By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
The late military-civilian dictator Samuel Kanyon Doe whom some hailed as their kind of guy for the toughness he showed in the face of mounting crisis during his 10-year stint as President of Liberia, is on my mind. Samuel Kanyon Doe is not on my mind because he is my favorite Liberian president; but because he led the nation during turbulent times that he either created or inherited with the office. As one who came to office with no stellar education credentials and the sophistication to be the development-driven, people-centered-intellectual leader that the country desperately craves, Mr. Doe played his part in a country that thrives historically in a culture of impunity.
The former president did not only display his uproarious brand of governance that mixed benevolent dictatorship with the absolute dictatorial instincts that defined his administration, but Mr. Doe also proved to be a decisive leader when the Liberian people needed him. With soaring confidence as high as the waves in the Atlantic Ocean that stared at him occasionally from his elegant Executive Mansion’s office, the ever-ready Samuel Kanyon Doe made his marks by always being ready and prepared to address the crisis facing the nation at any time in his discernible broken English. That is the sign of a leader who did not dream of being the nation’s president and did not aspire for the job as politicians would do, but took on the awesome challenge of doing what he signed on to do in such an unconventional way of reaching the presidency.
President George Manneh Weah, the uncommunicative president has been the complete and total opposite of his indigenous predecessor when it comes to addressing head-on crisis after crisis that continues to face the nation. President Weah’s quietness on national issues as legendary as it may seem is troubling, and it shows that he’s either an uncurious and lazy executive who doesn’t care about events in the country and is unprepared to be president, which gives way to celebrated buffoons such as Jefferson Koiyee, Mulbah Morlu, Prince Johnson, Acarous Gray, and others to bulldoze their way to the microphones and make unnecessary news in their own selfish interest. President Weah, it seems enjoys the job as the nation’s leader only for the perks and pomp and pageantry that accompanies the position, even as he travels incessantly out of the country with his throng of serial opportunistic followers.
From the missing billions at the Central Bank of Liberia and the brief incarceration of then-Acting Executive Governor Charles Sirleaf (son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was finally released), the February 2019 Gbanepea Gold mining accident in Nimba County which claimed the lives of 40 miners; the lay-off of 6,500 workers by Firestone Rubber Plantation, the controversial (some say) illegal impeachment of Justice Kabineh Ja’neh by the Liberian legislature, the beating of a Liberian bank employee by a Nigerian bank executive at Guaranty Bank, the recent threat made by gangsters and former rebels to arrest Yekeh Kolubah, a former rebel and Montserrado County Representatives for an alleged threat he made against President Weah, and also the threat to destabilize the June 7 protest rally against the Weah administration, are reasons to be concerned. In a genuine democracy or in a country that demands accountability from its leaders, George Manneh Weah would be on his toes to hold a news conference to address the nation and calm the anxieties of a broken people.
Not in Liberia, a country where gangsters and former rebels masquerading as “generals” can run for political office and can threaten to arrest a member of the House of Representatives, himself a former rebel who participated in the heinous civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of Liberians and destroyed the country. Anyway, what became of the missing billions and the case against Charles Sirleaf and others after they were released from prison? As is always the case in Liberia, the President of Liberia is the final arbiter.
However, for President Weah to sit back and ignore legitimate threats to the nation in a nonchalant fashion as if they don’t exist, and to allow others to steer the microphone and the narratives away from him are reasons to ask him to lead or get out of the way. The Liberian Presidency is not a platform for would-be politicians and seasoned politicians to finally fulfill their lifelong political ambitions of becoming president. The presidency is a bully pulpit that inspires and find solutions to nagging and destabilizing problems that confronts a nation and its people.
Leaders are supposed to stand tall and tough in the face of crisis and are expected to exude confidence when the going gets rough – in this case, to be the undisputed moral voice that speaks clearly and unambiguously against the volcanic tides of poverty, the culture of impunity, injustice, and public-sector corruption. Like his predecessors, President Weah is not accountable to the Liberian people and will continue to be a leader who doesn’t feel the pains of his people to the point that he will continue to do what he is doing, that is to be quiet in the face of crisis. This is unacceptable. President George Manneh Weah, lead or get out of the way.