Alfred P. B. Kiadii
Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories—Amilcar Cabral
Days ago, social media in Liberia erupted into overdrive after the arch-misleader in President George Weah dished out largesse to the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FEJAL). He used the occasion marking the launch of a fundraising program for the constructing of a headquarters for the organization to donate a newly built headquarters and a brand new van to the media auxiliary. The news didn’t go without effusive praises from the usual cheerleaders and uncritical conveyors of slogans: CDC flunkeys and purblind supporters of the establishment.
Meanwhile, critics of the regime proceeded cautiously by asking penetrating questions about the source of the funds which the Liberian leader used to build the facility and purchase the car. Pro-people activists, in fact, asked whether the funds used to give out such largesse was public or private money, as the Liberian leader has refused to make known his declared assets to the public based on the frivolous claim of wanting to protect his family.
Before Saturday happened a number of unusual fracases unfolded during the week which sent the political temperature in the country beyond normalcy and boiling point. Firstly, a coterie of erstwhile rebel leaders took naivety to awkward proportions when they called a press conference to threaten Rep. Yekeh Kolubah for his consistency in expressing nebulous but radical views about the economic woes and social imbalances in the homeland, and also for his constancy of scathing condemnation about the overnight wealth acquired by the president. The ex-rebels, with prompting from their short-sighted benefactor—the minister of state for presidential affairs in Nat McGill—threatened to arrest the lawmaker within 72 hours if he doesn’t turn himself over to them—an arbitrariness reminiscent of Liberia’s macabre past. Secondly, on hearing the threat from the ex-rebels, as expected, the lawmaker defied them. Under this cloud of uncertainty, guns were about to be pulled out for the spectacle of bloodletting. Some citizens of District # 10, Montserrado County wasted no time in descending on the home of the lawmaker, vowing to protect him and to the extent of even resisting his arrest. Like Salome, President Weah asked for the head of Rep. Yekeh Kolubah, ordering his arrest by the justice apparatus of the state. And Monrovia became tense and Monrovia was on the edge. Thirdly, two snakes besieged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Executive Mansion, forcing the Liberian leader to abandon his office and work from his now refurbished home which before his presidency was akin to a squalor. The latter news featured loudly in the local press as well as in the international news circles. The BBC and other outlets variously reported on it with very catchy and comical headlines. Fourthly, massive momentum builds up for the impending June 7 protest by elements of the opposition and broader sections of the society against national plunder and the incessant violation of the law by the CDC clique.
The regime was on the defensive on many fronts and Weah was reduced to a punching bag, for exhibiting an offensive lack of leadership and gross limitations. Weah needed something to resurrect and rehabilitate his battered image in the press and also to divert the attention of the public from the spiteful acrimonies of the week. Indeed, something newsworthy with the aureole of sensationalism around it could work the mojo. Such red herring would then embellish the image of President Weah, as the news of the two snakes on the rampage at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs became a cause célèbre, attracting satirical, cynical, and comical pokes from Liberians and Africans alike. Some poked fun at the Liberian leader and others were disgusted at the news. Against the overheated acrimonies and the news about the snakes, President Weah was put in the crosshairs. Donating a newly built headquarters and a van to FEJAL could promote his ego and push the government back in offensive, propaganda mode. He speedily moved to do so. Other reasons abound for such gesture as well—to promote the fallacy that he is a friend of the press in spite of the fact that the PUL elements and GOL operatives have been embroiled in recurrences of toxic exchanges over the past months concerning the issue of press freedom, and to divert attention from the slew of happenings that almost led to a toxic explosion.
It is as absurd as it is equally childish for Weah and his social media poison pens to think we will gloss our eyes over the wholesale looting of the state, the metamorphosis of the public treasury into his personal purse, and the siphoning off of the US$ 25 million meant to mop up excess liquidity in the economy. More assuredly, we wouldn’t lose focus on the fact that Weah flies a private jet and refuses to make public his assets. He engages in the speedy refurbishment of his properties and the construction of opulent villas; he is working hand in glove with shopkeepers from the Middle East to rob the resources of the country, with Hassan Sedani and others transplanting on Liberian soil a Gupta-style state capture. The CDC lackeys want us to blind our eyes to these egregious infractions and must now pretend that all is well and join the bandwagon of perfectionists in sycophancy and opportunism to heap praises on their god of a leader. Prior to us chauvinistically celebrating such hand-out, can we know the source(s) of the funds used to construct the building? Prior to us jingoistically commending Weah, can we know the motive, expectation, and motivation behind such gesture?
So, what are we celebrating here for which the CDC elements are calling on progressive social forces and patriot-activists with curious minds to join the sordid procession of praise singing led by the CDC hosanna chorus? Is he making the donation out of his commitment to press freedom, or is a signal that he is ready to unleash national transformation, or is it another Ponzi scheme from the grand wizard of theft, plunder, and treachery? Must we celebrate a man who has gained worldwide notoriety for pauperizing and sucking the wealth of the republic like a locus despoiling the harvest of a laborious people? Must we commend him for basking in the orgy of scandal and revelling in pomp and pageantry while the healthcare sector of the country remains in ruins and tatters? Must we sing his praises when the economy has careened out of control for which the peasants, workers, and working people are living in a squalor-ridden hellscape and surviving on the bare minimum and at the same time plagued by the menaces of poverty, mystery, and despair? In a nutshell, how does this move the needle on poverty and transform the living conditions of the Liberian people who lay waste in squalors, native reserves, and economic drudgery?
His action is much closer to comedy and farce than to genuineness. This charade from the fake holy man with a lousy cosmopolitan proclivity is more an insult to our collective consciousness than an act of generosity. Equally, it is more in bad taste than an action painted as something from a leader who cares, as a caring leader who is committed to social emancipation would dare not sit and allow Tubman University to collapse, while the Phebe Referral Hospital has been without electricity for a week, as he Weah wears Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, uses Jar Bolt of Lightning perfume, and dons Gucci apparel. His outrageous taste for flamboyance, his lack of scruples, his lusting in indecent pastimes of buccaneer and debauchery, accumulation of money and asset-stripping, his unbridled violation of the law, his pandering to the politics of vendetta and grudge, and narrow-mindedness and tribal bigotry blow away any myth about caring for the impoverished masses.
Weah has taken a leaf out of the dictatorial notebook to delude the Liberian toilers who are brimming with discontent, as the political air in the homeland is inundated with pessimism and mistrust for the regime. I see footprints of a dictatorial footprint with narcissistic idiosyncrasy which defines the character of such individual. Such an Orwellian approach to the crisis in the republic could create short-lived excitement and delude the few who have not seen through the smokescreen to ask the hard questions. Whether it is the donation to FEJAL, the construction of the caricature of a military hospital, the kneejerk pronouncement about free public universities, the inking of Executive order # 96 and many other deceptive undertakings they cannot erase the entrenched rot, scandalous cases of scandal, the unbridled extortion racket, and antagonistic contradictions that have besotted the discredited government. Perhaps and just perhaps his deceptive gestures could give him a respite, but in the long run, what he is doing will come back to take a toll on him.
Weah is a bankrupt dictator who fancies himself as being the owner of Liberia dabbling in illusion and patently pandering to the cult of the personality, a pattern akin to individuals who have this ingrained fascination with dictatorship. Walter Rodney, in his careful study of dictatorship, highlighted the general character of a dictator, a characterization which neatly applies to Weah: “By definition, the dictator is responsible to no one, no organization, to no social institution. On the contrary, he creates the impression that he holds in the palm of his hand the existence of every person and every organization. The dictator is paramount. He gives out the land, scholarships, etc, not because they belong to the people, but because he considers that he is doing the rest of mankind great favor. That is why human and civil rights disappear under a dictatorship. At best, an individual is expected to be eternally grateful to the dictator. After all, that which the dictator giveth he also taketh away.”
Weah has stolen a lot from the republic. The pseudo-generosities he displays are not enough to address the imbalances in the society, the chronic problems of infrastructure deficit, acute lack of medical facilities in upcountry, insufficient and poorly-run schools, poverty, and underdevelopment. Most of the exploited people are at the very bottom rung of the economic ladder with respect to income distribution, wages, and living standards. The Liberian masses are more interested in actions which will address the situations of dire poverty and backwardness without redress than with self-aggrandizing masquerade of a largesse. Hand-out, gift and philanthropy cannot deliver prosperity to a people confronted with structural inequalities and economic exclusion, let alone to the Liberian toilers. They are used by dictators and cunning leaders and their acolytes to win people over to their camp which they cannot do through convincing transformation and prudent governance. Largesse is a tool of seduction often given out by a regime which is chronically barren and totally alienated from the people, thus lacking the agenda for transformation.
After engaging in primitive accumulation, living off tax dollars in an opulent lifestyle, building condominiums in more than four locations in the country and acquiring others overseas, annexing whatever funds he can lay his hands on from the public treasury and stashing his many foreign bank accounts in offshore islands, under his watch L$ 16 billion vanished and only two years ago he could only afford to provide US$ 160 dollars for child support to his daughter in the United States of America; the self-aggrandizing posturing by Weah doesn’t impress us. In all frankness, I say Mr. Politician, the main reason for your gesture is to shift the focus of the Liberian masses from on your wholesale looting of the national treasury and the menaces of economic imbalance and national decay to perfunctory largesse. To think you can rob millions from Paul and give him crumbs in return and expect him to sing your praises is to live in the fantasy that your misdeeds wouldn’t be unearthed by the people. Keep deluding yourself that you are smart. We encourage the masquerade, but your day of reckoning is soon.
About the Author: Kiadii writes from Accra, Ghana, and he can be contacted through [email protected]