But this fortune may only be relevant for the purpose
of helping him to raise the US$2 million that has
supposedly been set as the maximum amount that any
presidential candidate can spend; a provision that
can be reasonably enforced if the other candidates
really want to. Honestly, I doubt that Mr. Weah has
more than US$1.5 million in cash and he will be willing
to spend all of his much-needed savings on a risky
venture such as these elections. Moreover, other candidates
may raise this much or come close to it.
Regarding the other potential advantages that he could derive from the impression of the voters about his wealth, the case can be made easily by his opponents to undercut them. We know that the problems of Liberia need far more than a few millions; so what is wealth for Mr. Weah is inconsequential for the entire nation. US$5 million or US$ 10 million cannot support the population of Monrovia adequately for two weeks. We also know that honesty is not solely dependent on how wealthy or not a person is; we have seen some not-rich people who served Liberia with honesty and pride and we know of some “rich” people who have stolen more to add to their riches. For example, Cllr. Kpormakpor and Madam Perry, both not known to be rich, served as interim leaders with great record of honesty. Yet Chairman Bryant, thought to have had money, is now presiding over what is believed to be the most corrupt government in modern Liberian history. Also, Mr. Taylor, who it is believed made so much money from his privatization of the Liberian state, was always looking for more even from other countries like Sierra Leone. So Weah’s personal financial position is not sufficient evidence that he will be immune from corruption, if given the chance.
Candidate’s reputation, which includes education, experience, popularity, platform, and moral foundation, is a mixed basket for Weah. His fame as a soccer player means a lot of people, if not all Liberians, know about him. However, the image that he has created in their mind as the hero on the field of soccer may not easily translate into the image they will seek for a national hero who will help bring long-term stability, development, reconciliation, statesmen pride, etc. In fact, it will be difficult to make the case that he can be such a hero with an 11th grade education and little or no management or leadership experience. A group of paid experts can put together a platform; but voters may not see it as his own if he cannot connect with it through eloquence and the right credentials. His kindness and patriotism will certainly be of great help to his reputation. What I do not know of is his moral standing; and there will be a lot of talk about morality in this election because Liberia needs a strong moral foundation to succeed. I am already hearing of strong accusations against other candidates regarding their positions on promiscuity, teen-age sexual abuse and homosexuality; vices that now threaten the nation’s future. So it will be a tough job to match his reputation with the demands for the presidency.
Constituency strength is one area in which I would rate Mr. Weah’s strength as poor. With less than a year to elections he does not have an organized and well-known political institution. It is possible that some of his loyal followers may join his political camp; but in this business one needs a good team of managers who relate to each other well and have a common purpose; qualities that take very long to develop. His ethnic background may offer some help because of the level of political awareness of the Kru tribe, except that they are believed to be a very independent-minded people ask Tipoteh. His Bassa maternal relations could help him; but not with a strong Bassa candidate, Charles Brumskine, and not if he has not nurtured this constituency over the years. As a former Muslim, he could get a lot of help from the Muslim community since many Muslims may want see one from their religion as president of Liberia. Some voters could also favor him to relate well with other leaders in this sub-region, since many of our neighboring countries have majority Muslim populations. How that will affect the Christian base, which could see it as a final move toward an Islamic dominance of the sub-region, is anybody’s guess.
Finally, when all is said and done the quality of the competition will play a major role in these elections. Many may make great mistakes if they look at the 2005 presidential election based on past experiences, because the future may not resemble the past in this case. This election could produce a unique race that may be very different from the True Wig Party, the 1985 or the 1997 elections. If it becomes a competitive race and Mr. Weah’s opponents can focus the issues effectively and elevate the debate from mere popularity, his ability to lead the country will be challenged and his greatest weakness, i.e. poor intellectual capital, will be exposed. When I look at the serious candidates in this race, some of whom have been campaigning for years now, I want to believe that this presidential election will be the most competitive one thus far in Liberian history. The initial euphoria that followed Mr. Weah’s entry into the race will subside and he will experience many hurdles along the way, as it is with elections of this magnitude. So, when a completive race begins to evolve and the needs of the nation are focused clearly, Mr. Weah will have to rely on substance and not soccer player fame to compete successfully from county to county and town to town.
Mr. George Weah would bring to the presidential race two key strengths: wealth and fame. Yet when his two best advantages are critically reviewed, it seems that they are not game-winner strikes because some candidates could match his financial power and his fame in soccer may not fully translate to politics. His education and experience may be his greatest weakness. I do not know much about his moral standing but any further weaknesses in this area could reduce his chances. The sporting base that has seen him as a hero may be a good start in nurturing a constituency but his Islamic background could be a double-edged sword. A competitive race is expected in these elections, so those who predict Weah’s chances based on past Liberian experiences may be in for a surprise when a county to county and town to town race unfolds and substance thrives over fame and wealth. When these factors are considered together, one cannot predict an easy victory for George Weah. In fact, it appears that Mr. Weah does not have a great chance in this election.