From Disqualified Football Candidate to Commander-In-Chief: Will Liberians Clap For This, Too?


By James Seitua

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 10, 2005


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Mr. Gabriel Baccus Matthews is on record for saying that Liberia is what it is because “Liberians are people who clap for anything that is given them.” Mr. Matthews substantiated his claim by drawing attention to the arrest and detention of the late Ambassador Henry Fahnbulleh by the late President William V.S. Tubman on treason charges. Following those developments, the “leaders” of Grand Cape Mount County, the home county of the ambassador, mobilized their people to show support for the president, while dissociating themselves from Fahnbulleh and his alleged act.

When President Tubman died at a London clinic in 1971, his Vice President, Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr. succeeded him, and one of the first actions Tolbert took was to order the release of several political detainees, including Ambassador Fahnbulleh. In a superb political calisthenics, the same people who dissociated themselves from Fahnbulleh and pledged their unflinching support to Tubman praised President Tolbert for restoring the freedom of their son who had been unjustly detained.

Mr. Matthews’ claim, though insinuating, is a hard fact that finds expression in the conduct of most Liberian politicians, including Mr. Matthews himself. Prior to the 1997 presidential and general elections, Matthews, answering a question at a presidential debate, put forth a strong justification why people vying for the presidency should be experienced politicians. He likened the political field of presidential candidates to a football field during a major competition. “When we go to the World Cup, we carry Oppong and Sarlinsa,” Matthews noted.

How Mr. Matthews compromises his position on presidential candidates at that time when he was running for president and his current die-hard support for the premature presidential candidacy of footballer George Weah, a man with no experience in any area except playing soccer, is a question of credibility that defines the true meaning of Matthews’ struggle “In the Cause of the People”.

Weah is a professional footballer without a doubt, but he does not have any leadership quality. That’s why the Liberia football Association disqualified him as candidate for the presidency of the organization. That’s why his own colleagues who played with him on the Liberian Lone Star soccer team are vehemently opposed to any idea of a George Weah presidency. But Baccus Matthews insists Weah is the right man for president, weaving his confidence from what he knows and believes – that the people stand ready to clap.

And talking about credibility in Liberia (thank God for those Liberians who continue resist the temptation of doing business as usual) is like talking about water in the desert. Frankly, who would have imagined J. Rudolph Johnson choosing to crash land his political career the way he did? Who would have thought that the Liberian Foreign Minister who ably represented his country when his government was difficult to represent, thereby wielding a lot of respect in diplomatic circles, especially at the United Nations, would accept an offer to be a vice presidential running mate of George Weah, the least among the crowd of people wanting to be president?

Isn’t this the reason the “Liberian people clap for anything that is given them”? Aren’t the people involved in the “giving process”, those expected to lead the people in the right direction, more responsible for this worship-like political madness than the ordinary people who only follow? Will our innocent youth be left with any option when they see G. Baccus Matthews and J. Rudolph Johnson, two former foreign ministers of Liberia, dancing for George Weah and looking for food in his back yard?

As we approach very crucial elections in our nation’s history on October 11, it is difficult to believe that what these former government officials are telling the world as it relates to the presidency is that the best Liberia has to offer is George Weah, and world is watching and marking our report card.

A friend of mine who hails from an African country who is also a George Weah fan called me the other day and said he saw something on the news about Liberia. “Is it true that George Weah is running for president in your country?”

“Yes,” I told him. He kept silent for a while as though the line had gone dead. “Sam, are you there,” I inquired.

“I’m here but I don’t know what to say to you, James,” Sam said. “You voted for Taylor in 1997 when everything you knew about him had to do with killing and stealing, so when he took all your money and killed more people, you only had yourselves to blame…and now you are talking about making George Weah president? When he kicks you like a football,” he continued, “don’t complain about it because that’s all he knows”.

Not intending to dwell on this issue for obvious reasons, I became evasive and succeeded in brushing the subject aside. But I didn’t stop Sam and thousands of other outsiders who have already marked our grades in red just for the fact that George Weah could become a major contender for the country’s presidency.

Many contributors to this web site have written several articles on this issue, directly or indirectly saying the idea of a George Weah presidency is an outright shame for Liberia, drawing their conclusion from the candidate’s academic deficiencies and lack of experience.

In his latest articles on the electoral process posted on this web site, Dr. S. Jabaru Carlon said, “I strongly believe that the redemption of our country lies in the hands of a fairly educated, experienced and well seasoned politician who is capable of taking some very crucial decisions both individually and with the advice of his cabinet, and, when required by law (by the constitution), with the advice and consent of the Legislature”.

Dr. Carlon is right because education is central to the development objective of any nation, especially a war-torn country like Liberia where the best minds are needed to make our dream of a new Liberia a reality.

Therefore, a man who rides on the wings shame, with thousands of supporters chanting, “You know book, you don’t know, I’ll vote for you” belongs in the classroom as the first step towards the highest office of the country.

And my advice to the Liberian people as they cast their votes on October 11 is to remember that the Liberia Football Association disqualified George Weah as candidate to lead that football body, and those who made that decision are the people who know Weah better. The votes cast on October 11 will prove Baccus Matthews right or wrong whether or not Liberians are people who clap for anything given them. May God save our country!