By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
Public corruption is a huge problem in Liberia, even in Liberian football.
The Liberian Football Association (LFA), which is a part of the Liberian political, cultural and social landscape, is no exception regarding the issue of rampant corruption that enveloped the entire country over the years.
Liberians (God, bless their forgiving, loving and tolerant hearts), in the midst of enormous suffering are aware of corruption and the gross inequality they’ve encountered and experienced in their own country.
Liberians are also aware of the endless stories of corruption and incompetence that persistently dogged the Liberian Football Association and its Teflon president Musa Bility.
The recent story of alleged corruption in FIFA that led to the resignation of longtime President Sepp Blater, and the arrest of key football executives is a reason to investigate corruption in the Liberian Football Association, and if possible, arrest and prosecute President Musa Bility.
However, for the sake of the game of Liberian football, and to save the sport, Musa Bility must resign now!
One doesn’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that corruption and incompetence in the Liberian Football Association under President Musa Bility is well and alive, and has hindered growth in Liberian football.
From player development and training, player compensation, grooming and recruiting top-notch players and coaches, Lone Star’s dismal international performance and winning and losing ratio, construction of stadiums across the entire country, economic development in the areas where those stadiums are to be constructed, the LFA under Musa Bility’s leadership has failed miserably to deliver.
Off the field Musa Bility has been entangled in allegations of corruption. Remember RIA and the Ellen Corkrum alleged corruption saga, and the $190,800.00 tax payment he supposedly owed the Liberian government in taxes?
Bility was supposed to pay the Liberian government $47,700 of that amount according to report, which constitutes 25% of the entire amount his companies SRIMEX Enterprises and Gulf Trading owed the government in taxes.
Musa Bility was banned in 2013 for six months from all football activities, for using confidential Confederation of African Football (CAF) documents or minutes without permission.
For that violation, the LFA was fined $10,000. Musa Bility was also charged with improperly using $50,000 of $630,000.00 given to LFA by FIFA as part of a Financial Assistance Program to develop women’s football, youth football and the development of football on a much higher level in Liberia.
Instead, Mr. Bility reportedly bought a vehicle. These are just few of Musa Bility’s alleged violations since he became President of the Liberian Football Association (LFA).
So why is this man still heading the Liberian Football Association (LFA)? Why?
This is the same Liberian Football Association (LFA) that gave us the corrupt, opportunistic and slimy Edwin Snowe as president. You know the story very well.
With Edwin Snowe and Musa Bility at the helm of LFA in the past and now, how then do you (we) expect LFA to grow, groom, mentor and recruit top players, recruit a winning coach, win international matches, inspire and put money into training players, building teams, building modern football stadiums across the country, buy equipment and steer the Lone Star national football team into big and competitive international matches and victories?
Oh yes, corruption is a problem in Liberia, even in Liberian football.
Mediocrity among us is also a major problem. We continue to strive not for the best, but for the little we can do and get. We Liberians need to aim for the stratosphere – the sky in all we do to be the best.
President Sirleaf even acknowledged the nation’s problem with corruption during a 2013 UN High Level Panel discussion by admitting that corruption in Liberia is “systemic and endemic.”
The endless talk of corruption has led to the creation of the toothless Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC).
However, a huge part of the problem is the obvious lack of enforcement and accountability on the national political landscape.
What is also lacking are genuine mandates to implement their rulings without presidential and legislative interference, and the political will, courage and the boldness to enforce the laws of the land that has been violated by private and public officials.
However, with such international public admission of this chronic national problem, one would think President Sirleaf would put aside any form of aimless verbal gymnastics and photo-ops, and with the blessings of the Legislative branch add accountability and genuine implementation and enforcement power to implement the laws of the land.
One would think supporting Liberian football is about playing the game, bringing happiness to families and delving into nostalgia about the great things that came out of the nation’s pastime of football.
Before Musa Bility and Edwin Snowe destroyed Liberian football and brought shame to the game, we had the incredible plays and the competitive spirits of the forgotten Wannie Bo-Toe, Santos, Josiah Johnson, John ‘Monkey’ Brown, Borbor Gaye, Al Gray and others.
And of course we also had the dazzling foot works and goal-scoring abilities of “Mama Musa” (Benedict Nyankun Wisseh) whose frequent historical narratives of Liberian football and its glorious days continues to educate us about the game.
George Manneh Weah, Vava George, the Sackor brothers, Jackson Weah, Mass Sarr, James Debbah, goal keepers Mnah Wleh and William Nah and others cannot be forgotten for their major contributions to the game of Liberian football.
Liberian football brought us memories of the historical rivalries between Barrolle and I.E, and the do or die rivalries between St. Joseph Warriors and, say, BAME and any other teams, which continues to lurk into our collective consciousness.
My Liberian people, if we love Liberian football so much, do we allow corruption, incompetence and a nasty national political patronage system that gave us Bility and Snowe and others to destroy our Liberian football, before our naked eyes – and in our life time?
That is why football-loving Liberians must speak out and take back our/their game from hustlers and visionless figures like Musa Bility, Edwin Snowe and the rest of the gangs.
Anything short of this will continue to destroy Liberian football, make it less competitive, and sideline it to the bottom of the totem pole.
T.W. Sungbeh is editor of the www.liberiandialogue.org