The Great Liberian Dilemma: Weah VS Boakai

By: Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 4, 2017


Vice President Boakai (L) and Senator George Manneh Weah

It is perhaps fair to say every Liberian loves George Weah. We Liberians grew up loving the game of football, whether we played it or not; we loved the game for its visual aesthetics, finesse, and overall gracefulness and style combined with strength, stamina and agility. Those who were not blessed to develop the skill sets necessary to play this sport at a high level, always admired those who did. There is no argument that the one Liberian who excelled at this sport beyond everyone’s imagination was George “Oppong” Manneh Weah. Weah took every young Liberian’s dream and made it a reality in international arenas at the highest level. He became a superstar, and every Liberian shared his success inside; George Weah was a piece of every Liberian; a personification of the Liberian child’s dream. That is why he is loved, and justifiably so. We all love him so.

In less than a week from today’s date, Liberians will flock to the polls to cast their votes for the runoff presidential election of 2017. In the contest, opposing George Weah for the honor, is another Liberian with another set of valuable and admirable skills. VP Joe is the epitome of that proverbial student our parents urged us to be when we were growing up. We will remember our parents told us, in one fashion or another, “Be a good student; work hard, respect authority; obey the rules; respect others, especially your elders; be helpful to others and be prepared to lead; above all, be humble and honest and have faith in God.” Joe is the living personification of that humble aspiration!

It is important to note, and it should be obvious to all stakeholders in this titanic battle, that the stakes here are too high to be taken for granted. We have two citizens who are equally deserving of our love, but the key question is, which one of these gentlemen comes more prepared for the task at hand? The answer could not be more obvious. The answer is, Joe, and here is why:

Joe comes from a very humble background; from a family that didn’t even have a wooden spoon, much less a silver spoon. In a heart-warming biography, Dr. Sakui Malakpa tells the story of the young man wandering from one precarious situation to another, even tapping rubber and working as a dish washer, among other menial jobs. But the young man’s aim was not simply to physically survive, but to thrive and compete in an atmosphere worthy of the highest honor: He wanted to become a leader to make his society a better place.

He didn’t simply dream, he sacrificed all he could through hard work and honest means, never cutting corners. He got an opportunity to enroll at CWA, where he worked in exchange for his room and board, never even experiencing an iota of leisure, something many of us took for granted. He finished high school and continued to work at CWA while attending the University of Liberia.

For the last forty-five years, this honest man has continued to work in various capacities in government, even during the most troubling times. In all that time. Joe has always put service to the state first; demonstrating what could only be described as the epitome of patriotism. During all that time, amazingly, Joe has remained scandal-free, and has not amassed great wealth at the expense of his people. Joe’s life could easily be described as ‘leadership in action’. He remains as honest, decent, honorable and approachable, as he ever was.

For the sake of balance, one cannot downplay the leadership traits required to excel in sports at such a high level as George Weah played. George Weah must have been a great leader on the field to win those prestigious awards, such as “African Footballer of the Year, European Footballer of the Year and FIFA Footballer of the Year”. The competition is high at that level that one must be extraordinary to compete and win handedly like that; we must all agree.

But to simply transfer those accolades of leadership from one arena to another is incomprehensible and unacceptable. The skill sets that are necessary to propel one in sports leadership are not the same required for governmental leadership; they are two different playing fields. Yes, there may be some overlapping qualities, yet a clear distinction is required. It is necessary for a candidate to clearly articulate how he intends to use one set of skills from one leadership role to another. That is what has been lacking with the Weah campaign. When an opportunity presented itself for Mr. Weah to convince the rest of us why his acquired leadership skills in the sporting arena would be justifiably and successfully transferable to the government leadership arena, he became oddly silent, and perhaps arrogant to imply that he had already won and did not see a need to appear in the debates. At the time he could have been speaking and making his case to his constituents, he was making his case to the EU Parliament.

Still, on the other hand, it would be deeply unfair and unbalanced to simply judge Mr. Weah on his leadership experience as a footballer. Since leaving football, Mr. Weah has had an opportunity to become perpetual “Standard Bearer” of a political party. In addition, he was appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador, a largely ceremonial position held by distinguished individuals from the fields of sports, art, science and entertainment or other fields of public life. (Sorry, this is not grounds for the rigorous training required for governmental leadership; no one thinks the actresses Angelina Jolie and Mia Farrow or the Pakistani singer Shehzad Roy are grooming themselves for presidential careers).

Mr. Weah has also had the great opportunity of becoming a Senator from Montserrado County. That is indeed a worthy position that could be evaluated for cross-training. However, Mr. Weah and his supporters have failed to make a convincing case as to his accomplishment in that arena. All indications are he has been just a celebrity in that position, especially with his portfolio of representing Liberia at the ECOWAS Parliament. Any hard evidence of participation remains scant and elusive.

We have to remember, although numbers are required to win this contest, it is too important a contest to be left simply to popularity. This is not just any ordinary contest to be determined by popularity. The experiences and accomplishments of the contestants must be scrutinized under bright lights and all the fine prints read and understood.

So far, Mr. ’s record speaks for itself: Forty-five years of astute leadership and service in government. MD of LPMC, MD of LPRC, Minister of Agriculture and national Vice President for a dozen years, along with dedication to services to the Church and community. His resume and portfolio can withstand this kind of rigorous scrutiny.

Again, we know and appreciate the high leadership Mr. Weah has exhibited on football fields around the world, and the sports world has given him due credit and recognition. He deserves it, and we salute him!  But this contest requires him to demonstrate what he has done in the field of politics to deserve the biggest prize of all in this critical competition. Mr. Weah has failed to adequately tell us what he has done as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, National Standard Bearer of CDC, and Montserrado County Senator. His political leadership portfolio leaves many gaps and unanswered questions. I would frankly say to Mr. Weah, “You are a great football hero, and I would vote for you if you were running to head FIFA or any football organization in the world.” But I would add in Liberian parlance, “Football dat your area, but politics dat nat your area; leave the politics to the papay.”

So, here lies our national dilemma: To vote with the heart or the head. The heart says go with the sentimental favorite; the head cautions pragmatism. Sentimentality versus pragmatism; that’s the dilemma.  I’ll say follow the head.

 I have already previously declared a preferment for the Honorable Joseph . He is my choice, although it pains me to not be able to cast a ballot for him in this national contest. It is not too late for many of our countrymen and women, our fellow citizens. A vote for George Weah is a sentimental vote, after all, he remains our sentimental global hero, and we love him dearly. But a vote for VP Joseph  is a safe and pragmatic choice. We should not be voting for sentimental values or mere popularity; we should be voting for safety, peace and sober leadership. Vote Joe !

Note: This article was written and ready for publication before the news from the Supreme Court suspending the scheduled runoff.

Please contact Theodore Hodge at for further comments, questions or clarifications.



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