After some unpromising years of trial and patience, the efforts appear to have now clearly yielded dividends, as today, Monday, January 22, 2018; a man who once used soccer boots—as tools of his trade, is set to be out-doored as the new President of Liberia. That alone seems to make Liberia a producer of ‘wonder’ stories, especially in recent times; having been the only country in Africa to have produced Africa’s first elected female Head of State. And now, the first country in the world to have a former footballer elected as President.
George Oppong Weah’s tenacity of purpose and ambition, now having materialized into a dream come true is an inspiration to many people. Ever since he had made his first attempt at the highest office in his country over a decade ago, it would have been easy for anyone to consider his thirst for the presidency a vainglorious goal—a fantasy or even, a chasing after the wind! But with time, he has shown with his unfeigned resolve how much of an important goal it was which he had placed great priority on. After all, the standout question then was possibly this: what does a former footballer who happens to have had little formal education have to offer?
But having failed in his previous attempts at the Presidency, he went on to serve as a senator and also furthered his education; being recorded as having obtained a degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the DeVry University in Miami, Florida. Well, for me not to take you through a long history and background profile of the man of the moment, let me shift focus to the purpose of my piece.
George Weah is set to be President of a nation whose recent past has been chequered by a history of its ravaging civil war of the 1990s. Those in Ghana can ably relate to how many Liberians call Ghana home today, owing to their escape to the country as refugees following the turmoil of the 1990s in Liberia. Now the questions are: will George Weah be a good President? Can he deliver the goods? Will he be able to positively transform Liberia? I do not attempt to answer any of these conjoined questions myself. I’m glad I chanced on a text in Gold Coast Boy, the autobiography of Ghana’s former Minister of Defence, Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor; who I believe sincerely had written what he wrote without having had a foretaste of the future of the one he wrote about. This is what Dr. Kwame Addo-Kuffuor wrote in his book:“Meanwhile, I was informed that the famous Liberian footballer, George Oppong Weah, was highly revered by the refugees and had close friends at the camp. His influence could therefore be useful in calming the situation and restoring normalcy. Mr. Edward Boateng, CEO of the Global Media Alliance, was a known close friend of the once World’s Footballer of the Year legend. I invited him to my office and, with the Ministry’s guidance and that of National Security, he arranged Mr. Weah’s visit.
George Weah met me at my office at the Ministry of Interior. It was a good meeting. He showed much understanding and was willing to cooperate. I impressed upon him to send the message to his compatriots in Budumburam that Ghana had been a gracious host to them in their moment of tribulation. The least we expected from them was to reciprocate by comporting themselves as law abiding guests and exposing any combatants who might be invited into the country to cause trouble.
True to his word, Mr. Weah moved from house to house at the camp and also talked to his compatriots in small groups and the message was well received. The agitations at the camp ended and Budumburam returned to normalcy. I was so impressed by Mr. Weah’s successful conflict resolution that I came to respect how powerful football could be in influencing and moderating social conflicts, that is, if properly harnessed.”
A brief background to the portion above of Gold Coast Boy I culled is, the author, Dr. Addo-Kufour talking about his time as the acting Minister of the Interior, even while he held the substantive post as Minister of Defence between 2001 and 2007. He was describing how managing the conflicts at the Budumburam camp—the camp for Liberians who sought refuge in Ghana during the civil war—had been one of the major challenges he had had to deal with in his time.
The little the Ghanaian statesman said cannot be all that there is to determine how good Mr. Weah will fare as President. Many factors will come into play to prove how well George Weah will perform in his tenure as the one at the helm of affairs in Liberia. But inferring from the text above, it is sure that he could make a good president. The ability to use one’s influence as well as tact and diplomacy to help in bringing about conflict resolution will be a useful asset to the man, George Weah, merely by studying the recent history of his country. Whatever happened to them before is what can easily happen to them again, though it should be the least of the things anyone should hope for. Mistakes of the past can be easily repeated when lessons from them are not gleaned quickly and applied swiftly. But having a person with a bit of proven skill to manage conflicts or be a unifier as leader, we can be rest assured that chances of a faux pas in that regard are almost zero!
The world or nature, is not kind to predictions and that is true! But we cannot also desist from predicting at all. Many young people will have high expectations of him. And surely, the ‘monsters’ that haunt most leaders, especially in Africa, will also have a go at him, but he has to stand his ground and prove his mettle. The monsters include greed, power drunkenness, corruption, nepotism, pride, sycophancy and their likes.
If he could excel as a footballer, being the only from Africa so far to have received the FIFA Player of the Year Award, then history is on his side to prove how much of a high achiever he is. We can only wish him and the people of Liberia well. So when the question comes to your mind about his capabilities, or when you attempt to see the future of his reign and ask whether could he be a good President, remember this which I close my piece with; he could be a good president!
Long live Liberia and long live the good people of Africa!
Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Gold Coast Boy: A Memoir. (Accra: DigiBooks, 2015), 160.