KING GEORGE …From the Pitch to the Throne

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By Eric Elezuo

For George Opong Weah, ‘Not Yet Uhuru’ is no longer an option in the political equilibrium as a 12 years ambition finally came to a head during the week when he was declared the President-elect of the Republic of Liberia.

The soccer legend turned politician and his running mate, Ms. Jewel Taylor had to wait another gruesome three months before uhuru could be theirs, and thanks for letimacy and election transparency, the victory was won.

The tension generated by the October 10 Liberian election reached fever pitch as notable candidates spend sleepless nights expecting the outcome.

The race after thorough collation of results was opened to only two of the 20 candidates who started in charming hopefulness in a bid to replace the first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who has served a whopping 12 years on the throne, according to the constitution.

Touted as the favourite ahead of incumbent Vice President, Joseph Boakai, former footballer, George Weah, had taken the lead with 33.71 percent of polling stations counted as the battle for the presidency gets hotter.

More results had suggested that third and fourth places were held by longtime opposition leader, Charles Brumskine with 9.4 percent (48,390 votes), and former Coca-Cola executive, Alexander Cummings took 6.7 percent (34,672), respectively.

The candidates were battling for a 50 per cent majority of votes cast to win out rightly and avoid a runoff. However, as no single candidate gained the requisite 50 percent of the vote, a runoff was scheduled for November between the top two contenders, who happened to be George Weah and Joseph Boakai, according to Liberian law.

Weah’s efforts to secure the mandatory 50 percent majority to win in order not to fall victim of an unnecessary runoff which may be his undoing as was the case in 2005, did not materialize however.

It will be recalled that Weah clearly defeated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2005 during the general election, but failed to secure a 50 per cent votes cast, prompting the election to go into runoff where he lost. A repeat would surely had broken Weah’s heart, but there was no repeat; George had secure 13 out of the 15 counties shortly after counting commenced.

The country, which has spent a chunk of its modern in wars, has 2.1 million registered voters, and the election which is reputed to have gone so well, represents the nation’s first democratic transfer of power in seven decades.

Local and international observers have noted that Tuesday’s run off election was generally free and fair although one party had taken the electoral body to court, alleging irregularities. But the matter, which got as far as the Supreme Court, was resolved to the fact that the elections were free to hold.

However, expectation for a Weah victory triggered premature congratulatory meetings from  notable world leaders even as vote counting was still on.

George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah was born on October 1, 1966. He had been a professional footballer before venturing into politics at retirement. He is regarded as one of the greatest African players of all-time and as one of the best forwards of his generation. In 1995, he won the highest award in football as he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first African player to win these awards.

In 1989, 1994 and 1995, he was named the African Footballer of the Year, and in 1996, he was named African Player of the Century. Known for his acceleration, speed, and dribbling ability, in addition to his goal scoring and clinical finishing, Weah was described by FIFA as “the precursor of the multi-functional strikers of today”. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.

After starting his career in his home country of Liberia, Weah spent 14 years of his professional football career playing for clubs in France, Italy and England. Arsène Wenger brought him to Europe when he signed for Monaco in 1988.

Weah moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 1992 where he won Ligue 1 in 1994 and became the top scorer of the 1994–95 UEFA Champions League. He signed for Milan in 1995 where he spent four successful seasons, and won the Italian Serie A twice. His most notable goal in Italy saw him run the length of the field against Verona.

He moved to the English Premier League towards the end of his career and had spells at Chelsea and Manchester City, before returning to France to play for Marseille in 2001, and subsequently ending his career with Al-Jazira in 2003. At international level, he represented Liberia at the African Cup of Nations on two occasions.

An idol in Africa, Weah has been heavily involved in politics in his homeland Liberia. He ran unsuccessfully for president in the 2005 election, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In the 2011 election, he ran for vice president on Winston Tubman‘s ticket. Running as a Congress for Democratic Change candidate, Weah was elected to the Senate in 2014.

Political and social observers have concluded that Weah’s ability to finally secure his dream ambition stem from the fact that he finally did the right thing – get himself equipped academically and politically.

It would be noted that in 2005 when Weah took a shot at the presidency, he has little or no knowledge of politics, neither was he academically suitable to run such a crisis-ridden country like Liberia. Then he set himself on the path to getting set, and within a space of 12 years, he managed to become sound academia as well as seasoned politician, having contested, won and is serving as a senator of the Republic.

Weah’s case has nothing to do with whether he will or will not, the question now is, when is the inauguration of his presidency?

He was king on the pitch, and today, he is king on the political front of Liberian policy makers. He is embracing the Liberian government house like Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, Ellen Sirleaf and others did as the 25th on the list. It is really a long wait for victory; a 12 years anticipated victory!

All Hail KING GEORGE!

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