George Manneh Weah (in blue), the unprepared footballer, seeking to lead a nation with huge challenges
UNITED KINGDOM: It is quite evident; ex-footballer George Weah wants political power in Liberia. Weah, best known as FIFA’s Player of the Year in 1995, entered the political arena in 2005 and ran for president of his native country. Though he defeated 21 other candidates to win the vote in the first round, he lost in the second round to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former World Bank economist.
Back then, Weah’s supporters said his lack of formal education was the reason for his loss. So, in 2006, Weah decided to head back to high school for a diploma. The following year, he enrolled in college – according to his critics, these were all done in an insistent quest for political power.
In 2007, when asked by the Associated Press in Paynesville about his lack of education, Weah said, “these are ever-since pictures, I am now in my senior year and by God’s help I am graduating from college very soon” – referring to his enrollment at DeVry University, an American for-profit college.
Recently, Donald Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs in the U.S. Department of State, stated, ‘Liberians need a president who is well-equipped to lead the country towards a peaceful and prosperous future.’
Liberia, which has come out of years of fighting and instability following more than a decade of civil war, is still overwhelmed with wrecked industries, horrendous roads and limited electricity, especially outside the capital Monrovia.
The need to find a competent successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is far greater today than at any time in Liberia’s history.
In 2011, George Weah’s lack of political knowledge did not minimize his quest for political power. Since his loss in 2005, Weah felt his decision to get an education prepared him for future political challenges.
“I was seeking again to go to the convention so that I can run on the people’s ticket, and I have been petitioned to run,” Weah said back in 2010. “That shows I am running again.”
“I like George Weah but not as Liberia’s president”
In an unusual move, Liberians saw a former presidential candidate, George Weah, run for vice president under the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) presidential candidate Winston Tubman. Although he was armed with a high school diploma and college degrees, a local businesswoman noted, “I like George Weah but not as Liberia’s president.”
Weah’s young supporters want him in power because they believe he cares for the youths and if elected president he will open a soccer academy. In a country with one of the worst patient to doctor ratio, many Liberians see the popularity of a footballer far less important than the need for competent and experienced leaders like a Joseph N. Boakai or Charles W. Brumskine who can rebuild the healthcare delivery systems.
In 2014, Weah gave President Sirleaf his resignation letter from his symbolic role as Peace Ambassador, to run for Senator. The ex-footballer was appointed Peace Ambassador in December 2012 after Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee resigned the post, accusing Sirleaf of nepotism – a charge Weah simply ignored in his quest for political power. Today, Globe Afrique’s sources within the Trump administration sees President Sirleaf’s support for Weah and especially Taylor, a betrayal of trust and a risk of future chaos – considering the risk of Taylor constitutionally ascending to the presidency if something were to happen to Weah.
In 2017, the headlines continue to be the same – ex-footballer George Weah is running for political power (again) despite criticisms of his superficial political track record. To address his critics, Weah stated, “Everything I do, everything I touch is successful. I co-sponsor bills and I represent my people well.”
His critics have lambasted him for his protracted absenteeism in the legislature. Some suspect, as president, Weah will become a jet-setting playboy and will seldom be seen in Liberia – something he has enjoyed as a U.S. and French citizen.
In all, some Liberians believe if Weah were to lose the 2017 Presidential election, he may run again in 2023 due to his insatiable appetite for political power.