By Jones Nhinson Williams
|George Oppong Weah|
The Constitution of Liberia guarantees all natural born Liberian citizens, age 35, and with good standing, the freedom to seek the Office of President of the Republic of Liberia, provided they also meet the requirements of the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia. Such requirements include registering one’s candidacy, and fulfilling certain demands etc.
Under the guarantees provided by the Liberian constitution and the NEC’s requisites, Liberian soccer genius George Manneh “Oppong” Weah is undeniably qualified to seek the Liberian presidency. At 50 going on to 51, Mr. Weah exceeds the age threshold; has earned millions of dollars during his soccer career in Europe and continues to earn more money in his current game: Liberian politics.
He also single-handily owns a popular political institution, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party; and has a grassroots’ following that, on a serious note, does not understand what is at stake for Liberia when we, as a nation, continue to opt for deterioration rather than advancement.
Many of us are not opposed to Mr. Weah’s ambition to seek the highest office in the land. After all, history reveals that some people in advanced democracies have sought similar offices because they were fatigued and frustrated with their corrupt leaders who failed them.
Incontestably, Liberian politicians and leaders, particularly the so-called and unwanted progressive contingent and antediluvian PhDs, have failed our nation and its people. Is Mr. Weah, a gifted soccer star, seeking the presidency because of the corruption, dishonesty, and botch of Liberian politicians? Perhaps.
Even if this is the case, please Mr. George Weah, in sincerity, and with every ounce of love, affection, and respect for you, don’t run for president of Liberia. This is an honest advice.
True be told, Mr. Weah’s patriotism and contribution to Liberia are cherished and will forever remain historic; his generosity is valued and his popularity is esteemed. Besides, he is qualified to seek the Office of President of Liberia as per the Liberian constitution and the applicable requirements of the National Elections Commission of Liberia.
With that said, it is important to recognize that the job of president is not just a serious business; it is a hard venture. It demands more than meeting the mere constitutional obligations and the necessities of the NEC. It also requires more than just performing official ceremonies, especially in this age of globalization, technological advancement, and a period of knowledge-based economy discernment that entail possession of rational acumen, highbrow stamina, and integrated capacity.
Moreover, being a president does not mean having a mere degree. After all, Mr. Weah holds two degrees, as we are made to understand. Even people with degrees from Western universities and other higher institutions of Learning in Liberia and from abroad, have failed our nation. Besides, about 90 percent of the ‘highly educated’ individuals who are currently seeking the Liberian presidency lack the functional gravitas it takes to guarantee that we will have a prosper and competitive Liberia should they succeed in their bid for the highest office in the land. But in the case of Mr. Weah, we see the extreme––the peak of unskillfulness and incapacity. This is precisely why Mr. Weah should not seek the Office of President of the Republic of Liberia.
Effective 2018, our country and Liberians in general need a president that will make real life and death decisions. Decisions that will determine the ultimate future or absolute decline of the country––choices that will either put Liberia on the path to social progress, economic growth, and political stability, or keep the status quo of misery, mass poverty, and the endless wants of human needs.
While Liberia is not only a mess on a knife-edge that needs genuine and crucial socio-cultural resuscitation; the country also needs a far-reaching political and economic change as well as a leadership that understands the challenges imposed by globalization, technology, trans-national trade, international security issues, and the inter-connectedness of the labor market worldwide. To drive this change and ensure this leadership, we need a president who can lead with vision, creativity and understanding; a head of state that is innovative and has the capacity to research, and make coherent decisions.
From all indications and based on some of the recent decisions of Mr. Weah, it clearly appears there is a lack of.
In addition, Mr. Weah should not seek the Liberian presidency because, effective 2018, Liberia needs to begin keeping pace with the changing world. Our world has not only changed, it continues to transform every day in many ways. We are transitioning from a largely dependent natural resources’ industry-based economy to a knowledge-based economy where even cars are self-driven, drones deliver packages and medications etc. This type of change requires a new type of national leadership (in any country) that should not only reflect having a mere divided, democratic, and elected government. It requires leaders with grandiose ideas and who can articulate those ideas into vision and programs with direct positive impact such as job creation, improved living standards and national infrastructural and workforce development in society.
So, while the Liberian government is divided into three branches, the president is not only considered the figurehead of the nation, he or she is also the engine that ushers change, or may become the epitome of failure if he or she lacks what it takes for the position. And we are inclined to believe that Mr. Weah would fit the subsequent.
By law, the Liberian president can veto laws made by the House of Representatives and the Senate and can issue executive orders. The president also commands the Liberian military and security forces, which is significant because the national security of our country is paramount.
The president of Liberia is also a central figure in forging regional and international relations on behalf of our nation and its people. This makes the Liberian president one of the most crucial figures in keeping national, regional, and international peace. Although the judicial and legislative branches of the Liberian government have assigned powers as well, they are comprised of many individuals working together, which limits the power of any one individual.
As the single person in our country with the most power, the Liberian president has a great deal of importance. So, the job is not a joke or a 90-minutes track and field Olympics as some people might think. It is a job that determines what kind of country we want for ourselves and our children’s future. Already, we have had two wasted generations, we cannot afford to add the third one and possibly the fourth.
Besides, more than anyone else in our country, the Liberian president symbolizes the country — its people and its beliefs. In this role, the Liberian president must not only be able to perform many ceremonial duties such as receiving foreign dignitaries and leading parades; he or she must be able to negotiate investments, inaugurate businesses, research, and academic institutions as well as be capable in guiding the trajectory of the Liberian economy to prevent capital flight, inflation, health crisis and disaster in the labor market. These actions are not trivial. Competent presidents must exude confidence, not just in themselves, but in the Liberian people as well.
Moreover, as leader of the executive branch, the Liberian president is primarily responsible for seeing that the work of the Liberian government is done, because as the late U.S. President Harry Truman's once said, "The buck stops here." This is true because, for example, the responsibility to administer and execute the laws of the land squarely rests on the president's shoulders. And if Mr. Weah were to become president that is exactly what he will be expected to do. The question is, can he? Or, is he going to rely on others to tell him what to do or what needs to be done?
If Mr. Weah became the president of Liberia, he will also become so many significant things simultaneously: Commander in Chief; Chief Diplomat; Chief Executive, de facto Legislator, and the National Moral Leader.
As commander in chief, Mr. Weah will be expected to develop and lead our military and security forces from a gun-toting sect to a professional lineup of engineers, information technology and cyber security experts, forensic scientists, and top notch investigators. He will make decisions about how to deal with matters of law and order while ensuring respect for human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
He will address issues within our immigration procedure that make it flaw and vulnerable to nationals of neighboring West African states and other nations and deal with questions of our nationality debate and the weaknesses in our judiciary and criminal justice system.
As the top diplomat, Mr. Weah will not only decide the direction of Liberia’s foreign policy, he will also play an important role in carrying it out. That means the West African sub region, the African continent and the world will need know and hear his philosophy as a leader – how he thinks and what he says, not what other people will want him to think, believe, or say on his behalf.
As chief executive /administrator, or chief bureaucrat of Liberia, he will be fully and ultimately responsible for all the programs in the executive branch of the Liberian government – from education, healthcare, infrastructural development, the rule of law and public safety to the economy and investment in science, technology, engineering, and math as well as in advanced manufacturing, agricultural-food production, and workforce development.
While he will not be managing their day-to-day operations, he is expected, overall, to set the broad policy for the executive departments and agencies. He will also face and must deal with the unending chaos in the country’s land ownership dynamic as well as contend with skills shortages and skills gap analysis; women, and youth unemployment nationwide, local areas unemployment and local employment dynamics, business employment dynamics, and the protection and support of seniors, the disabled and the mentally challenged. These are not inconsequential matters neither are they negligible realities because they affect real lives.
As a de facto legislator, he will be expected to maintain close contacts with the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives to press for the passage of bills. While a president does not simply propose legislation, the president is, in most cases, actively involved in seeing that a legislation becomes law.
If Mr. Weah also succeeds to become president of Liberia, he will automatically assume moral leadership. He will be expected to set the moral tone for our nation, including showing exemplary honesty, religious faith, and integrity. Instead of being silent on issues and inquiries that demand public responses, Liberians will expect him to articulate clarity, hope, optimism, direction, guidance, and above all, provide commonsense solution in matters like religious tolerance, peaceful co-existence and tribal upheavals, women’s rights, workers’ rights and labor union advocacy, and political disagreements.
The demand of any president's moral leadership has adopted new importance in recent years as the media and the public the world over has given the private lives of elected officials closer scrutiny. The "character issue" is frequently included in public opinion polls on any president's performance.
Lastly, history has shown and current events suggest that some politicians and others have run for elected offices, especially the job of president, for several reasons, including to change the direction of their country; to make history; to make a point; to boost their brand; or simply because public service is part of their family’s history.
To date, it is almost impossible to know where Mr. Weah stands on any issue or why he is really running for president. His supporters will tell you he will change Liberia and make the country better. How? No idea.
No doubt, Mr. Weah is a national hero but he, like most Liberians, has failed to recognize his strengths and weaknesses. If he is truly patriotic and wants a better Liberia, the formation of his political party is a welcomed and commendable idea. He can use his political institution better than he is currently doing.
Forming a political party does mean one should seek the presidency or be president, it means he or she is serious about driving a message of change. Mr. Weah must identify like-minded individuals and mobilize the Liberian people to ensure that change happens not for his personal benefit but for Liberia’s.
In Myanmar, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is not the president, but she is the driver of change and leader of the ruling party with the coveted title “State Counsellor of Myanmar.” As the political leader of the ruling party, she calls herself the boss of the president of Myanmar who is a member of her ruling party. Weah should take a clue from this remarkable woman’s playbook.
Author's Statement: Jones Nhinson Williams is a Liberian philosopher, labor market information and workforce development professional with expertise in job creation strategies, public policy, international development, and strategic management. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.