By Sherman C. Seequeh
George Manneh Weah was last week at it yet again, proving clearly what he is at best—popular. As he combed communities from the North of Montserrado before cruising his way to the Southern and the Western flanks of the County, inspecting pro-poor road and housing projects, there was an electrifying frenzy of ordinary Liberians darting themselves here and there in ululation.
From Neeklay Town in northwestern Paynesville to Popo Beach in Southern Monrovia to Banjor in the West, avalanches of locals gathered in campaign style chanting their hearts out in appreciation of their President.
Kids and adolescents cheered and battle-cried endlessly. In typical high-class Liberian appreciation format, women and girls spread lappas on the bare ground for their President to walk on. There were honeyed stampedes of celebration, citizens jumping over one another to see and touch their President.
Please, no one should tell me that popularity is not important. I don’t want to hear someone saying, “That popularity we will eat?” Yes. Popularity, specifically homegrown popularity, is the lifeblood and security for any political leader, particularly for any head of state. No one knows this for a fact more than opposition politicians or political detractors.
Is it because presidential popularity is critical—that it provides shield for the incumbent—that we have had a sequel of ill-intentioned street protests? When rowdy street demonstrations first showed face in 2018, didn’t the organizers know, and don’t they still know even today, that it is inconceivable or unrealistic for a five-month old government to solve all of Liberia’s problems that have accumulated from 1847 in a few months’ time?
Those who were and are still chanting, “George Weah has failed”, or “Hard time is killing our people under George Weah”, or “George Weah must Step Up or Step Down” know squarely in the back of the heads and in their consciences that Liberia’s social, economic and political problems are systemic and deeply rooted, created and sustained by governments since the days of the first president. They surely know that these problems cannot be solved in one or two years. They know very well the factors underpinning the current woes Liberia face; yet, they put up hard faces to heap the blame on President Weah.
Do you know why detractors grossly have ignored and buried the facts and circumstances driving our national plight from the ordinary Liberians? It is because they know that President George Manneh Weah’s most precious and formidable weapon is his popularity.
By telling falsehoods about him, by mischievously misrepresenting and deliberately misinterpreting the causes of prevailing national challenges, they erroneously believe the Liberian populace will be sufficiently incited, disabused and programmed to lose trust and confidence in their President and that this will diminish his popularity and give them (the detractors) political advantage over him.
The President’s political adversaries know full well that it is to their advantage when he does not perform. When he is so dismally performing, why don’t the detractors let him fail on his own terms so that they take the credit? Why do the detractors embark on sporadic demonstrations and cry their hearts out for President Weah to succeed? The point is, they know that he’s succeeding, that he will succeed, and they are losing eventually. So, the one thing that is left as their sole option is to go all out after his most formidable advantage—popularity. In their narrow minds, they think their maneuvers have worked. They think their agitations, curses, cusses and stampedes have dwarfed the President’s popularity.
But as God would have it, this is not so. As things stand—as far as the nation and the international community has seen in the last few days—George Gbakugbeh Tarpeh Tuflan Manneh Weah’s popularity remains unscathed and is still in full tact. It is amply clear that the devious maneuvers of the detractors don’t seem to have any effect. The masses, apparently, are saying rather stubbornly, “We don’t have the political lens that blind politicians to see the monumental transformation President Weah is making. For us, we are seeing progress and development, and we are very happy.”
So, everywhere President Weah goes, while naysayers are thinking that the masses of the people would be angry to boo him and throw banana peelings at him like we saw in times past, there have been deafening pro-Weah chants; there have been celebrations, and there have been voluntary solidarity speeches from the locals.
There are some misguided folks who at times attempt to compare Tuflahn’s popularity with former Presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor’s popularities. They often conjecture very unsophisticatedly that just as those former President’s popularities failed them in their later years so will President Weah’s popularity phase out one day.
The elementary thing that those making such arguments woefully fail to note is that both Presidents Taylor and Doe acquired, sustained and fostered their versions of popularity by the force of arms. Under the onslaught of military adventurism and its tactics, Liberians had no alternative but to feign “love” and “admiration” for Doe and Taylor. The people had to fake their love for them in order to preserve their life and happiness. In a sense, what some pundits mistaken for popularity for Doe and Taylor was actually a pseudo popularity that had to be treated with pseudo admiration by the people.
Conversely, when women, kids, adolescents, the elderly and segments of the educated elites troop into community squares, school campuses, churches and mosques to demonstrate appreciation for President George Manneh Weah—when the people chant “Our pa has come”, “the man of the people is here” or “Gbakugbeh and us will die together”, they do so with genuine love and undiluted appreciation for their President. They celebrate their President’s popularity or their relations with their President while their feet stamp on new tarmac roads, eyes look at electricity and their hands draw safe drinking water that they had never experienced. They do so recalling that they are no more paying tuition in public colleges and universities. They do so knowing that they will not pay WASSCE fees. They do so elated that their right to free speech, to say and write anything about anyone, including powerful official of governments and the President himself, is decriminalized. They celebrate the fact that political prisoners are not languishing in jail for their opinions expressed. They love the current President with all their hearts because even street demonstrators who insult him, threatened him with violence and death are pampered and cuddled by the President.
So, clearly, the version of George Weah’s popularity amongst the populace, which flows from the Oceanic beaches of Maryland to the Blue Lakes of Cape Mount, and which rains from Mount Wologizi and Mount Putu in the North and Southeast to the savanna grass of Grand Bassa and Montserrado is utterly genuine and uncoerced. That is why, despite the unbaiting furnace of vicious, incessant agitations and hate unleashed on his person and his administration, George Weah’s popularity, unlike others, remains and will continue to remain strong and unharmed to the awe of many.