Liberia: Treat Prince Johnson's Weah Bashing With a Grain of Salt - - George Weah Owns the Man

Our opposition friends, to a great degree, are still in their 2017 electoral mould. In politics, locking yourself up in the mould of nostalgia has won no victory for any camp. Such could prove disastrous for any project to rout Weah out of power and begin rebuilding the nation, creating excitement, and explaining to the poor masses of the people that despite the backwardness of the country, Liberia can make a rebound. Most countries that have gone through the terrible wilderness of stagnation have extricated themselves from the doldrums with a political leadership committed to a social revolution which changes the poverty-stricken existence of the people. This is what politics should be about: showing to the masses a better future is possible.

The Liberian opposition cannot do this when it gives publicity to childish banters of madmen that pass more for political theatre than for any serious attempt at dissecting the problems of the country with the object of devising a path to social transformation and how the nation can harness its true potential in the wake of a changing global world where dynamics are constantly changing, constantly coming into being, and constantly volatile. However, in the world of social media where shares, likes and circulations are the staple, we get treated every day to the circus of political clowns. How the opposition navigates through cyber distractions, require political shrewdness.

People want to know what separates the opposition from the horrendous cartel in government. They want to hear how their lives can get better and what they must do to construct a prosperous future to their children. Mostly, they are interested in the bread and butter issues as they are about investments in social treasures such as affordable housing, 21-century complaint health facilities, poverty elimination programmes--things pivotal to engender individual mobility but through a deliberate strategy of collective social advancement that prioritizes people over a political clique. This is what the voters yearn for not the regular theatrics that has gripped Capitol Hill or the Executive Mansion.

Yesterday, I woke up to the news of Senator Prince Johnson saying he regretted supporting Weah for president. It has made the rounds on social media, making front-page headline in our dailies. This has switched our attention from discussing issues affecting the have-nots such as rampant poverty and economic dislocation to the absurdity of Prince Johnson as a point for national discussion. For opposition elements being the salespersons of Johnson's ruse is much an exercise in political stupidity as it is a show of the pathetic bankruptcy which has gripped that camp. For all we know, Prince Johnson is good at slaughtering people as he is for creating political cause célèbres, playing victim, and using tribal trappings to gain political favour. His latest outburst is just a page out of that playbook.

Prince Johnson is crafty in his political buffoonery. He watches the mood in the country and grandstands and then certain sections of the public take his outburst seriously. Such increases his political value and brings the government genuflecting before him to keep his support as a strategy to keep the almighty Nimba in line. Political racketeering has been the single way Johnson has amassed disproportionate levels of fortune for himself. For a weak regime, he has exploited its vulnerabilities to a good effect for his self-enrichment. That some people have not realized this is disgraceful because this allows the man to get away with his political deception.

In 2017, Johnson rightfully predicted the concomitant chaos of a Weah's presidency, the pathetic refusal of Weah to engage with ideas, his dangerous cluelessness about governance, and his lack of a compass to deal with the challenges of governance. Before the news could die away, Johnson made a 360-degree U-turn when Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf gifted him some green notes to endorse Weah. Again, we saw the typical Prince Johnson's nonsense months ago when he took to the airwaves to lampoon Weah for the terrible state of the country. Days later, Weah found himself in the good graces of the man when some cash got traded. He is doing it again.

Johnson has no conviction, scruple or patriotism-Weah owns him. He is the last on conviction. His claim to power has been about rehashing tribal cleavages to gain political advantage that he then uses at the disadvantage of the masses of the Nimba people for political deals. He trades the support of his people for money, exploits their sense of fear about phantom tribal conflict for political favour. Worst of all, the warlord-cum-reverend minister has no political direction. He believes in himself.

Political elites drumming tribal chauvinism for political capital is not a Prince Johnson staple, but a mainstay of Liberian politics. Take, for instance, the Kru people constantly giving uncritical support to Weah, the Grebo people for Tubman, and the Krahn people for Doe. In a country where people find safety in their tribal extraction as opposed to progressive connection, political actors who refused to play to the tribal gallery but fixated on bringing people together based on progressive values and ideals, elective office has eluded them.

The way to end this scourge is to have a government that unites the people on progressive policies with spiritual and farsighted foci. In the 2017 presidential campaign, I paid attention to the manifestos of most of the political parties, but none seems to have a strategy for addressing the structural menaces except talking about reconciliation with an air of abstraction. Most didn't grasp that without economic inclusion, reconciliation is an illusion. But the Liberian People's Party led by Dr H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr recognized that illusion and put economic justice firmly at the apex of its agenda, ranging from partial nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy to building of boarding schools across the country that promote the interchange of student and eliminating tribal divide, pivotal for building progressive values.

Until people in politics understand this, Prince Johnson and other reactionary tribal chauvinists would exploit tribal loopholes for political capital. But all this would end when Liberian politicos have a class-based strategy of winning voters and inspiring transformation. And it begins with envisaging winning Nimba without Prince Johnson and treating his poorly articulated Weah bashing with a grain of salt. Easy to do.

If we are to transform Liberia, beat back the current of despair haemorrhaging national life, we must offer progressive politics that bring the people into history and make actors such as Weah, Tweah, McGill and Johnson varieties either political spent forces or dinosaurs. A social revolution with democratic tendencies is Liberia's path to a better future.

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