The Weah Biography Explained -Rodney Sieh Recounts Reasons Behind the Book; Amidst Glowing Testimonials
MONROVIA – Acclaimed Liberian journalist Rodney D. Sieh of FrontPage Africa print and online publications fame, whose book: “The Unofficial Biography of George Weah” is making waves not only locally but internationally, over the weekend hosted his book launch in Monrovia at a well-attended event that included a who’s who listing of accomplished personalities and ordinary citizens. Using the occasion to explain the rationale behind his latest literary effort, Mr. Sieh said he was particularly inspired to write an ungarnished account of the life and times of George Manneh Weah in order to take his readers down the dark labyrinth that led to Africa’s oldest republic becoming a pariah state due to bad leadership.
“Many of the things we see happening today, happened decades ago. In 1980, they executed 13 members of President Tolbert’s cabinet because of corruption. Today, in the Legislature, there is not one Americo-Liberian there. And the corruption is 100 times more than it was in 1980. This book is named after George Weah, but it is about every president who has led this nation. People are still stealing government money. People are still doing things that they are not supposed to be doing,” Mr. Sieh stated frankly during the book launch.
In a bare-knuckle styled panel discussion moderated by two of Liberia’s ace journalists, Messrs. Julius Jeh and T-Max Jlateh, respectively of OK FM and SKY FM fame, Rodney Sieh further disclosed that he felt the pressing need to write his latest book that took him four to five years to write, as a homage to friends and schoolmates of his that died because of the senseless Liberian war.
“I felt that going through the war and being alive is a blessing. I also wrote this book not out of curiosity but I was encouraged to write by a friend who did a book on former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She believed that since I had followed President Weah, I should write a book. Some of those contacted decided to talk off the record, but I decided not to go with that because I didn’t want the book to be based on hearsay. I wanted to make sure to tell a story that Liberians can be proud of. I wanted to tell a story that will be unique, that speaks truth to power,” said Mr. Sieh.
Reminiscing of his ordeal of August 2013 when he was sent to prison for libel and charged by the Supreme Court with a US$1.5 million fine, Sieh said a prominent lawyer at the time told him off the record that he could have represented him but feared witch-hunting by the judiciary.
“I say this to say that Liberia is not a country where you can freely talk about a sitting president, especially if you have relations with him. They are all afraid they will be sidelined, sidestepped; and that’s the difficult part about writing this book. I really wanted to go deeper regarding all of these questions you are asking, but it was just difficult because of that thick red line we have in this country; that because someone’s relative works in government, and this person is writing about them, I can’t associate with them.
“I have very few friends. Very few friends,” the hard-hitting journalist said, as he encouraged the public to read the book and decide for themselves whether or not the book did justice to the contending socio-economic and political situations that the country faces under a footballing president.
As part of the book launch ceremony, personalities who were close to Mr. Rodney Sieh in his journey of truth-telling were given the platform to inform the audience why they believe in Rodney and his work.
Taking to the podium, Rodney’s childhood friend Trocon W. Langford who is now pastor of the Effort Baptist Church, expressed his elation for being selected to share his memories of growing up with the man who is today revered in Liberia and the world for his unbridled stance against corruption and bad governance.
“I am glad to be here. When I knew this program was planned for today, I was planning to come and be a part of it. Lovetta and I had spoken, and I thought about our childhood and said, I will say something about Rodney, reflecting on our childhood and what he’d become today. Then, a few days after, I received a text from him and he asked me to do this very thing. So, I think it’s all in the right direction.
“So, we grew up on A.B. Tolbert Road, Paynesville. Much of our time in school was spent in the neighborhood as regular kids. The neighborhood we grew in, all of our parents were our parents. They taught us morals, they could discipline us, and they set high standards. Growing up as young children, we grew up with competition, always having the standard of excelling at the best; whether it was football or basketball. Rodney was a goalie for us, he used to like manning, but whenever they scored two goals, he would walk off the field and go home. And I wonder if he had made it up to the professional level, whether he would stand behind Harry McGuire. But the fact is, we grew up together, played together, wanted to be the best dancer, the best footballer, the best basketballer, higher jumper; we just wanted to raise a standard. All of our work, whether it was in school or in the neighborhood, had a different twist during the war.
“During the war, Rodney and I spent a lot of time together. It was a touching and life-changing moment – a terrible moment. After the rebels had hit our community, every member of the neighborhood was finding the safest place to live, and we stayed on A.B. Tolbert Road, and were among the last people to leave. I think we left Rodney and his uncle at the house, and later on they came on Duport Road. When we regrouped on Duport Road, we made a plan to go back because we didn’t like life on Duport Road, so went back to A.B. Tolbert Road. There were hardly many people living there. It was almost like living in the jungle. Many times, the fighters would come, look around and stop. I remember one time this fighter came and took Rodney and myself all the way to 12 Houses, looted 12 Houses, put the suitcases on our heads and said, ‘take us around Watch Tower’. So, we took the suitcases and moved to Watch Tower. After 6 o’clock, he told us to go home. But we told him that there is a curfew. How can we go home when other fighters don’t know us? So, he told us to say, ‘CO so-and-so said we should go home’. While walking, we passed by the Tubman United Methodist Church, and one guy was standing who didn’t have a gun. Whether he was really a fighter, we couldn’t tell, but he said, ‘gentlemen, your come’. We didn’t know who he was so we obeyed. He started asking us questions. First, I was afraid. Every question he asked I would answer. But Rodney didn’t want to comply. So, the guy told me to go and for Rodney to remain with him. At that point, I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to stay either. Rodney is there, he’s angry. I am walking away, but not too fast, because I didn’t want to be out of his sight. After that, he told Rodney to go.
“There was another woman who had food, we would go and help her in her house, get wood for her, and we survived. But the truth of life is, after those moments, we didn’t see life the same way. Today, seeing Rodney, the person he is, he sees that Liberia needs redemption. I love what this kid did. It summarized our plight as a nation. People lost their lives. People went through difficulties. I think his fight today is to reveal that Liberia can be better. But if we strive for that cause, if we live for something, rather than falling for everything. With all of the difficulties in our childhood, Rodney has risen to a higher level of directing our nation; calling politicians and state actors to attention, that those who lost their lives, those who suffered didn’t do it because they were unfortunate, but because we built a culture for ourselves, that we don’t stand for anything, we don’t believe in anything. We only look at today. Eat, drink and be merry; tomorrow we will die,” Pastor Langford lamented.
Also gracing the occasion, renowned human rights lawyer Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, who serves as legal counsel to the author, recounted his arduous working relationship with Mr. Sieh.
“I come here for several reasons. One, to celebrate my friend, my fiercest critic, my client, and the guy who always gives me all kinds of warnings – Rodney Sieh. I am proud of Rodney. Being his lawyer is not an easy thing, very difficult; because Rodney will act before he consults you. And when he gets through acting, he says, ‘my man, trouble is coming o’. But seeing Rodney in the civil law court with his pillow, determined to go to jail. I was joking Rodney. I said Rodney, these are not the times of Albert Porte, my friend. Albert Porte used to have his mat. You got your pillow to go in that Central Prison; that place is not easy. Rodney said to me, I will go there. I am prepared to go there. If that is what will cause me, I am prepared to go there. And certainly, Rodney went there. We journeyed through that and we worked very hard. And Rodney still remained committed and dedicated to the truth.
“I am so happy that Rodney has come this far. But Rodney has done something. His pursuit of the truth; he is a soldier of the pen; and he must be celebrated by all of us in this room and outside of this room; and let the word go forth to many young people, that if you don’t stand for anything, you will fall for everything. And this is Rodney. Rodney continues to soldier on. The evidence of this is his courageousness; the fact that he can indulge in undertaking and writing an unofficial, unauthorized biography of a sitting president says a lot about Rodney. And in Rodney’s writing, he is not just subjective about the reality, because it’s not just about who he is writing about, it’s about his courage, his commitment to the truth. And this is what we must celebrate in Liberia. This is a rare gem to find in our country. And so, we must celebrate him. So, Rodney, as always, I stand with you, I stand by you and join you in this commitment to the truth. As a defender, as a soldier of the pen, I urge you to go forth. We will continue to support you and your work. Thank you for giving this gift to our people, giving this gift to Liberia, and to generations yet unborn,” Atty Woods stated frankly.
As for constitutional lawyer Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, she said Rodney never ceases to surprise her.
“I have read this book throughout, and I want to send a caveat to everyone in Liberia. To play the game, you must learn the rules. But if you don’t know the agenda, don’t get involved; because this book contains the names behind President Weah, what they did, the role they played to get him to run for the presidency. I encourage everyone to read this book. When you know the agenda, you will know how to go about Liberian politics.
“I am glad to be here today, Rodney. You braved a storm to write about Liberia and Africa’s first football president. You have done something great all Liberians should embrace. In this book that I read from beginning to end, I can clearly say that Rodney put his heart and soul into telling this story without fear or favor. In this book, Rodney has documented a story of Africa’s first football president; he documented the good, the bad and the ugly.
“I heard a lot of stories about how this book is controversial. Some of Rodney’s critics say he wrote the book because of his dislike of President George Weah. Others say he wrote it as a public relation for President Weah’s reelection. I have seen Rodney’s work firsthand. He does not sugarcoat, nor does he kiss anyone’s boot. He is no sycophant. Like his grand uncle Albert Porte, he tells it like it is and how it should be told. He is a rebel with a cause. Rodney’s love for all things Liberia is demonstrated in this book,” Cllr. Bull excitedly stated.
The colorful ceremony was capped by the reading of poetry from two young and enterprising Liberians, and an enthralling performance by Liberia’s current top female rapper MC Caro who serenaded the audience to some of her captivating hit songs.