It's true that Senator George Manneh Weah's magnetic popularity is historically sparked by his professional football stardom. But he retired from the football field nearly 20 years ago, after which he has been awash by insidious propaganda and exposed to the unforgivable tantrums of public service.
It takes a special human to hold his repute intact. That his popularity still towers at home and even amongst world leaders long after his career on the pitch points to something more than football stardom. Our Senior Staff Writer traces Senator Weah's transition of popularity from the soccer field to being a humanitarian icon and political magnet.
The die is cast, once again, for George Manneh Weah to do what he's best known for: to turn expectations from the valley of gloom and doom to the mountaintop of hope and success. Whenever nature or a circumstance of life appears bleak and hopeless, he always prevails in shining colors. That's the man.
For instance, extreme poverty formed a huge heap and around his slum origin, around his nucleus family. But he walked out the pool of poverty, even while in his young age, pulled out his family and many poor people along.
That was the same case when Africa's oldest republic was drenched in blood, as it became a slaughterhouse for and by itself. Not only did the world's media paint Liberia the land of cannibals, brutes and savages, it actually was the perfect description. Liberians--even the brightest and once respected--were snubbed at airports, treated with contempt and unkindness across the world. The single star that flashed some embers of Liberian humanity and humility to the rest of the world, that all was not lost, was George Manneh Weah, just by his football talents abroad. The world clamored for him, and by and through this, the world tempered hate with love in their outlook and treatment of Liberians.
Also, even when the worse was said about his capacity to lead, when all he stands for was brutally questioned, and it appeared he did not matter, George Weah beat 22 candidates in the first round of the 2005 elections. Honest foreign diplomats hinted that Weah's 28 percent stood from the final place the evil hands of cheat had finally commuted or pressed down his numbers and standing in the elections.
Most of the 22 competitors were not ordinary persons. They included legendary politicians, academic czars and towering national figures. It was highly unlikely that the "political neophyte" would obtain over two percent of the votes.
It would be groundless if not silly for anyone to still entertain the worn-out opinion that George Manneh Weah's standing in those elections and generally in politics even after 2005 is underpinned by professional football popularity. Yes,
stardom, including soccer legendry, provokes huge popularity particularly for satisfying fans' thirst of exhibited extraordinary skills and victories on the field. And for George Manneh Weah, who kept his fans and viewers in exhilarating awe by his honeyed dribbling skills, goal-getting acumen and hypnotizing physique, popularity is an understatement. But stardom and the popularity that comes with it don't normally last longer beyond the pitch.
They have the tendency of diminishing, and fast, since the traits of skills and victories that come with them are lost to retirement and visibility. Soccer stardom and popularity are not automatically transposable to political popularity, since politics is not only a pool of tantrums that robs even angels their saintliness but also because politics is more about the life and death of millions of people.
There is a difference between attracting people's confidence to see someone dribble an opponent to score a goal and to win on the one hand and meriting people's confidence to change their impoverished conditions for the better on the other. The longevity of each of the two scenarios is based on live moments--the currency of the activities that attract that confidence.
It is not a surprise, therefore, that some proponents maintain, though erroneously, that George Weah's popularity is waning. If there is anything that is diminishing, it might be Weah's football stardom popularity. It might have diminished to time. Because, politically, whenever he or his party rises, popularity buoyed.
As it was being argued that the 2005 first-round winner and the disputed final winner of the elections was left with no more steam to win the hearts and minds of Liberians, he proved critics wrong nine long years later when he contested Montserrado County's senatorial by elections. That was also over 15 years of retirement from the soccer pitch.
The 2014 Montserrado senatorial bi-elections, the 2005 elections or the 2011 presidential elections (though he contested in vice standard bearer status), were also contested not by ordinary Liberians. They included candidates from some of the most formidable political parties in the country, and more so, from the well-entrenched and powerful Sirleaf clan of Monrovia. To the amazement or consternation of debaters of Weah's popularity status, the results put him at colossal 78 percent. Again, that victory--that evidence of his towering popularity came nine years after his first political contestation, three years after 2011 elections and over 15 years after his retirement from active soccer.
There must be something unique if not mystique about George Manneh Opong Weah: UNICEF's Peace Ambassador, Liberia's Peace Ambassador, Montserrado County's Senator, Liberia's new political sensation.
Why is this Slum-born magnet rubbing shoulders with kings and queens? Is this all about popularity, or there's something lurking beneath the gene? Will he do what he's best known for in the ensuing October polls--turning expectations from the valley of gloom and doom into hope and success to the mountaintop?
The clouds are clearly telling that Senator George O. Weah is set to break the last barrier and to cross the final line to greatness: winning the Liberian presidency-decisively. True, Doubting Thomases are not seeing this way just as they didn't during the first and second rounds of 2005 election that were robbed away.
There are some that failed to see it toward the polls of the 2014 senatorial elections. They probably may not see it yet again because, as one pundit put it sometime ago, "Providence has blinded them so that they fulfill the dictates of nature: doubts are the compost that fertilizes the seed of progress of extraordinary beings like George Weah."
But looking at it closely, the signs have long been clear. The star was long raised in the sky to proclaim the birth of the political messiah, and wise men have been following. It's true there have been multiple King Herods endeavoring to prevent the path and threatening to advert it. Conspirators from within and without have schemed plots here and there. Staunched buddies turned into virulent foes. Political tornadoes unleashed with rigidity of their cruelties against him. He keeps moving forward.
Unarguably, there is no single opposition political party or opposition political person has been so crudely fought and plotted against than the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) now Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) or its leader George Manneh Weah. There were times when it was said, "It's finished. We got him."
Despite all these storms and machinations, the messiah-like figure has stood firm. While iconic politicians and political institutions barely survived straight five years of stability of prominence and relevance in the face of external aggression, George Weah and his CDC are in their decade and more of political potency and relevance.
George Weah might not have the philosophical and educational wit of the ace scholar. He might not have the rhetorical prowess of the fiery-tongued politician. He might not have the bucket full of experience of the iconic bureaucrats. What he got is a huge heart for the people and for the nation. What he has got is the people's approval for his unmatched humility and iron determination to develop the motherland. Even the most conservative partisan polls--formal and informal perception surveys conducted in the last 12 years by opponents--Senator Weah or the CDC has maintained a favorable place, while the "eloquent", "experienced" and "educated" ones trail bigly.
It is clear now, moving forward towards the October elections and beyond, that the electorate's focus would not be about issues that don't matter. And what matters now is who has got the heart, the moral and political will to break the backbone poverty in this country, to put bread on the table of the masses of the people and sustain the peace and stability. What matters is to replicate the development of the outside world for which we marvel and never brought back at home over the decades.
Maestro of rhetoric will not do the trick. Philosophy in Education will not bring to magic wand. Methuselah's age in governance experience is not the answer to Liberia's problems. If that were the case, as far as the combined portfolio of people in current administration of the last 12 years is concerned, Liberia would be a paradise now.
What we see under the team of Harvard scholars and bureaucrats of 1847 experience is entrenched poverty, widespread hunger, tattered economy and near-irreparable underdevelopment. The situation has been the case and the order of the day in the country because the assumed portfolios of good governance have been wanting of the ingrained traits of George Manneh Weah--selflessness and love for people.
Oratory, educational and professional credentials are essential, but they are not sane qui none successful leadership. They must be buttressed by the basics of successive leadership: sense of selflessness, patriotism, meekness and peace.
That the popularity rating of George Manneh Weah amongst legendary political figures in the country remains towering for over a decade in the face of crude propaganda is seemingly Providence's way of reminding Liberians and international partners that it's folly finding the right leader amongst Harvard's scholars or Greek's philosophers while the star that flickered in 2005 is standing still.
Meanwhile, George Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change say they are not complacent on providential considerations in 2017--they are out for a fresh engagement as never been the case since 2005.
The CDC strongman is on the record for saying that 2017 would be far different from 2005 and 2011, because as he put, "We are not leaving anything to chance."
To herald the iron resolve with which he has come to this year's election, the CDC Standard Bearer and his running mate have been combing the international community, particularly the West Africa sub-region, as if to say, "It's time we tightened the screws at home and abroad to seal up leakages of unwholesome eventualities."
Senator Weah and Senator Jewel Howard Taylor have been meeting regional and world leaders not to present their leadership programs towards harnessing bilateral bonds and providing assurance that they can be relied upon in keeping Liberia stable but also in making sure that misrepresentations and myths spewed at them by opponents are obviated.
An insider told The CDCian that the standard bearer has got all options on the table as would make it feasible to take a decisive win.
"One of the differences between previous elections contested by Ambassador Weah and the current one is that the man is putting in all the material and human resources you can imagine in 2017 than we who are his longtime affiliates can imagine," he said.
"As an unarguably populist party, the CDC had actually been complacent not only in organizing itself properly to prosecute comprehensive ground games, but also in amassing and deploying appropriate and adequate logistics and equipment to facilitate movement and surveillance.
From what I see with my own eyes, I am relieved that this longtime snag is adequately taken care of. We are all happy the man is spending every dime of his and that so much planning, organization and logistics amassment is done already."