A Commentary by J. Lyndon Ponnie
George Weah was considered a non-entity of Liberian politics by his critics, the intellectual class and traditional ruling elites—and, in fact, that’s why the electorate, most of them the impoverished masses—elected him over them. The elites are chronically trapped in their ego and the monotony of politics bend against the masses of the people.
The people needed a paradigm shift in governance—a shift from elite-favored to masses-favored leadership in the country. Thankfully, the masses were wise, and George Weah won the presidency with over 61% of the total votes in the 2017 presidential elections.
And during his inauguration ceremonies, which took place two years ago at the largest soccer stadium in Monrovia, first in Liberia’s history, Weah amongst other things, promised a total revamp of all major infrastructures, making road connectivity a major priority in Africa oldest nation.
In the mind of the new President, road connectivity constitutes the fulcrum of broad-based national transformation. Road liberates the remotest and long neglected disadvantaged people in the rural parts get connected to modernity—electricity, safe drinking water, better schools and health facilities and any modern one thinks about. These are impossible without road.
He’s just the second native Liberian to be elected to the highest post of the country since the independence in 1847. The first native president, Samuel Kanyon Doe, despite the political restlessness he endured in the hands of the dethroned hegemony and its apologists, made critical infrastructures the linchpin of his development agenda. He was killed during a bloody civil crisis.
Weah has a very modest upbringing. He hails from one of the biggest slums in Monrovia. He lived the true meaning of poverty, doing street peddling before being catapulted by his God-sent skills which developed him into the world best soccer player in the early 1990s.
He had started his soccer career on dusty community pitches before moving to Liberia first division soccer level.
He moved to Cameroon and later to Europe, where he conquered world soccer to be the first African to win the world best player award.
Weah completed high school only after retirement from soccer, and later did his undergraduate and master’s degrees.
He beat Robert Sirleaf, the son of the sitting president of Liberia at the time, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for a senatorial seat in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. Campaign for the senatorial elections was electrifying but the result was devastating against the son of Madam Sirleaf–a severe trashing that could be recorded into Guinness Book of World records.
And then in 2017, he took state power after defeating the ruling Unity Party candidate, Joseph Boakai by winning 14 of the 15 counties with over 61% of the total votes.
Since his ascendency, Pres. Weah had committed himself to the infrastructural transformation of Liberia and the progress of the Liberian people and declared that he would be the bridge that will connect the long abandoned rural parts of the country with the highest segment of the population and urban Monrovia.
The President’s statement stands as an attestation of his government’s full obligation to the pavement of the roads network of the entire country, to alleviate agonizing traveling difficulties Liberians are enduring, while at the same time enhance trade and commerce.
“When I came to you, I stated that I will be the bridge that will connect Liberia and Liberians; and I still stand on the promise that I am the bridge between Liberia and Liberians,” President Weah pointed out.
The President also made an analogy between opportunity and performance to accentuate that he has a duty to perform as President to meet the needs of the Liberian people because they have given him the opportunity to prove himself worthy of their trust.
“You know my background as a sportsman; we have one rule that when you have an opportunity to play, you have to perform; if you don’t perform, you have to come on the bench. When you are on the bench and they bring you on the field, you have to perform,” the President noted.
“I was on the bench and now they brought me on the field; so I have to score a goal for the team to win.” The team, referring to the Liberian nation.
Two Years of Weah’s Presidency-What’s in there to boast of? These are just but few.
In two years, Weah’s CDC Government has managed to pave several hundred kilometers of roads in the country. He started with connecting urban communities with paved roads.
The Liberian Government has completed the pavement of the Samuel K. Doe Community Road, Bishop Michael Francis Road, Logan Town Broad Street, Chugbu Road, Buchanan Fare Ground Road and all roads in the Rehab community and surrounding, Pipeline-Johnsonville project, and Patience Shop-Bardnersville road.
Still under construction are the Parker Paint to Coca- Cola Factory, and the Parker Paint to ELWA Junction, as well as the extension of the SD Cooper road, Somalia Drive road projects and 800m drainage. The Liberian Government is carrying out the construction of roads leading to Soul Clinic and Nekley Town, as well as the Banjor Community Road.
It can be recalled that Liberia’s public works minister, Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan, told journalists that the total amount needed to connect all major regions in Liberia is about US$ 1.5 Billion.
And the Government through the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry Finance Development and Planning has signed US$ 100m loan agreement deal with the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development for the construction of phase-1 of the Coastal Highway Road Corridor.
The Corridors (Roads) to be constructed under this agreement includes, the pavement of Barclayville through Sass Town (Grand Kru County) to Klowne (Sinoe County) totaling’s 96.6km. The project has begun.
The World Bank’s has also expressed commitment to support President Weah’s infrastructural agenda by prioritizing road construction and disclosed plans for the pavement of the Ganta-Tappita highway and the likelihood of paving the Tappita-Fish Town highway.
The World Bank has also committed to approve financing for the construction and pavement of Phase I of the project, which is the Ganta-to-Tappita Highway, a 125km road at the cost of $100m.
The bank announced that it has been able to secure $40 million of the funding and are looking to sourcing the additional $60 million from the private sector.
The bank further intimated that Phase 2 of the project will be the pavement of the Tappita-Fishtown highway once the funding becomes available.
A 200 bed-room state of the Art 14-Military Hospital located at Scheflin, near Monrovia is nearing completion, as is the construction of the Redemption Hospital in Caldwell. The first of its kind in the country.
The Liberian Government has also renovated the John F. Kennedy, the biggest referral hospital in the country and equipped it with modern facilities.
The Liberian Government has authorized the construction of 5,000 low-income housing units in Scheflin. 250 other units will be dedicated by the president in Sass Town, Grand Kru County in one month, with 5,000 each to be built in the 15 sub-divisions of the country. President Weah revealed, the aim is to make housing affordable to all Liberians.
Additional 80 housing units have been completed and dedicated in the Borough of New Kru Town on the Popo Beach.
The Liberian Government has also succeeded in constructing a coastal defense wall in New Kru to safe the D. Tweah high School from being destroyed by sea erosion. Watch out for Part II of this commentary.