No Pain No Gain: Only a Dillon Victory- Howbeit Painful- Will Challenge President Weah to Lead Well and Increase the CDC Chances of Success in Future Elections.

Fellow CDCians, it is counter-intuitive, but instructive, that a vote against the Party’s candidates in the upcoming midterm elections is the most appropriate forward-looking strategy to push President Weah’s administration to perform better and by that increase and solidify the party’s chances for success in future political contests. It is no doubt that the president’s inner circle continues to hide from him the reality of their failures, while they feed him with praises. Their actions, which allow them to do no work but loot and hire you CDCians to praise their failures, have left President Weah oblivious to the intolerable hardship Liberians are facing and unable to insert the changes required to improve the living conditions of Liberians. As folks around the President show no symptom of readiness to change course, a rejection of the party’s senatorial candidates – or at least his Montserrado senatorial candidate, is the only remaining strategy that can pull President Weah from the cage or fragment of imagination that his kitchen cabinet, led by Tweah and McGill, has locked him into, bring him closer to the reality of economic hardship in Liberia and by that challenge him to take his job seriously, drop his populist agenda, and adopt an evidence-based approach to lifting his people from poverty.

 The Facts President Weah Needs to Know to Wake Up

Since President Weah’s inauguration in 2018, key development indicators that should be increasing are decreasing, while those that should be decreasing are increasing. Below are graphs from a World Bank report vividly showing trends of failure. But before the graphs, here are highlights: The poverty headcount ratio rose from approximately 50% of the population before Weah’s inauguration to a little over 55% in 2019. This means, within one year, the Weah administration subjected, to poverty, approximately 269,000 Liberians who were not poor before his inauguration. Another way to put this succinctly is that the Weah’s leadership added 269,000 poor people to the over 2.3 million Liberians the Ellen administration left in poverty. These are not just numbers; they represent living human beings (CDCians and non CDCians) who could feed themselves but sadly cannot afford today. GDP per capita dropped from USD 541 in 2018 to USD 516 in 2019, indicating a significant drop in Liberians standard of living and showing consistency with the incidence of poverty referenced earlier. Inflation skyrocketed as the Liberian dollar depreciated by 29.6% at the end of 2019. From January 2016 to May 2019, domestic food-price inflation reached 31.2 percent whilst the price of imported food increased by 26.9%. Amidst COVID-19, these indicators are expected to get worst.

It is foolhardy to blame the Weah Administration wholly for these trends, but the President’s consideration of what is happening in the country as success and the indiscipline his administration continue to adopt in addressing them is troubling and give only a miniature of hope that things will improve if something dramatic does not happen on Dec 8. The administration has willfully abandoned, for the most part, its Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and other plans designed to address Liberia’s challenges and now   runs with “looking good projects” only because they satisfy President Weah’s desire to be labeled as “The first to do it”. For example, counties and communities listed in Liberia’s health sector plan as those in immediate need of healthcare infrastructure were abandoned for the construction of a military clinic in in the suburb of Monrovia because President Weah wanted the title of being the first president to build a military health facility. Investment in Agriculture, recognized by all Liberia’s development partners and the PAPD as Liberia’s best pathway out of poverty – is now in the back seat for investment in Airline service because President Weah feels comfortable being labeled the first President in 30yrs to revive the national airline; even though investment in Airline is not – Pro-poor and the sector is unprofitably struggling to stay afloat because of the impact of COVID-19. Attempts to attract investments have yielded noting attractive. Companies that expressed initial interest to invest, including in the oil sector, have pulled out because of a myriad of factors not short of reckless bribe solicitation and the injudicious and clandestine altering of natural resource laws. For example, the government’s oil bid-round scheduled for October 2020 is near collapse. Oil companies have pulled out of the bid process, leaving the government with no option, but to postpone the bid round, and offered potential bidders a “Sell-Pay” option- one that allows them to pay government  revenue (signature bonuses) in installments as opposed to the required one-time payment.

Amidst all these that should challenge any president, who is not under external supernatural influences, to demand measurable results from his team, President Weah remains dogmatic in his belief that his populist policies are succeeding, and Liberians are living a better life today than they have lived under previous administrations. Evidence to dismiss the President’s claim is overwhelming, so one is easily tempted to ignore them as a comical distraction of an absentee Head of State. I do not choose such an option. Instead, I see the statement as a troubling confirmation of what has been speculated: that President Weah’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and his Minster of Finance have succeeded in hiding the harsh reality from him and making him oblivious to the heavy burden of the economic hardship Liberians face. That instead of reassessing the performance of his cabinet and the work they do, President Weah is comfortable with the ill-informed policies and programs his lieutenants continue to deploy and careless about backlashes from Liberians because he is manipulated into believing that people that criticize him are “enemies of the state”.

Way Forward: A Bitter-Sweet Strategy for the medium-long term Success of the CDC 

For those with interest in the CDC beyond the “Weah 12 years” been touted, these circumstances must move you to swallow the bitter pains on the 8th of December and vote against CDC’s senatorial candidates, not because you love the opposition but as a strategy to send a message directly to the President – without any interpretation from Tweah and McGill- about the need to govern well and by that increase and solidify the CDC’s chances of winning future elections. Voting against all CDC’s candidates will communicate profoundly your message surrounding issues of poor governance directly to President Weah and inadvertently defeat cataclysmically the self-seeking ministers who have detached the president from the hard reality and conditioned him to believe that things are good and your lives have been improved than ever before.

On the other hand, by voting for the CDC’s candidates- especially Thomas Fallah-  because of T-shirt and money – will be an unconscious or involuntary endorsement to keep President Weah asleep why Nathaniel McGill and Samuel Tweah exploit Liberia’s progress, deny you what you deserve and destroy the CDC’s future chances. You vote will give President Weah additional reason to trust the fabricated information – like budget surplus, that Tweah and McGill continue to feed him with, make him to relax into fantasy while McGill, Tweah and a few others loot the country and destroy the CDC’s future chances.

Sycophancy Threatens Weah’s Legacy And CDC’s Future More than Dillon’s Victory   

I know CDcians are concerned that an opposition victory would abort the people’s revolution. Don’t worry! The greatest threat to the CDC is not Dillion or the CCP; it is the continuous failure of the administration to govern well and deliver on its promises. The root causes of the failures- which are reflected in the increasing economic hardship that now decorate Dillon as an alternative- is the endemic and slavish sycophancy being exhibited by those around the president. Their failure to lay bare the mountains of problems President Weah inherited and those his populist initiatives have created and to draw on evidence and experience to respectfully show President Weah the difference between what makes sense in addressing Liberia’s development challenges and what makes him happy but do not address the country problems remains the major threat to his legacy and future of the CDC. Our focus, therefore, should be directed not to showing phony political control by forcing CDC’s candidates down the throats of Liberians either through voting ragging, or extravagant campaign made possible by emptying the coffers of state-owned enterprises or directing government revenue from legally designated accounts to campaign accounts. We should direct our energies to a reconciliation and policy retreat program, like the one envisioned by Chairman Morlu- but was suddenly converted into a “Thank You” ceremony for the President, to talk frankly (without the press) about why we continue to fail the Liberian people and redesign our strategy for the remaining three years. I predict that President Weah will lead well and deliver on his promises if he sees the reality. The only remaining opportunity to lay before President Weah the brutal reality of what is happening under his leadership is a victory for opposition candidates- especially Dillon.

Phill Dixon and Isaac Vah Tukpah are respectively the better and best options for Montserrado. Unfortunately, they cannot pull the vote we desperately need to communicate the message that will challenge and wake up President Weah to the reality. Hence, though with the fundamental ideological difference, we support Dillon’s re-election. While, our support to Dillon is primarily to use his victory to wake up President Weah, the wave of structural transformation we envisioned during the second half of President Weah’s administration and going forward will need the LIGHT in the Legislature to show the problems so those with the required expertise can design and implement solutions.

Vote Dillon – not because you like him- but because his victory will bring out the Weah you know, challenges him to lead well and increase the CDC Chances of Success in Future elections.

Ambulah Mamey is a CDCian and Agricultural Development Practitioner. He resides in the USA and leads FAO and USAID Food Security projects in countries including Haiti, Nicaragua, and Ghana. Email: realambulah@gmail.com

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