29 May 2019

Liberia: President's Pre-Recorded Address to Nation Fizzles in Lost Opportunity

Photo: Boakai Fofana/allAfrica
Traders in Monrovia's largest market district of Waterside (file photo).
opinion

PRESIDENT GEORGE Manneh Weah finally got his chance to face the Liberian people, who for most of the past few months have been growing weary over the rapidly declining and dismal fate of the country's economy.

THE US-EXCHANGE rate continues to rise by the day, inching closer to the 1- 200 range as the June 7 Save-the-State protest nears. Inflation is at an all-time high and most, if not every Liberian appear to still be holding their breath in hopes that the tide will soon begin to turn and the stars align for a better tomorrow.

THE PRESIDENT was originally scheduled to deliver the address on Wednesday but the Executive Mansion issued a statement mid Monday stating that the speech would now be delivered on midday Wednesday.

AS MANY GLUED TO their radio, online mediums and television sets to hear the President, some in the media were hoping looking to have a seat in the room and hear the President speak from his heart and relay the imagery and emotions of such an important message. Those at home were no doubt hoping to see images or at least video of the President delivering his much-anticipated address.

NO ONE, not even those in the Diaspora got to see the President; only an audio of his message relayed on radio stations and one online medium.

PRESIDENT WEAH is no Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Charles Taylor, William R. Tolbert or William V.S. Tubman - and even he would be the first to admit that much.

SHORTLY AFTER winning the Presidency in 2017, the victorious President-elect made it clear that he is not a good public speaker, but he's confident that good speeches would not impact the country under his watch, but good decisions. "I'm a technical person, I will not read or write for you the best speeches, but I will make for you the best decisions to develop Liberia. I know one day Liberians will get tired with me so I want to leave a big mark before that time," said Senator Weah when he spoke with a group of young people in Monrovia in the aftermath of his famous victory.

DECLARING HIMSELF as a redeemer, Mr. Weah said at the time: "Liberia is 170 years old, it's not because of me Liberia is like this, maybe because of me Liberia will be better."

THIS WAS VINTAGE WEAH, speaking from his heart and bearing is soul to not just his base; but to many who sat on the fence, riddled with doubts about his ability to lead Liberia and continue the path toward a bourgeoning democracy and key political transition.

WHAT LIBERIANS got Wednesday was a sense of betrayal and a lost opportunity for a president now in the midst of an uncertain political and economic crisis.

THE SPEECH ITSELF was not entirely lacking in substance as the President spoke on a wide range of issues with specific focus on groundbreaking policy declarations aimed at resuscitating the economy and curbing corruption.

PRESIDENT WEAH unveiled a series of policy measures he says are underway to stabilize the national economy in the short term, and position it for growth in the medium to long term. "We are working with stakeholders on measures that are intended to bring down prices," the President said.

VISUALLY, MANY DID NOT get to see the sincerity of the President as he delivered what many wanted to hear. Even as the President struggled to convince many that no money has been found missing in both the missing LD16 billion and the US$25 million mop-up exercise which have dominated the national discourse and what government has been doing to ensure transparency and accountability.

WHILE POINTING OUT lapses to a major lack of systems and controls at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), and calling into question the ability of its present leadership to effectively revamp its internal mechanisms to provide greater accountability and professionalism, the President announced that he has accepted the resignation of Deputy Governor Mounir Siaplay. He also said that the embattled Governor Nathaniel Patray will be stepping down in three months. "I have accepted the resignation of the Deputy Governor for Economic Policy. The Executive Governor is scheduled for age-related mandatory retirement in the next three months. During that period, we will work to transition the bank to a new management."

THE PRESIDENT SAID a new CBL leadership will be recruited by a vetting committee to be established and will be composed of an independent team of professional Liberians to be named shortly. "Any qualified Liberian interested in becoming a part of this new leadership team may submit applications to the vetting committee, whether they are resident in Liberia or abroad, and regardless of gender or political affiliation," the Liberian Leader declared, adding, "I will also announce a new Board of Governors next week."

THE WORLD HAS CHANGED since the invention of the radio. The world wide web has been embraced by all. This is why we feel strongly that those in the President's circle badly misled him once more in convincing him that he did not need to face his people during such an important moment in history.

AROUND THE WORLD, some famous figures have been known to avoid the limelight, not for their lacking of eloquence of oral beauty but in their own way, because they were introverts.

ALBERT EINSTEIN, one of the world's most recognized and revered physicists, has often been quoted as saying, "The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind." Einstein received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 and is best remembered for developing the theory of relativity.

ROSA PARKS, another historical figure, became one of the most historically important figures in 1955 after refusing to give her seat up for a white man. In the introduction of her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain states: "I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of 92, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was 'timid and shy' but had 'the courage of a lion.' They were full of phrases like 'radical humility' and 'quiet fortitude.'

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, the former US First Lady is remembered as a shy and retiring individual, who gave 348 press conferences as First Lady. She was a United Nations delegate, a human rights activist, a teacher, and a lecturer who averaged 150 speaking engagements a year throughout the 1950s."

PRESIDENT WEAH, in his own way, has had a voice for such a long time. A former United Nations Ambassador, Mr. Weah's rise from the slums of Gibraltar to the top of world football, is itself an inspiration to many. This is why many turned out in the thousands to vote him as President of Africa's oldest republic. Those now fortunate to sit at his table and enjoying access to his ears, should not deny the rest of Liberia the right to see and hear their leader bare his soul and speak from his heart, especially in such trying times in our history.

THE POWER OF Eloquence is not only in the voice but in the ability to inspire.

PRESIDENT WEAH MUST ASSERT himself above the circle of sycophancy, threatening his presidency and shielding him from the unfolding realities of a perplexed nation, now seemingly eclipsed in a bubble of conflicting expectations.

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