the same 2004 when he wanted to contest the presidency of the national football governing body, the Liberia Football Association (LFA). But the usual political maneuvering disqualified him from the race.
Though Weah would go on to win the first round of the elections in 2005 by a considerable margin in a 22-candidate field race, he would suffer fate by losing in the run-off to internationally known political icon, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. If nothing else, the fact that George Weah, a new comer to politics would finish first in the first round of the October 2005 elections signaled the beginning of the end of politics as Liberians have known it over the years.
Weah’s performance in the October 2005 elections has challenged and transformed everything we knew about politics in Liberia. Those who felt that they had properly prepared themselves for national political leadership by being student council presidents or holding high positions in government or in civil society organizations had all come to realize that the Liberian people were looking for more than that.
After losing the 2005 elections, George Weah could have easily returned to a life of leisure, exploiting his international celebrity status for endorsements, prestige, and so on. But being determined and having the burning desire to adequately prepare himself for the future, he went back to school to get his GED as he did not finish high school due to a professional soccer contract he signed with Tonerre Kalara Club of Cameroon in 1988 to help take care of his family. Imagine that! How many professional international superstars — soccer or otherwise — would go back to get their GED, receive a college degree and then master’s?
Now that President Sirleaf has served her first full six-year term and about to complete the second, George Weah has again decided to contest. Though many known political actors had coveted George Weah being running mate on a ticket with them, Weah decided that this time he would contest as a presidential candidate.
From all indications, his candidacy has sent shocking waves to the political class in Liberia and some West African leaders as well. Many West African leaders are beginning to worry that if George Weah is successful, many of them would have to contend with similar situations at home where there are well known football stars who have impacted the lives of ordinary people. Maybe these leaders have the right to be concerned but also the ordinary people have the right to send a message to the political class: “If you don’t look after us properly, we would take one of ours and put them in the seat.”
Liberia was ruled by the Americo-Liberian power elite for 133 years before the military coup led by Samuel Doe in 1980. The Americo-Liberian dominance was not by accident but by design and Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been a little more than a continuation of that legacy. However, George Weah represents something new, something completely different – a genuine first of its kind.
In 2005 the political class tried to use fear tactics, rumors and George Weah’s lack of education as a weapon to blunt him. It did not work though they got the result they wanted. Now with a master’s degree in tow, the political class will now only have fear mongering left in their grab bag of tricks. You can bet on it.
But this time, it won’t work. A Weah presidency will be a clarion call to the diminishing old order political class and a wake-up call to a new day. Miracles will not suddenly fall from heaven by the stroke of a magic wand, but you can rest assured that for the first time in the history of the Republic, a young man who was born in abject poverty and never forgot that suffering, will rise to create a new paradigm. It will be a paradigm where the good people of Liberia can stand up and fight against the get-grab-and-go-fast mentality that has been part and parcel of the Liberian nation since its founding.
George Weah cannot do it alone. It is the Liberians, the ordinary, the gifted, the privileged, the poor who must come together to finally but gradually begin rebuilding Liberia on solid ground. George Weah represents someone we can trust. And if there is one thing that can sum up or be the cornerstone that when he says corruption is public enemy number one, he will mean it by doing everything within the law to eliminate it; instead of going 12 years into an administration whereby that public statement has been universally derided as a joke.
W.E. Saydee- Tarr
Chair/Media & Communications
Coalition for Democratic Change
Weah 2017 Presidential Campaign
Former National Secretary General CDC-USA 2010 – 2013
Founding National Communications Director/2005 – 2008
Congress for Democratic Change