By Joseph S. Sherman, Washington, DC
Since the military coup of April 12, 1980 and the establishment of a military regime by Samuel K. Doe, the Liberian state started weakening politically and economically. The 14-year civil war has also witnessed a high level of state failure, coupled with huge humanitarian crises.
Liberia failed state exhibit deteriorating or destroyed infrastructures. The telephone system failed, water supplies dried up, and other normal services vanished. Educational and medical facilities crumble literally and metaphorically, illiteracy rates sky rocketed, and infant mortality rates rose. AIDS overwhelms what little is in the way of a health infrastructure. The poor become more and more impoverished and battered.
What leadership quality does Liberia need at this crucial time to restore the rule of law, resuscitate the economy, and sustain international commitments? Flabbergasted, and disappointed at soccer icon, Oppong Weah’s statement that Liberia don’t need educated people to handle such a Herculean task makes me wonder whether the skills he possessed to be a world renowned soccer icon was achieved without rigorous training and commitment to the subject matter that made him popular.
With the illiteracy rate in Liberia over 55%, evidence suggests that a large number of men, women, and children in Liberia seeking literacy instructions today presented limited reading skills, which is an indicator of the motivational and educational disadvantages experienced by people who have a history of failure. How does Oppong Weah intends to solve these illiteracy problems if he does not believe in education or educated people governing Liberia?
Revitalizing Liberia is much more difficult than preventing it from sliding from decay and collapse. At this present moment, reestablishing local government and, empowering civil society requires a trained and vibrant politician with the capabilities of delivering the goods to Liberians instead of one who will depend on “buying brains” to solve the country’s crucial problems. It is the democratic right of Oppong Weah to contest for any office in Liberia, nevertheless, he should reflect on the situation faced by the late President Samuel K. Doe who saw education as an important element in governingLiberia. He had all the sophisticated tutors to enhance his leadership career but was in the final analysis betrayed by the very “brains” he trusted thus leading Liberia to anarchy and chaos.
I believe Oppong Weah has reached the highest echelon of success in his life as a renowned soccer icon. However, vying for the highest office in Liberia without better preparation is a risk for the already dehumanized and downtrodden people in the country. Shattering their hopes for a quick fix solution to the country’s ailing problems without delivering same is an act of genocide and posterity will never forgive him for gambling with the lives of already traumatized and dehumanized Liberians.
More than words are needed for real transformation to take place in Liberia. It requires a pragmatic and visionary leader with political experience who will restore Liberia’s credibility nationally and internationally. Devoid of these leadership qualities, I am afraid the tendency of Liberia recurring back to a failed state is imminent.