The 24th President of Liberia celebrates his 54th Birth Anniversary. From a hasty look at it, some members of the public might take it for ordinary date and moment. But when politics and the toxin of human indifference are put aside, the man and the date are more than usual and common flashes of lightning on the horizon. It is a special moment and story to behold, and a special Liberian species to wow. The commentaries of today about him may be mixed but there are facts—indisputable truths—that even the most critical minds would admit and accept in their corners. The Analyst, in a Special Tribute of the Day, takes a cursory glimpse of the legendary narrative that defines the man who celebrates his century-and-four existence on Planet Earth.
Life’s journey for George Manneh Weah may not be so radically different and unique to him alone. There might be some Liberians or other human species that once walked or are currently walking a similar trajectory. Their stories might just be buried because, unlike Weah’s, theirs remain untold and buried under the rubbles of fatigue and incompleteness. Weah has reached the pinnacle and stands as a towering testimony and divine inspiration for anyone facing checkered life circumstances with grim determination to succeed.
There might be those who may want to measure the worth of the reasons for President Weah’s s natal-day celebration today only against his achievements as President of Liberia in the last three years. But if one where to reflect deeply or asked him or those who follow his life journey in the last 54 years, the reasons would substantively predate is political success.
What is also clear although is that the President’s political glory is and cannot be dismissed easily. Despite the fact that his pre-presidential days were the building blocks upon which he rode rather laboriously to achieve his current status, his short time in national leadership also gives him so such solid reasons to celebrate provocatively and unapologetically.
This is not an argument that he’s doing what Liberian leaders from 1948 did not do. But even if one were pushed hard to defend his achievements and handiworks, it can be safely stated that he broke the political glass ceiling in a number of respects as to some of his policy and development actions.
It can be boasted that he’s historically the first-ever Liberian President to declared tuitions in public universities and colleges frozen. Who can counter-argue that? It can be stated that he is the first-ever Liberian President to freeze and eliminate the payment of high school public exams, mainly the West Africa exams. Who can negate that fact based on historical records?
We have seen from latter years of the True Whig Party the construction of low cost housing. But which Liberian president ever build housing units for impoverished rural and urban citizens free of charge? Who can deny that?
And there are countless more ever-time initiatives and policy actions by him in the last three years.
To further prove this point, it might be safe for one to ask: which Liberian political leader in recent history aside from the decades-run hegemonic True Whig Party presided over a highly battled opposition political party for 12 years and survived intact? Since the TWP transitioned into opposition status, how relevant has it been for nearly 40 years now?
Think of other political parties and their leaders—from former ruling parties such as the NDPL, NPP, and even the recent former ruling Unity Party and their leaders? How relevant are they today? Think of non-ruling parties that were and still in opposition today. How relevant and weighty are they on the political landscape—political parties that had had Liberia’s celebrated academics and politicians.
In other words, is it is only George Manneh Weah, the fellow from slum Clara Town and West Point, who surmounted the odds and trappings of opposition leadership in history. Throughout his leadership as the Political Leader of his CDC in opposition, and despite the ferocious external schemes to politically obliterate him and the party, he triumphed.
It is a fact that every election in which he and his CDC contested, they emerged in the first or second row of victory. Which other party or Liberian politician since TWP time can be credited for a similar record? None.
The point is, the man who celebrates his 54th birthday today, even as a politician and as President of Liberia, cannot be easily dismissed.
But the celebration of the day is not so much about his presidency—it is not so much about what he has done in three years and what he has done as a politician. Today’s celebration is a hard reflection, fundamentally, about his epic journey, his legendary transformation from “dumpsite hero”, from “garbage scavenger”—someone who sold empty bottles to survive, who fished “bugars” in “Jarkers” in the slum swamps of Clara Town and Doe Community to a conquer of Liberia, Africa and the World.
The reflections and celebrations of today are so much about how George Weah—who slept on bare floors before the beds of friends to pass a night, who was dismissed a lazy football player, who hauled Fanti nets on the beaches of West Point and Popo Beach and who was deemed doom a pauper—conquered poverty and emerged one of Liberia’s biggest humanitarian for both friends and foes.
There is something about this man that must be sought after, reflected upon, imbibed and propagated as the celebrations take center stage in the minds of admirers as well as protagonists.
As already stated, the conditions and circumstances that afflicted him at birth and during his adolescent years aren’t unique to him. There were many like him yesteryears, and there are many like him today. How did he make it? Why did we get the favor of Providence? That is the greatest reflection we must have today.
Providence or say the Almighty God attracts towards the meek, kindhearted and people-centered. While George Weah’s athletic skills constituted his biggest asset, he carried and still carries a big humble heart.
On the playing field and away, he shared is paltry income he could have utilized to cover for the long years that poverty grinded him. But sooner he began receiving returns on his skills then he started to ration to the needy.
Not only did he personally support his peers to move from Africa to Europe so that they become like him, he also began catering to young people and the disadvantaged who remained trapped by poverty back home.
He established free vocational schools and opened scholarships and financial aids for youth in other schools. He singlehandedly funded trips of the Lone Star, the National Team, and took food to the elderly and orphans.
George Weah combed refugee camps abroad and displaced centers at home during the war years, and he distributed food, cash and other relief items to them.
He risked dear life, moved into regions of warlords and their ragtag militias, and convinced them to drop arms and return to normal life.
Some pundits say his greatest political gift to Liberia was the fact that, as a political magnet to whom millions swore allegiance, George Manneh Weah transposed his meek nature into politics and rejected the temptation of rendering the country ungovernable in the face of provocation including fraudulent elections.
Throughout his 12-year opposition leadership, when avalanche of citizens gave their unflinching allegiance—something other Liberian politicians could have exploited to cause unrest—Weah remained calm like sheep. Never did not speak derogatorily or harshly let alone insult anyone in leadership.
Even as President of Liberia, he has not rescinded or shed the traits of humility, discipline and humanity.
The celebration today is no doubt deserving. It is deserving to the man who is celebrating, whose Earthly advent falls on today’s date—October 1—as well as deserving for all other Liberians.
The feat is deserving for him because he has come a long way. His fortitude has got him a huge space and the nature as a peacemaker and meek soul, something that finds him favor with the Lord Almighty who has navigated him on the seas of life, from tumultuous waves to the solid, calm shores of prosperity.
And it is deserving for the nation as a whole because his life journey displays a solid testimony and inspiration for those who desire to beat life’s odds or those who want Providence to look their way too.
So much to reflect about. So much to celebrate about. But the story of a legend is endless. And George Weah’s version is too long to narrate within a day. It is an encyclopedia with multiple volumes but the short of it is that it is an arc that clicks towards hard work, diligence and altruism.
This is why one can use his struggle and success as a prism to examine and reflect what life has and can give in the days at head. This is why October 1 is a moment to cogitate and celebrate.